Entry from July 21, 2010

In this morning’s Washington Post, Ruth Marcus turns the irony jets up to full blast in an apparent attempt to wither the whole Sarah Palin clan — not Ms Marcus’s favorite people in any case, we surmise — in their tracks. Guess what? That which, for most families, would have been the tragedy, hardship or at least embarrassment of an unmarried teenage pregnancy has turned out pretty darned good for Bristol Palin and the father of her child, Levi Johnston. Want to know why? Because they’re celebrities, you see. When, instead of hanging her head in shame and retiring from public life on the news of her daughter’s pregnancy, Mrs Palin had the effrontery to accept John McCain’s invitation to be his vice-presidential running mate in 2008, says Ms Marcus, she

did Bristol and her boyfriend an unintentional, lucrative favor. Bristol became a paid abstinence ambassador with the Candie’s Foundation, which works to prevent teen pregnancy. She signed up with a speakers bureau to preach the gospel of abstinence — at a reported $15,000 to $30,000 a pop. She made a guest appearance on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” She posed for Harper”s Bazaar in Carolina Herrera and Isaac Mizrahi designs. Levi also seized the moment. He showed all (Playgirl), told all (Vanity Fair), retracted some. He appeared in an ad for pistachios, standing next to a bodyguard and cracking open a nut with the voice-over, “Now Levi Johnston does it with protection.” Classy. And then, much as the unhappy couple had monetized their breakup, the newly — and, I fear, temporarily — happy couple monetized their reunion.

Just imagine that! Have you ever heard of anything so outrageous! Ms Marcus appears to be even more exercised at the supposed hypocrisy of young Bristol’s preaching the “gospel” of abstinence — when, after all, she had some reason to know whereof she spoke — than she was at the money she allegedly made from preaching it. But it was all down to the nerve of these teenagers in allowing themselves to become celebrities in the first place.

It seems that, according to Ruth Marcus, there was a prophetic sage and thinker nearly fifty years ago named Daniel J. Boorstin who wrote a “prescient” book called The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, in which he remarked as to how “the machinery of information has brought into being a new substitute for the hero, who is the celebrity, and whose main characteristic is his well-knownness. In the democracy of pseudo-events, anyone can become a celebrity, if only he can get into the news and stay there,” quoth the late Mr Boorstin. Celebrity, eh? Well-knownness, eh? Pseudo-events, eh? That all sounds most interesting, all right. Maybe even profound. Yet you’d think that somebody else might have noticed the phenomenon in the last half century, before Ms Marcus rediscovered it.

But then that’s the media for you. In that same period they’ve practically given up their traditional function of reporting the news in favor of breeding, nourishing and grooming celebrities for the flourishing market in such animals, yet when it suits them they forget all about this. When one of their flock, especially one of the wrong sort, takes advantage of his celebrity to do a little marketing of his own, they have no shame about expressing their indignation at the fact or acting as if it were nothing to do with them. Ms Marcus’s newspaper has long since taken to competing with People and US Weekly (which, she says, has paid handsomely for exclusive rights to the story of the Palin-Johnston reunion) for celebrity gossip, but she writes as if it were all Sarah Palin’s fault for allowing herself to become a celebrity in the first place. But then one never grows tired, as you may have noticed, of pointing out how obtuse the media are when it comes to acknowledging the role the media themselves play in the stories they report.

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