Michael Jackson story: Is it really that big? Saturation coverage of his arrest raises questions about America’s obsession with celebrity. [Christian Science Monitor | Top Stories]

I’ve got an answer for the question posed above. And so do the rest of you. Of course it’s not a big deal, except to the accused and accuser. But there’s something a lot darker involved in this than mere obsession with celebrity. Our media — and I’ve got that particular species of blood on my hands — are obsessed with what they guess their viewers/readers/listeners want to see/read/hear. And the assumption is the sensational, the titillating, the simply diverting takes precedence in the audience mind.

The day of The Jackson Arrest, Our President was in London to hang with his best War on Terrorism buddy. Al Qaida was in Istanbul, turning loose all manner of chaos on the streets. In our newsroom at TechTV, we had CNN tuned in most of the day, as we do every day. In the midst of The Jackson Hysteria, it seemed the real serious newsfolks down there in Atlanta could barely find a way to get the Istanbul news on the air. Everyone, even Judy Woodruff, the detestable Tucker Carlson, and the bloated Lou Dobbs were talking all Michael, all the time. It was almost enough to make you laugh.

There might be an obsession at work here. But it’s not the audience that’s obsessed.


What Helps, and What Doesn’t

Will laws make spam go away? Not likely, though they can make it more expensive and painful for the spammer who gets caught.

But some legal solutions are actually harmful. Congress’s latest handiwork actually makes life a little easier for spammers. It does that by overriding tougher state laws, like California’s. But it passed by a big margin. Because lots of people think any anti-spam bill is a step. Where? In the right direction. Yeah. Roads. Good intentions. Paving contractors. Hell.

SpamStats: The Hobby

It’s an experiment. Maybe a dumb one,  since it involves allowing 350 megabytes of email to just pile up, most of it unread, a lot of it unreadable. But the point was trying to learn about spam. It sure looks like a lot comes in. But how much? From whom? Whence? (Yes, whence?)

The first question is easy to answer. And since nothing is new under the sun,  it’s also easy to find innocent-looking email account holders who have been keeping track. Like this guy — he used to archive all his spam, and has a running record of the volume back to 1996. He gets a lot more than I do.

The second question is easy, on the surface. There are lots of real-looking names attached to spam messages. Lots of people who use just their first names, like they’re your buds. I just now got a note from David, telling me I can get 90 percent off a nice piece of maintenance software. Wow. Thanks, David. He gets deleted with the rest. But looking back to last December, I see David has sent me six messages, all trying to turn me on to a great deal of some kind. And lots of other Junkmail Daves and Spam Davids, many complete with last names — 37 in all — have contacted me to let me in on the latest in “teenz hardcore software account-past-due horse-humpin’ action.”

Some of these Davids might be real people. But if they are, they didn’t send this stuff. So, who really did? And where are they operating?

If that was easy to find out, we wouldn’t have spam. But for the next little while — let’s please not inquire for how long, because it might expose ugly truths about my attention span — I’m just going to sift through the last year’s worth of filth, free offers, and fun to try to answer some of the Big Spam Questions of Our Age.