Zero Tolerance for Celebrity Screw-Ups

I had the television on in the background as I worked on Wednesday. I like to keep it tuned to the news, so that I keep up with current events. I became frustrated, however, when CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC were all carrying either Britney Spears’ child custody and drug addiction woes, or the bail hearing for O. J. Simpson.

I kept thinking that there had to be a long list of amazing, bizarre, horrifying, beautiful, or otherwise history-making news stories going on at the same time, but that were not receiving any coverage. We are at war in Iraq. Iran is rattling the nuclear saber. Mexico is probably still recovering from two recent hurricanes. Indonesia is probably still recovering from several strong earthquakes. Osama bin Laden is still hiding out in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Pakistan is grappling with winds of political change surrounding Pervez Musharrif and the possible return of Benazir Bhutto. Someone far more important than Britney or O.J., somewhere far more interesting than Hollywood or Las Vegas, is likely lost in a desert or on a mountain or escaping from a sexual predator or maybe finding a cure for some horrible disease.

All I saw, however, were screwed-up celebrities and the media frenzy that surrounds them. We must be fully recovered from 9/11, I guess, if this is what passes for the most important news of the day. Maybe al-Qaeda is so weak that we no longer need to stop them. And perhaps the Israelis and Palestinians are getting along well enough that we need not fear their sparking World War III. At the very least, the weather must be perfect everywhere around the entire planet, since they weren’t breaking away from Britney or O.J. to tell us about any tornados or typhoons. Who knows, potentially the polar ice caps are refreezing, as well, and global warming is behind us.

Of course, to the people starving around the world – and to the people fighting (literally, as in the terrorists) for “higher” moral values – Americans must seem damnably shallow if coverage of some drunk trashy pop star and some short-tempered, potentially homicidal ex-jock pulls enough viewer ratings to become the exclusive news story of the day. Forget all the people being killed by a war that our government (regardless of whether it was right or wrong) sanctioned – we’d rather watch a melodramatic reality soap opera.

As a parent of toddlers, I can confirm that the theory is verified that sometimes children will seek whatever attention they can get – positive or negative, good or bad. Sometimes, children will do something bad, knowing they will be punished, but knowing that it will get their parents’ attention. One of our sons had a run earlier this year with waking up in the middle of the night and crying for us. No amount of positive, gentle incentive to get him back to sleep, nor negative, punitive disincentive to coerce him back to sleep worked. Ultimately, we just had to let him “cry it out.” And after a mere three nights, the witching hours ended.

I think it is time that we ignore our celebrities’ crying, deprive them of the attention, and, further, let them sleep in the silence of their burned-out careers. Let’s pull the cameras out of the courtroom. Let’s stop buying the tabloids full of intrusive paparazzi-stolen images. Let’s stop buying the movie tickets, CDs, books, and other memorabilia by and about the celebrities. It is time for zero tolerance for celebrity screw-ups. Accused of pedophilia? Throw everything he ever recorded into the dumpster – and change stations when it comes on the radio! Wrapped her car around a fire hydrant? Don’t buy her DVD – and change channels when she comes on TV! Had dogs killing each other – or he himself might have killed someone?!? For crying out loud, burn his sports cards, don’t buy them; it’s blood money!

Yes, I realize what I am saying are prejudicial over-reactions that might hurt celebrities who get into “minor” problems or who, for whatever reason, are falsely accused. But I think such an approach would either force these people to stay in line like the rest of us – or would quickly shake out the wheat from the chaff. Either way, we as a nation would better spend our time on examining the social, political, religious, military, and legal crisis that truly matter – rather than be distracted from them by the celebrity circus.