Jewish World Review May 5, 2003 / 3 Iyar, 5763
Perhaps the most profound change in American society over the
past 40 years is how bad behavior is processed. When I grew up in the 1960s,
bad boys and girls were usually held accountable for their misbehavior,
punishment was almost a lock, and very few scandals resulted in profit
Today, all that has changed. In the latest of a long line of
rewards for questionable activity, Monica Lewinsky has been hired to host a
prime-time television program called "Mr. Personality." Since Ms. Lewinsky
has no prior TV experience, one can assume that the only reason she is doing
"Mr. Personality" is that she did Mr. Personality, if you know what I mean.
Monica's employment follows a long list of people who have
profited from notorious incidents. G. Gordon Liddy has a syndicated radio
show, Oliver North works for Fox News, Wynona Ryder is doing commercials
fresh off her shoplifting conviction, Robert Downey Jr. got a role on "Ally
McBeal" right out of drug rehab. The list goes on and on.
Even Paula Jones, who made a federal case out of sexual
harassment allegations against then Governor Bill Clinton, was paid six
figures for showing her figure in Penthouse magazine. After seeing those
pictures I wanted to sue for sexual harassment.
Jessica Hahn and Tonya Harding also made some good money in the
aftermath of their scandals. Many rappers will tell you the more they are
busted by the police, the bigger their recording contracts. R. Kelly has a
hit album after being charged with sexually abusing a minor.
The message here is that American society really doesn't care
how anyone behaves and that some in corporate America will reward tawdry
behavior all day long. Believe me, this situation is not lost on children.
They see Monica scoring in the media, and they know exactly how the play was
made. Surely TV programs starring Anna Nicole Smith and Ms. Lewinsky send a
signal that the USA is a place where hard work doesn't really matter if you
are ready to marry an 89-year-old guy or exceed your internship job
While it is true that we Americans love a story of redemption,
contrition is not needed to capitalize on scandal. Few of the infamous ever
admit wrongdoing, and it is certainly not required by those who hire them.
No, the only thing that is required is a famous name, and it really doesn't
matter how you become famous just as long as you are.
You would think that the National Organization for Women (NOW)
would be outraged over Monica's "Mr. Personality" gig. First of all, aren't
there any women in America who are actually qualified to host a reality
program of this kind? Who actually worked for years developing
communications skills? Where is NOW on this?
In fact, where is anybody on this? I know these TV programs are
culturally insignificant, but there is a larger issue here. Isn't there?
Unfortunately, very few of us care about the issue. Americans
are numb to tawdry actions because we see so much of them and the
celebration of boorishness has now been elevated to a level the decadent
Roman emperors would have enjoyed. The result is that America unquestionably
has become a coarse society, a country where crude can be very profitable.
And we're not talking oil here.
File the hiring of the infamous under freedom of expression. The
Constitution gives us all the right to profit from our mistakes. And never
has the business of bad behavior been better.
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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the
Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author
of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.
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© 2001 Creators Syndicate