O.J. Simpson and the Scandal Trap
Despite the economic tsunami that blasted Wall Street and the actual hurricane that blasted the Gulf Coast, MMM dutifully found time this week to cover the trial of a running back arrested in Las Vegas. Of course, when the accused was also protagonist in the "trial of the 20th century," it's a safe hedge for producers to Juice up the airwaves a little.
For those of you too focused on bankruptcy, floods and war, the O.J. Simpson Redux, (or is it part three?), kicked off Monday in Clark County Court. This time the charge is armed robbery, with prosecutors claiming Simpson and a cadre of unsavory thugs shook down a sports memorabilia dealer in order to reclaim some of the former Heisman winner's collectibles. Sure, it's not as sexy as a double-murder-love-triangle, but it's a sequel and like most sequels this trail has half the sizzle and twice the hype of the original. And there are so many cool new tools now that we didn't have back in 1994.
For instance, CNN doesn't just have its live TV coverage, the network also has articles analyzing that coverage, web cams streaming the video and a dedicated team live blogging the trial. Fox News even has a reporter Twittering his blog coverage with such insightful nuggets as: "O.J. has arrived. Let's get this thing going. 08:27 AM September 15, 2008 from mobile web." And "has just gotten up from a nap to get the latest OJ info. He is blogging on foxnews.com/housley 06:14 PM September 15, 2008 from mobile web." We tweet, you decide!
As a member of the media, who understands the hours and man-power that go into creating such hoopla, I still find myself both bemused by the coverage and fascinated. I know I shouldn't watch, and yet I'm watching and blogging about it. But the cliché that scandals are like peeping car crashes is incomplete. They're more like a bad habit, that gets you excited at first, then sucks you in, and ultimately leads you to regret the decision. They're like sitting at home all day, eating junk food and watching TV.
Interestingly enough, the word scandal itself comes from the Latin scandalum which means trap, or in Ecclesiastical Greek, skandalon, the trap's trigger, on which the bait is placed that springs the trap when it is touched, causing the trap to close. It denotes the enticement or occasion leading to conduct which brings with it the ruin of the person in question -- alluring but dangerous.
That etymology is faithfully expressed in our modern scandals. They are falls from grace for the football hero, movie star or rock legend. The crimes themselves are dangerous, and the publicity of an icon committing them alluring. But when the public chooses to follow O.J. Simpson's latest scandal, in the midst of the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression, one has to wonder if the trap has been sprung on them too.
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