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Blood Money

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By Eugene Robinson
Friday, November 17, 2006

O.J. Simpson's forthcoming book, "If I Did It," could launch a profitable new series for publisher Judith Regan and her parent company, Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Let me suggest that she follow up with another snuff book, maybe "If I Shot My Wife in the Head," by Robert Blake, and then diversify into non-capital crimes with "If I Molested All Those Kids," by Michael Jackson.

Anyone who thinks I'm kidding probably clings to the illusion that Regan and the Fox television network have a morsel, a crumb, a mote, an iota of residual shame in what's left of their souls. Sorry, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Of course, many people thought the evidence showed that Simpson was guilty as hell. But Johnnie Cochran isn't around anymore, so maybe Regan and Fox will be showered with the opprobrium they deserve for letting the Juice do this booty-shaking end zone dance on the graves of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Suppose you were put on trial for butchering your ex-wife and her lover in a blood-soaked frenzy -- not that you'd ever do such a thing, of course, but going hypothetical is all the rage -- and a brilliant lawyer managed to get you acquitted, despite copious evidence of your guilt. Wouldn't you withdraw permanently into quiet obscurity? Whether your life was a burning hell of remorse or a sunny stroll up manicured fairways, wouldn't you want to live it out of the public eye? Maybe, say, raise horses in deepest Paraguay?

Instead, Simpson has interrupted his lonely, relentless search for "the real killer" to write and promote "If I Did It," which reportedly gives a detailed, gory, ostensibly fictional account of the murders he says he didn't commit.

I'm sure he needs the money. It's not as if he's going to be invited into the "Monday Night Football" booth anytime soon or offered a cameo in the next Ben Stiller movie. But this abomination goes beyond exploitation of a brutal crime for financial gain. This is pathological.

Only a narcissist of the first order would be compelled to revisit the scene of the crime and walk us through the butchery, knowing that no one would take his use of "if" or "would have" as anything but a mocking formality -- knowing that everyone would read the book as a true confession of his sins. Only a textbook narcissist would have such a warped need to bask once again in the limelight.

Memo to the Juice: Please go away. And take Regan with you. A former "reporter" for the National Enquirer, Regan became a sensation in the publishing world by satisfying humanity's bottomless appetite for slickly packaged trash. Her imprint, ReganBooks, is a division of HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. "If I Did It" will be featured on Fox, also owned by Murdoch, for two nights later this month (after NBC, to its credit, turned Regan down). Fox plans to air a two-night "interview" in which Regan converses with Simpson about his contribution to literature and his theoretical prowess as a psycho killer. It is no coincidence that the "interview" comes amid the November sweeps period, when ratings translate into cold cash.

For those keeping score, that's money for Simpson from the book, money for Regan from the book and lots of money for Murdoch, from both the book and the expected big TV ratings.

It has been reported that Regan paid Simpson $3.5 million for "If I Did It," though she declines to reveal how much she shelled out. Whatever the amount, how does Simpson hope to keep and spend that money without having to surrender it to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, who won a $33.5 million judgment against him in civil court but have yet to collect? I have to assume that Murdoch's lawyers are too smart to engineer some dodge, such as paying the money to a third party or wiring it to an offshore account. I also have to assume that somehow, whatever machinations are necessary, the Juice intends to get paid.

The saddest aspect of this travesty is that Regan knows the book will sell and Fox knows the Simpson "interview" will score huge ratings. They have studied our weaknesses and calculated that sensation always trumps honor.

Please join me in not buying the book or watching the Fox infomercial. We'll feel cleaner for it.

eugenerobinson@washpost.com


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