The Sheen Smokescreen

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    Sometimes, living abroad has its advantages, even in the age of the Internet.

    For example, I’m probably the only American in the world who doesn’t know exactly what’s been happening with Charlie Sheen. I haven’t a clue, and I suppose he doesn’t either; but whilst I caught rumblings in the background and tabloidesque headlines here and there on various internet sites, I truly don’t know what all the fuss is about and – quite frankly – I don’t care.

    Here’s what I do know about Charlie Sheen:-

    – He’s Martin Sheen’s son. I’ve always liked Martin Sheen.

    – He’s Emilio Estevez’s brother.

    – He starred in Platoon back before Oliver Stone was Oliver Stone and did a good job.

    – He starred in Wall Street with Michael Douglas and did a good job.

    – Now he’s on Two and a Half Men, which is shown here in the UK on an obscure channel at an obscure hour, and no one watches it enough to talk about it.

    And that’s all I know about him, except he seems to have gone off the rails a bit, or at least enough to make the 24/7 guys obsess about him ad nauseam. He seems to have given various and sundry interviews to various and sundry talking heads on various and sundry morning programs and said unusual things.

    I haven’t paid attention to the obsessing because it doesn’t interest me. Sheen’s got a problem of sorts – either emotional or psychological – and that’s his business. If he wants the public to know about it, that’s his business too; but I think it’s kind of creepy the way the media seem to have taken up residence on this subject, from all angles. Last week, Lawrence O’Donnell even spent twenty minutes of his MSNBC program evaluating the Sheen phenomenon as though it were a controversial and recently announded political principle. I know O’Donnell’s show is going through adjustment problems in the wake of KO’s departure, but it really is beneath the intellectual calibre of someone like Lawrence O’Donnell to rake over the coals of another man’s emotional breakdown on what is supposed to be a political analysis program.

    That’s political, not psychological.

    You know, fifty years ago, if something like this happened to a leading television actor, he would have retreated behind his gated home, and his publicist and the network for which he worked would have reported him to have been suffering from exhaustion or something of the sort. Three hundred years ago, inmates in local insane asylums were hung outside windows in cages in order that passersby might be entertained. Today, we watch people like Charlie Sheen break down and do and say silly things on television, being interviewed by network newspeople.

    I know the news media obsessed in the extreme two years ago at the sudden death of Michael Jackson, but Jackson was a star of international repute and consequence. He was relatively young, and his death was sudden. He’d been a driving force in popular music. Still, the attention and obsession lavished on him were too much.

    Then, there was balloon boy.

    What’s peculiar about the Sheen situation is that it’s being used so much on so many overtly political programs as a valid topic of discussion, I can’t help but wonder why it’s being discussed instead of something else. And it is almost as though it’s being used as a smokescreen in order to avoid discussion of something more controversial.

    Sheen’s dominated headlines on various programs whilst public sector workers have had their collective bargaining rights wiped off the slate in Wisconsin. Libya’s boiling over, while the media obsesses about Charlie Sheen. There’ve been earthquakes in New Zealand and now Japan, the latter worse than the former. And Congress have sat around whining and whingeing and doing nothing of what they’re supposed to be doing.

    I use Bill Maher’s Real Time to gauge a lot of what’s going on in the political spectrum. For two weeks now, the main topic of discussion on Real Time, entering a mention into every conversation, has been Charlie Sheen. This past week, Bill even managed to make an analogy of Sheen to Sarah Palin.

    What I really want to know is simply what’s being hidden behind the Sheen smokescreen, and why has it been constructed? My guess would be that it’s yet another diversion for a public, both Right and Left, who are totally devoid of the ability to think critically. So when the media finally decide to let go of Charlie Sheen and allow him to deal with his many problems in the privacy he deserves, both sides will be able to turn, yet again, to the Obama-baiting they love so dearly, guided by the media talking heads they trust so much.