Up in Smoke: What John Cougar Mellencamp Wanted to Say


In Killed, Christopher Hitchens’s intro to a spiked 1942 book review by George Orwell tells us that the 1984 author often “suffered from the cowardice of editors [and] the rejection of manuscripts on overtly political grounds.” Orwell’s piece critiqued the “sloth and greed” of the British empire’s business elite and the “frivolous incompetent civilian” authority leading England’s undersupplied army in Burma during WW II.

Substitute Halliburton, Rummy, and body-armor shortages, and Orwell nails 2004 pretty well, too. His doomed article kicks off Killed‘s parade of shame. Does the world really need a profile on John Mellencamp’s obsessive smoking despite a heart attack? Sure, when the subject candidly blurts, “I’m still smoking. I’m a fucking asshole.” Details‘ advertising department concurred with this self-evaluation, and to avoid offending tobacco advertisers, deep-sixed Erik Hedegaard’s funny 1996 interview with the rocker. Well-wrought articles on Body Shop founder Anita Roddick’s hypocritical capitalism and the Moonies’ media manipulations were withdrawn by Vanity Fair, fearing British libel laws on one hand and the first Bush White House on the other.

Rich Cohen wonders whether Talk‘s Tina Brown shit-canned his memoir about the sadistic fatuities of his fraternity brothers because it was too “ugly.” With both presidential contenders alumni of Yale’s Skull and Bones, perhaps this ramble through vomit-slicked halls of old-boy networks has been resurrected just in time.