Chasing Shadows

Being a media hound from way back, Cyberdawg must inevitably wax profound about the Princess Diana thing. You know, if McLuhan was right, and the medium is the message, then what are the papparazzi? Fast food media clamoring for the next information fix, for which they are conduits. You can see 'em as part of a junk media culture that works like addiction, and is so (financially if notherwise) compelling that it's become like an information virus, spreading everywhere, no 'respectable' news source left untainted. Those of us who play pinball journalism on the 'net are completely a part of that scene, so much so that an amateur gossip columnist like Matt Drudge has the chops to attract a 30 million dollar lawsuit from from Sidney Blumenthal, a guy few of us had heard of before Drudge's piece appeared.

Princess Di was at the high end of junk culture, where print tabloids would pay millions for her photo in the right context, e.g. kissing Dodi, or sunbathing topless on a nude beach. This had nothing to do with who she was, I mean in the human sense, and everything to do with what she represented--blonde, stylish, arguably beautiful, royal blood, etc. What life could she have apart from this context? Who was she, anyway? I have no idea. Her life meant so much less to most of us than her death, and the discovery of her good works and fine sensibility is a surprising counterpoint to the tabloid reality we knew.

And now she's dead and the junknews photogermalists who followed her to her death are accused of complicity. Who was she? Who the hell are they?

As most of us know by now, the papparazzi were doing their usual--Diana's death was more likely caused by the drunk at the wheel. However the papparazzi are under investigation for homicide, and failure to render aid--trash media's lost its entertainment value as we wonder at our information decadence, our casual acceptance of not-so-cheap gossip masquerading as news.

Consider the possibility, though, that this is just another random bit of information, void of significance. A million flowers laid before the palace, Britain and much of the world in mourning for someone they didn't know. Didn't take time to know, really, as more than an image, a voice, an apparition.

The illusion is that media bring us together as the 'global village' we used to talk about--but the truth is that it hides the distance, hides the extent to which we can never quite get under each other's skins and understand what there. I don't say that this is a problem--I guess it's cool that we're trying to make connections wherever we can.

But I keep wondering--what's the death of a shadow?

Jon Lebkowsky is an activist and writer based in Austin Texas. Cyberdawg Barking is about new media and whatever else seems relevant. To subscribe, send a message to containing only the following as the message:

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