Getting Dumber

How much does it scare me that Stephen King makes this much sense:

The media first turned the trial into a freak-show by emphasizing Jackson’s peculiarities rather than his humanity, and stoked the ratings with constant, trivializing coverage while other, far more important stories went under-reported or completely ignored in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Washington, D.C. The press might respond by saying, “We gave the people what they wanted.” My response would be, “My job is to give them what they want. When he steps into a recording studio, it’s Michael Jackson’s job to give them what they want. Your job is to give the people what they need.”

Now, there’s a part of me that says people disparage this kind of coverage because it makes them sound smart and refined, and then they watch it anyone because deep inside their lizard brains they really like it. Like eating at McDonalds. I watched “Super Size Me” over the weekend and while I did come away from it resolved never to touch another one of their burgers (which I never really liked anyway) I also shut off the TV and said to Mr. Athenae, “God, I really want some of their fries now.” I love salt and grease. I grew up in Wisconsin and I’m telling you, there’s nothing fried food won’t solve. Now, would I go to my doctor and confess my love of Mickey D’s and Taco Bell? Hell no, because I know the way his eyebrow’s gonna go up when I step on the scale.

But the point is that we used to be ashamed of this shit, of liking it, and now there’s some kind of perverse pride we take in being real about wanting it. Loving the freak show is nothing new, it’s not that William Randolph Hearst wouldn’t have been flogging this trial for all it was worth. But shrugging our shoulders at how emphatically not far we’ve come since Hearst’s day is not the response I’d have expected from everybody but the guy who wrote “Salem’s Lot.”