Yesterday, while sampling a smorgasbord of cable and Internet newscasts, I made a rather startling discovery: that Ann Coulter and Paris Hilton are the same person! Well, perhaps not literally the same person, but goodness knows, they certainly do share a couple of noisome traits. To wit:
- Both are anorexic blonds who, in the eyes of some, qualify as good-looking.
- Both know precisely what to do the moment the camera lights go on.
- Both understand that because fame is so fleeting, they'd better get "theirs" while they can.
- Both add precious little to the future of Western Civilization as we know it.
- Both are way up there on the Google Search Engine List [Approximately 66.3 million sites for Ms. Hilton, 2.7 million for Ms. Coulter.]
- Both seem to date only men who have need of publicists.
- Far more people can identify them than their home state's two United States senators.
- Both are incredibly apt symbols for the shallowness that pervades our modern media-driven society.
Oh yes, there are some basic dissimilarities betwixt the two: Ms. Hilton has a GED; Ms. Coulter graduated cum laude from Cornell and was an editor of the Michigan Law Review. Ms. Coulter claims to be a big fan of the Greatful Dead, Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights and "anything by [satirist] Dave Barry;" Ms. Hilton's tastes in music and literature are as yet unknown. Where Ms. Hilton's Internet Movie Data Base entry shows that she has appeared in 18 movies, produced one [National Lampoons "Pledge This"] and had her own cable TV show, Ms. Coulter has but a single credit to her name, something called "The 1/2 News Hour," starring the Hollywood heavyweights Kurt Long, Jennifer Robinson and Jamie McShane. Only one has ever -- to the best of my knowledge -- been in the slammer. And again, to the best of my knowledge, only one stands accused of giving political trash talk a very, very bad name.
To be perfectly fair to Ms. Hilton, no one can really expect her to be much more than the clothes-horse media darling she is. She was, after all, raised in the gilded lap of luxury and has yet to learn the words noblesse oblige -- French for "Hey spoiled rich kid, what have you done for society lately?"
Ms. Coulter, as Grandma would have said in an unguarded moment, "is a whole other geschichte -- a completely different kettle of cholent. For Ann Coulter, unlike Paris Hilton, has made her way to fame and fortune by being mean, abrasive and singularly shameless. She reminds me of an aspiring politician I met a few years back who, when caught up in a particularly smarmy scandal, uttered the immortal words, "Talk about me good, talk about me bad, I don't really give a sh. ., just so long as you talk about me!"
In recent memory, Ms. Coulter has aimed her quiver of poison-tipped arrows at Bill Clinton ["shows some level of latent homosexuality"], Hillary Clinton ["I'd put good money on her coming out of the closet"], Al Gore ["a total fag"], 9-11 widows [". . . self-obsessed millionaires reveling in their status as celebrities"] and Ted Kennedy ["a human dirigible"].
And just when you thought she could not possibly sink any lower, comes her unbelievable spume against Senator John Edwards. For not only has the nasty Ms. Coulter called the former North Carolina senator "a faggot" and accused him of having a bumper sticker that reads "Ask me About My Dead Son;" just the other day she was quoted as saying, "If I'm going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he has been killed in a terrorist assassination plot [!]"
This is funny? This is a woman who deserves to be interviewed on such national broadcasts as "Hardball," and "The Today Show?" Is she really so vindictive, debased and irreparably damaged as to actually believe what she is saying? Or, is there something else going on here?
I cannot, and therefore will not, speculate as to what she truly believes when she is alone, the lights are low, and she lays her tawny tresses upon the pillow of recumbent splendor. I have no choice but to take her at her word. And that means she really does believe that all liberals are "godless," that evolution is a crock, that the American public school system is history's greatest exemplar of state-sponsored atheism, and that the vast majority of national Democrats suffer from gender confusion.
Within the same breath, I cannot help but stand in wonder at her timing. For it seems that whenever Ms. Coulter publishes a new book, the level of puerile caterwauling raises up several decibels; her nastiness soars into the stratosphere. But heck, I can't really blame her. Hucksterism, when all is said and done, is as old as the Elephantine Papyri, as American as Betsy Ross or Betty Grable. What and whom I do blame, is you, me, and the media at large, without whom, Ann Coulter -- not to mention her "twin," Paris Hilton, would likely not exist in the first place.
Make no mistake about it: we are the very air Ann Coulter and Paris Hilton breathe. To them, it doesn't matter a morsel if we, the reading, viewing public are shocked, disgusted, outraged or incensed by their words or deeds. Just so long as we continue watching, reading, and responding. So long as we continue paying attention, we continue providing them with the oxygen they so desperately need. Turn off the attention, they suffer social and cultural asphyxiation. I know how terribly difficult this can be; don't we all have a tendency to gawk at accidents on the highway?
The media, over which we have less control -- well, that's another tale of woe. Every once in a while, the mavens of Madison Avenue do rise up and smother some obloquious dragon -- Don Imus and Dan Rather come to mind. More often than not, however, they continue providing the very air the "famous for being famous" so desperately need. If CBS can pull the plug on Imus and forget that Rather ever existed, why can't Chris Matthews, Matt Lauer, Wolf Blitzer and even Keith Olbermann? Why indeed? In a word: ratings.
One of philosophy's great conundrums is, "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?" The question before us today is similar: "If we stop paying attention to "The Twins," can they continue breathing?"
Let Ms. Hilton and Ms. Coulter learn to live on helium. At least then, they'll just float away . . .
© 2007 Kurt F. Stone