It was clear to me that we had passed some sort of milestone as a culture (or, as I prefer to think of it, an anti-culture) in January when the radio station I was listening to announced that it was interrupting its regularly scheduled broadcast to bring me a special bulletin—on the Tonya Harding affair. The words that used to presage grave international crises, wars, revolutions, and assassinations, the words whose special kick for the last forty years has come from the knowledge that they might at any time herald the imminent end of the human race now signified that somebody in Portland, Oregon, was reporting that it looked as if Jeff Gillooly was going to testify that his ex-wife, Tonya Harding, had been in on the plot to maim her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, from the beginning.

Big news, clearly. More than two thirds of Americans surveyed in a CBS poll professed to think that...


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