Have We No Shame?
Bill Long 11/22/06
The Latest OJ Simpson Debacle
The news has been all over the media in the past few days. News Corp., which owns both Fox News and HarperCollins Books, has decided to "pull" the special and the book, both scheduled to air/appear in the next week, dealing with the "hypothetical" situation of how OJ Simpson would or might have acted if he were the killer of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Outrage and disgust greeted the announcement of the book/show, and finally Rupert Murdoch himself released a statement mumbling something about being sorry if the families were offended by the story. Duh.
What is most interesting to me about this whole sordid affair, however, is the statement released by Judith Regan, under whose imprint (ReganBooks) the book, If I Did It, was to be released by HarperCollins. In this rambling eight-page missive she not only shows how utterly clouded her judgment became because of her personal history, but she gives as tortured an explanation for wanting to publish the book as OJ Simpson gave for not having committed the Goldman/Brown Simpson murders. This essay reviews some words in her statement.
Judith Regan Speaks
We can tell immediately from her statement that Regan not only doesn't think very clearly but so overlays her painful personal experience with the OJ story as to have abandoned all professional judgment. She recounts listening to the 1995 verdict in the OJ criminal trial with Howard Stern. She says that Kim Goldman, Ron's sister, "eloquently" referred to Simpson as the "killer." Eloquence? Huh? We see that Regan doesn't have much use for or ability with words. But then, she tells a long and painful story about her own life, a life in which trusted a man, put all her love into him, was abused and abandoned by him, and was unable to see him convicted of beating her. She says their daughter died a few days later, but Regan leaves it tantalizingly unclear whether she thinks that her ex's violent behavior toward her in some way was responsible for her daughter's death. In any case, her husband, a doctor and a strikingly handsome professional, was let go by the "criminal injustice system" (so, was he acquitted by a jury? were charges ever filed?)--a system which seemingly couldn't bring itself to admit that such a fine specimen of maleness could do anything violent to his wife.
I think we can understand Ms. Regan's pain at recounting her past, but I think I need to say, "Ok, you may have experienced injustice, even though you can't explain yourself very clearly about the nature of the injustice suffered, but what does that have to do with wanting to publish a book about a hypothetical murder by OJ?" Well, here is her explanation, as near as I can understand it.
Why The Book?
As Regan rambles on in her eight-page "explanation," she gives the impression that she wanted to publish OJ's book for two reasons: (1) a kind of personal purgation--that in some way by publishing OJ's "hypothetical" story she will have exorcised the ghosts of her painful past; and (2) a kind of confession by OJ--that, in fact, even though she said that OJ never admitted to the killing in the book, he as it were "confessed" to it. In addition, she identified with Nicole Brown Simpson, as many women did. Nicole was battered and bruised, with people standing by, not believing her, not taking her words seriously. As a result, in Regan's mind, the OJ Simpson trial was one of the "seminal events in American history." Most other students of American life might see it as an interesting celebrity trial but hardly "up there" with the signing of the Declaration or the Civil War.
Then there is the "kids" angle. Her son is now twenty-five years old and her daughter fifteen. "I wanted them, and everyone else, to have a chance to see that there are consequences to grievous acts." But let's just stop there for a moment. OJ allegedly received $3.5 million for the book. There is no reason to believe that he didn't receive a healthy chunk of change. Did Regan dish out the money? No, she is innocent of that one. But then, in a shadowy and completely unclear explanation, she says that some money was paid to a third party who would be giving the money to OJ's kids, and thus she could "live with that." How confusing it that? How is this showing that there are consequences to grievous acts? All it shows is that OJ is still profitting from the act.
So here we have a book publisher who really wanted OJ to confess (after all, as she tells us, she had to go to confession repeatedly as a young girl--and she apparently hated that, too), who believed that he would do so, and that by his confession her own ghosts would be exorcised, her kids would see that there are consequences to actions and all of us would see that in a "seminal" event in American history such as this murder, the bad guy gets punished. But, as it often the case with hare-brained schemes, nothing quite worked as planned. Money may have been paid, but the idea of the story seemed so far-fetched that even an indulgent American public would have nothing to do with it. Indeed, they/we demanded some kind of explanation. Rupert's wasn't very good; Judith Regan's was terrible. Perhaps the best explanation is provided by the fact that this was to air during "sweeps" month--when ratings are counted for purposes of charging advertisers during the next year to advertise on network shows. Thus, even though Judith Regan wanted to exorcise her private demons through the OJ story, someone wanted to make big bucks. That no one ever thought through what they were about is really not surprising. That such mealy-mouthed and pitiful explanations have come forward is a bit more surprising. You would have thought that they would be able to do a better job of explaining themselves. But that they took us for such dupes might be as much of a judgment on us as on them--perhaps we are losing the capacity for outrage. Our silence in the face of so many injustices in the last five years may have emboldened Fox and Rupert Murdoch to think so.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long