Us Weekly editor-in-chief Janice Min takes to the online pages of Slate today to discuss her decision to have a Paris Hilton-free issue of Us the week that Paris got released from prison (which some sniped was because People had landed the "exclusive" photo shoot and interview with Paris). And true to form, Janice did what she usually does when she's defending her magazine in more august surroundings: She brings up politics and how George Bush is evil and the war in Iraq has become a footnote in the ongoing national soap opera that is Paris Hilton or Britney Spears or Anna Nicole Smith's life! The woman is a genius.
I get it. I understand why Paris Hilton trumps interest in Bush's eavesdropping, whether or not she's on the cover of Us Weekly. The Paris story may be getting old, but the Bush one feels even older. Cultural critics like to decry our tabloid obsessions, assuming that Americans are too apathetic, dumb, or lazy to follow important political stories as they unfold. But I think the real problem is that George Bush is no longer that guy Americans would rather have a beer with. Like Paris, he is someone we no longer want to think is "just like us." He's become a former political celebrity few want on their red carpet.
She did something similar a few months ago, in a speech she gave to staffers of the Columbia student newspaper, the Spectator. Then, she said:
"People talk about the tabloidization of society and what it means for the future of society, and people talk about celebrities and their role—but Paris Hilton didn't start any wars," Ms. Min reminded her young charges. "I have memories as a child of watching the Watergate hearings with my mother. And now we live in an era when CNN went for 90 minutes uninterrupted on Anna Nicole Smith's death!"
See, she's shifted the debate from how Us is contributing to the dumbing-down of society to that of how it's actually the major news networks who should be taken to task. She's not wrong, of course! But it's interesting how easily we want to agree with her, to shift our anger away from her magazine and onto CNN—whose parent company, of course, also owns People.