Media X: Time Flies

Smelled like old times this week. Hillary Clinton unveiled a health plan. Sally Field babbled at an awards show. And O.J. Simpson went to the slammer.

Hypocrisy fouled the air in the Eighties, when Field first made a fool of herself in an acceptance speech. Life reeked with irony in the Nineties, when Hillary's first foray into health reform crashed and burned, and Simpson was charged with his first felony.

But the 21st century just stinks. And I blame the media.

Twenty years ago, you heard what the Flying Nun did, but if you really liked her and didn't watch the Oscars live, you had to wait for the networks or cable -- if you had cable -- to rerun the clip. A decade later, if, like me, you only read sports in the newspaper, you didn't even know Hillary had a healthcare plan, let alone care.

Of course, nobody could ignore the Simpson trial, but at least that travesty was new enough that it could still titillate. Harvey Levin was still just a grating local news reporter, so mostly you fed your scandal fix with reportage from less-informed sources, like the Los Angeles Times. Or maybe one of the primeval Internet news sites, assuming AOL took less than a day to dial it up.



This time, though, I saw the Field Emmy clip online almost before she walked off the stage. I knew a new Clinton plan was coming four days before it arrived, because I heard some old guy named Carl Bernstein talking about it on "Real Time with Bill Maher."

I got the 411 on the Simpson burglary bust from, where Harvey Levin is now a grating Internet mogul. I spent a lot of time, maybe 30 seconds, boning up on the case, right after playing "Home Run Hero" on and just before lingering forever --had to be a minute at least -- on, reading about how Cyprian honeybees kill their enemies by smothering them.

See, people complain about inaccuracy in the media, about blog-fed, nut-job opinions replacing informed judgment, about all those three-screen options making us crazy, about easy access to all sorts of useless data. (Why do I know that Nancy Grace is pregnant? More importantly, why does that idea horrify me?)

But the real reason the media sucks in the first decade of what appears to be a spectacularly terrible century is speed. It's not how bad all this stuff is, or how much of it there is. It's how fast it flies at us. Too fast to avoid.

You get the dirty little picture now, don't you? We don't need fewer choices. We need slower choices.

And it couldn't hurt if Sally Field just retired already.

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