It is unfortunate that this young man has met a tragic death along with his wife and her sister. My sympathies go to the families.
However, the media hype surrounding John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s death has been astounding to say the least. He has been touted as an “icon to the nation”, “our crown prince”, “America’s favorite son”, “a member of our family”. How about this bit of nonsense from biographer-journalist Richard Reeves: “We’re all honorary Kennedys just by being members of this generation.” Oh, really? Then where are all my invitations to the weddings and parties? And that’s only a small portion of the pedestal-lifting descriptions bestowed on JFK, Jr. – now that he’s dead.
TV coverage had been non-stop and all the while, I’m thinking what exactly has this man accomplished in his life that would cause intelligent journalists to utter such grandiose phrases on his behalf. The answer is a booming ‘nothing’. He was his father’s son. He was a Kennedy (bow when you say that), which equals ‘good breeding’ as they used to say. Maybe they still do. I don’t know. I probably would be considered coming from the wrong side of the tracks. He had money and he married an elegant looking woman. To that you may add he was a lousy law student and an obviously lousy pilot. Does this qualify him for the media’s highest honor – causing a lot of stoic, non-partial journalists to melt into blobs of butter as they utter ludicrous commentary? I think not.
He was once described as the ‘sexiest man alive’. I wonder who did the voting, a bunch of 90-year old blind gay men? And when he married, the press claimed that ‘every female in the world’ was broken-hearted. Talk about exaggeration. The rest of the time no one knew what he was doing and I bet not too many people really cared. When he failed his law test for the third time, he was the joke of the media. But now the ghost of media hyperbole has caused him to rise from the dead and be lifted to the silver clouds because, well, after all, ‘he was one of our favorite sons.’
Frankly I was more upset by the plane-crash death of singer John Denver. At least he had some effect on my life. He gave me music.
I’m not sure why journalists continue to perform these idiotic rituals. Perhaps it’s to make up for their behaviors the rest of the time when they’re being unfeeling bastards. TV journalists become the best soap-opera actors when they break the sad news to a nation. Maybe the daytime Emmy’s will have an award just for them. Wouldn’t we all like to see Dan Rather sniffling and dabbing at his eyes as he hoists a real icon. (original post July 20, 1999)