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Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Entertainment news has mushroomd over the last decade
Jake Halpern, author of ‘Fame Junkies:
The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction,’
says a combination of reasons were behind
the rise and rise of the entertainment news industry
The new media had exploited an obsession with celebrities
that was hard-wired into human DNA
The Neanderthals were probably obsessed with the Neanderthal
that got most attention in the tribe
“We’ve always gone ga-ga about this stuff
The big difference now is that the number of venues
in which this sort of thing can be found
and talked about has grown exponentially
Read the entertainment pages lately or watched E! News? If you have you’re certain to be an expert on the legal wranglings over Anna Nicole Smith’s body and the rehab adventures of fallen pop princess Britney Spears as she stumbles from one embarrassing episode to the next.
But what is it that has made millions of us worldwide follow avidly the lurid story of the death of a C-list topless model-turned-reality TV star and the sad breakdown of a superstar singer?
It’s largely down to a desire to escape headlines of death and destruction from around the world researchers say, as well as an enduring fascination with celebrity that has always been in us.
It’s a combination that has seen
“I think there are a number of factors that combine to make this stuff so irresistible, particularly right now,” Halpern said.
“One is definitely the fact that the news is so terrible at the moment. “Iraq, has gone from bad to worse, to even worse. So these seemingly frivolous stories provide people with an escape from the endless list of casualties and things gone wrong.”
The demand for celebrity news is reflected by the surging circulation for photo-driven celebrity news magazines such as People and Us Weekly, according to figures in Halpern’s book.
US sales increased by around 19 per cent between 2000 and 2006, while circulation for traditional news magazines such as Time and Newsweek rose by only two per cent.
Halpern said he believed the proliferation in media outlets - rolling news channels, daily entertainment shows, reality television and gossip web sites - were creating the impression that anyone could be famous.
“With the expansion of competition television news has got from cable and satellite, they’re worried about losing viewers,” he said.
“So they’re gravitating towards the lowest common denominator, which are these kinds of stories.”
Halpern said he first became aware of the trend in 2004 when nightly news shows on the main US television networks devoted 130 minutes of combined air-time to the insider trading scandal involving lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, while giving only 25 minutes to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
“Celebrity news has metastasized and spread in this cancer-like fashion. At one point it was easily contained in certain shows. But now they’ve crept into the mainstream news media.
“The result is that the stories are everywhere, they’re ubiquitous and even if we don’t intend to pay attention, to some extent we are force fed it.”
Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in New York state, said the new media had exploited an obsession with celebrities that was hard-wired into human DNA.
“I think the Neanderthals were probably obsessed with the Neanderthal that got most attention in the tribe,” Thompson said.
“We’ve always gone ga-ga about this stuff. The big difference now is that the number of venues in which this sort of thing can be found and talked about has grown exponentially.”
And whereas 30 years ago it was possible to go days or even weeks at a time in blissful ignorance of the celebrity brouhahas of the moment, some degree of exposure to today’s entertainment gossip is inescapable, Thompson said.
“It used to be that there were just a few godforsaken fan magazines,” he said. “Now with the proliferation of magazines, the nightly entertainment television and cable networks, there is no way you can avoid the great drama, which stars the 40 or 50 people who are famous at any given time.
“Even if I don’t buy the magazines, just by standing in the checkout queue at the supermarket I’m seeing the headlines on the stands.
“So it seeps in by osmosis over a period of time.”
The seemingly bottomless demand has encouraged news media to go to ever greater lengths to secure news and images.
Within hours of Spears’ checking into a rehabilitation centre in Malibu this week, paparazzi were reported to be chartering helicopters to buzz over the facility.
“There’s no question that our sense of privacy, of what counts as a celebrity’s privacy has eroded,” Halpern said.
“It’s telling the extent to which voyeurism has become acceptable.”
Despite the poor image of paparazzi photographers and celebrity news-gatherers, public demand for the product remained insatiable, Halpern said.
“I don’t see it waning at all,” Halpern said. “There might be a tipping point where people are so disgusted that they don’t want to see it anymore. But we’re a long way from that.” 7 Days
The US has agreed to hold the highest-level
contact with the Iranian authorities
in more than two years as part of
an international meeting on Iraq
The discussions are expected to include
Condoleezza Rice and her
Iranian and Syrian counterparts
"I just want to make friends and be loved"
The conflicting signals are part of
a diplomatic strategy for dealing with Iran
that verges on a high-level game of chicken
While some Bush officials have advocated
looking for ways to talk to Iran and Syria,
they did not want to appear to be talking
to either country from a position of weakness.
By ratcheting up the confrontational talk,
the administration official said,
the US was in more of a driver’s seat
American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq.
The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts.
The announcement, first made in Baghdad and confirmed by Ms. Rice, that the United States would take part in two sets of meetings among Iraq and its neighbors, including Syria and Iran, is a shift in President Bush’s avoidance of high-level contacts with the governments in Damascus and, especially, Tehran.
Critics of the administration have long said that it should do more to engage its regional rivals on a host of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Lebanon. That was the position of the Iraq Study Group, the high level commission that last year urged direct, unconditional talks that would include Iran and Syria.
While the newly scheduled meetings may not include direct negotiations between the United States and Iran, and are to focus strictly on stabilizing Iraq rather than other disputes, they could crack open a door to a diplomatic channel.
Iraqi officials had been pushing for such a meeting for several months, but Bush administration officials refused until the Iraqi government reached agreement on pressing domestic matters, including guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenue and foreign investment in the country’s immense oil industry, administration officials said. The new government of Iraq maintains regular ties with Iran.
“I would note that the Iraqi government has invited Syria and Iran to attend both of these regional meetings,” Ms. Rice told a Senate panel on Tuesday, in discussing the talks, which will include Britain, Russia, and a host of international organizations and Middle Eastern countries.
The first meeting — which will include senior Bush administration officials like the State Department Iraq envoy David Satterfield, will be in Baghdad in the first half of March, administration officials said.
In early April, Ms. Rice will attend a ministerial level conference, presumably with her Iranian and Syrian counterparts, which will likely be somewhere else in the region, administration officials said.
A year ago, Iranian and American officials announced a planned meeting between the American ambassador to Baghdad and Iranian officials to help stabilize Iraq but the meeting never occurred.
The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called America’s anticipated face-to-face contact with Iran and Syria — two countries that the Bush administration has accused of destabilizing Iraq — “very significant.”
The issue of whether the United States should talk to Iran and Syria has been a steady drumbeat in Washington for several months.
When the Iraq Study Group raised it in December, it was quickly brushed off by Bush, who instead embarked on the more confrontational approach.
In addition to the accusations of Iranian meddling in Iraq, the United States has also been confronting Iran over its nuclear program, which Bush administration officials say is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a charge that Tehran denies.
Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that “all options are still on the table” for Washington to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a comment that has heightened fears that the administration is considering attacking Iran’s nuclear sites.
Administration officials characterized the conflicting signals as part of a larger diplomatic strategy for dealing with Iran that verges on a high-level game of chicken.
One senior administration official said that while some Bush officials have advocated looking for ways to talk to Iran and Syria, they did not want to appear to be talking to either country from a position of weakness.
By ratcheting up the confrontational talk, the administration official said, the United States was in more of a driver’s seat.
He asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. Times
Analyzing the Pandemic
of Global American Hatred
I represent the 7% of Americans
who travel abroad each year
My nationality is the biggest cause
of stress in my travels
I've learned that being an American
is something you can no longer be proud of
if you have any knowledge of global affairs
The Ugly American Abroad
In the last six years I've traveled to Africa twice,
backpacked Southeast Asia and Central America
and lived a brief time in Europe
for a total of 12 different countries
Above all, one thing has been made
very clear to me: The world hates us
Alright, alright!! The secret is out….. I am, regrettably, not Canadian. In fact, I am an American from a small city called Olympia, WA about three hours south of the Canadian border.
But shhh…. Don’t tell! Perhaps if you knew the grief these three hours distance have caused me the last six years you wouldn’t judge me so harshly for this little white lie.
I represent the 7% of Americans that travel abroad each year. Ordinarily, I would be proud to belong to this statistic. Yet having done the majority of my globetrotting during the Bush Administration years, I find my nationality to be the biggest cause of stress in my travels.
I have learned that being an American is something you can no longer be proud of- well, at least if you have any knowledge of global affairs. In fact I am ashamed of my nationality.
But wait a second here…. before I am accosted by the headstrong patriot with ten “United we stand” bumper stickers adorning his SUV, let me say this:
I understand the value of pride in opportunity, equality and justice- but NOT in nationalism for the sake of nationalism! And that is what is at stake here:
American insular ideology. Traveling abroad has allowed me a new perspective on this skewed American self-image.
I am grateful for my opportunities, my freedom, and my standard of living- but I am ashamed of my government’s corruption, my people’s ignorance and my nation’s neo-colonial egotism.
But you needn’t be a hardcore lefty to agree with me. All you need is to go abroad to be reminded of the global hatred toward our nation.
Not only is it not safe to be an American abroad, it is not tolerated! The majority of Americans I meet while traveling admit to the same lie as I do: “I am, uh… Canadian.”
We deny our nationality to avoid the scowls, jeers, lectures, and sometimes violence from other foreigners.
In the last six years, I have traveled to Africa twice, backpacked Southeast Asia and Central America and lived a brief time in Europe for a total of 12 different countries. Above all, one thing has been made very clear to me: The world hates us.
And if the whole world hates our country, don’t you suppose we ought to figure out why? According to radio talk show host and best-selling author Michael Medved, global American hatred stems from “their” jealousy, “their” anti-capitalist agendas and “their” contempt for our “toxic pop culture.”
Okay, that explains the sentiments of Islamic extremists, French idealists and Latin American Marxists- but what of the rest of the world?
Medved admits that “American hatred has reached pandemic proportions” extending to the “corners of the globe.”
Can jealousy and communism really be that contagious? Not when you look at western Europe, whose standards of living are fueled by their capitalist endeavors…..so why?
A survey performed by the Pew Research Center and cited in The Economist challenges Medved’s perceived reasons for American hatred.
The study found that The Netherlands, Spain, China and Germany were the top four nations who viewed America unfavorably. With the exception of China, these anti-American countries are NOT economically struggling, culturally conservative or lenient toward Communism.
So can we truly blame envy, Marxism and pop culture? The standard of living in The Netherlands, Spain and Germany are of the highest in Europe.
They are also considered culturally liberal in their perception of foreign “pop culture” and are not known for their anti-capitalist motives.
In Britain and Canada, a little under half of the population views American unfavorably. This is alarmingly high given these are two of our largest allies. The study did find that India and Poland liked us though!
Oh….but wait! This can be explained. From 1947-91, India went through a period of Socialism and Economic isolation fueled by anti-capitalist and anti-American thinking.
An article in The Futurist suggests that it was the failures of the Indian economy, coupled with the fact that Indian-Americans are the wealthiest ethnic demographic in the U.S., that lead them to turn against socialist endeavors and embrace American ideals.
Similarly, Poland and Russia, who also favor America, do so because of their lack of faith in the communist system which fell in 1991.
Given the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, we know why some like us. But not why the rest hate us.
Why the hate? Believe it or not, we can’t entirely blame the Bush administration for this one either.
Rather, we must blame the insular ideology that isolates the American citizen from the rest of the world: Americans don’t travel.
American’s don’t know. And still worse, Americans don’t care. We claim to run the world, while statistics show that we know very little, if anything, about it.
According to the European Travel Commission, only 18% of Americans own passports. This does not take into account the number of newly naturalized citizens either.
When we compare this statistic to 41% of Canadian citizens who own passports, the U.S. appears much more culturally secluded than our northern brothers. Furthermore, three times the number of Australians own passports than Americans.
Thus we cannot blame our lack of travel and global interest on our geographic size or location.
We do not travel because our insular ideology implies there is no need. It is a deeply rooted American creed that “we are the best country in the world” and “innately right,” if not “saviors,” in all global action.
Based on this mentality, there is little need or interest to learn about other countries. In 2006, a survey commissioned by National Geographic found that 85% of young Americans (ages 18-24) could not locate Iraq or Israel on a map.
90% could not locate Afghanistan. 75% of Americans cannot locate Thailand on a map, even after the highly publicized tsunami of 2004.
In 2002, a different geographic survey was given out to the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and Great Britain. American citizens performed the worst with the exception of Mexico who scored only slightly lower.
This is not just a reflection of our education system- it is a reflection of our ideology. How so? Because only 30% of Americans think it is important to know the location of countries in the news.
What do these statistics say to the rest of the world? Simply, that while Americans have no problem in attempting to run the world, we have little experience in how it works.
It is on this ignorance that we justify our wars, trade relations and political action in a rapidly globalizing world.
Aside from being fat and loud, the dangers of the American stereotype lie in the fact we are viewed as being simultaneously globally ignorant and culturally egocentric. This is our downfall.
Douglas Richardson, executive director of the Association of American Geographers in Washington, D.C. agrees that geographic knowledge is crucial for functioning in a rapidly globalizing world.
Remember the fall of Rome? I am not suggesting a similar fate but merely suggesting that Americans should be aware of their insular ideology as we stand pitted against the peoples of the world in a global showdown.
We must partake in the global arena as knowledgeable, cultured and open-minded individuals if we are to preserve any form of international decency we may have left.
If not, be prepared to raise an apologetic, timid generation who looks down in same every time they say, “I am an American.” Jessica Long @ ICH
Capitalism's claim to any kind of legitimacy
depended in large part on ‘defending’ its citizens
against an evil foe which for almost
three-quarters of a century had been Communism
Now we have a new enemy, ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’
War is the ‘solution’, no matter what form it takes,
and in order to justify such vast expenditures,
just as Bush and Blair openly state,
a war without end is required
Figures of fifty years are bandied about
lest we don’t get the message
There is one thing we can be certain of; the capitalist state is in disarray and in crisis.
With every passing day its legitimacy crumbles further. Much of its prior claim to any kind of legitimacy depended in large part on ‘defending’ its citizens against an evil foe which for almost three-quarters of a century had been Communism.
And like the ‘Red Menace’ the current enemy, ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’, allegedly also possesses ruthless and cunning powers to subvert democracy and penetrate right into the heart of our ‘democracy’.
But unlike the enemies of yore, so fiendish is the ‘international Islamic conspiracy’ that our civil and legal rights have to be all but abrogated in yet another ‘war’ to defend these very freedoms!
An awful irony when you consider that for over fifty years, the ‘free world’ waged a war that almost destroyed us in order, we were told, to defend us. But now, in order to justify this frontal assault on ‘democracy’ an enemy like none ever seen before, had to be created.
This new ‘enemy’ like the former vanquished one was not created overnight, an entire edifice had to be constructed, one piece at a time with the ‘alien’ at its heart.
‘Un-British’ in appearance and allegedly also possessing ‘un-British values’, that it to say, non-Christian and by default non-white, the Muslim fits the role perfectly.
Moreover, for over a century, the Arab (read Muslim), cunning, devious and utterly alien in culture and values, has formed the basis for a mythology that found it echoed first in popular fiction and later in movies. Thus a handy ‘hook’ already existed on which to hang the current scapegoat.
There is no doubt that the corporate and state media played a pivotal role in the creation of this ‘enemy within’ but without a physical expression such as bomb plots and other increasingly outlandish acts.
Or more precisely, threats of attacks, convincing a public which had lived through three decades of REAL IRA bombings without feeling so threatened, it required a new strategy based upon the existence of seemingly irrational individuals, the ‘suicide bomber’.
Against which the only defence is, we are told, an almost complete ‘lock-down’ of the population through the use of arbitrary arrests and detentions and the use of scare tactics including alleged gas attacks, alleged home-made nuclear weapons, alleged biological agents, indeed an entire armoury of the most outlandish devices against which the only defence is, we are told, is the creation of the total surveillance state.
The media’s role in this state-inspired conspiracy was to demonise a convenient, that is to say, easily recognisable section of society, the Muslim, the new ‘alien within’.
Bearded and be-robed and already ghettoised by an institutionally racist society, they became the focus of a hate campaign that has ominous echoes of an earlier period in European history.
Over the past year, almost 23,000 people have been stopped and searched under ‘anti-terror’ laws, specifically Section 44 of the infamous 2000 Terrorism Act. No reason is required, merely a policeman’s whim is sufficient cause.
Only 27 individuals have been charged under anti-terror laws as a result but the impact on the Asian community has been devastating, further alienating an already alienated section of society. And, as even the police themselves admit, the results have been totally counter-productive.
Even assuming that the country is crawling with terrorists bent on destroying ‘Western civilisation’ (although how setting off a few home-made bombs achieves this end is never explained), the contradictions of the state’s deliberately engineered hysterical response to this alleged threat to ‘civilisation’ makes no sense unless there is a hidden agenda about which we are not informed.
If a country like the former Soviet Union, armed to the teeth and with the massive resources of the state could not achieve the alleged objective of overthrowing capitalism after seventy-five years, it is reasonable to ask the question, why has the British state embarked on a policy of creating a de facto police state replete with laws which have more than a passing similarity to those passed by both Hitler and Mussolini? Enter “fear-based security”.[
“Security’ is not something we can have more or less of because it is not a thing at all…[it is] the name we use for a temporally extended state of affairs characterized by the calculability and predictability of the future…
The impossibility of guaranteeing security is rooted in the fact that like justice, and like democracy, ‘security’ is not so much an empirical state of affairs but an ideal—an ideal in the name of which a vast number of procedures, gadgets, social relations, and political institutions are designed and deployed”.
To answer this question we have to look elsewhere than a cave in Afghanistan or a council flat in Birmingham or Bolton.
The history of capitalism is full of examples of ‘conspiracies’ allegedly hatched by fanatical groups bent on overthrowing the status quo, from the early trade unionists through to the ‘anarchists’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and beyond.
All of which required that the full wrath of the state be brought to bear on the unfortunate individuals involved.
Importantly, these ‘conspiracies’ were used as an excuse to increase the power of the state’s control over its citizens through the passing of various statutes that limited our democratic ‘rights’ to demonstrate and protest and now, it is even a crime to think about overthrowing the state.
Just as importantly, these ‘conspiracies’ were used to justify various and sundry wars of aggression, whether against Communism or under the cover of fighting Communism, against just wars of national liberation.
History is littered with imperialist conspiracies invented to justify these wars including the Tonkin Gulf Incident which led to the war in Vietnam, or the mythical Soviet MiG jets allegedly supplied to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua as well as the non-existent WMDs of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Behind the rhetoric lies the real reason for the creation of the ‘terrorist threat’, the mundane world of economics, for ultimately it all comes down to filthy lucre.
For five hundred years Western capitalism has ridden roughshod across the planet, plundering and enslaving entire continents, exterminating entire cultures and peoples’ in the pursuit of profit.
It has done this, until the 20th century with virtual impunity by virtue of overwhelming military power and control of international trade, itself protected by overwhelming military force.
But following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Western capitalism was stripped of its justification for continuing its pillage of the planet.
It needed a new enemy behind which it could continue its operations and one effectively impossible to defeat simply because it not only has no centre, but also because ‘international terror’ simply doesn’t exist except as a propaganda message.
Thus under the guise of fighting the ‘war on terror’, new wars of acquisition were undertaken. However, these wars had to be conducted in these new circumstances largely without the support of the domestic populations.
A new climate of fear had to be engineered to justify imperialist wars of conquest. Above all therefore, what was needed were actual deeds with corpses and culprits,
Ultimately, the capitalist system thrives on the creation of crises, a new description of an old disease.
In an age of global, electronic surveillance, the business of creating the security state is itself really big business and as ever, so is war. This is good ol’ imperialism just like it used to be back when Brittania ruled the waves.
But even more important than what is in reality the privatisation of state activities, is the fact that the ‘war on terror’ represents a desperate attempt to deal with the vast over-accumulation of capital that has taken place since the fall of the Soviet Union.
So great is the volume generated since the fall of ‘communism’ that even wholesale privatisation of great swathes of the ‘global commons’ cannot absorb it all.
As always, war is the ‘solution’, no matter what form it takes, and in order to justify such vast expenditures, just as Bush and Blair openly state, a war without end is required. Figures of fifty years are bandied about lest we don’t get the message.
It is within this crisis that we find the source of the ‘war on terror’ and hence the need for 9/11 and 7/7, for without such invisible ‘enemies’ how can one justify the slaughter let alone the expenditure and the creation of a vast global, electronic, corporate security state? William Bowles @ AFP
To put it simply, America must have
unfettered access to Persian Gulf oil
in order to maintain the infrastructure of its economy
– indeed of its entire society,
which is based on the availability of cheap gasoline
and other petroleum-based products