Standards, the Salahis, Bluto, and Us

A sane culture discourages ethical misconduct by condemning and punishing it. The American culture, thanks to greed, intellectual rot and an irresponsible media, rewards unethical conduct by making it profitable. This isn’t a trivial matter.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi are about as despicable a pair as one can imagine, redeemed only by the fact that they haven’t caused any oil spills, aren’t abusing children and haven’t killed anyone. They are full-time grifters, and are diligently working to profit by exploiting America’s sick obsession with media celebrity. They crashed a White House dinner in November, costing several people their jobs, and launching multiple investigations that added to the tax-payers’ burden. None of that mattered to them, of course, because the irresponsible escapade advanced their idiotic, pathetic and selfish goal: joining the likes of Jose Canseco, Corey Feldman and Gary Busey on TV’s equivalent of belching, a reality show. Then, being completely shameless, they recently stalked a White House dinner again, getting themselves stopped by the Secret Service as they rode in a rented limousine, dressed in formal attire, with an “Inside Edition” camera crew in tow. This was just an “incredible coincidence,” they explained…wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

The Salahis, to state the obvious, belong in jail. Their faces should be welcome only in mug shots, and their revolting cheer and pride at their publicity-seeking intrusions ought to provoke only universal nausea. But we are inflicted with an entertainment and media culture that responds to an unethical Congressman’s disgrace by putting him on “Dancing With the Stars” (Tom DeLay), that deems being impeached as Illinois Governor for trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat sufficient qualification to be a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” (Rod Blagojevich) and that devotes around-the-clock media attention to the death-spiral of a sad, disturbed, under-educated, attention-addicted actress with no career (Lindsay Lohan, of course.) Thus the Salahis’ grand plan has worked. They are getting their reality show, courtesy of Bravo!, the cable station that began its existence featuring opera performances and has now descended to this. NBC’s Today Show booked the Salahis and treated them to an absurdly long Matt Lauer interview that seemed like a thinly designed promo (NBC owns Bravo!). And tonight, David Letterman, that ever-popular adulterer/sexual harasser, will burnish the Salahis “Look at us! We’re celebrities just like Bombshell McGee!” tour by having them “crash” a comedy routineget it?

I know: Bravo!, Today and Dave are just “giving the public what they want.” This, you’ll recall, is how Don Corleone and his fellow Dons justified bootlegging, prostitution, and predatory gambling, not to mention the intermediary step of hanging rivals on meat-hooks. When our society rewards societal predators like the Salahis (and Richard Heene, “Balloon Boy’s” father, and too many others to list), the country gets more of them; worse, people begin to think there’s nothing wrong with lying, posing and manipulating to make a buck.  Here’s “bizwiz27” ‘s take on the Letterman gig, from the Washington Post website:

“sorry, i wish i could be a hater but….. don’t tell me you don’t look at the pic and see the “con”/strategic media pursuit. The woman looks absolutely beautiful and gorgeous and seductive. The man moves in on Letterman to schmooze him immediately. is this the greatest social couple in history???? no?? give me a better one then cause I’m starting to see the genius of them…. and lastly i just had to mention….. his wife looked beautiful and totally amazing…..from a guy, I’m just being honest…..what guy wouldn’t want her…..”

It’s tempting to dismiss “bizwiz” as a moron, but he is the media’s target audience as well as the Salahis’ perfect mark. Shame has no traction in a culture that constantly announces that there are few transgressions that don’t have a significant profit-potential. There has to be accountability when the entertainment industry and the media willingly become accomplices to frauds, crooks and grifters.  This should inspire all of us to take a stand, and to emulate John Belushi as “Bluto” in his finest, iconic moment in “Animal House,” when he proclaims that he will not tolerate his tormenters any longer:

“I’m not gonna take this! Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer… “

Dead. Except we should substitute Bravo!, Lauer and Letterman for Wormer, Marmalard and Niedermeyer. The Salahis are incorrigible: they will stop only when they are locked up. Letterman, Lauer, et al. are also immune to shame and decency, but they don’t want to be “dead”: if enough of the public emphatically condemns and rejects the practice of  rewarding bad conduct, they will have to stop it. Ultimately and as always, protecting ethical standards is our responsibility. If we leave it to Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Rockefeller Center, we are surely doomed.

2 thoughts on “Standards, the Salahis, Bluto, and Us

  1. Everybody still picks on Niedermeyer! Sometimes, though, I still wonder if “Animal House” helped to breed some of the characters we see in public life today. Don’t forget, at the end of the movie, where the futures of those lunatics was revealed, they spoke of Senator Blutosky! His clones infest the Capitol dome.

    • Nahh. Animal House established a standard for order in the universe. I know the guy who was the model for Greg Marmalard, and he was actually a nice guy—but exactly the kind of guy that needs to fall in a mud puddle.

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