Jon Friedman misspells “Argggggghhhhh,” and other notes on his column

In today’s MarketWatch column, Jon Friedman decries the media circus that was Hunter S. Thompson’s funeral, calling it the “nadir” of “made-for-media spectacles.”

Yes, having one’s ashes blasted out of a cannon held aloft 153 feet into the air by a giant sculpture of a double-thumbed dagger-clutching fist so they explode into a sprinkly shower of fireworks could accurately be described as “tacky.” But don’t shoot the messenger, Jon; the funeral was clearly news.

Highly influential – nay, iconic – figure? Check. Unique and spectacular send-off? Check. Star-studded roster of attendees? Check. Pilgrims flocking to pay their last respects? Check. There are more ways we could make Hunter Thompson sound like the Pope (often pictured in classic white hat; frequently beset with mystical visions) but the point is that the event was newsworthy.

There are two ways to define news: what people want to know, and what news outlets tell them. Though there has been a great debate of late about what constitutes news (Natalee Holloway? Fallen soldiers in Iraq? Niger? Brangelina?) and much discussion, too, about the normative argument for news (i.e. Putting the focus on what the public ought to know, not necessarily what they want to know – many discussions of Peter Jennings’ legacy raised this point), the fact remains that under the rubric of “news” as it existstoday, coverage of funeral applies.

Friedman frets that “the tribute to Thompson may obscure his body of work,” but I don’t think you need to worry too much about his literary legacy, Jon; Google will lead you to plenty of fan sites, and I know personally that this blog, at least, is sprinkled with names that hold Thompson sacrosanct.

If you’re still upset, go roll a fattie with Michiko, we hear she’s rather good at it.