Finally, sanity reigns. Decency gets CPR. Integrity staggers to its feet.
And the power of the people is reasserted.
On Monday, News Corp announced it would cancel its television interview and book with O.J. Simpson. “If I Did It” was replaced with “It Isn’t Worth It.”
That only happened, of course, after an insurrection took place, a popular uprising in which angry citizens not only voiced their displeasure, but flexed their economic muscles. Viewers reportedly were organizing boycotts of the sponsors of the scheduled television interview, in which Simpson would discuss how he would have committed the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman if he had done it.
Granted, just about everyone involved believes he did it, so this was simply going to be an interview with someone who got away with murder and was gloating about it for profit. It was about as disgusting a spectacle as had ever been prepared for the public airwaves.
News Corp, which owns Fox and ReganBooks, the book’s publisher, knew all of this ahead of time and went forward anyway. O.J. Simpson committed these slayings in 1994, so it wasn’t as thought Rupert Murdoch’s empire was blindsided. It should take full blame for nurturing this travesty.
It’s tempting to say that News Corp. ultimately did the right thing by putting the kibosh on this garbage. But it never would have happened if Fox and publisher Judith Regan hadn’t gone way too far and crossed a line in a society that is becoming colder, meaner and less compassionate by the day. By doing so, they infuriated the very people they were hoping to make money off of.
Anything for ratingsThe TV interview was all set for November sweeps. After all, if you’re going to try and capitalize on the brutal murders of two innocent people, what better time to do it than sweeps? Fox knew what it was doing.
It never gave a second thought to the relatives of Nicole Simpson, who had to endure another horrific reminder that the callous killer who left their children without a mother is still free and still looking for new ways to capitalize on his notoriety. It never considered the Goldman family, whose beloved son was taken from them suddenly and who won a judgment from Simpson in a civil case that it is having great difficult collecting even though Simpson seems to have no shortage of wicked endeavors with which to cash in.
No, Fox killed these projects because of the bottom line, not despite it.
Said Murdoch in a statement: “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”
I guess Rupert feels better late than never.
About a dozen Fox affiliates reportedly refused to air the interview. If Murdoch and his associates failed to see the red flags before, then this was the clearest sign yet. And it wasn’t because a few station managers felt queasy about Simpson talking in detail about how he would have killed the two people he actually killed.
Their response was the direct result of grass-roots reaction by the decision-makers who really matter.
Sometimes it takes a while for mainstream Americans to react when injustices are taking place. Usually it’s because the average person out there works hard, takes care of family and has a limited time in which to participate in activism.
But when something is as wrong as this was, even the most apathetic couch potato is likely to rise up and cry out.
There is something about the Simpson case that hits home with most people. For one thing, lots of Americans sat through the trial and formed opinions during it. Also, they’ve observed Simpson’s behavior afterward. If he’s out there looking for the real killers, he’s taking his sweet time. If he’s grieving for Nicole and sad for Ron, he has an incredibly strange way of showing it.
Also, he’s a celebrity. Since Simpson was acquitted in 1995, the public has seen a steady stream of stars and professional athletes get preferential treatment in scrapes with the law because they can hire the best lawyers while regular folks get the shaft. The inequities in the justice system were always quietly understood, but that case hooked them up to amplifiers.
That’s why few wanted to see Simpson selling himself on TV and in book stores, and for Fox and ReganBooks to act as facilitators. It was too despicable even for them.
There is one downside to the cancellation. If Simpson did make money, there was a chance Fred Goldman could finally collect some of the $33 million he has coming to him from the civil suit. But that might have been a longshot. Simpson and his cronies have been adept at shielding his income. He’s almost as good at evading Goldman’s lawyers as he was tacklers in the NFL. Maybe even better.
But in terms of perpetuating a gross indecency, this is one time that Simpson was successfully thrown for a loss, and by the very opponents who once adored him: average Americans. There are just some people you can’t elude, no matter how shifty you might think you are.
Michael Ventre is a frequent contributor to MSNBC.com. He lives in Los Angeles