(Note: see update below about Fox’s decision to pull the O.J. program.)
In 1994, I wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which I said O.J. Simpson would not get the death penalty because he was rich – and rich people, especially rich celebrities, don’t get executed.
Turns out I was right. Nevertheless, while O.J. didn’t go to Death Row, I was shocked he wasn’t convicted. So, apparently, were millions of Americans and others around the world. Perhaps no one was more surprised at the outcome than The Juice himself.
Guilt weighs heavy on the human heart – the greater the guilt, the greater the weight. For more than 12 years, O.J Simpson has carried an anvil on his chest, which is why I believe he wrote the book that everyone is talking about.
But O.J., remember, is a celebrity, and celebrities confess in public. And celebrities can’t confess in public if they don’t have the cooperation of the news media — if the confession comes during a ratings sweeps period, as O.J.’s does, all the better. Fox was more than happy to oblige, and is planning to air a two-part “interview” with O.J. and his publisher, Judith Regan, later this month.
Whether this is journalism is not worth debating – obviously it’s not. The issue is whether Fox should air this blatant publicity grab from a man whose lack of respect for the dead, for the victims’ families, and for his own children is self evident.
Nine Fox affiliates have decided not to air the shows (though most of the 200 company-owned stations will.) Some booksellers have refused to carry the title, while others say they will donate all profits to charity. I applaud them.
But I think Fox should air the program if it chooses. It’s sick, it’s stupid, and it’s insulting, but it’s also Fox’s right. The only censorship should come in the form or our actions – in other words, the public should turn away and not watch.
That’s the best way to hurt Fox. Protests and complaints only give more exposure to the show. What Fox needs to see is that the public has finally had enough of the "news-entertainment complex."
Will it happen? Of course not – we like train wrecks, especially when celebrity and murder is involved. We created Fox and now they are giving us what we asked for.
It’s not just Fox that’s to blame, either. Say “O.J.” to a journalist and the mouth starts to water in a Pavlovian frenzy. Larry King, CBS News, the New York Times and all the rest see O.J. as the Holy Grail of reader and viewership – and time after time we oblige.
Shame on O.J., shame on Fox – and shame on us.
A final, personal note: In my former life I interviewed dozens of murderers. I got to know several of them, and through our talks discovered the difference between sadistic and sad.
I never interviewed O.J. personally but I can tell you this – he is both.
UPDATE: News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch announced Monday that it has cancelled the O.J. book and television special (the book publisher is an imprint owned by News Corp., which also owns Fox.) “I and senior management agree with the
American public that this was an ill-considered project,” Murdoch said. “We are sorry for any pain that his has
caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."