Friday, May 04, 2007

On Hasselhoff's Drunken Stupor

Our culture is in a dangerous freefall.

David Hasselhoff, most recently known for his role as "Randy Jackson" on NBC's America's Got Talent, likes to sit on the floor and eat cheeseburgers. This in and of itself is not a crime. Nor is the fact that he likes to partake in the goodness of Burger King while shirtless and sloshed out of his gourd.

What should be criminal, however, is the mass distribution of a video his 16-year old daughter made of the Hoff. Hasselhoff is a recovering alcoholic and he asked his daughters to record him acting like a drunk. This is totally understandable, as he hoped that this would strengthen his resolve in the future to stay on the wagon. When this video is splashed all over the internet at the airwaves on the video tabloids, we have a problem.

How and why was this video released? Clearly the guy is drunk but he isn't doing anything criminal. No doubt some PR man in an office in Burbank decided this would be a good, safe way to get Hasselhoff's name in the air.

The publicity machine in America is out of control. In my early grad school days, I once remarked off-handedly to a professor that MTV was the largest peacetime propaganda organ in our world's history. While I guess you could argue with this assessment and make a case for groups like the United Nations or even the Catholic Church, the industry of celebrity has since migrated and now has a life of its own.

Why would Americans really care if Hasselhoff is a sloppy drunk? Who cares about Alec Baldwin's cell phone calls to his daughter? Why should I care if Anna Nicole's infant daughter is in the Bahamas?

No one can really answer these questions and, until they do, our news programs and websites will continue to up the mountain like the guy in the Cliff Hanger game on the Price is Right. At some point, he is either going to stop and we are all going to win, or he is going to fall over the edge and we all lose.

There is little serious debate anymore about anything. I'm not the first person to bemoan the political culture of soundbites, but when the substantive news coverage is driven by badly-behaving celebrities looking to get their name in the press, it does not speak well for our chances at survival in the long term. Either that or we have wiped out all social evils in our society, and that I truly doubt.

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