My faith in American justice is restored. For a moment, as if in a fever dream, shimmering and dancing like a heat mirage on the highway, a celebrity was nearly treated like a normal person.
This morning, thankfully, that situation has been rectified; God is in his heaven, all is right with the world.
Paris Hilton was released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after serving three days of her 45-day sentence (which had already been halved).
That’s the tale, at least, according to 2,354 news articles logged by Google.
Celebrities are different from you and me, to paraphrase Fitzgerald.
(And to paraphrase the apocryphal Hemingway: Yes, they have more celebrity.)
Alas, this case is far from over. The tabloids will continue to have enough fodder to populate the supermarket check out line with their sleazy voyeaurism and cheapjack “morality.”*
(* The rich and famous are different from you and me. Oh yeah? And they’re not the “moral” pukes that the tabloid readers fancy themselves. We may be dirt poor, but we’re not sleazeballs like that Paris Hilton! This is the classical celebrity writing formula, hearkening back to the days of the silent movies.)
Paris is, after all, their creation. A massive attempt to invent her as the “It” girl, a modern day Louise Brooks (minus the talent, of course), for the personal amusement of the very NOT rich, and very NOT famous. Had Paris not existed, it would have been necessary to invent her.
Here’s the ‘breaking news’:
Hilton Ordered Back to Court After All
By LINDA DEUTSCH 06.08.07, 12:00 PM ET
A judge ordered that Paris Hilton be brought to court Friday for a hearing on her early release from jail rather than listen to the proceeding by telephone.
The decision by Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer was announced by court spokesman Allan Parachini shortly before the start of a hearing that could put her behind bars again for violating probation in a reckless driving case.
“Judge Sauer has instructed the Sheriff’s Department to go to Ms. Hilton’s residence, pick her up and bring her here. That is happening now,” Parachini told reporters outside the courthouse …
According to the CNN top of the hour newsbreak, (11 AM PDT) Los Angeles news helicopters tracked Paris’ shuttling via the Sheriff’s Department on live TV. They foxed the army of slime reporters–the news corps(e) at its finest, the paparazzi class that stalked Princess Diana to her death and during her death (as in the British television special of the other night) — the Deputies slipped Paris-in-handcuffs in through a side door.
This will undoubtedly provide masturbatory fodder to a generation I have very little understanding of. Paris in handcuffs. Almost as good a Paris lathering up a car in vaguely s&m brevity (the soul of lingerie, according to Ms. Parker) and eating a sloppy hamburger.
Or selling her (evidently consensual) porn-video via the internet. The consensual portion was NOT the sexual act (which was a given) nor the filming of the sexual congress (which was again a given) but in the tacit agreement that selling the tape might continue with Ms. Hilton probably receiving an unspecified cut of the net, or the gross, or a one-time settlement, etc. etc.
THAT was the consensual part that ought to offend us.
Because this whole sleazy “morality” play is part of that industry. I remember doing an interview with Andrew da Passano of Los Angeles’ Temple of Esoteric Science in the late 1970s, and he made a point that has always remained with me:
The middle class was born sometime during the Renaissance. But they did not have the Coats of Arms of nobility, nor did they have the vestments of the clergy. So, to distinguish themselves from the nobility and the clergy (and to differentiate themselves from the peasants), they adopted “morality” as their “coat of arms.”
And so, perhaps, was born that distinguishing trait of popular culture that Rupert Murdoch has made his fortune on: appeal to the base of the middle class with prurient morality. Find a child molester, and, while wallowing in an orgy of cheap moralizing (after all, who could possibly be FOR child molestation? and, therefore, one doesn’t have to worry about anyone protesting one’s MORAL conniption).
Murdoch can decry on FOX News the kind of T&A programming that watches the FOX Network, and draw the same audience for both.
Were I a biologist, I’d probably devise an experiment to see whether that cheap indulgence of the Censor, the Comstock Hangover, produced the same internal chemistry that an orgasm does. Because I have noticed its practitioners seem transcendently agitated, transported, if you will, by paroxysms of ecstasy at their OWN implicit rightness. Their Morality. Their goodness.
Just think of Nancy Grace of Court TV and CNN, whose orgasmic tantrums in the name of her idea of who’s GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! are reminiscent of KABC’s anchor of days gone by, Christine Lund, who always got the juicy leads, because her look of Righteous Indignation was good for the “Top Rated Newscast in the Southland.” But you can’t have Little Comstocks without scandalous and famous miscreants. And you can’t have supermarket tabloids, like THE STAR — owned by Rupert Murdoch, natch.
And for that, you need Paris Hilton.
So, our popular culture has been defined by the Paris Hilton bad celebrity, going back to Robert Mitchum getting busted for pot in the fifties, to Theda Bara, to Clara Bow and her gang bangs with the USC football team (perhaps igniting Trojan John Wayne’s love of acting), to Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and beyond.
The cheap moralism that fuels that middle class tabloid culture requires Paris Hiltons. Without them, who would Christine Lund have to turn her surgically upturned nose up at?
This is DIFFERENT than, but serving the same audience as the O.J. Trial (Nicole Simpson), by the Laci Peterson, the Chandra Levy*, the Natalee Holloway, the JonBenét Ramsey mystery/murder … the virgin sacrifice that the media keeps coming up. Yet it serves the same media.
[*Case dropped when it turned out the wrong guy killed her.]
I was surfing the web the other day, and there seems to be some missing girl in Kansas (Kelsey Smith, 1,586 related articles) just found in Missouri … with a PHOTO ALBUM of her in a letter jacket, at a dance, etc. While it is not a literal necro-pedophilia, one cannot escape the feeling that there is not a strict firewall between this news cult of the Virgin Sacrifice (she must be white, and preferably blonde, BTW).
Here’s how hard FOX is humping the story (from Wednesday, June 6):
Latest on Kelsey Smith Murder
Last Edited: Friday, 08 Jun 2007, 6:56 AM CDT
Created: Sunday, 03 Jun 2007, 3:56 PM CDT
The Search for Kelsey Smith in Photographs
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Cause of Death
FOX News Channel Reporter Jeff Goldblatt told FOX 4 that a “well-placed source” in the Overland Park Police Department said that Kelsey Smith died of strangulation.
And let’s not forget that “Moral” CBN News.
No: Paris Hilton occupies the position of ‘celebrity,’ which is the coin of the realm. Else, why is the GOP so desperate to run Fred Thompson, a lawyer who fell into acting, acted his way into the Senate, returned to TV stardom and now forms an exploratory committee?*
[*It’s already been leaked that he will, like Schwarzenegger, announce with maximum celebrity exposure on July 4.) This celebrity of Paris is not so different than that of Thompson’s, after all. (And, rumors persist that Thompson’s personal life has been more than a bit like Paris’ after all.]
This is the deal with the devil that Paris Hilton makes for her celebrity: in return for the perks of celebrity, she gives up all claims to privacy. And she (we thought) could be made an example of by the courts and by the pettiest of the bourgeois.
But, alas, celebrity warped even the L.A. County Jail, and Paris was released to serve out her sentence under house arrest in the Mediterranean-style villa that The AGE (in Australial NOT owned by Murdoch) uses as the illustration for their news article:
… Hilton thanked the sheriff’s department and jail personnel “for treating me fairly”.
“I am going to serve the remaining 40 days of my sentence. I have learned a great deal from this ordeal and hope that others have learned from my mistakes,” she said.
And the ability to tittilate the cheapjack moralists with the “SHE GETS AWAY WITH IT!” and all the instantaneous memes of ‘justice’ and ‘class warfare’ can be roiled, no no effect, save to generate copy, sales, ad revenues and mindless controversy. We will now see great sober critics finding weighty matters of Great Portent in Paris Hilton’s stupid DUI debacle. (Not any different than 1,000 cases seen every day in the Los Angeles courts, but usually, it’s some guy named Jim and no one reports on it because nobody gives a damn about Jim. No, this is PARIS! The dirty Perky Patty of our multimedia version of Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.)
Here’s a random core sample from the Collective Obnoxious (viapage 1 of Google News’ listing of the 2,354 news articles logged. TELL me that there’s no moral tittilation going on here:
Did Paris Get Special Treatment?
Don’t Pick on Paris!
From Lockup to Lap of Luxury: Hilton’s Release Sparks Questions
Paris Hilton brought to court in sheriff’s custody for hearing
Paris heading to court for hearing
Paris back in court after row between Sheriff and judge
Handcuffed Hilton Heads Back to Court
Washington Post, DC – 44 minutes ago
Cuffed Hilton Heads Back to Court
Paris Hilton in new court hearing
Sheriff’s Deputies Pick Up Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton taken to court in handcuffs
Paris Hilton led from her home in handcuffs
Paris Hilton handcuffed, taken to court
Hilton returns to court
LA judge orders Paris Hilton back to court
Paris out of jail for medical reasons
Judge orders Paris Hilton be brought back to LA court for hearing
Paris’ U-turn: Judge orders her to appear in court after all
Judge orders Paris Hilton back to LA court for hearing on her …
Paris Hilton Doesn’t Have to Be in Court
Judge orders Paris back to court
Paris Hilton may go back to jail
Paris Hilton in court hearing via phone
Hilton won’t be at court hearing
Hearing could send Hilton back to jail
Paris Hilton back in court
Judge calls hearing into Hilton’s early release
Paris out of jail, but for how long?
Oh … and all of those news stories were posted within the past FOUR HOURS from the moment that I write this sentence.
It’s like I was told once in Hollywood: you got to understand, kid, ALL soap operas are shot from the point of view of the lower classes’ IDEA of how the upper classes live.
So, a Rupert Murdoch can put a special on the FOX Network on Paris Hilton, that shows as much smutty footage as possible (walking right up to the line, wherever it happens to be at the time, in that dance that the Broadcast Media and the FCC have danced since the dawn of radio), while at the same time runnng a voice-over that pooh-poohs the ‘bad girl antics’ of Paris Hilton. And FOX Nooz can comment angrily on the tissue-thin rationalization that this … this SOFT CORE PORNOGRAPHY is being broadcast as a serious documentary. And Rupert will make out on both ends of the deal: free publicity, more viewers.
And there will be a huge overlap in the audience that watches the cockumentary (sic) AND listens to the protestations of radical decency. And the fundamental contradiction won’t bother that audience any more than it does Rupert Murdoch.
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”
– F.Scott Fitzgerald, “The Rich Boy” (1926)
But, if we’re so concerned about “crime and punishment,” why don’t you don’t see a word, an image, a mention of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ press release: CCR FILES LAWSUIT SEEKING INFORMATION ABOUT “GHOST DETENTIONS“?
Or what about the EPA’s decision to “roll back” the Clean Water Act? (all 120 news articles)
Isn’t THAT at least as important as Paris Hilton’s DUI probation woes?
But FOX? (In the time it took to write this post):
LOS ANGELES — Paris Hilton was ordered back to jail on Friday, and was seen leaving the courtroom in tears screaming “Mom, Mom, Mom.”
Hilton arrived in court Friday afternoon, sneaking past the media for the hearing that determined she was to be sent back to be jail. The sheriff’s department that released her from prison picked her up at her home under judge’s orders.
(Such is the nature of disposable news.)
Because secret prisons and Gitmo aren’t ‘sexy’ enough for Nancy Grace, I guess.