The press was overloaded this month with tales of the O.J. Simpson book deal. As summarized by the Los Angeles Times:
“‘If I Did It’” is to be released Nov. 30 by Regan, an imprint of HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Another division of News Corp, the Fox network, will air a two-part interview with Simpson, conducted by his publisher, Judith Regan, on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29. In the book and the interviews, according to a statement from HarperCollins, Simpson will give a ‘bone-chilling account of the night of the murders,’ which took place June 12, 1994.”
Abcarian, R. & Miller, M., “Simpson to tell how he could have killed pair,” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 16, 2006); see also Wyatt, E. & Carter, B., “O. J. Simpson Writes a Book He’ll Discuss On Fox TV,” New York Times (Nov. 15, 2006).
There were predictable howls of outrage, not only from the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman (the two murder victims); but also from booksellers, allegedly aggrieved pundits, and soothsayers everywhere, Piccalo, G., “Stores vow to donate profits from Simpson’s ‘If I Did It,’” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 18, 2006). Amidst the fracas, Ms. Regan released a 2,200-word statement in which she claimed to have been the victim of abuse at the hands of an unnamed former boyfriend – thus lending a piquant frisson of personal interest to the project, Bosman, J., “Simpson Publisher Explains,” New York Times (Nov. 18, 2006).
One of the more interesting facts arising from the brouhaha was that Fox in effect would be “double dipping,” by profiting not only from sales of the book, but also from a planned TV special to promote it, Piccalo, G. & James, M., “Simpson project was hot topic inside Fox,” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 22, 2006). The interview (which already had been filmed) was conducted by none other than Ms. Regan herself.
Fox also would profit when Fox News, featuring commentators such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, started slamming the book. Not only would this result in advertising revenue; it also would stimulate consumer demand. And, it would help Fox TV, which evidently is lagging in the ratings, Carter, B., “For Fox TV, An Unusually Grim Autumn,” New York Times (Nov. 20, 2006). Ladies and gentlemen, this is corporate synergy in action.
Mr. Simpson also would make some money. “It’s all blood money and unfortunately I had to join the jackals,” Simpson told the Associated Press, referring to authors of books about him. “It helped me get out of debt and secure my homestead.” Simpson also said he saw the book as a way to provide for his children financially, “Simpson admits writing book for ‘blood money,’” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 23, 2006). Evidently it was not part of Mr. Simpson’s plan to spend any of these proceeds to retire a portion of the $33.5 million civil judgment that was entered against him in connection with the case.
Many viewed the entire affair as symptomatic of a general malaise at Fox. One high-ranking veteran of the TV industry said [the project’s chief proponent inside the company] merely reflects the sensibility of the network’s owner. “Everybody knows Rupert Murdoch has no moral compass,” said the source, who has worked with the network. “Rupert loves to thumb his nose at the press. He has no problem being vilified and, in fact, part of him enjoys that,” Miller, M., “O.J. debacle shows Fox back to its ‘old habits’,” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 24, 2006).
But then along came Mr. Murdoch, who killed both the book and the TV show, Carter, B. & Wyatt, E., “Under Pressure, News Corp. Pulls Simpson Project,” New York Times (Nov. 21, 2006). Said Mr. Murdoch in a brief statement: “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”
I’m not sure if the locution, “I and senior management,” is gramatically correct. More likely, he should have said something like, “Together with senior management, I agree …” This notwithstanding, one gets the impression that everything would have been fine if they had just gone with the book; on the teetering point, the TV show pushed it over the edge. Fox had no moral qualms about proceeding; rather, they just got caught.
As this fascinating saga of media and persona unfolded, I could not help but thinking of somebody with the same problem as Mr. Simpson. Regular readers of this column should know to whom I’m referring. In a word, he is none other than Dostoyevsky’s: RASKOLNIKOV! A man with a similar problem, who undertook a similar course of action. I highly commend this book to Mr. Simpson; I doubt he’s read it, and he certainly has plenty of time for a leisurely perusal.