Jewish World Review March 22, 2002/ 8 Nisan, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

Blame Oprah, Rosie, Sally, Ted, David | In what could work as a Coen Brothers' "Fargo," "Raising Arizona," or "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" monologue by one of their whimsical crooks, Russell Yates droned on about his lovely wife, Andrea, murderess of their five young children. He assured that their deceased children, or as her defense lawyers put it, "children whose lives were interrupted" (as if they missed a round of Chutes & Ladders for time-out), loved their mother dearly and most certainly understood vie interrompre.

The Russell Yates lecture series invaded via car radio. Not sure who was indicting doctors and the justice system and yammering about Twinkie-like defenses, I listened until an announcer broke in, as if it were a pending birdie shot on the 17th hole of the Masters, "We're listening to Russell Yates' press conference."

What manner of man offers up such claptrap? What compels a father who is hardly blameless in the death of five innocents to stand before cameras and deflect responsibility? Who is composed enough in such circumstances to even speak?

Blame it on Oprah, Rosie, Sally Jessy, and even Ted Koppel and David Letterman. They have harvested 15 minutes from every seedy camera grabber, no matter what the underlying infamy. Malcontents, psychotic defenders and feel-good gurus have occupied their interview chairs to quench the nation's thirst for the bizarre and/or trivial. Whether news or talk show, they are the same genre: exposure without merit, fame without shame. No line of demarcation exists between tabloid and Pulitzer. Time's March 4 cover featured a triple-pierced Bono, clothed in the U.S. flag, with this query "Can Bon save the world?" Maybe, but he hasn't had a hit in 12 years.

The hosts/anchors themselves bombard us with their inner children and outer loves. Oprah's Stedman. Oprah's childhood. Letterman's heart surgery. Letterman's negotiations ad nauseum. Greta's eyelift. Dan Rather blubbering because his secretary got an anthrax letter. We passed "too much information" in the Arsenio years.

Ms. Rosie O'Donnell currently enjoys kudos and coverage for her decision to "come out." The delusional Ms. O'Donnell failed to grasp that nary a soul on the planet capable of making change was unaware of her sexual orientation. The less gifted were momentarily duped by the Tom Cruise crush. This fraud was explained in People magazine by Ms. O'Donnell's spokesperson, "After all, she is a woman." I confess some confusion on where conservative views on sexual orientation differ.

Nothing could be more apropos than the news/talk show battles running parallel to the Andrea Yates trial. In the Letterman battle, the high and mighty, including his deanship Koppel, hooted over the loss of "Nightline" as two networks each proffered $31 million for Letterman, whose talent is describing trips to the hardware store or dropping melons from the Sullivan Theater. Mr. Letterman can offer breezily bright wit, but he himself said, "Can you believe there are two networks fighting over this crap?"

While Mr. Koppel may have been our daily source of insight during the bleak Carter Iranian hostage crisis, his program evolved to the same old Oprah et al nonsense: the Yates trial, Monicagate, French ice skating judges, Hillary. Only the host and set change. Insights have no discernible differences in quality, whether offered by Heather Locklear on Leno or Paul Begala on Greta Van Susteren. Andrea Thompson left NYPD Blue to become a CNN anchor and now heads back to acting. Blurry lines, blurry news.

Journalistic dignity disappeared from the radar screen when Geraldo invaded Al Capone's empty vault. Now Monica is back on HBO. Ah, for an occasional Joe DiMaggio, someone who, despite claims to fame via sports or spouse, declines interviews. But, Russell Yates' performance does not bode well. There is no shame.

Shame took leave during the Clinton administration and Fox rides its departure to the top of the network heap. Witness the Paula Jones/Tonya Harding brawl on Fox's Celebrity Boxing. The unlicensed Mike Tyson would have brought it up to barbaric.

When Mr. Yates appeared on his front lawn in June 2001, tearless, I complained that we could sink no lower. I stand corrected. His performance following his wife's sentencing, in which he told us to demand more from our doctors, used the media as pawns. As surely as my hands strike these keys, Mr. Yates will file suit against doctors, health plans and perhaps bathtub manufacturers for their failure to warn. He will sue those same doctors and counselors who offered a cure they ignored: no more children.

A pox on him and the "news" people who gave him audience. His whining is for Jerry Springer, but he gets Ted, Dan, Peter, Tom, Wolf, Greta and the whole gang of news types who carry the airs of CSPAN, but the content of Fox. There is no longer a Tiffany network, unless, of course, Tiffany is a transsexual interested in an on-camera confession or brawl.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


03/14/02: The costs of women's feeble choices
03/08/02: Botoxic faces
02/28/02: The dangers of organized philanthropy
02/25/02: Don't take the gold
02/14/02: Ease up on the brothers and sisters
02/11/02: Because I was courted
02/05/02: Fat fault
01/24/02: Tolerance does not mean stupidity
01/17/02: Too old too soon
01/10/02: Ethically challenged firms
01/03/02: The year that was
12/27/01: The Twelve Days of inconsistency
12/20/01: Free Speech and the political spectrum
12/13/01: Curbing brats
12/06/01: Power to influence
11/29/01: The disappearing art of grading
11/21/01: The Big Two-Five
11/13/01: You can never find a lib when you need one
11/01/01: Unlucky in sports
10/26/01: An epidemic of counselitis
10/16/01: A touch of class
10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
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12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
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11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
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09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
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08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
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06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
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10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings