Cable news knows every detail about Rielle Hunter’s affair with John Edwards, but can’t tell if the Supreme Court is a yay or nay on the single biggest decision in its recent history.
Thanks to Ken Goldstein’s biting article on Rielle Hunter’s tell all book about her affair with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, I am now aware that the book exists. Thanks for that, Ken. I owe you one.
Which leads me to wonder how I was able to sidestep this marketing juggernaut until now? I suppose its because I don’t do cable TV. My unwillingness to pay money to be lambasted by the savage marketing excesses of cable TV has relegated me to some undervalued target market; an outlying niche of sullen one DVD at a time Netflix customers who are not considered worthy of this particular PR blitz. What I do know is that the 24 Hour Cable News cycle is the magic conduit for all things Octomom-creepy. What the hell happened to Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow? Something sure the hell has changed. TV news now knows when Ms. Hunter’s book is out but can’t tell if the Supreme Court is a yay or nay on the single biggest decision in its recent history.
I may have to redouble my efforts to avoid the barber shop and all other public spaces wherein hangs the ubiquitous yammering flat screen TV with words racing across the bottom third. Its a sure sign of greasy sideshow fingers seeking access to my pocketbook.
These days I get most of my news leads from Twitter links. I leap nimbly from one story link to the next, trying to avert my eyes from the ads running alongside the text. It’s as if words have finally taken primacy over images. Because we know, deep in our hearts, that images mean advertising and advertising—once a nice person demonstrating furniture polish on the black and white TV of my youth—is now a gaudy hooker, (pick your gender) blowing stale fumes in our faces and offering the intellectual equivalent of the clap.
Whatever the case, I’ve somehow, up till now, missed the marketing message about Ms. Hunter’s book. But now that I’ve finally been side splashed with this particularly distasteful marketing stream, a few thoughts come to mind.
It amuses me to imagine the editorial meetings behind a “tell all” celebrity expose. How do they decide how many pages it has to be? 196? 224? What’s the page count you need in order to hit the right market at the right price point? And then, I imagine the editors, sitting around decided how to pad out all those pages. The pages are that aren’t about betrayal, or adultery, or drunken car wrecks on dark country roads.
I can only imagine the first few chapters of Ms. Hunter’s book. I mean, do you hit the ground running with “the first time I looked into the candidates eyes?” Or start off with a dreamy childhood landscape and the words, “I’ve always wanted to help my country. I’ve always wanted to believe in something bigger than me…”
Then there are the negotiations between Ms. Hunter’s agent and the publisher. (Is there a go-to agent for this kind of book?) Oh, to be a fly on the wall for those conversations. What degree of intimacy would be needed in order to secure a larger advance? Would there be pillow talk? Whispers during intercourse? Cries of forbidden pleasure? What about the candidate’s family? What did their pain and public humiliation look like from Ms. Hunter’s vantage point? That could be big money.
I could no sooner open Ms. Hunter’s book and read it than line up for an injection of stagnant pond water. And yet, here I am discussing it.
And let me be clear. I do not presume to judge either Ms. Hunter or Mr. Edwards for having an affair. Adultery represents a degree of moral complexity well beyond my capacity to judge. As a human being, I am fully aware that none of us are so without sin we are free to cast the first stone where matters of human procreation are concerned.
But, what I can and will do is judge Ms. Hunter’s decision to publish this book, subtitled “John Edwards, Our Daughter, And Me”. In fact, I’m inclined to take issue with all the parties to this particularly low brow crime. A group from which Mr. Edwards is notably absent, but from which many of the rest of us are not.
As Ken so eloquently puts it, Ms. Hunter is “stupidly unashamed.” But she couldn’t do it publicly without us. The fact that this book and hundreds more like it are published every year, means we are all complicit in the cesspool we call modern mass media, which plays to our baser selves with salacious and obscene inquiries, inspiring us to hold ourselves in judgement even as we greedily gulp down the sordid details of one celebrity meltdown after another. We are the pigs at the media trough. We are the people who fuel the relentless drumbeat of gossip and small mindedness in the 24 hour news cycle, taking an obscene interest in things we monetize through our grocery check out line In Touch Magazine obsessions.
So, even as I wax judgmental about Ms. Hunter’s book, driving click-throughs for a media outlet of my own choosing, (an irony not lost on me) I would suggest we need to be mindful of what we do or do not monetize via our mass media dollars. Because whatever the mass media has become, it has become because that is what we want it to be. And the relentless avalanche of bottom-feeding, celebrity-obsessed dreck served up by cable news will not end until we choke the money off at the source. And the source, my friends, is us.
Photo of Pigs Who Eat courtesy of Shutterstock.