Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Anna Nicole Smith is dead. This shouldn’t be news to you; it happened quite a while ago, and it’s been all over the news, all over the interwebs, and probably all over the blogosphere too.

I don’t know a whole lot about Anna Nicole Smith’s life. (Or her death, for that matter.) In fact, it’s safe to say that I know almost nothing about her. All I know is what I saw in MAD TV sketches, which is hardly enough to call me knowledgeable. So I’m not writing, as some have done, to mourn her death. Neither am I writing to say “finally, she’s dead”, as others have probably done. I’m not writing to talk about feminism, or any of the other topics that were suddenly attached, posthumously, to Anna’s name. (Not in the mainstream media, but in the blogosphere.)

I am writing to shame the media. And I’m shaming the media for three simple words: “former Playboy playmate”.

I think we all realize that news about Anna’s death was incredibly overblown in the media; it’s not a story that deserved so much coverage. If you’ll forgive the hyperbole, there is no longer a man, woman, or child in North America who doesn’t know Smith’s name—at least, not a man, woman, or child with the power of speech. And, by the same token, all of those men, women, and children also know that she was a “former Playboy playmate”.

It has become an unwritten rule in the media that these three words must always be prepended to Anna’s name—never is there to be an article written about her that does not include her new name. She is no longer Anna Nicole Smith, she is “former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith”. (If you have to leave any part of this phrase out, leave out the “Anna Nicole Smith” part—if you say “former Playboy playmate whatsername”, we’ll know who you mean.)

Does the fact that Smith posed for Playboy have anything to do with the story? Well… no, not really. Nothing at all, in fact. It’s pure, unadulterated, unapologetic titillation. Sex sells, so we’re going to saturate the airwaves with story after story about Smith’s death, using the phrase “former Playboy playmate” as much as humanly possible.

Former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith died in her home today. The cause of the former Playboy playmate’s death is, as yet, undetermined, but we are getting word that the former Playboy playmate may have died from an overdose of sleeping pills.

The medical examiner is currently refusing to speculate on the cause of the former nude model’s death, but friends of the former stripper said that Smith, who was a naked nude model for Playboy had been taking sleeping pills, leading others to speculate that this might have been the cause of her death. No word yet as to whether former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith was naked, at the time of her death. Nude naked sex. Sex stripper sex.

Back to you, Tim. Breasts.

I’ve long since given up on any type of journalistic integrity from the mainstream media, so I’m not writing this post because I’m shocked or appalled. It’s par for the course. Any time there’s any news story about a woman who is involved, or has previously been involved, in any kind of sex work, it’s mandatory that this has to be mentioned in the story. A woman just won the lottery? So what? A woman who used to be a stripper just won the lottery? Front page! Former Stripper Wins Lottery! Who cares if it was decades ago that she used to be a stripper, and she’s married now, with kids?

It’s no wonder we don’t expect much from the media, these days. They’ve earned our mistrust. Journalism has been replaced by titillation and soundbites. News has been replaced by spin. Commentary has been replaced by partisan punditry. Being “balanced” has been replaced by showing “both sides” of any argument, even if one of those “sides” is clearly ridiculous.

  • Typical Political Talk Show
  • Host
  • We’re here tonight to talk about global warming.
  • Guest 1
  • We need to sign on to Kyoto, because we’re one of the few countries in the world that hasn’t yet done so.
  • Guest 2
  • Scientists are idiots. Global warming doesn’t exist.
  • Host
  • And we’ve got both guests here tonight, to show both sides of the story! Stay tuned!

Actually, that might be a bad example. There’s been so much blatantly false reporting in the media about global warming that people might actually believe scientists disagree about global warming. (The truth is that there are thousands of scientists who say there’s no question, of course it’s happening, and two or three who work for conservative think tanks (funded by oil companies) who say that there’s disagreement.)

As an aside, I fully realize that the above paragraph sounds like paranoid rantings. Unfortunately, although it is a rant, it’s also true.

When large media companies amalgamate, this is what you get. News becomes a product, like any other, and the marketing department, rather than the newsroom, decides what the public will see. When you have fewer and fewer companies running the media, you get fewer and fewer viewpoints. (Have you read Necessary Illusions, yet, to see where this is all going? Or rather, has gone? Actually, the global warming example above is a perfect example: take a look at the org charts of the big multinational companies who are running the news, and you’ll see that they’re also interconnected with the oil companies. (The chart I linked to above doesn’t show the relationship, because it’s only focused on media companies.) It’s no surprise that they report on global warming as if it’s a theory, instead of a dire fact that needs addressing.)

All that to say this: For shame, media. For shame.

It’s tempting to say that “at least it’s better in Canada than it is in the States”, but the fact is, most of the “former Playboy playmate” quotes I’ve heard have been from Canadian media sources, not American ones. It’s not like I’m getting my news from Fox, right? We have as much to be ashamed of as they do, when it comes to crass titillation, at the expense of real news.