Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Hey! How 'bout we stream the birth—live and tight-focus!"

Aaannnnnd...they're off! The race begins! The race, that is, to make maximum jack off Jamie Lynn Spears' not-so-blessed event while at the same time seeming oh-so-concerned and socially responsible. Nickelodeon, which airs Jamie Lynn's show, Zoey 101, is brainstorming a new special that will help teens and preteens plumb the deeper social meaning of the 16-year-old's gestational dilemma.* The show would likely be anchored by journalist and Nick News host Linda Ellerbee. "Whenever an issue becomes so prevalent that it's inescapable," Nickelodeon spokesman Dan Martinsen told reporters, "[Ellerbee's] show is where we turn to help kids navigate and interpret and understand it."

You don't have to be a puritan to realize that any such show is apt to have an untoward effect on Nickelodeon's impressionable viewers. (Zoey's core demographic consists of kids ages "9 to 14," says Martinsen.) And I feel even more secure in that realization after hearing Martinsen's delicate talk of "navigating" and "understanding." There will be no scarlet letters here—no stigmatizing judgments over the fact that Ms. Spears, who plays the virginal Zoey, is, ipso facto, sexually active; that will be framed as "contemporary reality," just "the way things are these days." There will be no long harangues over Jamie Lynn's manifest stupidity and/or negligence in matters of birth control and STDs. Thus—even giving Nickelodeon the benefit of the doubt—the show by default will end up vindicating the network's (factually) budding star by reducing her pregnancy to a question of "mature choices." The message will be that what happened to Jamie Lynn is "part of life" and, at the last, is "OK." Pretty much like everything that comes out of Hollywood these days: It's all "OK." (As long as you're talking about pet left-wing agenda items. More conservative themes aren't quite as "OK.")

And let's be real here, how else could Nickelodeon possibly play it? Are they gonna make one of their marquee properties look like an IMBECILIC WHORE?**

(But you do have to wonder: How will Nickelodeon react if the presumptive daddy, Casey Aldridge, gets busted for statutory rape or even a violation of the Mann Act, which is a Federal beef. That would kind of make the issue a bit more awkward to "navigate" now, wouldn't it? Then again, maybe it would actually help, by turning Spears into more of a victim. Here's an interesting perspective on some of the legal angles in the case.)

To be fair, all of this is nothing new. The feigning of social responsibility for commercial purposes is a staple tactic in today's broadcast journalism. And, really, no one ever did it better than the immortal, much-awarded Ted Koppel. Koppel and his Nightline producers couldn't quite bring themselves to dive unabashedly into the gutter, so they'd find a way of covering those same stories once-removed—filming that gutter through a gauzy veil of intellectual pretense. Instead of, say, covering terrorist decapitation videos per se, Koppel might do a show that weighed the pros and cons of media coverage of decapitation videos. The genius of such a strategy was that, deftly handled (and explained in the eloquent copy for which Nightline became famous), it would allow Ted to descend even deeper into the muck than many of the thou he was holier than; he could out-tacky the tackiest tabloid shows and still respect himself in the morning. ("Is there too much graphic violence in TV news? Judge for yourself. We're about to show you an unedited clip of a shotgun suicide. Be warned, this is graphic footage, folks, and not for the faint of heart...")

I'm sure that if Koppel were still doing Nightline today, his segment on Jamie Lynn would be spun in terms of, say, "the role-model debate." And those of us who fancy ourselves above it all—who can't even stand the theme song to Entertainment Tonight—would watch Nightline's coverage and congratulate ourselves on our excellent taste in broadcasting.


AND, finally, a REVISED short holiday message to the SHAMblog community: Those of you who, for whatever reasons having to do with your own mental health, were reading SHAMblog in the wee hours of Saturday morning and thought you saw a p.s. about how I intend to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on ad hominem attacks... No, you weren't imagining it. It was there. It was a declaration I made after a very long, draining day, under some duress and with some misgivings, for I knew that such a policy inevitably would burden me with an awful lot of editing and purging (kind of like the blogger's counterpart to bulimia). That has already come to pass. This morning I had to reject 3 of 6 new comments that came through—tellingly including one that praised me for the new policy. That contributor wrote, in part, "Unlike some people on this blog, I try to keep an open mind and consider actual evidence in the stands I take." The context of the comment later makes clear who that "some people" is. That's ad hominem, folks, and a comment I probably should've killed even under the existing criteria. By implication at least, that contributor is calling another contributor not just close-minded but stupid (i.e. for taking stands without "actual evidence"). The bottom line is, I'm just going to keep doing the best job I can on a case-by-case basis, giving people a bit more leash where I feel it's appropriate and/or justified by the context and/or the flow of the thread. In my mind, I was already policing the more inflammatory attacks on the blog, editing or rejecting as needed (though I know I left something to be desired in the minds of a few of our regulars). I hope all of you will accompany me on that journey.

* though there are reports of rumblings of discontent from Zoey-land; it's a safe bet that many high-level meetings are being had, and Nickelodeon brass aren't exactly going into Christmas feeling giddy. At some point the channel will have to decide whether to batten down the hatches and air 2008's episodes—which are already in the can—or pull the plug on the show if pressure gets too intense. It also appears that Jamie Lynn may lose a certain amount of exposure, at least until everything settles down/sorts out. At least one major magazine, CosmoGirl!, has ditched its pre-pregnancy plans to feature Jamie Lynn on its cover. Editor-in-chief Susan Schulz told Us magazine, "I don't feel like I can put her on the cover right now because, as you can imagine, girls are disappointed in Jamie Lynn."
** Relax, people. I'm not saying that's what she is. I'm just saying, in any case, the network is certainly not going to leave viewers with that impression of her!


The Crack Emcee said...


I was gonna post on the kid thread but, since you added the rule enforcement bit to this piece - and Mary Anne seems adamant that each post stay on topic - I've edited what I was gonna write (about medicine and other topics) to what's below and will post it here:

Roger o'keeffe of nyc said, "what we've mostly got here is a nice collection of people whose political tastes lean all the way from center-left to Howard Dean,..." and I would like to further point out that - with a black, an atheist, and a Republican, all residing in the same person on SHAMblog - that's not the full political spectrum, but one leaning, heavily, to one side: While many seem convinced they're "open-minded" in their views, when, by my willingness to be here, I'm the only one that has to risk anything - like regular calls for expulsion or rule enforcement - after dealing, regularly, with what I find can be an outlandishly close-minded, and limited, outlook.

Like no one minds the constant bashing of my party, and our president, or the (even tongue-in-cheek) displays of "star signs" and/or spiritual leanings. That stuff, surprisingly to me, seems to come as easily to SHAMers as "Jay-sus" does to a Christian fundamentalist - which, if one showed up here, I'm sure, no one would have a problem attacking as the idiot they would be - just as I would.

To me, the constant harping on language is just a cover for rigidity of thought. (I give Steve major props for recognizing that.) And he-whose-name-shall-not-be-spoken is, in my opinion, the worst offender. A not-so "friendly fascist" if ever there was one. I'm truthfully not saying that as a personal attack but, as the link makes clear, trying a reveal something that many people - including some SHAMers - won't allow to be heard, as (as Steve implied) they congratulate themselves on their cleverness.

Me? I'm fighting for the freedom just to be. I've always known who I am. Which, I admit, can be a pretty hard-sell when surrounded by - to my shock - SHAMers who have, quite obviously, spent a good part of their lives on the Boomer's never-ending search for themselves. As far as I'm concerned, buying into that was the first mistake many Boomers made on the road of life, which allowed this new breed of "hustledorks" (of no matter what spiritual stripe) to take everyone for a ride, convincing them there's something wrong with themselves, others, America, whatever. There ain't. To me, they just never learned to accept themselves in the first place. I can be kind of an asshole but I don't see it as a problem: People can be - and are - *different*. That's what makes calls for personalities like mine to be changed galling. I don't want to be changed, and know I can't be. Maybe some of you can go to a "master" and let him do a job on your head but, from what I can see, the fundamentals are still in place - same as they ever were - and that's all I'm trying to say. You are what you are: Why fight it? Or demand others try? It's useless.

Anyway, that's my spiel. I'ma get out of here now and let the peace-loving pitchfork holders carry the day.

Frankenstein Out.


Just so Mary Anne stays happy and this post stays on topic:

This whole Jamie Lynn/Nickelodeon thing is sick. Discuss.

Cal said...

I yearn for the day when I was a kid and Nick only had shows like "You Can't Do That on Television" where the cast only did skits and poured green goop on each other's heads.

Life was so simple back then.

Akhetnu said...

The only way this lemon can be turned into lemonade is if:

- Spears admits she was irresponsible
- She marries the dad and settles down
- She becomes a good, responsible mother with help from her family
- She uses it as a way to show her viewers they should take responsibility for their actions and how precious the gift of new life is

I don't have much confidence that this will happen, not due to her age (since older teens were being responsible, married parents before we classified them as infants), but rather due to the dysfunctional atmosphere that likely deprived her of education in certain morals.

RevRon's Rants said...

When the ratings for shows like Bill Moyers' Journal surpass those of shows like TMZ, Cops, and Wife Swap, the Britney Factor will disappear from the airwaves. And when our elected officials start turning down thinly veiled bribes in exchange for wrecking our society, the US will begin to resemble the founders' vision. On a similar note (and as I've often stated), when grasshoppers start carrying .45s, mockingbirds will quit messing with them!

Steve, I commend you for your decision to not publish the personal attacks. I don't believe your blog will suffer for it; on the contrary, I feel the level of intelligent participation will actually increase as readers begin to trust that they won't face personal derision for expressing their views or being part of a specific demographic. The only thing that will diminish will be the angry responses to offensive comments. No need to diminish the quality of discourse, just to make the blog appear more "inclusive." Stick to your guns, my friend!

RevRon's Rants said...

Well, Steve... so much for "sticking to your guns" ... or does the resolution not begin until New Years?

RevRon's Rants said...

"I'm the only one that has to risk anything - like regular calls for expulsion or rule enforcement .."

Crack - All anyone has called for is civility and the abandonment of racism in the dialog here. If "what you are" is incapable of (or unwilling to) rise above the level of ill-informed, broad-based personal attacks and blatant racism, you might ask yourself whether a blog that focuses upon intelligent discourse is the ideal medium for you.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: Let's just see how this plays out. OK? For what it's worth, I do plan to look at comments more closely on a line-by-line basis, and I will more readily and aggressively expunge obnoxious material. I just don't want to sanitize/bowdlerize the blog to the point where there's absolutely no humanity to it. I ask you to bear with me, and not make any premature judgments.

I also ask you (and others who sometimes take me to task) to remember that this nation was founded on the principle of tolerance to offensive speech. Now, does that obligate me to run profanity? No, I don't think it does. But maybe it does obligate me to think a little bit before I just start slashing away at someone's vitriol.

Steve Salerno said...

Now, having said that--can we stop calling each other fascists and racists and get back to the business of commenting on the ideas themselves?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Steve, about your comment about her being an imbecilic whore, hey, if the shoe fits.

And as far as the comments, I never knew why you seemd to worry about that so much? You're never going to make everybody happy and most people are defensive and need to be "right" no matter what, so why even try?

Anonymous said...

Here we have a couple who do what humans do -- follow their natural programming to mate and produce offspring. This isn't an example of "contemporary reality" or "just the way things are these days" or "manifest stupidity." It's simply what humans are designed to do.

However, teens having premarital sex and getting pregnant do go against certain sets of morality, thus making this incident worthy of headline news and blog posts.

I believe that morality evolved (and continues to evolve) to deal with human problems and challenges. So, in the case of Jamie and Casey, I don't see the teen pregnancy as stupid or morally wrong "because God says so" (for instance). I see it as a natural act that more than likely will bring about consequences they're not prepared to handle.

I wouldn't call that stupid -- unwise might be a better term. That's what I'd like to see our society focus on -- teaching kids the real reasons why it's better to postpone sex and pregnancy until they're equipped to handle these things. Are scarlet letters and stigmatizing judgments the best route?

Steve Salerno said...

I don't know the answer to that, Lana. I only know that in many circles, we are no longer even permitted to entertain that as an honest question.

Anonymous said...


I have ideas and clues, but I don't know the the answers either. This is complex territory!

I realize that traditionalists won't entertain my questions. However, there are lots of other groups that are asking and answering these types of questions.

roger o'keeffe of nyc said...

You know what cracks me up about this whole debate about civility? I have found in my experience that in any given environment, often it's the most opinionated, arrogant people, who think they're never wrong and lash out at everyone else when challenged, who are the first ones to complain. Which is their way of saying "Get rid of those people who disagree with *me*"! It's really very, very funny to watch.

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger - In this instance, the complaints are about those who "lash out at everyone" with broad, ill-informed generalizations that serve no purpose save to offend and/or rationalize their own anger and hurt. I find them sad, not funny.

This country was founded upon a number of basic truths, among them the principle of tolerance toward divergent - even offensive - opinions. However, individuals also have the right to limit the offensiveness that is exhibited in - and promoted by - their own enterprises. What we allow within the space we create defines us, for better or for worse, more clearly that what we proclaim.

Steve Salerno said...

Personally, guys, I go back and forth on this all the time: Is (a) everyone equally entitled to be an overbearing jerk? Or (b) are some of us more inherently deserving of a platform by virtue of our more comprehensive grasp of the data? You would think it's (b), but then, we go back to a mini-debate-within-a-debate that I had, recently, with Mary Anne, I believe it was, about evidence in general and statistics in particular: that almost any numbers can be spun any way. (And in any case, even if we can agree on the numbers, how do we know for sure those numbers tell the story?) So really, we're not talking about a "rhetorical" problem so much as we're talking about a problem in epistemology: How do we know what we think we know, and how much faith can--and should--we put in that knowledge?

The Crack Emcee said...

Roger, just to be clear:

I haven't run off in a huff.

I haven't called for anyone's expulsion.

I never presumed to tell Steve the rules.

Whenever Steve enforced the rules, as he saw fit, I went along.

I've taken anyone calling me out, or saying to me, whatever they saw fit.

I know the landsacpe, "spiritually", and I comment anyway.

Anonymous said...

Holding different beliefs, opinions or platforms isn't the problem here. The problem is in the presentation.

People can have wildly different worldviews, and still remain civil while discussing those differences. Really. :-)

When a blog or message board becomes just a bunch of people spouting off and fighting, I leave.

SpacePastry said...


I miss that show - You Can't Do That on Television - and I miss those days. Life was much more simple then, and television was much easier to stomach, despite the slime.

I'm going to share some of my ignorance here... I did not know Jamie had a television show, I never heard of the show, and, frankly, I'm not quite sure I knew she existed. I was doing just fine without hearing that there will be another Spears on the planet. Good thing I have not lost any sleep, but then I'm not a 14-year old girl who is disappointed and jaded. Just 36, and jaded.

a/good/lysstener said...

It's been an up and down year for us on the blog but I wanted to sincerely wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Did you see where Dr. Phil says Lynn Spears is a "great mom"? But then what do you expect from a guy whose son married a Playboy centerfold.

RevRon's Rants said...

I'll second Alyssa's offering. Whether one is Christian or not, this Holiday season carries a sense of benevolence for our fellow travelers. I hope every one of you feels - and shares - the joy.

RevRon's Rants said...

I think you're going a bit too far there, anon... I see nothing inherently negative in one's son marrying a Playmate. Dr. Phil may be a bit of an over-marketed twit, but the fact that a woman poses for Playboy doesn't (or shouldn't) negatively define her, IMHO. Heck... had I been born a beautiful woman and had the opportunity to make a hundred grand or so in one day by having my picture taken, I'd go for it and laugh at the puritans... all the way to the bank!

And just imagine the personalized Christmas cards Dr. P gets! :-)

Mary Anne said...

Steve said:
"(b), but then, we go back to a mini-debate-within-a-debate that I had, recently, with Mary Anne, I believe it was, about evidence in general and statistics in particular: that almost any numbers can be spun any way. (And in any case, even if we can agree on the numbers, how do we know for sure those numbers tell the story?)"

That sounds like SHAMSTER logic. That is the SHAMSTERS' arguement about numbers. They always say, "What do numbers really mean?" They mean quite a bit really. If they did not, no one would be studying them and using them for our bank rates, life expectancy, labor markets, currency, and the list goes on. You missed my counter rebuttal about numbers. WHERE one gets the numbers is quite telling.

Nearly twenty years ago, physical geographers, environmental scientists, and climatologists talked about global warming and humans role in it. Now leading universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and UC Berkeley weighed in and stated it was "likely" that humans have a part in it. Exxon, Chevron, and BP did their OWN studies and came up with COUNTER findings that really stated the same, no one knows, but they stated the universities were "gloom and doom" experts. Now who had a VESTED interest in the outcome of those studies? The scientists working for Exxon, Chevron and BP. The SOURCE of numbers does matter. What one does with those numbers is up to them.

Steve Salerno said...

Point taken, Mary Anne. But really the problem here is endemic to the medium; some of these debates are nigh impossible to have unless one wants to expend thousands of words parsing language, which can get quite tedious (or so I'm told by a fair number of people who hate it when I spend thousands of words parsing language). To try to be succinct here: By no means am I saying that all numbers are meaningless. I'm saying that we've reached a point in the evolution of our society where we play fast-and-loose with numbers, where we use numbers mostly as rhetorical tools, where we tend to regard a given set of numbers purely in terms of its utility for our own selfish purposes, rather than trying to examine those numbers in a broader context and thereby coming to some assessment about what the numbers in the overall tell us.

In a political context, for example, I find it both amusing and sad that we seem to have "Republican numbers" and "Democrat numbers." In having an argument about the poverty level, say, people with a partisan agenda will focus on the numbers that best serve their political aims. Now, these people, most of whom are quite intelligent, certainly know that there are other numbers that maybe cast doubt on the political point they're trying to make. So what do they do? Do they look at the overall numbers and maybe come to a more middle-of-the-road position? No! They simply reject the numbers that don't help the cause. They try to bury them or refute them or explain them away. Even journalists, these days, do this all the time. That is where I have a problem.

Steve Salerno said...

And another thing--incidentally--is that I don't think we should be imputing "moral significance" to numbers, which many people are wont to do. Even if it can be shown through a pattern of numbers and statistics that global warming is a fact, there is nothing about global warming that is inherently good or bad, which means that the numbers that support it or refute are not, respectively, "alarming" or "reassuring." Not in and of themselves. They're just...numbers.

Mary Anne said...

Steve said:
"these debates are nigh impossible to have unless one wants to expend thousands of words parsing language, which can get quite tedious (or so I'm told by a fair number of people who hate it when I spend thousands of words parsing language)."

You hit on something VERY important here about people in general, LAZINESS. In MY experience, people will not look at numbers for themselves, but want others to GIVE them the numbers that fit THEIR agenda. I hear that ALL the time, "don't give me all those numbers, just WHAT do they mean?" It means take the numbers and do some work about what they are saying. Heck, I made a career out of people who didn't want to make sense of numbers.

Here is another example of numbers:
If you knew that over 50% of people who go into rehab relapse, would you go? On the surface, no. The real information here is that addiction recovery is LIFELONG and NOT a band aid fix. Who wants to hear that message?

This goes back to what is a problem with self-help in general, being lazy. Thinking one book, seminar, idea, person or fill in the blank, will fix something that is actually a lifelong process.

In MY view, what people are saying is: "don't give me the numbers, think for me." That scares me a great deal.

Steve Salerno said...

To descend further into the muck, many of you probably by now have heard the rumors that the father of her baby is not, in fact, Casey Aldridge, but a "much older" production official from her show, Zoey 101. Just keeps gettin' better all the time, don't it now?

RevRon's Rants said...

"I don't think we should be imputing "moral significance" to numbers, which many people are wont to do."

That moral significance can be either an outgrowth of one's passion on a subject or an excuse for posturing. If that "significance" is based upon common sense, and others fail to apply common sense in their refutations, the passion is both understandable and warranted, IMHO.

For example, if a road passes through a school zone, and drivers zip through at 70mph, observers would be justified in strongly admonishing those drivers who refused to slow down. By the same token, if scientific studies have shown global warming to be a real phenomena, and that human enterprise is exacerbating the problem (both of which have been established), it only makes sense to expend reasonable efforts to minimize the human impact, and even to become passionate if the calls for those efforts go unheeded.

The opposing argument, which claims that since the phenomenon is occurring naturally, mankind bears no responsibility for exacerbating the problem; would constitute "immoral insignificance." The other drivers are speeding, so why shouldn't I?

Steve Salerno said...

Yeah, but Ron, you're making the very large assumption that human life has any inherent value, in the "eye" of the cosmos. Even God is supposed to have planned for the meek to inherit the earth (a line that has been variously interpreted through the centuries, but who really knows?) It's like I said on one of my posts--and I truly believe this--how do we know, really know, that God, assuming he exists, isn't on bin Laden's side? How do we know that they weren't high-fiving all across heaven when the Twin Towers came crashing down? We don't. And can't. And we shouldn't presume to.

And if we move away from the concept of a god or a central, morally organizing force in the grand scheme of things...then, truly, all bets are off.

And I don't think this is one of those purely philosophical arguments that has no worldly weight. It reduces to the question of who is right, and who is wrong, and who (if anyone) is entitled to make those calls. Personally I am rather fed up with politicians (and other demagogues) who presume to know "the proper path." How? How do they know?

Sure, we have to make decisions about what's "right" and what's "wrong." But we should do so with humility, no matter what the subject matter.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
Our decisions should always borne of equal parts belief and humility. Each moment, we are faced with decisions, and it is our nature - if not our responsibility - to make them. We do what we believe to be right, yet are (hopefully) wise enough to weigh that perceived rightness against the ramifications to which we - and others - will be subject.

None of us is truly qualified to determine what is right or wrong on the grand scale, yet we are the only ones qualified to do so on a personal scale. I find great comfort and strength - as well as deep humility - in the guidance offered by the Eight-fold Path; right thoughts, followed by right action... inevitably followed by a reassessment of those thoughts and actions, to determine whether I have even remotely adhered to the goals to which I aspire. Every now and then, I'm actually successful, but at least learn from the times when I fail. I think that's the best we can hope for.

RevRon's Rants said...

OMT - You said, "Yeah, but Ron, you're making the very large assumption that human life has any inherent value, in the "eye" of the cosmos."

Brings to mind the old joke about the guy who goes into a brothel, disrobes, whereupon his "date" laughs out loud and asks him, "Who do you think you're gonna satisfy with that little thing?"

To which he replies, "Me."

Who knows whether or not our lives amount to any more than Bogart's hill of beans? We can only look through our own eyes and act according to our own perspective. and from where I'm sitting, I think there's some value in this life. If I didn't, I wouldn't even bother trying... anything.

Steve Salerno said...

Oh, I know there's value in me. And believe me, Ron, I'm not just being annoying or sophistic here. The problem is that most of us are unable to differentiate between (a) our own (respective) notions of value and (b) absolute value in the larger sense. That is not just a matter of philosophy; it's probably the root of about 92% of all of our human problems.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - It's also the root of most of our philosophical problems. We humans seem to have an overinflated sense of self-importance. Whether it's the typical Judaeo-Christian misinterpretation of the whole "dominion" thing, or the New Wage obsession with self-esteem, we can't seem to accept the fact that we have value without insisting that our value is inherently greater than that of other aspects of creation.

The Buddhist, Native American, and Australian Aboriginal conception of humanity's place in creation is, to me, much more reasonable. Each manifestation is equally significant, each one equally insignificant.

We partake of life, devouring the gifts before us, knowing full well that we shall one day be part of the feast (and may well be part of that feast from the moment of our birth). We are stewards of the earth, but not its overlords. It's a humbling - yet eminently comforting - perspective, and not particularly prone to abuse.