Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Charlie Sheen affair

This is a momentous and exciting time in the history of the world. All over the Middle East and across North Africa, ordinary people are rising up to demand that basic human rights be respected in their countries and that citizens have a say in how they are governed. In our own country, across the Mid-West, workers are marching in the streets and standing up for their rights to have some control over their own working lives. They are demanding that their dignity and the dignity of their work be respected and not denigrated and scapegoated. In Washington, one of the nation's major political parties is doing its dead-level best to take this country back to the mid-nineteenth century. In China, the government is cracking down on reporters, sometimes beating and arresting them as they attempt to show the effect of all the unrest in their own country.

In short, there is plenty of serious news to keep even the 24/7 news cycle of the cable news networks busy reporting it. So what do they choose to spend their time reporting on? A drug-addled, egomaniacal actor who is suffering from diarrhea of the mouth. Charlie Sheen can't shut up, and the networks and cable news love him for it. They keep encouraging him and enabling his mental breakdown and his career suicide by offering him chances to be interviewed on their various shows. This poor, sick, self-delusional man has become the main headline of many of the television "news" shows.

To give the devils their due, the news shows do actually spend time reporting on the real news stories of the day, some of which I mentioned in the first paragraph, but still, they give an inordinate amount of air time to this non-story. Another drug addict cracks up. Ho hum. Tell me again, exactly what is news about that?

I understand that Charlie Sheen is - or has been - the star of a popular telelvision show, one that a certain member of my family actually seems to enjoy watching. As such, no doubt his fans are sincerely interested in what is happening to him. His family and the people who care about him must be beside themselves with worry and concern over this sordid affair and certainly their suffering is not made less by the pandering of the news shows.

Personally, I have sympathy for Sheen as a human being. I do believe he is sick and that he needs help and I hope he gets it. But as a news story, I can state unequivocally that I do not give two figs for Charlie Sheen. I do not care if his series is canceled and his career ruined and I do not think that the news shows should spend one precious minute of their air time reporting on his situation. Not when there are people dying on the streets of Libya trying to bring democracy to that country. Not when the workers of America are under attack by determined and well-financed foes who do not believe they should have the right to organize and bargain collectively. Not when children in Texas and across the country stand to lose health insurance coverage and to have the quality of their education debased because politicians want to pay back their wealthy supporters.

No, there are too many real and important stories that need reporting. We do not need the distraction of the Charlie Sheen affair.

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