Here’s what comes from watching too many cop and courtroom shows: You start talking like the detectives. Over morning coffee your beloved cites a news story about a murder, and says she “likes” the husband for it. A friend relates a tale about a burglary, and then states that the cops got the “skels” that did it. Cookies are missing from a brand new bag of Oreos, and there’s no question who the “perp” is… since you forgot to wipe the crumbs off your shirt.
All cute, maybe even funny. Crime, talk about crime, it’s the stuff of late night comedy. Right?
Last Friday, Conan O’ Brien was doing a desk bit in which he pretends to start with a close-up of a photo and then keeps enlarging the shot until a sight gag is revealed. In one example something that, zoomed in, looked like desert sand turned out to be a Boy Scout in uniform. Then, in the final shot, we see that, ha ha, it’s a Boy Scout testifying at the Michael Jackson trial.
The audience laughs. Conan laughs. I guess the Scout was going to testify he was sexually molested by a creepy pop music eminence and since that’s now pop culture, it’s the stuff of jokes. Score one for Jackson; he’s apparently numbed our sensitivity to the sexual assault of children.
But others might argue that the Jackson case has spiked intolerance and contributed to the momentum to expose, if not punish, pedophile Catholic priests. Last week it was announced that a $120 million settlement from the Covington (Kentucky) Diocese would be shared by over 100 victims. It’s the largest abuse settlement so far. However, the Covington Diocese will not be required to publicly disclose any internal church documents or even reveal how it handles the accusations against its priests. And it’s difficult to assess whether the money will make any of Conan O’ Brien’s bits funnier to the victims.
We have resisted writing about the Jackson case for several reasons. Clearly there was plenty being said elsewhere. And at a time when our nation was being deceived by its leaders into entering an unnecessary war with enormous costs, human and otherwise, this writer thought focus should be elsewhere.
I stand by that, yet I am troubled by two lingering issues that will remain after the Jackson verdict. One: Has the harvesting of comedy from Jackson’s court case in any way inured us to the sexual exploitation of children? Two: Are we ever going to focus on the role of the parents who delivered their children to an allegedly sick man’s castle for overnight stays?
Propriety and human behavior will never be steered like an automobile. You can hope that something like the Jackson case would increase sensitivity, not erode it… but you can’t count on that. You can pass laws protecting children, but you can seemingly never cut through the Neanderthal presumption that parents somehow “own” their children and are free to shove them into a lion cage of one sort or another as they please.
Years ago I got into a running argument with an intelligent and well-read bartender. The argument centered on my being disturbed by the sight of the children of American Hari Krishnas… on the streets, drumming and chanting in their robes, their heads shaved. I wondered if the kids missed baseball or video games or just doing kid stuff. Now I think, better that than having Mom dump you at the gates of Neverland.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) Rush Limbaugh’s radio show will be
(a) available as a Podcast.
(b) translated into English.
(c) animated for Nickelodeon.
2) State officials may allow phone companies to
(a) charge whatever they want.
(b) add taxes nobody under stands.
(c) plunder customers like Huns.
(d) change the 310 area code.
3) GM will cut back its production of
(a) larger SUVs.
(b) personal aircraft carriers.
(c) gasoline-powered mountains.
1) (a) “What a breakthrough!”
2) (d) “Make it 007…”
3) (a) “Introducing… the Hummette!”