surrounding Paris Hilton shows how perverse news reporting has
become. It boggles the mind that newsworthy items of great
importance are pushed to the background in order to cover someone
who impacts society in no positive way and has no obvious talent
other than getting in the news.
Who is Paris
Hilton? And what has she done to warrant such extensive coverage?
Apart from being born to opulent wealth and starring in a homemade
sex video, reality TV series, minor film roles and a self-titled
music album, there is little that sets this 26-year-old DUI offender
apart from the mass of poseurs that haunt the pages of celebrity
I’m not trying
to belittle Hilton, who may be a closet humanitarian when she’s not
driving drunk or cat-fighting with the likes of Nicole Richie or
Lindsay Lohan. However, as news producers are fond of reminding us,
there is only so much airtime available for breaking news (I was
once bumped from a major nightly news show in order to make room for
breaking news on the death of the Clintons’ dog, Buddy). This leads
one to wonder what real news is getting cut so that television news
programs and newspapers can devote endless hours and print space to
Paris Hilton trivia. Let me count the ways.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, we’re running a
Code Orange on our domestic and international flights right now,
which means that we’re facing a “high risk of terrorist attacks.”
Yet, incredibly, Hilton’s release from jail and subsequent
re-imprisonment has received more coverage than the plot to blow up
The war in
Iraq. Even with American troops and Iraqi civilians dying on a daily
basis, Operation Iraqi Freedom receives minimal coverage by the
media. We rarely hear the names of our fallen soldiers—they are
treated as the anonymous dead—nor do we hear anything about their
lives or family members. Yet we’ve been treated to an excruciating
amount of minutiae about Hilton’s first few days in jail—from the
dryness of her skin (because there’s no cream in jail) to her attire
(an orange and brown jumpsuit) and activities (she plays ping pong
when she’s not in her room alone). Hilton’s “horrible experience,”
in which she didn’t eat, sleep, was severely depressed and felt like
she was “in a cage,” even merited an “exclusive” interview with
Enduring Freedom. The war in Afghanistan has been dragging on for
close to six years, and yet we rarely hear much about it anymore.
This is despite the fact that Congress has appropriated about $510
billion thus far for Iraq, Afghanistan and other security concerns.
in Darfur. It is estimated that there have been 400,000 deaths and
more than two million people forced into substandard refugee camps.
Is Paris Hilton more important than the starvation, rape and mass
killings of innocent civilians?
Africa. According to former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan,
between 1999 and 2000, more people died of AIDS in Africa than in
all the wars on that continent, including Angola, Sierra Leone,
Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
UNAIDS estimated that worldwide at the end of 2006, there were 39.5
million people living with HIV, 4.3 million new infections of HIV
and 2.9 million deaths from AIDS. Sadly, over two-thirds of HIV
cases, and over 80% of the deaths, were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
one of the more staggering problems facing this country in terms of
security and its economic future, and yet we only occasionally hear
updates on possible legislation. And whatever happened to our
supposed rebuilding of New Orleans after Katrina? There are people
living in tents and on the streets of New Orleans, but how many of
us know it? And although many Americans won’t be taking a vacation
this summer because they can’t afford the gas prices, there’s little
analytical reporting on why we’re getting bilked at the gas pump.
These are just
a smattering of the issues that should be getting better coverage
but aren’t. And why is that? Largely because we live in a
celebrity-obsessed culture where those writing, reporting and
producing the news are more concerned with the antics of so-called
celebrities such as Paris Hilton than they are with reporting on the
issues that affect the lives of mainstream Americans.
But those who
are consumed with such trivia are really at fault here. As a result,
we no longer know what’s going on in our own country, let alone the
world. And it’s a crying shame.
Constitutional attorney and
author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford
Institute. He can be contacted at
Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at