New York Times Theorist of Celebrity Caryn James needs just 39 words today to authoritatively defeat our vulgarian fascination with the likes of the David Hasselhoff daughter-abuse videotape and the Alec Baldwin daughter-abuse audiotape. "These new leaks simply draw all of us into family battles where we don't belong," reasons a firm but feisty Ms. James. "Beyond the humane idea that some things really should remain private, even for fame-mongers, these leaks have an insidious snowball effect on the culture." Fortunately, for reasons of context, James precedes her renunciative 39 words with 477 drawing us into the Hasselhoff and Baldwin battles, and follows them with 504 more regarding these two things which "really should remain private." You know, just to confirm exactly what we should not be caring about.

Because the AOL doesn't come with clear instructions anymore:

With their intensely personal moments made public, the celebrities represent oversize versions of the threats to privacy we all face at a time when the use of e-mail, camera-phones and other technologies has grown faster than common sense about them. If such betrayals can happen to stars, they can happen to us (with humiliation on a smaller scale). And the leaks themselves are the product of a celebrity culture as out of control as the stars in these uncontrolled moments.

Wait, the leaks are what? Betrayals, of course, that can happen to us all — and, of course, the product of a singularly anarchical celebrity culture. Then again, "the Hasselhoff and Baldwin recordings are not typical celebrity fodder," so stop asking about them, bottom-mongers! After all, "these tapes are not like Linda Tripp's recordings of Monica Lewinsky"; there are no "bigger implications" to "the enormous personal betrayal[s]" involved — except, well, for James's whole This Is The Zeitgeist thesis:

But [Hasselhoff's] book becomes accidentally illuminating about the lure and pitfalls of fame when he describes meeting Princess Diana.... The [recordings are] not even like the embarrassing leak of Prince Charles's phone call to his then-girlfriend Camilla saying that he wished to be her tampon; he's the man who will be king... The media spectacle surrounding the Hasselhoff video and Alec Baldwin's leaked phone rant to his 11-year-old daughter have obscured some profound social issues.

Those sentences aren't quite in their original order, but just "because we can know doesn't mean we deserve to."Right Time, Wrong Publicity [NYT]