INFOTAINMENT SOCIETY: JUNK FOOD NEWS – 2008/2009 by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

Does my ass look big?

Does my ass look big?

The late New York University media scholar Neil Postman once said about America, “We are the best entertained least informed society in the world.” From Jessica Simpson’s weight and Brangelina’s escapades, to Britney Spears’ sister and the Obamas’ First Puppy, Americans are fed a steady “news” diet of useless information laden with personal anecdotes, scandals, and gossip. 

Since the middle of the 1980’s, Project Censored at Sonoma State University has annually researched this phenomenon. We have found that topics and in-depth reports that matter little to anyone in any meaningful way are given massive amounts of media coverage in the corporate media. In recent years, this has only become more obvious. 

For instance, CNN’s coverage of celebrity Anna Nicole Smith’s untimely death in early 2007 is arguably one of the most egregious examples of an over abused news story. The magnitude of corporate media attention paid to the event were clearly out of synch with the coverage the story deserved, which was at most a simple passing mention. Instead, CNN broadcast “breaking” stories of the event uninterrupted, without commercials, for almost two hours, with commentary by lead anchors and journalists. This marked among the longest uninterrupted “news” broadcasts at CNN since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Anna Nicole Smith and 9/11 are now strange bedfellows, milestone bookends of corporate news culture. 

While news outlets were obsessing over Smith, most press giants were missing a far more important story. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq misplaced $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that were flown to Baghdad. This garnered little attention due to the media’s morbid infatuation with celebrity. That is clearly news judgment gone terribly awry if not an outright retreat from journalistic standards. The once trivial and absurd are now mainstreamed as “news.” More young people turn to late night comics’ fake news to learn the truth or tune out to so-called reality shows often scripted as Roman Holiday spectacles of the surreal. Welcome to the Infotainment Society: American Media in the 21st Century. 

Here are the Top Ten Junk Food News Stories for 2008 and 2009 as chosen by Project Censored students and the online community via

1.Olympic Medalist Michael Phelps Hits a Bong

2. Jessica Simpson Gains Weight

3. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Fashion Sense

4. The Brangelina Twins

5. Lindsay Lohan Dating a Woman

6. The Presidential First Puppy

7. Heidi Montag “Marries” Spencer Pratt

8. Barry Bonds Steroid Trial

9. Jamie-Lynn Spears Gives Birth

10. The Woes of Amy Winehouse 

The British tabloid “News of the World” published an exclusive photo of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps smoking marijuana from a bong on Sunday, February 1, 2009, with the headline, “What a Dope.” The picture was allegedly taken during a November house party while Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina. The incident occurred nearly three months after the swimmer won eight gold medals for America at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Phelps quickly apologized to the public for his “regrettable behavior. ” The bong’s owner reportedly tried to sell it on eBay for $100,000. In the weeks following, Phelps lost his sponsorship from Kellogg’s cereal. Photos of Jessica Simpson performing at a Florida Chili Cook-off looking a bit heavier than usual surfaced during the week of January 26. The purportedly unflattering shots of a curvier looking Simpson in an outfit that included “a muffin-top-inducing leopard belt” immediately made news headlines. Was she pregnant? Was she picking up eating habits from her NFL star boyfriend? Or was she simply hungry for publicity? President Barack Obama even noticed Simpson was “in a weight battle” during a pre-Super Bowl interview. 

The United States is not only becoming a nation of obese people, but is on the verge of another phenomenon, the equivalent of cultural and mental obesity. We are a nation awash in a sea of information, yet we have a paucity of understanding. We are a country where over a quarter of the population know the names of all five members of the fictitious family from The Simpsons, yet only one in a thousand can name all the rights protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Journalistic values have been sold out to commercial interests and not even our core, national and constitutionally protected values are sacred.


Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored. Mickey Huff is an Associate Professor of History at Diablo Valley College and Associate Director of Project Censored. Frances A. Capell, a Project Censored intern, contributed to this article.  -from


11. The Woes of  Sarah Palin and family!


Filed under Humor, Media, Psychological Disorders, Research, torture, Weird news, Wingnuts!

22 responses to “INFOTAINMENT SOCIETY: JUNK FOOD NEWS – 2008/2009 by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

  1. Ha. One day on the show, maybe I’ll tell the story of Anna Nicole Smith. Can’t burn my nom de plume. I know the players. Florida might very well doom this entire country.

  2. klaus

    I started this on the thread below, but it seems more appropriate here. Or not.

    Think of the Iranian situation, and the power that the web has demonstrated. Then put it in context of Jessica Rab-er, Simpson.

    What’s my point? I’m not sure. Something about the potential abuse of power. Or the abuse of potential power. Or something.

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  4. jammer5

    It’s the instant gratification of the American psych. “We want it and we want it now!” Doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is. Could be the discovery of life on another planet, Jessie S’s death, new cancer drug or world’s fastest roller coaster: WE WANT IT NOW!

    And our pablum news sources are more than willing to oblige. Means more money for the stock holders.

  5. The world is a different place, isn’t it!? It’s more difficult to keep anything as secret — from cell phones (that are cameras) in everyone’s pockets, to all the ways we communicate instantaneously, we pretty much have a way of making and documenting a record of what happened.

  6. The media doesn’t have nearly as much power as they once did — and that’s because of all those just like us who are blogging and tweeting… We know when they get the facts right too. Well, all us who pay attention to more than Fox News, their viewers are real “special.”

    Look at Iran — even with all their attempt to shut down the media, the world is watching.

  7. frigginloon

    Hello people, this is what my entire blog is based on! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  8. frigginloon

    Oooh and you forgot to mention on that list, Jade Goody. Dear god the whole of England watched her slowly die, day by day. The Truman Show society is well and truly here. I say blame it on guns, people are just too friggin scared to venture out. It’s easier to watch someone elses life disintegrate than our own! Now pass me the Doritos and my snuggie.

    • And over here we had the poor brain-dead woman that the entire republican congress tried to save.
      I don’t remember her name now!

      Where is the runaway bride anyway?

      • Terry Schvio (spelling?)

      • That’s IT! Good morning fnord.
        Give Ginger a hug for me.

        You know why Loon goes right for the wierd news? I do!
        I worked my ASS OFF on the Big Brother post and was proud as a peacock.
        It barely got noticed!
        Put up one photo of J.Simpson’s ass, the comments fly in!

        But, we all know that’s how it works.
        Funny huh?

      • Schiavo. I think.
        Poor woman.
        And her poor husband.
        Had to put up with the forced lifers.

      • I’ll go read it again and give it its proper thought!

        The last one I worked really hard on (2 or 3 days of reading, writing and editing) was Broken People — it was a dud too. 😦

      • fnord, you and I are just going to have to accept it. We are good enough, smart enough, and by golly….people LIKE US!

        Like Wicked told me on the same topic.
        Write it for yourself.
        If somebody reads it fine.
        If not, you accomplished you mission.

      • Broken me, I did not comment on that one.
        You know a bit of my ‘wilderness experience’ and my own inner healing.
        That’s why you feel like a sister, not some far-away blogger!

      • frigginloon

        Terry, I remember that. Remember Chandra Levy and Gary Condit. Now that was a hoot. Poor guy ,wrong girl, wrong affair and really wrong answering machine message!

  9. Bad Biker

    (Kids aren’t ready for the zoo yet – big surprise.)

    We are a nation of sound byte junkies. We want our fix, we want it now and we want it in bite-sized morsels.

    Complex issues and weighty questions are beyond most American’s ability to digest, hence People Mag outsells Time and Newsweek.

    Single payer? Financial crisis? Tax code? A goodly number of Americans wouldn’t know where to begin in a discussion of that type, but they know that Adam Lambert is gay and THAT’S what matters to them.

    Anna Nicole Smith was famous for……….. having huge, pumped up boobs and being willing to show them off to anyone that wanted to look.

    If that is not a commentary on modern American society, then I don’t know what is.

    The folks ’round here tend to forget that we (Pop Bloggers) are in a minority – we think for ourselves, we reason, we want to know the backstory behind an issue, we read (!) and generally we are more interested in the issues of the day than we are in Jessica Simpson’s ass.

    Although, I do have to say that IMHO, she has a pretty nice ass.

  10. tosmarttobegop

    LOL after Sekanbogger comment about his post and Jess’s butt, on the local Fox channel is two former Playmates discussing financial planning!

    • tosmarttobegop

      I can piture it now, the wife walks in and ask what were they talking about?
      The Husband said, “They were talking?”.

  11. tosmarttobegop

    Soap operas were explained to me as their lives are so screwed up that it makes the viewers feel like maybe my life an’t so bad. When the news was in depth and factual many said they do not watch it because it is so depressing. Murder, rape, bombings, car wrecks you name it that was happening everyday and it was so depressing.

    I was shocked a few years ago when for us G.W. Bush was for better or worse a household name I kept finding people that had no idea who he is! BUT they knew the names of everyone on Survivor and could name every name of the winners since the first show.

    The news today is more like the National Enquirer, MSNBC often is the only one that focuses on actual news. The rest are like 24/7 Nancy Grace, Standing on the bodies of people who have suffered greatly without a concern for the lives that had been lost. Feeding the mindless need for Gossip without real substance, like the soap operas “Gee I thought my life sucked!”.

    The other side of this is being aware makes my head hurt most days, “Ignorance is bliss” I see people who biggest thought is finding a good parking spot at Wal-Mart. I see the similarities between what has happen in Iran and the election of 2000. I wrote a blog post on my own blog about it, most are not seeing passed a two second sound bite on the subject. Being so focused on what is happening in the Government and the world often leaves me without something to talk about with those who do not. Ever so often I look out the window at the green grass to remind me that all Hell is not just outside my house waiting to break in the door.

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