My first reaction to that over-discussed TIME magazine cover showing a woman breastfeeding her way-too-old son was:
“Wait—TIME magazine is still around?”
Predictably, this naked example of stunt publishing has been the subject of countless OpEds and blog posts. Breastfeeding became the obvious call-in topic for lazy talk-radio producers across the nation. The TIME cover even got the Saturday Night Live treatment over the weekend.
(Wait—Saturday Night Live is still on…?)
I’m bored and dismayed by the ensuing debates about how long modern women should suckle their spawn and whether public breastfeeding displays are “appropriate.”
There’s nothing to debate: It’s gross. After one radio host uttered the phrase “mucus plug” for the second time, I had to go have a little lie-down. Yes, breastfeeding is “natural.” So is a swarm of maggots feasting on a dead rat. I don’t care to witness either event.
I’m more interested in what this bra-haha reveals about corporate media and the way it illustrates the news cycle’s workings.
During the first 24 hours after this issue of TIME hit the newsstands, Big Media patted its own back about “raising awareness.”
TIME’s Richard Stengel praised his own publication’s astonishing courage and daring for, er, putting some chick’s naked boob on the cover. (Apparently Hugh Hefner could not be reached for comment.)
Stengel proudly declared that “thousands and thousands—if not millions—of people will pay attention to a story when they wouldn’t have even known about it (otherwise).”
That breakthrough “story” is about public breastfeeding’s merits or lack thereof. Not, oh, I don’t know, the president’s compulsive lies about his freaky-deaky biography. (Did you know Obama was conceived when his parents met during the historic march on Selma—which sort of actually happened four years after he was born? It’s like Barack is giving Jesus the finger: “Top that, virgin birth boy!”)
But who cares if the current resident of the White House is a compulsive liar? That is so ’70s, man!
Big Media now has way more important “motherhood” issues about which to “educate” you peons. The press has fallen from Watergate to Tit-aquiddick in a single lifetime.
Sometimes I’m overcome by the sheer glory and majesty of the fourth estate, aren’t you?
Even by midweek, the media still hadn’t squeezed the last drop of milk from this teat.
After feigning their dedication to “informing the public” (about something of which the public was already aware), the media quickly moved on to covering the really important topic:
AdAge hurriedly reassured other magazines that advertisers and retailers were “fine” with the cover.
The LA Times called the cover “a stroke of genius” that “proves”—luckily for the LA Times, phew!—that “print is not dead.”
TIME’s own behind-the-scenes-at-TIME-magazine section (!?) served up “outtakes from the cover photo shoot.”
The most amusing instance of masturbatory “analysis” popped up on the Today show. Apparently immune to irony, WNBC’s Darlene Rodriguez trumpeted the fact that the show’s poll about the TIME cover generated “one of the biggest responses ever.”
More than 122,000 people voted online, she enthused.
And what poll option did the vast majority of ordinary Americans select when asked what they thought about this brave, courageous, thought-provoking, and very, very important TIME magazine cover?
I DON’T REALLY WANT TO SEE THAT.
America has apparently declared itself weary of the sight of exposed breasts, which can’t possibly be a good indicator of the nation’s health.
I realize that media metrics are more art than science and the results they garner can be depressing if you happen to be in the business.
The radio ratings system is only now emerging from the monastic age of hastily scribbled “diaries.” Newspaper ad revenue and readership are down, and digital monetization is still in diapers.
However, one’s industry has plummeted to a new low when it boasts about the record number of would-be paying customers telling it how much they hate its product and never want to look at anything like it again.
Worry not. Faster than you can say “squirrel!,” our moral and intellectual superiors have kindly fashioned for us all a fresh shiny object whose “importance” and “appropriateness” we can “debate” during this week’s news cycle.
Old and tired? TIME’s breastfeeding mom. New hotness? Newsweek dubs Obama “The First Gay President.”
The sad part is, I’ll end up “debating” that magazine cover’s “appropriateness” just like everybody else.
I guess we’re all suckers.
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