Within minutes of the news that JFK Jr. had crashed his plane, the
media line was set, and it hasn’t wavered: the entire nation, no, the
world, is shattered and waiting breathlessly for any nugget of hopeful
Lacking such news, the script goes, the dreams of a generation are
dashed as the Kennedy curse afflicts yet another prince of this
universally beloved royal family, the best America has to offer being
taken from our midst.
Indeed, how can we go on? How can we continue, day after day,
to endure this unrelenting political pap masquerading as sorrow and
What a peek it has been into the mind of the media, which is to say,
the mind of the ruling elite. There was no hint that a rational person
could possibly dissent. If you don’t worship the brand of glam-power
politics the Kennedy family specializes in, you are out of touch with
the will of the
nation — no, the world — and probably certifiably insane. And don’t
you dare notice that the greenhorn pilot might not have made the
smartest move in trying to fly over the ocean in bad weather at night
with a cast on his leg, risking the lives of his wife and her sister in
The same people who tell us we must drop everything to make a
pilgrimage to the Eternal Flame of the rich and powerful at a government
cemetery otherwise claim that all people must be treated exactly alike,
and that the poor and underprivileged should be the constant focus of
national attention. But it turns out that some are more equal than
others, meriting even wall-to-wall global coverage. Nothing whatsoever
going on in the world is more important than the death of a magazine
publisher, because his father was America’s last great emperor.
The height of absurdity was reached when the Defense Department
scheduled a press conference in the first day of the search. Pompous
military bureaucrats approached the lectern to report far less than
could be learned by watching the news. As a fellow in the local car
repair shop said, “If they’ve got the Pentagon involved, they’ll never
find the plane!”
As the wailing and gnashing of teeth reached a fevered pitch, we were
once again told about the glorious Kennedy years: the compassion, the
hopes, the dreams, the high culture, and on and on.
But none of this will wash. Books on the real JFK have been streaming
out from publishers for more than a decade, preeminently Seymour Hersh’s
devastating work. We have learned the grim details of a presidency rife
with every manner of personal and political corruption, far from the
Camelot image being foisted on us yet again.
Do the media really believe they could wipe out all this revisionism
with 48 hours of blustery propaganda? It only ended in revealing the
media’s true bias, and discrediting them as sources of real information.
This hysteria wasn’t about genuine mourning. It was about politics.
Would a similar show be put on for the death of, say, Ronald Reagan’s
son Michael, the right-wing radio host? Not likely.
And yet the people who genuinely mourn JFK Jr.’s death are sad about
the loss of a media star, the sexiest man alive, not the heir to a great
political legacy. “I don’t have this superstitious reverence toward this
family,” Thomas Woods, 26, a Columbia University graduate student, told
the Baltimore Sun. “I’m not sure how much people in our generation
really know about [his father]. I mean, frankly, I doubt many of them
could name the years that Kennedy served as president.”
Precisely. The Kennedy legacy is not about the “nation’s heart.” It
is about a small political corner of one generation, and it consists of
a package of myths from which only the most naive are not disabused.
As for JFK Jr., his real accomplishment was in eschewing the
professional politics of his family. Consider the underlying message of
his glossy magazine, George: politics has no worth on its own terms, and
hence shouldn’t be covered with the old guard’s seriousness. Politics
must be turned into
entertainment or else it has no real bearing on life as we know it. The
message made George an interesting publication, despite its leftward
Nonetheless, the media did their best to nationalize his death, in
order to drum up support for the real Kennedy curse, the Leviathan State
the family has worked so long to entrench as a permanent fixture of
American life. That is why the media line hasn’t wavered. And that is
why so much of the rest of America isn’t buying it.