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Thursday, August 17, 2006

JonBenet Ramsey - The Sequel


Almost ten years ago, as we prepared to launch Annoy.com, a young girl was found murdered in her family home in Boulder, Colorado on Christmas morning. By the time we were ready to go, filing our federal lawsuit on January 30, 1997, there wasn’t a person on the face of the earth who did not know who JonBenet Ramsey was.

In what would become our trademark, our first image that evoked shock, outrage and ultimately hate mail, depicted Jon Benet’s head on a “Tickle Me Elmo” doll, to accompany my editorial, The Gruesome Marketing of JonBenet.

On the heels of the OJ Simpson debacle, but prior to the death of Princess Diana, the frenzied media reaction to JonBenet’s murder was unprecedented.

Like an uncontrollable virus, the hoards cut and pasted every detail they could find. JonBenet specials, inside scoops, latest updates, interviews with friends, neighbors, maids, aunts, cousins….exclusive interviews, exclusive photos, exclusive obituary. The almost comical, but depressing accusations by tabloids of tabloids. Web sites, parasitic, sprung up like warts, feeding on one another and perpetuating each other's relevance... beauty queen JonBenet, not really child, not really real, not really everyday… and we the gullible and the beguiled bought it hook, line and sinker, while our six year old daughters still wonder why it's okay to murder and rape those less fortunate…perhaps black, perhaps poor, perhaps ugly.

As the media zoomed their lasers on the bizarre world of children’s beauty pageants, with endless clips of a heavily made-up JonBenet striding down a catwalk, the inherent racism and the increasing lack of distinction among legitimate vs. tabloid news was striking.

It became all too easy to point fingers at the Ramsey parents, John and Patsy, who, after all, not just allowed but encouraged their 6-year-old daughter to parade herself like an underage child porn star.

Nothing, however, matched the endless, breathless, round-the-clock exploitation of the news media, churning out books and spawning careers in the punditry of misery. As Jane Pauley inadvertently summed it up in an interview with Lawrence Schiller, author of a book on the JonBenet Ramsey case, on NBC's Dateline, “It’s like you had a hundred different facts in a party game.” And, from Dan Abrams to Larry King and back, play they did.

Mrs. Ramsey died in June 2006 of ovarian cancer, never quite vindicated in the eyes of the public. With the arrest of John Mark Karr in Bangkok for the murder of JonBenet, America can prepare for the next onslaught to distract from the civil war in Iraq and tenuous ceasefire in Lebanon.

John Ramsey is unlikely to forget who his friends are, and hopefully will keep the media at bay, as they prepare to dig up, piss on and shred JonBenet’s memory once again. And hopefully he won’t succumb to the too-little-too-late, inevitable, post-mortem re-varnishing of Patsy Ramsey’s memory either.

Alas, for the Ramsey family, resting in peace does not seem like an option.

Clinton Fein can be emailed at


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