This morning's "Speakout" in the Rocky Mountain News features a curious little rant by one of the University of Colorado's nuttiest professors, Michael Tracey, the dubious documentarian who made John Mark Karr a household name. The piece is remarkable on several levels, none of which have much to do with the very slight objective of the piece -- which, after some shapeless, rambling musings about youth, the electoral process and JFK, turns out to be Tracey's professed outrage at a tasteless, dumb sight gag to be found in a book of monologues by tasteless, smart comedian Bill Maher.
Okay, so it's not exactly the deepest observation of the day. But the op-ed pickings at the News must be pretty slim for there to be room for this weird blast of tut-tutting from Tracey, the paper's former (and ever-dreadful) media critic. Let's put aside, for the moment, the absurdity of Tracey presuming to scold Maher and his publisher for their lack of shame — this from a journalism professor who's co-produced a series of misleading, deceptive and just plain wrong documentaries about the JonBenét Ramsey case in an effort to clear her parents of any involvement in her slaying. Let's not make too much of the fact that Tracey, who's falsely accused innocent people of murder (as detailed here) and played an active role in the greatest hoax of 2006, Karr's bogus confession, is in no position to lecture anybody on acceptable journalistic ethics – except, perhaps, gullible CU students.
No, what's truly peculiar here is that Tracey would be so mightily offended by Maher's use of a famous photo of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack. The feeble joke here is that Maher was using the photo to represent Lara Flynn Boyle as a child; Tracey had to rely on Google to figure out who Boyle is, and then he was shocked, shocked. Imagine exploiting a young girl's suffering like that. Imagine using images of a victimized child as part of some cheap stunt…to make money!
Imagine that. Maher, Tracey writes, "revealed a side to himself which he might have been wise to keep hidden."
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Maybe he isn't the only one, eh, professor? – Alan Prendergast