Let Them Eat Paris 

The fat-free substitute for substance

Last week, at the very end of my column, I hinted that I would rather steal material from the Internet and pass it off as my own than write about Paris Hilton. Unhappily, I ran out of space before I could say everything I had to say on the subject—the subject being the lengths to which I would go to avoid writing about Paris Hilton. Please bear with me as I continue with that line of thought, dear readers. I feel that if I don't get said everything that is in my heart to say (relating to how intensely I feel about not writing about Paris Hilton), my brain sack might rupture or something. So even if not reading about Paris Hilton may be of little importance to you, surely you can understand how not writing about Paris Hilton is a matter of great urgency to me.

To continue from where I left it last week, the following are more things I would rather do than write about Paris Hilton: I would rather step into a bear trap and have to gnaw off my own leg than write about Paris Hilton. I would rather be dunked head-first into an "Alive After Five" Porta-Potty than write about Paris Hilton. I would rather see Mike Huckabee elected president than write about Paris Hilton. In fact, I would rather not write another word in my entire remaining life than write about Paris Hilton.

There. A great weight has been lifted from my brain sack. The pressure is off, and I am confident you know exactly where I stand on the matter of writing about Paris Hilton. I now feel free to move ahead and write about Paris Hilton.

First and foremost, we must understand Paris Hilton isn't the issue here. And even if she were, what more could I say about her that hasn't been said? "Paris Hilton is a talentless, vapid bubblehead, spoiled to such an extreme that she is hardly recognizable as a sentient human being!" Tell me something I don't know, Bill. "Paris Hilton is one piss-poor role model for young girls and a pitiful example of what a culture of cheesy excess gets you!" C'mon, Cope, you're starting to sound like Doctor Phil.

Yes, all of America knows these things about Paris Hilton. All of America—including news media—also knows that, anymore, the news media is nearly as talentless and vapid as Paris Hilton, if for no other reason than the coverage they give to people like Paris Hilton. I have even seen panel discussions in the news media on how meaningless the news media has become for covering such meaningless people as Paris Hilton. There is nothing I could add to such a circle jerk that would contribute anything beyond another layer of meaninglessness.

Nor do I intend to waste any breath trying to convince those Americans who are fascinated by the rich and famous that they are vacuous fools for being so fascinated by the rich and famous. They obviously don't care they are vacuous fools. After all, they have the rich and famous to take their minds off troublesome thoughts like that.

And as to the matter of justice? Is Paris Hilton being treated too leniently because of her celebrity status? Or is she being treated too harshly because of her celebrity status?

Ah, justice schmustice! We all know the question only comes up as another excuse for the news media to talk about Paris Hilton.

But I repeat, Paris Hilton isn't the issue. In fact, the more an issue she seems to be, the more likely it is we should be keeping our eyes peeled elsewhere. Even the utter disgust some Americans feel for those other Americans who won't stop paying attention to Paris Hilton is a diversion from what people like Paris Hilton are up to. And by "people like Paris Hilton," I mean rich people. Really, really, really rich people.

Certainly, I don't mean Paris Hilton, herself. There is no evidence she has the sense it takes to put on her own flip-flops, let alone intentionally divert anyone's attention away from what matters more than she—which is virtually everything. But as meaningless as she is, she nevertheless serves a function. Rich people know that they are going to be envied, criticized, emulated, cursed, admired, watched ... that all comes with being a rich person. What, I suspect, they don't want to happen is for too many people to spend too much time thinking about how much richer they are than unrich people. That's happened once or twice before—France in 1789 and Russia in 1917 come to mind—and those weren't happy times for rich people.

But what if the attention can be directed onto one rich person at a time? Say, a photogenic dimwit whose antics fall within gagging range of newsworthy? Rich people can then point to that designated dimwit and say, "See there! Money doesn't buy happiness! Look at Paris Hilton if you think rich people have it made. Look how spoiled and stupid and unstable that rich girl is, and ask yourself, 'Do I really want to be like Paris Hilton?'"

And as Americans mull over how lucky they are not to be like Paris Hilton, this is happening: The richest 1 percent of Americans owns 33.4 percent of the nation's total wealth. The top 10 percent owns 71.5 percent of all American wealth. The rest of us own what's left ... for the time being, at least. Those figures, dear readers, are from 2001, before Bush's tax cuts. From 1979 (shortly before Ronald Reagan started his tax-breaks-for-his-pals policy) to 2004, the lowest fifth of the country (earnings-wise) has seen its income increase 2 percent (adjusted for inflation). The middle fifth is up 15 percent. The richest fifth was up 63 percent. The share of the national income going to the richest 1/10th of 1 percent is three times what it was 25 years ago. The top 1/100th of 1 percent are bringing in four times what they were before Reagan and Bush.

That's just a rough sketch of how much richer rich people are than you and I. I suggest you don't think about it all at once. Chew on it a little at a time—for instance, any time you hear about another American corporation building a plant in New Delhi, or moving its headquarters to Dubai to avoid even more taxes, or awarding its CEO a nine-figure yearly salary for eliminating jobs. Better yet, any time Paris Hilton's face appears on whatever passes for news in your household, remember what you might be learning about instead of her.

Cope, now you sound like one of those leftist nuts who go about stirring up resentments between the classes and blaming the obscene imbalance of wealth for many of the world's ills.

Yup. I do sound like that, don't I?

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