"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 5 December 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Substantially Worse Than Nothing


[A Current Affair]

There's not much there. At the A

Current Affair site, that is.

Just a few jpegs, an .avi

trailer or two, and a promise of

more to come. But even if they

were to meet their official

December 10 re-launch date with

a daily schedule and a bottomless

pit of material, you wouldn't

expect much substance.


Aside from their contributions to


pandering, an institutionalized

commitment to crap, and invasion

of privacy in the name of

journalism, there's not much to

say in defense of the shrewd

clowns behind the TV tabloid

industry. The secret to their

success lies in a somewhat

simple, eternally bountiful

approach to the concept of

"news" - in particular,

celebrity coverage. Superstars,

like their celestial namesakes,

emit energy in direct proportion

to their intensity - and

forward-thinking opportunists

can't be faulted for seeing the

value in sunbathing.


[A Current Affair]

In a sense, tabloid TV need not

excuse itself for its

methodology nor its banal

subject matter - just as

pornography is pure cinema, the

tabloid coverage of celebrity is

pure news. If the news demands a

celerity of the new, its answer

is celebrity, which allows the

same tired stagings to be

repackaged into new stories

through the injection of

personality, in order to mask

perspective. Celebrity is that

manufactured frenzy in which

everyday activities - such as

eating, shitting, downing

Quaaludes, or cheating on one's

spouse - take on preposterously

amplified significance. And it's

impossible to place these events

within a historical context -

one may like to think that time

would reveal Madonna's pap smear

as having less importance than

the Dead Sea Scrolls, but each

remains, regardless of the

artifice involved, a cultural

artifact, capable of capturing

the popular imagination.


[A Current Affair]

It speaks to the power of the

celebrity-creating machine that

the gulf between the myth of the

performer and the raw mundanity

of the everyday is so great that

the desire to see illusion

debunked provides an

ever-expanding window of

opportunity. To those

(un)fortunate enough to sit in

the place of celebrity it may

seem unfair, but, as we all

know, that's the price to be

paid for stardom. To the extent

that a star's career depends

upon the actor being spun larger

than life - on being made

astronomically stellar - fan

anxiety to see their idols

revealed as precisely life-size

abounds. The celebs may froth,

fume, and rage at the industry

leeches, but at least they never

need doubt the efficacy of their

PR budgets.


In much the same way that shows

like Hard Copy, Inside Edition

and A Current Affair evolve from

supermarket classics such as The

National Enquirer, The Star and

The Globe - adding purloined

answering machine messages,

grainy video and mock-bravado

confrontational journalism to

the mix - our nightmares include

a migration of the tabloid

"concept" onto the net. Clearly,

the dubious scheme of covering

the miserable lives of net

celebrities is a wash at

present, since most netizens,

both great and small, seem all

too willing to expose more about

themselves on their home pages

than any reader should ever

admit to caring about.


[A Current Affair]

But even on the net, the same

principles will apply. Whether

the celebs are homespun or

immigrant from other media,

vulgar rags like Suck will

trumpet their arrival, catalogue

the minutiae of their tawdry

careers and unceremoniously

disinherit them to fit their

vulturous ends. Here's to hoping

that the cannibalization extends

all the way to the chief flesh

eaters - the touting and

subsequent unshrouding of the

emperor seldom lacks cheap

appeal, though it's never much

of a surprise to learn that

there wasn't much there to begin

with. At least not much of



[A Current Affair]

There will never be much there.

At the A Current Affair site,

that is. Just a few jpegs, an

.avi trailer or two, and a

promise of more to come.

courtesy of the Prince of Dyspepsia