In a time when Washington is busy laying the groundwork for possible attacks on Iran, when the nation is facing a housing market crisis with unprecedented foreclosures, when the Senate cannot restore Habeas Corpus or give its military dwell time to rest from war, when mercenaries hired by US private contractors are being expelled by the Iraqi government for committing murder, and the quagmire gets deeper by the day, the top story on all the major news networks this past week has been the alleged botched robbery of some football memorabilia by a washed-up ex-jock outcast.
Since this miserable wretch didn't even butcher anybody this time, he doesn't deserve the favor of our attention. But now that the news media has exhausted Britney's custody battle, Lindsay's rehab, and Paris's jail-time, they are attempting to resurrect the Granddaddy of all media obsessions -- the O. J. Simpson Trial. CNN previewed a trial and possible conviction as "OJ --The Sequel," while MSNBC and other cable news channels prepared for Simpson's arrival at his arraignment on Wednesday by repeatedly cutting to shots of nothing but an empty courtroom in Las Vegas. Like a rerun of a horror movie, another O. J. circus is being conceived.
Since the last sordid O. J. frenzy, America is worse off. The price we have paid for allowing the so-called news industry to spend extraordinary amounts of our time on scandals that have no impact, whatsoever, on our lives, has been the creation of a society that is complacent, apathetic, and paranoid. Most of the problems our country faces are not being solved because we, the people, cannot stop distracting ourselves to death.
Wasting our lives on nothingness has turned our nation into a collective "Chauncey Gardner" -- which was the mistaken identity conferred on one "Chance the gardener," a lovably befuddled TV addict who was mistaken for a seer in a memorable Peter Sellers vehicle of the late '70s. In a witless time, the half-wit passes for a sage. Like Chance, we like to watch. We don't do anything. We just watch.
Government snooping and spying into our personal lives have become commonplace and we are now facing an even greater danger to our personal freedoms: an enforcing of compliance. The recent tasering of a heckler during a John Kerry appearance at The University of Florida is a disturbing example.
Even more alarming, however, is the symbolism of an audience that simply sat in that lecture hall ignoring or nervously laughing while excessive police brutality was taking place before their eyes. "Don't taser me, bro!" the young man shrieked in horror, as bystanders clucked, murmured, or even giggled, meanwhile remaining motionless. They were passive voyeurs who simply watched and waited for what was going to happen to happen.
The present administration has enacted legislation, adopted policies, and threatened procedures that would have been unthinkable in 1995, when the last O. J. trial took place. On a daily basis, we are being censored, reprimanded, and persecuted for our choice of words, our clothing, and other personal expressions deemed unacceptable by those with power. Blind faith in bad leadership is no longer a requirement for being considered patriotic. It is a requirement, period. Freedom in America has been reduced to keeping our mouths shut while looking the other way. And watching.
May we refuse to be conned by these peddlers of folly who call themselves dispensers of "The News!". While they keep up with their obscene attempt to keep us deflected, diverted, and uninformed with yet another stupid scandal, let's taser them, instead, bro, by getting - need I say it? - mad as hell about the things that really matter.