Oh, right. It’s all coming back to me now, in spades. That blonde, dimpled, 6-year-old “beauty queen,” dressed and painted like a Vegas hooker, who was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents’ home in Boulder, Colorado, on Christmas Day, 1996. Her sudden reemergence as a news item has blown even last week’s shrieking issue, “Terror in the Skies,” right out of the, uh, skies. Who cares about a bunch of tourists having to ditch their shampoo at the airport when we’ve finally got a suspect in (yet another) “Crime of the Century” and, better still, a self-confessed child molester behind bars? And the neat part is, we get to see all that tacky video footage again: JonBenet dressed as a cowgirl or a showgirl, tossing her boa, faking a striptease and grinning at the camera.
What fun! And what journalist worthy of the name could possibly pass on a story like this? Lebanon has a “cease fire,” after all, and there were only 3,438 civilian deaths in Iraq in July -- a 9 percent increase from June, but so what? In Britain, John Prescott, the acting head of government while Tony Blair is on vacation, has described George Bush as “crap” and “just a cowboy with his Stetson on,” but so what? Being called names is “the burden of leadership,” says White House spokesman Tony Snow.
And if you don’t believe him, just ask Anna Diggs Taylor, the black, female, liberal-pinko judge in Michigan who has temporarily put the kibosh on Bush’s unconstitutional NSA wiretapping program, and therefore “supports the terrorists.” She’s probably lesbian, too, intent on destroying the traditional family, although no one in the media said so last week. Commentators preferred to note that Judge Taylor was appointed during the “failed presidency” of Jimmy Carter, and was once married to a Congressman “later convicted of 29 counts of operating a payroll kickback scheme in his office.” Which ought to qualify her as a Republican, right?
Right, but so what? We’ve got JonBenet to think about. Why shouldn’t the corporate media turn their conglomerate back on every story of significance and revert to what they do best, saturating the pages and airwaves with tasteless, tedious, specious, endless and pointless blather about murdered white girls? In this case, “wall-to-wall coverage” of a 10-year-old crime that never had the slightest relevance to anyone but the victim, her family, her killer(s), Colorado law enforcement and, I suppose, the residents of Boulder who were alarmed enough to add another lock to their doors.
Well? Why blame the media? We didn’t get any hurricanes this year, did we? Nobody’s daughter disappeared in Aruba. Mel Gibson copped a plea, depriving the pundits of a really fascinating trial. (Just imagine, “the activist judge” might have been Jewish!) And it appears that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ new baby, the mysterious “Suri,” isn’t a deformed, three-toed alien from space after all, but a beautiful, healthy and “perfectly normal” child, destined for a life in Scientology and, one day, a rather stupendous financial inheritance. Let’s face it, from the point of view of media scandal, the kind the public gobbles up, this summer’s been Double Dullsville.
So why am I feeling just a tad uneasy, a bit sick to my stomach, about JonBenet’s media resurrection and “the multi-million-dollar industry” that The New York Times says has been built around her death since 1996? Am I un-American or something? Am I not a writer who’d like a bestseller of his own? Am I incapable of sympathy for the Ramsey family, or even curiosity about the earthshaking ramifications of JonBenet’s murder and the ever-present menace of “quiet, slim, pasty-looking,” twice-divorced Southern drifters and schoolteachers like John Mark Karr, whose students in Thailand were apparently so scared of his “strictness” that they “wet their pants in their seats” rather than ask to be excused to the bathroom?
Really, what is the matter with me? As far as I’m concerned, the only winners in this pumped-up scenario are JonBenet and her recently dead mother, the much-maligned Patsy, now twirling their batons through all eternity and, let’s hope, missing the rest. As I write this, Mr. Karr is on his way back from Bangkok to Boulder, escorted by God knows how many guards and reporters, with “breaking news” updates 10 minutes telling me just how much longer it’ll be till he lands.
On Google’s news page, I can select from more than 6000 articles published already if I want to know more about him. But I really don’t. I had more than enough of JonBenet when her story first aired, and, for all I know, the skeptics are right when they say that Karr has copped to her murder only to escape those “filthy, overcrowded and notoriously dangerous” prisons in Siam.
Maybe I should wait for Katie Couric to explain it all for me when she takes over as anchor of the CBS Evening News on September 5 -- after they’re finished fixing her hair, changing her clothes, and lowering her voice ever so slightly, in order to turn her from morning television’s unchallenged Princess of Perk into a heavyweight newswoman with more on her mind than her “live” colonoscopy. Now there’s some footage I really never want to see again.
is the author of international bestselling books including:
Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson,
Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the
anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson,
American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His
essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York
Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington,
Vermont. He can be reached at:
Visit his website at:
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