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Tilting at Windmills

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June 14, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IMPORTANT PARIS NEWS....We still don't know what Paris Hilton's alleged medical condition was, but today the LA Times crunches the numbers and answers the other burning question in the case: was Paris really treated more harshly than an average schmoe? Apparently the answer is yes:

The Times analyzed 2 million jail releases and found 1,500 cases since July 2002 that — like Hilton's — involve defendants arrested for drunk driving and later sentenced to jail after a probation violation or driving without a license.

Had Hilton left jail after four days, her stint behind bars would have been similar to those served by 60 percent of those inmates. But after a judge sent her back to jail Friday, Hilton's attorney announced she would serve the full 23 days in jail. That means Hilton will end up serving more time than 80 percent of others in a similar situation.

....Because of the high media interest, Hilton was one of few inmates whose premature release received publicity — and the judge who originally sentenced her took notice. She is believed to be the first inmate in years who actually was sent back to jail to serve more of her term.

Admit it. You wanted to know.

Kevin Drum 12:49 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (63)

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Comments

Sure.

Posted by: Boronx on June 14, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

I find it bothersome that we even know her name, yet alone anything about her personal life.

One of the best encapsulations of what is wrong with this country (and why we are losing the war in Iraq) is when MSNBC cut away from an interview with Colonel Rick Francona on the Defense Secretary replacing the Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace, to show Paris Hilton leaving her house to attend court.

Is it any wonder we're losing the war in Iraq?

Thanks to the infotainmentization of the Mainstream Corporate Media, voters are following the travails of some rich girl more closely than the war; this also contributes to the lack of accountability for our failures in the war. War is sad, thinking is hard... hey look, Paris!

Shame on all of us.

Posted by: Augustus on June 14, 2007 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

No, actually, I really don't care.

Posted by: greennotGreen on June 14, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

But what was the average sentence for those 1,500? If it was 7-14 days, then it makes sense that 60% of them walked after 4 days.
Hilton was sentenced to 45 days, and her lawyers got it down to 23, with home confinement for the rest of the term. Yeah that's harsh, but I have no idea how that sentence fits in with others from that judge, or others in LA. Those comparisons would be meaningful.

Posted by: along on June 14, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

No, I really didn't. If it were up to me (speaking from a visceral place and rooted in years of trauma response) all drunk drivers would do a year, minimum.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 14, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

The arrest that lead her to be tossed behind bars involved more than her just driving with a suspended license. The cops caught her doing 70 in a 35 mph zone at night without her headlights even being turned on. The kicker is that the document that she signed stating that she wouldn't drive was in the glove compartment of her brand new Bentley when she was pulled over.

She got off lightly, in my opinion.

Posted by: Richard on June 14, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

It does pretty well demolish the equal justice (lets make that punishment) for all argument though!

Back to Nancy Grace for more Guilty until proven Innocent...scratch that...Everyone she talks about is Guilty!

Hopefully folks are getting the message to get a limo or a cab when partying. Someone call Shirlington Limo...time to open a Hollywood branch!

Posted by: RickG on June 14, 2007 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

If 20% of others in her shoes got the same or worse sentences, she's still well within the normal range. It hardly renders her an object of persecution. She just had a minor amount of bad luck here.

She's had so much good luck every other way in her life that whining about her treatment at the hands of the law might rightly incline some folks to want to puke in her general direction.

Posted by: frankly0 on June 14, 2007 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Richard,
Don't forget the judge's role in all this. If Baca had notified the judge before the release, none of this would have happened. IIRC, the judge made it clear that he was to be kept up to speed on things. On her progress. And Baca and Co. didn't do it. It didn't help that Paris' relative made contributions to Baca's re-election fund.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on June 14, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Yea, I want to know...wtf you are giving her any attention. That's what I want to know. Media whore!

Posted by: WTF on June 14, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

She's rich enough to afford a chauffeur, but she choose to drive on a suspended license to a destination other than work. She deserves a harsher sentence.

Posted by: Fred on June 14, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

My two cents.

Can we stop pretending that Paris Hilton news brings the death knell of Western Civilization? I admit that I like my gossip. I read Perez Hilton daily. I also read Kevin Drum daily (for political gossip, of course). I also read my news online. It takes me about 10 minutes to read all of the day's celeb gossip. Yes, it's mindless entertainment, but it's fun. And, most importantly, Paris Hilton news and the news about the Iraq war are NOT mutually exclusive. People can be interested in Hollywood gossip AND the War in Iraq, the DOJ scandal, the upcoming elections, and whatever other scandal happens to be on that day. It is not that hard to follow all of these stories. And at least give people some credit for knowing that the Iraq war is more important than Paris, Britney, or LiLo.

And can we stop pretending that people aren't interested in Paris Hilton? People are. Granted, they are probably interested in Paris solely so they can watch her suffer. Just like people who watch NASCAR for the crashes or Hockey for the fights.

And can we stop pretending that CNN is a real news station and not Faux News Lite which it is? If you want real news, watch Jim Lehrer...or John Stewart.

Posted by: Fighting Words on June 14, 2007 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

My two cents,

It does not matter how long Paris Hilton was in jail. Whether it is 3 days, 5 days, 23 days, or 45 days, she is still going to be much richer when she leaves jail than most of us will ever be (probably most of us combined). The fact is that she went to prison in the first place. She thought she could lawyer her way out, and it backfired for her. And the Judge wanted to humilitate her, which he did - at least as much as you can humilitate someone who is either a ditz or pretends to be one, is either a slut or pretends to be one, and who has a sex tape released for all to see (which was lousy). And, for the record, I am not going to defend Miz Hilton, and I am glad that the judge sentanced her (And I hope they do the same for Lindsay Lohan).

Anyway, when you are a celebrity, your image is the most important thing you have. Now, the image most of us have of Paris is her crying in the police car going to prison, or crying "It's not fair!" to her mommy. I mean, if she was smart, she would have done her time without complaint, made a rap album, and sold t-shirts saying "Free Paris."

In all seriousness, the Judge, by sentancing Paris, was basically saying to all of us, "Look. You can have all the money and fame in the world. But don't drink and drive. Don't disobey court orders. And don't flaunt a disrespect of the law!" Of course, most of us know this. But the judge has to say, "look, we're not going to show favoritism to anyone."

That's my two cents.

Posted by: Fighting Words on June 14, 2007 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

Paris Hilton's medical condition is that her stupidity is of the highly contagious and resistant variety.

Posted by: ogmb on June 14, 2007 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

Hilton was one of few inmates whose premature release... She is believed to be the first inmate in years who actually was sent back to jail to serve more of her term.

Paris. Premature release. Hmm. From what I've seen of Paris she usually seems to favor a much-delayed release. There's a kind of consistency here.

Sorry, shame on me (head hung over abjectly). I couldn't resist.

All told though, and as hard as it might be to conceive, I think she and her mother have shown infinitely more class than have Libby and his band of Washington wellwishers (perhaps though they consistently have a proclivity to premature release).

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 14, 2007 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

No, I didn't want to know. Please stop perpetuating the sick obsession with this worthless tautological celebrity news. We report about Paris because she's a celebrity, she's a celebrity because we report about her. Just stop, please

This is a good 20% of everything wrong with our media, and I wish blogs would do better

Posted by: crayz on June 14, 2007 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK

She has become a ridiculous national obsession.
Dan Rather had a point when he surmised that the news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."

Even though most of us have tired of having Paris in our view, Barbara Walters wants to put her on "The View." The news media will be drumming the beat endlessly just like they did with Rosie O"Donnell and Elizabeth Haselhoff.
I was hoping Paris would just go away from our consciousness.
Anna Nicole Smith finally did--the media finally stopped the obsession. Like all of a sudden the fixation and reporting stopped.
One can only wish the same would occur with Paris Hilton ad nauseum news.

Posted by: consider wisely always on June 14, 2007 at 5:54 AM | PERMALINK

Freudian slip: Elizabeth Hassleback is her name? David Haselhoff was the other media obsession--how many times have we been subjected to that video of him inebriated in the hotel room.
The media just tortures us with repetitiveness. It is aversive conditioning.

Posted by: consider wisely always on June 14, 2007 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

Paris hasn't been much of an actress, lacking much talent or skill. Her stint in jail can only improve her portrayal of imprisoned, unfairly treated women. Her acting skills can only grow. (Thank goodness, B movies always need fresh faces.)

Posted by: slanted tom on June 14, 2007 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK

I care. Thank you for posting.

Posted by: Tom on June 14, 2007 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Admit it. You wanted to know."

No, not really. Pretty sure there's a few more important news issues out there.

Posted by: J. on June 14, 2007 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK

I think it was even worse than that, because this was her second probation violation after the original arrest.

I do these cases as a defense attorney, although not in Southern California. Nevertheless, Kevin's statistics confirm my own impression (based on what my clients have gotten is such situations) that she got a lot more time than the typical person with one OUIL and 2 subsequent DWLS/probation violations.

The primary penalties for these crimes are monetary, and court-enforced sobriety. That's as it should be--there isn't enough room in jail for everyone who drinks and drives.

Posted by: rea on June 14, 2007 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Part of the purpose of a criminal sentence is deterrence.

Joe Schmoe would find suspension of his license (even for a few months), a 1500 dollar fine, and even a few days in jail to be a massive inconvience. Less so in cities with decent public transportation, but even then 1500 is a good amount of money for most people AND the loss of their ability to drive (and jail time) can cause serious difficulties with their job.

It's hard to be at work on time when you can't drive anymore.

Paris Hilton, on the other hand -- a 1500 dollar fine and even permanent suspension of her license wouldn't be more than a minor inconvience. She can easily afford a 24/7 driver and stretch limo for the rest of her life and never notice the cost.

In fact, the ease with which she COULD have complied with her original sentence is probably one reason she was sentenced more harshly than average. Most DUI's cannot afford to be drive everywhere.

23 days in jail, however, is an experience she is not likely to wish to repeat. Actual confinement is probably the only legal form of deterrence that has a chance in hell of working on Paris.

Posted by: Morat on June 14, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I can't find any mention, or even a hint, in this L.A. Times article that Paris' second violation of probabtion involved driving 70 in a 35 zone, after dark, with headlights off. You'd think this fact would be included in a fair comparison of Paris' punishment to the "average schmoe's." She wanted to drive somewhere, but didn't want to get caught by the police for a second time, so she went really fast and turned off her lights. Your safety is, perhaps, not something Paris factors into her decisions. But the L.A. Times doesn't think you need any of that extra information, I guess. Maybe in Hollywood one can't resist trying to ingratiate oneself to the local royalty.

Drunk-driving and reckless-driving, to me, are worse offenses than sneaking a TV out of somebody's store or apartment, and they should be punished more harshly. We kill 40,000 a year on our roadways. That's men, women and children dead; two Vietnams every three years (not counting, as usual, the millions of foreign people killed in that war.) I know it's unpleasant, but please try to imagine the finality of it. Really, truly, absolutely, forever dead, gone, finished, never to be seen again, worm food, the dirt nap, the big chill. You, dear reader, stand a very good chance of being maimed or killed in a vehicle incident.

Posted by: Davey on June 14, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

If you put that much money and effort into pissing a judge off you'll probably serve a longer than average sentence.

Posted by: toast on June 14, 2007 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Let's draft vapid young celebrities like Ms. Hilton into combat so that we can watch the news and still keep up with whats really going on in the world.

Posted by: chance on June 14, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

She got sent to jail for her second probation violation (in thirty days!). She didn't get any punishment for the first. The LAT should look at what multiple offenders get. Also, did they really review 2 million cases? At thirty seconds per case, that's 16,666.66 man hours.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on June 14, 2007 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

The primary penalties for these crimes are monetary, and court-enforced sobriety. That's as it should be--there isn't enough room in jail for everyone who drinks and drives.

Yes, but again, Hilton got those penalties and then flouted them by not only driving on a suspended license but speeding and driving recklessly to boot. Morat nails it -- the penalties didn't deter her behavior one iota. In addition, her "poor poor pitiful me" exit from jail created the perception that she was getting off easy because she's an alleged celebrity, and that isn't acceptable either.

And Kevin? No, I didn't need to know. That doesn't stop me from commenting, of course.

Posted by: Gregory on June 14, 2007 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

In my head are many mansions, so sure, a couple of posts a year about her to space out the health care charts. What is shameful is not knowing about Paris Hilton, or even being mildly interested. It is being interested only in such as her. As leavening in a full mind, there's no shame in being curious what medical reason got Baca to spring her.

And as frankly0 says above, 80th percentile is in the main stream and could be justified by her unrepentant attitude.

Posted by: anandine on June 14, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Jose Padilla: Also, did they really review 2 million cases? At thirty seconds per case, that's 16,666.66 man hours.

Or half an hour to write and tweak a query and click the run button and a few seconds to search 2 million records.

Posted by: anandine on June 14, 2007 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin

Maybe I wanted to know, but I didn't want to read it here. There are trash news sources for trash news.

Posted by: tomeck on June 14, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

And everyone is forgetting the the most vital part. When Paris was supposed to appear for sentencing on already ignoring her probation, she stuck her finger in the eye of the Judge by waltzing in late for her court appearance.

I don't care if it's a traffic ticket or murder, if you publicly disrespect the Judge in court, you're not going to get a break. This is why even the most heinous of career criminals show up in a tie and and say "Yes, your honor!"

I don't think you'll find that figured into the statistics but ask anyone familiar with a court, don't piss off the Judge or you'll pay.

Posted by: not the senator on June 14, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I just keep going back to the lady I spoke with who spent two months in jail after her husband made false accusations against her. The judge refused to let her post bond because she lived out of state. She lost everything, her child, her job, her tuition for the semester. Perspective, people, perspective. When Paris gets out she's still going to have everything. The judge has a range of discretion and he doesn't have to give everyone the "average."

Posted by: Barbara on June 14, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I look forward to the day when I hear or read the word 'Paris' and it's about the French city or the Trojan War.

Drum: Admit it. You wanted to know.

This story ceased to be a news item a day after it broke. Now it's one-part mass flagellation and one part Entertainment Tonight...Unfortunately, that describes most 'news' in the era of content decisions made in a parent company's corporate boardroom.

The reason why 'freedom of press' is guaranteed by the Constitution is that our founding fathers recognized the need for a 'fourth branch' of government to keep the citizenry informed. Most of the US media is failing that task.

Posted by: grape_crush on June 14, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Not that I'm condoning her behavior, or am particularly interested in it, but...

where I grew up, and where my mother works for the county, everything that Paris has done would have resulted in at most an overnight stay in the county lockup and a $100 fine for each probation violation.

Posted by: Hillary on June 14, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe I wanted to know, but I didn't want to read it here. There are trash news sources for trash news.

While I don't dispute that PH gtets excessive media coverge, these high-profile criminal cases can be useful tools for grabbing the public's attention and teaching them how the criminal justicce system works. People wsho think PH got favorable treatment as the result of her money, for example, need to know more about the typical results of these cases . . .

Posted by: rea on June 14, 2007 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Though I don't care for Paris Hilton personally, and I find the hysteria surrounding her sickening, I think there are valuable lessons to be learned and considerations to be made regarding the relationship between fame, power, and society.

So yes, I wanted to know.

Posted by: T.R. Elliott on June 14, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK
Admit it. You wanted to know.

Not really. If I wanted to know celebrity gossip, I'd watch TV news, not read allegedly political blogs. But with a civil war in Palestine, and subpoenas being issued in Congress's investigations of the White House, etc., we get no discussion of either here, but plenty of discussion in the last couple days on George Bush's watch and Paris Hilton's jail drama, plus some filler about a Starbucks-like coffee shop in Ramallah and your commentary about a the finale of a TV series you never watched an episode of.

Anyway, it seems to me that if you are going to make the comparison the LA Times does of other offenders with Hilton, one important statistic is missing: how many of them corruptly influenced the Sheriff's Department into granting a medical release under terms others wouldn't have gotten before being sent back and made to spend time in jail? Because, unless that's the universe you are comparing to, its not exactly apples-to-apples.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK
People wsho think PH got favorable treatment as the result of her money, for example, need to know more about the typical results of these cases . . .

People who think Paris Hilton didn't get favorable treatment might need to reconsider why she was out of jail in the first place before being sent back.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

"these high-profile criminal cases can be useful tools for grabbing the public's attention and teaching them how the criminal justicce system works."

That is, until the LA times spends time, energy, and money "calculating" that Hilton is receiving unduly harsh treatment. "The system is corrupt! The law is being unjudiciously applied! She's being singled out because she's a celebrity!"

I was with friends last night who were arguing just that point. Ugh.

What about the -real- injustices in the legal/correctional system? Why isn't THAT being analyzed and reported by the Times and splashed all over the television?

This kind of case is bad for bringing attention to the criminal justice system because absolutely no one will be moved to fight the real corruption. Most of us who don't like Hilton think she's getting off too easy, and those who don't particularly care but LOVE the gossip feed the beast and ensure that this low-life stays on the air and in the spotlight for years to come. And then the few who think she's being treated badly, well...

Posted by: km on June 14, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

It's not even safe to read your blog. Ugh.

Posted by: Rich on June 14, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

So, her medical condition was a burning issue? I think you might want to rephrase that one Kevin.

Posted by: minion on June 14, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

What's the mean and variability of sentences of offenders likes Paris?

Although she got a heavier sentence than most, I'm willing to bet it's within one standard deviation.

Which is to say, it's difficult to argue she's victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Posted by: Auto on June 14, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Important Paris News"

Interesting discussion, but what happend in France that's so damned important?

Seriously, the problem isn't that this crap news shows up on the web, even here. If I'm not interested I can scroll down and see what else Kevin is blogging about. If I'm slightly interested I can get my 2-second fix and then go looking for real news. If I'm endlessly fascinated I can undoubtedly while away a whole week reading about Paris.

The problem with this crap, as has already been observed, is that on TV and cable, the "real" news gets crowded out. Believe it or not there are still a lot of people who think of CNN etc. as news sources and if it didn't happen on CNN it didn't happen.

Posted by: thersites on June 14, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

There are too many people imprisoned in our society. Incarceration should only be used to protect the citizens from harm or protect their property from harm. Most people imprisoned are not a threat to body or property. Arbitrary, harsh punishment appeals to the base emotions of the majority, which is why our prison population continues to grow, as politicians appeal to the righteously vengeful electorate.

Posted by: Brojo on June 14, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

No, I really didn't. If it were up to me (speaking from a visceral place and rooted in years of trauma response) all drunk drivers would do a year, minimum.

They should never be able to have a license again.

Posted by: Boronx on June 14, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo: You mean like the people locked up without any legal recourse at Gitmo in part because your vote for Ralph Nader helped elect George W. Bush? Sanctimonious douche.

Posted by: Pat on June 14, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Revoking a drivers license does not prevent people from driving their cars. Seizing the car would prevent many convicted drunk drivers from driving, and would probably be more of a deterrent than the threat of incarceration. Many people love their cars more than their freedom, wives, families and careers.

Posted by: Brojo on June 14, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

"driving with her headlights off"

Guess you have not driven much in South Central LA?

Yes, unless you are Dan "Fluffnews" Abrams running MSNBC, this should not dominate the news.

However, glad to see this study of the LA County Jail System - Too many opine about what would happen in either their areas of the country or on their wish list for sentencing - But, LACJS is another world to itself. So, it matters not what she would have received in Bum Fuck, Iowa or should have received in MADD, Middle America.

And Fluff Abrams did revisit the Anna Nicole saga the other evening sitting in for Scarborough, after opening with a very long meme on Paris. For Fluff, anything connected with Iraq is a hit and quickly run fill-in.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 14, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Auto: Although she got a heavier sentence than most, I'm willing to bet it's within one standard deviation.

80th percentile, said the Times, or about 1 and a half standard deviations.

Posted by: anandine on June 14, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo: There are too many people imprisoned in our society. Incarceration should only be used to protect the citizens from harm or protect their property from harm. Most people imprisoned are not a threat to body or property.

True, but if somebody has to be railroaded, wouldn't you like it to once in a while be someone like Paris Hilton instead of some maid at the Hilton? Paris was a threat to body and property because of drunk driving.

Posted by: anandine on June 14, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

How many of those convicted drunk drivers also subsequently committed a parole violation by driving with a suspended license, and how many did it so flagrantly that they were carrying around the signed "I won't drive" agreement on the front passenger seat of the car?

This was laughing in the face of the court (contempt?), and a judge would not accept that sort of flagrant behavior in many defendants. Ms. Hilton made her case exceptional. DId the Times article take this into account?

Posted by: AC on June 14, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I would prefer the privelaged be the only ones railroaded by our criminal justice system. I would prefer an institutional change that prevents anyone from being railroaded. I also understand the need to keep DUI convicts off of the roads due to the high probability of causing bodily injury, which is why I think license suspension does little to prevent it. License suspension is almost a tease to the perpetrator to drive without a license and incur even stiffer penalties.

The one jury I ever sat on was for a 2nd DUI, and the accused was caught driving with a suspended license also. If his car had been seized, he might have avoided the second DUI and the threat to others his poor decision to drive created.

Posted by: Brojo on June 14, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Fighting words: Can we stop pretending that Paris Hilton news brings the death knell of Western Civilization?

You diminish legitimate criticism by absurdly exaggerating it with straw men like this. Wow, I guess if she’s not literally responsible for the downfall of Western Civilization, it must be okay that news stations will use almost any excuse to break away from covering the war in Iraq.

Complete, utter nonsense. When a “news” network cuts away from a story about the resignation of one of the highest profile, remaining architects and proponents of the Iraq war to cover celebrity gossip, there’s simply no denying that substantive information that matters is being replaced by absolutely irrelevant nonsense. (This assumes, of course, you’re not so psychologically damaged to comprehend that a war costing hundreds of billions of dollars, tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives, a war that has broken our military, devastated our standing in the world, fostered more terrorism and contributed to the resurgence of al Qaida)

It’s all well and fine you get your Paris news from Perez Hilton – that’s as it should be. It’s a celebrity gossip site. It is a problem, however, when Perez Hilton-style infotainment starts crowding out and replacing real news on outlets that actually purport to be sources of legitimate journalism. And if you can’t appreciate that, you’re part of the problem.

Fighting words: And can we stop pretending that people aren't interested in Paris Hilton? People are.

Yes, some people – morons – may be interested in Paris Hilton. They’re still morons. We can only hope they are in the minority. And even if morns are in a majority, the last thing this nation should do is pander to them at the risk of lowering everyone else’s IQ in the process.

Also, let’s not confuse ‘easily distracted’ with ‘interest’. Just because almost anyone will stop momentarily to watch a midget fight if it breaks out in front of them does not mean these people had any interest or desire to see a midget fight before it was shoved in their faces.

If you give children the choice of a bowl candy or a plate of vegetables for dinner, they’ll quickly eat themselves into obesity and childhood diabetes. But hey, it’s giving them what they want, right? Well, we’re seeing a similar trend in our Mainstream Corporate Media – the choice between unhealthy infotainment and a well balanced diet of useful information on current events.

The thing is, most people with even minimally functioning brains would nevertheless still correctly observe that midget fights are an unimportant waste of time. The one legitimate excuse for seeking out midget fights is entertainment… an admission that undermines the argument for allowing it on a “news” program.


Posted by: Augustus on June 14, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, anandine.

1.5 SD is higher than I would have guessed.

Posted by: Auto on June 14, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus,

Look, people are not friggin' stupid. Most people can tell the difference between entertainment and real news. Most people know what is important and what isn't. You have to have at least some faith that the American people can tell the difference. I don't know anyone who thinks Paris Hilton news is more important that Iraq. And I am sure that you do not know anyone who thinks that either. Do you know why? Because NOBODY thinks that. People are not children. They can think for themselves (we hope), and they can tell the difference between what's important and what is not (or, as you would say, between candy and vegetables) regardless of what's the top story in the media.

Now, your point about CNN news cutting away from the impending stepping down of Peter Pace (to be replaced by Admiral Michael Mullin) to show Paris is legitimate. But so what? What are you going to do about it? Unless you start your own news program or your own blog (other posters have their own blogs), there's not much that you can do. At best, you can do what I do and not watch CNN, Fox News, etc. I get my news from newspapers, the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and respectable blogs. And guess what? I spent the last few weeks with little Paris Hilton news or news of missing blonde girls.

Now, regarding people who get their news solely from CNN or Fox? Well, there's not much we can do there.

Oh, and one more thing. Normally, I would not take something like this personally, but you struck a nerve. I have been protesting and speaking out against this Goddamn, illegal, immoral, f*cked up war in Iraq since it started being discussed in 2002. I know very well what the consequences of this disasterous decision, both in terms of blood and treasure. Don't you dare even imply that I don't understand this.

Posted by: Fighting Words on June 14, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

My apologies for the crazy symbols (stupid Microsoft) - it looked clean in the preview. (And yes, I am unapologetic calling people who are actively trying to follow Paris Hilton news 'morons'). Once again with feeling (with a slight revision in the final paragraph):

Fighting words: Can we stop pretending that Paris Hilton news brings the death knell of Western Civilization?

You diminish legitimate criticism by absurdly exaggerating it with straw men like this. Wow, I guess if she's not literally responsible for the downfall of Western Civilization, it must be okay that news stations will use almost any excuse to break away from covering the war in Iraq.

Complete, utter nonsense. When a "news" network cuts away from a story about the resignation of one of the highest profile, remaining architects and proponents of the Iraq war to cover celebrity gossip, there's simply no denying that substantive information that matters is being replaced by absolutely irrelevant nonsense. (This assumes, of course, you're not so psychologically damaged to comprehend that a war costing hundreds of billions of dollars, tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives, a war that has broken our military, devastated our standing in the world, fostered more terrorism and contributed to the resurgence of al Qaida)

It's all well and fine you get your Paris news from Perez Hilton - that's as it should be. It's a celebrity gossip site. It is a problem, however, when Perez Hilton-style infotainment starts crowding out and replacing real news on outlets that actually purport to be sources of legitimate journalism. And if you can't appreciate that, you're part of the problem.

Fighting words: And can we stop pretending that people aren't interested in Paris Hilton? People are.

Yes, some people - morons - may be interested in Paris Hilton. They're still morons. We can only hope they are in the minority. And even if morns are in a majority, the last thing this nation should do is pander to them at the risk of lowering everyone else's IQ in the process.

Also, let's not confuse 'easily distracted' with 'interest'. Just because almost anyone will stop momentarily to watch a midget fight if it breaks out in front of them does not mean these people had any interest or desire to see a midget fight before it was shoved in their faces.

If you give children the choice of a bowl candy or a plate of vegetables for dinner, they'll quickly eat themselves into obesity and childhood diabetes. But hey, it's giving them what they want, right? Well, we're seeing a similar trend in our Mainstream Corporate Media - the choice between unhealthy infotainment and a well balanced diet of useful information on current events.

The thing is, most people with even minimally functioning brains would nevertheless still correctly observe that midget fights are an unimportant waste of time. The one legitimate excuse for seeking out midget fights (Paris Hilton news) is that they are entertainment; yes, they are. But an admission that they are entertainment undermines the argument for having it air on a "news" program, doesn't it!

Posted by: Augustus on June 14, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus,

Okay. I have calmed down a bit. My last post was snarky, and I shouldn't have been. I just got upset when you implied that I don't understand the consequences of the Iraq war.

However, I do want to mention one thing. And it is probably something that you don't want to hear. I was like you. I railed against the "corporate media," and I made the exact same arguments that you did (except it was regarding O.J., Janet Jackson, etc. not Paris, Lindsay, and Britney). And it got me nowhere. In fact, in my opinion, it might have done more of a disservice to the progressive cause.

You see, I grew up around a lot of conservatives and independants. And there are good people out there. While they are not progressive or registered Democrats, they are not the hard core, 28%er, dead-end Republicans either (note, you will never change the opinion of anyone who calls the media "liberal," but you know that). What I have learned from these non-political, non-ideological, "independants" (for lack of a better term) is that they HATE the argument that you (and I, years ago) are making. When you (and I) say, "The media does not show enough real news, and shows too much 'fluff.'" They hate this because what they hear is, "You think that I am so stupid, I can not make up my own mind." I know that you do not think that, and I know that is not the point that you are trying to make. But what people, and I am talking specifically about people who we can pursuade to vote Democrat, hear is something totally different.

The thing is, I agree with you about the media. There are good sources of info out there, there are sources that are okay, there's crap, and then there is Fox News. People are going to get their information from different sources. We just need to trust people to make their own decisions, whether about Paris Hilton or Iraq.

Posted by: Fighting Words on June 14, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Generally, the pulling of drivers' licenses do not stop people from driving. In fact, they'll usually just drive away from the courthouse.

Taking away their cars is more effective, but does not stop them from borrowing other people's cars, especially rich people like Hilton.

The threat of suspending a license is used for any traffic stop in CA that's ignored or fought - if you have an extended court fight about a traffic stop, your license will be suspended at some point. Even for turning right on a red light.

The fact is, sentences do nothing to 'prevent' violations.

I don't care about Hilton, but the judge in her case is using the noteriety around it to jerk her around. If only the judge would do due dilligence in all cases.

Posted by: Crissa on June 14, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Did I mention that her case is nothing out of the ordinary?

It's a very common charge in CA courts, driving while suspended. And even more common for the suspension to be because of something serious prior - those who were suspended by something less serious aren't very likely to be stopped a second time.

This is one reason why it's important to make sure all drivers are properly licensed - whether they're residents, citizens, tourists, or whatever.

Posted by: Crissa on June 14, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Fighting Words: When you (and I) say, "The media does not show enough real news, and shows too much 'fluff.'" They hate this because what they hear is, "You think that I am so stupid, I can not make up my own mind."

Language and labeling.
Yes. But consider a few things. The Right has successfully labeled the media as being "liberal", no matter how false this is and how angry it makes liberals. And if you repeat it enough time, a certain portion of people will simply believe it. Heck, Conservatives successfully turned "liberal" (upper and lowercase) into a dirty word.

Well, Liberals stop being cowards and push back. And they need to stop buying into the Republican defense-mechanism against this push-back, which is to immediately label and dismiss Liberals as "angry", then plead victimhood and marginalization.

(the most absurd and conspicuous example are Evangelicals who have somehow convinced their followers that the 96% of Americans who self-identify as 'Christians' are somehow being marginalized in society by atheists)

Point of fact, the media is run by profit-minded corporations, not hippies. Contrary to what some conservatives seem to believe, Jeff Immult, Robert Iger, Sumner Redstone, and Rupert Murdoch don't meet tri-annually in Big Sur to discuss bringing down capitalism over drum circles and tie-dying t-shirts. They're all hyper-wealthy super-capitalists who are generally extremely sympathetic to Conservative philosophy.

If it fires up Bubba's blood to hear the truth, that's his problem.

If Liberals were to back down from telling the truth every time some ignorant or politically motivated moron gets angry, we'd quickly end up wallowing in our own filth under Medieval theocracy.

Fighting Words: We just need to trust people to make their own decisions, whether about Paris Hilton or Iraq.

That sounds good in the abstract. Yes, theoretically people could spend hours a day on the internet doing their own research to find the news that is important to them and analyze it.

You'll notice Republicans have used a version of this illogic to blame Democrats for voting for the war: never mind that most of the analysis the Bush administration provided to congress was false or manufactured... theoretically, Democrats could/should have collected and analyzed their own information and arrived at the correct answers that the purported experts somehow missed.

It's a Libertarian Snipe Hunt; in a modern society, the individual is often in a poor position to make an informed decision on such matters: the individual often doesn't have full and ready access to the information they need, nor the time to educate themselves sufficiently to process that information should they find it.

It's why we have specialization of labor. And a Representative form of government rather than a pure, direct democracy.

The ber-capitalists blaming the individual/victim for not being their own one-man media outlet and government watchdog are pulling your leg (and laughing hysterically at the gullibility of those who buy into it).

Journalists are people who have careers dedicated to finding, researching, analyzing, and prioritizing information. We're accustomed to believe they are experts that we can trust to provide us with useful and/or important information.

When they abuse that trust, they deserve to be criticized and ridiculed for it.

And no, I do not agree that there's nothing you can do about it. Vote with your feet and dollars; stop watching the crap. There's a reason why the blogosphere has become so popular - it's a faster, more efficient way of getting precisely the news that matters most to the individual consumer.

The news corporations have responded by racing to the bottom. They have compromised their standards and replaced hard news and journalism with fluff stories and entertainment. It might help in the short run, but I'd bet it's a losing proposition in the long run.

And unless or until they return to important, investigative journalism - you can help by turning them off.

---------------
Personal replies:

Fighting Words: Okay. I have calmed down a bit. My last post was snarky, and I shouldn't have been.

No apologies necessary - I like snarky, and there's nothing wrong with a passionate opinion.

Fighting Words: I just got upset when you implied that I don't understand the consequences of the Iraq war.

Completely understandable, since I was being careless in distinguishing between the "royal you" (people in general) and you (a.k.a. Fighting Words).

I did not intend to direct the comment about not appreciating the importance of the Iraq at you. It was more along the colloquial 'you'd have to be a fool not to...'. Though I later referenced the website you visit, which doubtless muddled the distinction. My apologies.

Plus, I don't deny being deliberately inflammatory, but really I'm just using a few of your comments as a springboard for a general rant, so hopefully it's not taken more personally than it was intended.

Posted by: Augustus on June 14, 2007 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus,

No problem. And it was a good (meaning productive) rant that you had. And anyway, the other night, John Stewart skewered CNN regarding this same issue (Both Paris Hilton, and media coverage in general) better than anyone I have seen in a long time.

Posted by: Fighting Words on June 14, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

crap!! now Paris is responsible for us losing the war in Iraq?? i thought the neo-cons were! maybe if the troops wore Prada uniforms more americans would care!

Posted by: cookiepuss on June 15, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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