A Crisis Becomes a Commodity

LONDON: I beat Monica to Borders on London's Oxford Street by two days; La Lewinsky is stopping there on Tuesday at lunch as part of her British tour. She was 'whisked in' by Concorde, of course. The posters announcing her visit plaster the place in the same way that ABC relentlessly promoted its Barbara Walters' tearathon; There is less Monica madness here, but no less media exploitation.The day after ABC's "exclusive, " the world's most famous intern was sitting down with England's senior journalist at Channel Four, Jon Snow, best known for his colorful ties and sharp questions. He only had half as much air time to work with as 20/20, and unlike his American counterparts who claimed it would be unethical for Monica to profit from her participation, the British did not skirt around the bottom line of the exercise. The channel shelled out $800,000 for what TV bookers call "the big get" in a deal which included cash up from front international TV players. Reportedly, Monica's agent negotiated a piece of the world wide sales as part of her payday. The British interview was, as you would expect, far less emotional -- no talk of explicit phone sex for instance -- and only attracted a disappointing three million TV homes, far less than was hoped for.The return on that investment has yet to be disclosed. In America, ABC/Disney reportedly netted $25-35 million for its two hour Monica Marathon; The show reportedly broke all audience records for a single news broadcast, according to the network. Many critics challenged its designation as "news," characterizing it more accurately as an entertainment, the final chapter of a year-long sit-com. (Stay tuned -- there may have been a secret deal within Disney's deal. The Clinton-hating Wall Street Journal editorial page hints that Barbara Walters herself may be turning her famous interviewee into an interviewer for her daily daytime TV talk show, "The View" which her company produces for ABC. So don't bid Monica adieu just yet.The British press was willingly co-opted, just like its American cousins into a hyperactive hype machine. Like Walters, Snow plugged the book which the tabloid press had also been milking for days. The Mirror carried back to back exclusives. There was Ms. L's secret photo album along with excerpts from "Monica's Story" by Princess Diana's authorized biographer, Anthony Morton. He told the Sunday Times that editors are addicted to the sexual side of the story "because they are not getting any." There was also the fascinating revelation that Monica still shops at the Gap despite all the problems one of their dresses had caused her. Not to be outdone, Murdoch's Sun also claimed an exclusive. To the Mirror's "We Got Her headline, " Rupert's newspaper retorted "We Got the First Interview." Who was right? Who cares?One critic in London's Independent spun the story differently -- as more evidence of the "last evil empire," another was of saying American imperialism, Thmas Fleming explains Monicization as part of an American led globalization that dominates the TV screens of the world. He calls Lewinsky a "goddess of sexual consumerism."So, complete with a royl biographer (who got big bucks for penning a flattering profile of Kenyan dictator Daniel Arap Moil between his deification of Diana and exculpation of Monica) a prime time shot on British telly and shmears in all the British papers, Lewinsky is off and running to propel herself into the ranks of the global celebouisie. Well coached and poised, this former drama student is our scandal Ambassador, a voice of national innocense and media-led obsession.Like her ex-Boy friend Bill, Monica has now emerged in her own right on a campaign trail, whistle-stopping through malls and high streets, and, soon, no doubt, college campuses selling herself with a stump speech, just he does. While arguably, neither has much new to say, her myth maker Morton says she has an excyclopedic knowledge of the scandal and can speak about it with compelling authority. And she no doubt will -- until the already saturated maket can take no more. What started as a flirtation has morphed into a career.In that sense, M&B are together again. He shills for the party coffers; she for her own treasure chest. You just know that for the rest of her life, their names will be joined at the hip in the perennial columns that ask "where are they now." What started as news biz ended as show biz. Another crisis has become a commodity. Here in England, they are just learning that that is the American way.Danny Schechter, Executive Producer of Globalvision, was in England promoting the paperback edition of his new book, "The More You Watch, The Less You Know."


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