TCS Daily

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Anna Nicole Smith?

By Douglas Kern - February 27, 2007 12:00 AM

Perhaps you've been shaking your head in befuddlement at the interminable tawdry court proceedings that have taken over your favorite cable news channel. Perhaps you've wondered to yourself: "Who is this odd, dead, clownish blonde woman whose ghost has apparently taken the international mass media hostage?" Tempting though it is to respond to that question with "No one relevant," the better answer is "A symbol for the curious symbiosis between sex and stupidity." Anna Nicole Smith was not only a stupid sex symbol. She was a symbol for stupid sex.

I don't know much about Anna Nicole Smith's life, apart from what the sleazy celebrity magazines tell me. But I don't need to know the details. It's simple, really:

1. Sex tends to make people stupid.

2. Stupid people tend to break down good order.

3. Smith was very sexy.

4. Smith was very stupid.

5. Smith was very lucky.

6. Smith lacked the cultural safeguards (religion, ethics, etc.) to limit the damage from 3), 4) and 5).

You don't need to be John Calvin to see that Smith's life and death were predestined to wreak havoc.

I met dozens of Anna Nicole Smiths back in my state prosecutor days: women whose looks and shamelessness far exceeded their self-control and intelligence. Their lives paralleled Anna Nicole Smith's, both in form and in the particulars. The exotic dancing; the nude posing; the marriage to a sugar daddy; the messy divorce; the drugs; the paternity drama; and the early death - the United States is filled with thousands of woman living the Anna Nicole Smith life, albeit on a Peg Bundy budget. Right now, in family courts all over the United States, the Anna Nicole Smith saga is being replicated a few hundred times every hour - although, admittedly, in most cases you don't have five guys plausibly claiming to be the baby's father, but rather five guys implausibly claiming that they aren't. If you wonder why the Anna Nicole Smith saga has transfixed the world, realize: when you strip away the money and the impossible good looks from this sorry tale, you're left with a simple story: "irresponsible but sexy person screws up lives of family and friends." And that's a story to which nearly everyone can relate.

Would Anna Nicole Smith have seen her life as a tragedy? Was she a victim, or did she merely succumb to an identifiable hazard from a freely chosen lifestyle?

It's easy to blame Smith's untimely death on the usual suspects. For example, Susan Estrich complains that Smith's life was sacrificed on the altar of the patriarchy; that, but for her socially-imposed need to service the perverse whims of men, Smith might have died in bed. "If she were a flat-chested brunette," writes Estrich, "she might be alive today." As if flat-chested brunettes can't swing from chandeliers! (Ask Paris Hilton.) It's equally convenient to blame the cult of celebrity. Perhaps, had Smith remained firmly ensconced in the red-state world of honest proletariat labor, far removed from the degradations of wealth and fame, she would have lived a long, happy life.

But would Smith have wanted her life any other way? Suppose an angel had descended upon our heroine back in 1991, and said to her: "Look, your life can go in two directions here. If you walk away from this doddering old man now, you can spend your days working jobs that involve hairnets and nametags, bounce around in dreary relationships with an uninspiring array of greasy working-class schlubs, bear a few kids by a few dads, enjoy a few years of cut-rate Peyton Place drama for the six or seven years that your looks hold out, and then putter along doing nothing of relevance until Social Security kicks in, so you can watch daytime TV for hours on end in your battered old trailer until your heart gives out at age 93. Then again, if you go with the old guy, you'll achieve worldwide fame, huge amounts of money, and a marriage that will make you a billionaire in theory. Adolescent males around the globe will be ogling your naughty pictures on the Internet for years, perhaps centuries. You'll star in your own TV show, endorse products for nationwide advertisements, travel the world, have sex with the world's most eligible bachelors, take the best drugs, and live a life of hedonistic bliss punctuated only by occasional moments of family tragedy, until you die suddenly of acute celebrity-itis at age 39. Which will it be?"

Of course she'd take the old man, the fame, and the early death. Just about everyone without a strong moral compass would. It's an irrational decision, of course; the adventurous, Anna Nicole Smith way of life usually involves shame, disease, prison, and abandonment, rather than fame, money, and romance. But millions of people elect to live that life anyway. And by the way, their vote counts as much as yours.

It would be easy to score some cheap pro-libertarian points with Smith's life and death. Ours is a free society, and freedom entails the right to live stupidly. Smith lived as she chose to live, and died the death that her life foretold. Her fate teaches the harms of irresponsibility more than any lame public awareness campaign ever could, so huzzah freedom, boo coercion, blah blah blah. Right?

Maybe not. Her death is as much an advertisement for stupidity as it is a warning. Many people would look at a flashy life and a sudden death as goals to be achieved, not failures to be avoided. But more important: Smith's way of life transcends political ideologies. Politics is the study of human order, and a life like Smith's defeats whatever order anyone might try to impose. Behold the chaos left in Smith's wake: the litigation, the heartache, the disrupted lives, the enriched lawyers. And for what? A woman whose great contribution to society was an inane reality show and some soft-core pornography? Ideologues can compose whatever life scripts for Smith that they might like; it doesn't matter. Attractive people with a taste for sexual adventure will make trouble - in every time, in every place, in every society. Orwell knew. In 1984, Winston Smith begins to question the value of Ingsoc after knocking boots with Julia. If Big Brother can't defeat the Anna Nicole Smiths of this world, can we?

Lust is the universal political solvent. It isn't just counter-revolutionary. It's counter-everything.

So how do you solve a problem like Anna Nicole Smith? In a free society, you can't. Some people simply will not behave responsibly unless forced to do so, and forcing people to act responsibly in their personal lives is anathema to us friendly non-judgmental rights-invoking Anglosphere types. So we let the Anna Nicole Smiths of the world live as they will, and we spend absurd amounts of time and resources picking up the pieces after them.

Given the extraordinary power of the human reproductive drive to elicit knuckleheaded behavior, you might think we should be a little more careful with the whole Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy! ball of wax. But what fun would that be? Anna Nicole Smith had perverse fun smashing up her life, and we are having equally perverse fun watching the broken pieces fly. There is an awful wild beauty in sheer destruction. No political plan can tame that part of the human heart that wants to break, and to see precious things broken, and to giggle amidst the wreckage. In Anna Nicole Smith's life and death we catch a glimpse of that gibbering madness, and it fascinates us. It reminds us that freedom is beautiful in part because it is so very dangerous.



If some bimbo, gold bricker, which have always existed, is more of a problem than the decadent people who are fascinated by it all is a problem then maybe it says more about the declining civilization in general than this one pathetic drug addict ****.

Nice article, Kern
Interesting thoughts. I liked it.

I agree with you that the troubles created by this drama have costs. Monetary and personal.

However, any and all soltuions also have costs. Monetary and personal.

I maintain that the costs of allowing a few dumb people to ruin their lives is greatly outweighed by the costs of systems designed to force everyone to live the life our masters in govt think we ought to live.

Plato agrees!
The human soul and human civil society have a lot in common. An ideal city (if it exists) is made up of rightly ordered souls, wherein reason governs the bodily appetites. A soul dominated by the nearest bodily pleasure (food, sex, whatever) lives an unproductive and dangerous life. A soul dominated by sex drive (think of Anna Nicole Smith, or perhaps your old college roomate) is like a city governed by a tyrant. A society dominated by the nearest glitziest sex symbol is in serious trouble.

Best post I've seen in a while
I fully agree mark.

La la la la la la Not Listening!!!!
It's possible to make this go away. Just stop talking about it. When you see it on TV, change the channel. When you see posts about it on TCS, don't read them--just post snide remarks and bug out.

A good sign.
The fact that Ms Smith is consuming much bandwith seems to me a good sign, a barometer of fair weather. If she actually is the biggest social novelty of the moment, then things aren't all that bad. No tsunamis or Kennedy crackups are current, hence this is the current sideshow. This, too, will pass.

Doug Kern scores again
Doug Kern's article is not only well-constructed but very classical in its concept. Nietzche would certainly have applauded this paeon to the age-old trajectory of an individual's power-assisted (in this case, sexy-looks-assisted) ascent to a pinnacle of sought glory, followed inevitably by tragic dissolution when, as it were, the styrofoam heat-deflectors finally fly off under the strain of re-entry.

Bruce Goldman

Interesting Thoughts
Doug Kern's article here, along with the one I just read about Stewart Brand ( has made me think about where I think the real divide in politics is.

We rant and rave in TCSdaily all the time about liberalism vs. conservatism vs. libertarianism. The article on Stewart Brand is well worth reading because it, more than anything else, reminds you of what freedom is all about.

Freedom is good because it allows bright creative people to do lots of cool stuff. The fact that other people may simply screw off and do nothing productive is irrelevant. As long as bright creative people are free to do lots of cool stuff, human civilization will continue to progress and everything else does not matter. So, freedom is self-standing and is essential to forward momentum. This is the lesson that people like Dinesh D'Souza are completely incapable of understanding.

Stewart brand's description of the environmental movement being divided between the backward-looking romantics and the forward-looking people who want to to do creative cool stuff is, I think, the real political divide in this world.

The real political division, today and in the future, is between dynamism vs. statis. It is between decentralized networks of free individuals vs. rigid social hiearchies run by a "few special individuals". It is between creative people who want to try new ideas on their own against people who want to lock everything down and not let any experimentation go on.

Hackers turned computers from a tool allowing domination by large scale social institutions into tools of enablement of personal freedom. Bio and nano hackers will most certainly do the same for the soon to come bio and nanotechnologies.

Let freedom flow. It does not matter that the Anna Nicole Smiths of the world exist. Nor does it matter that there are gay people out there (which seems to be Dinesh's pet peeve). For every Anna Nicole Smith, there is a Stewart Brand, Craig Ventnor, and Bill Gates. The fact that some people choose to be flakes and screwups should never, ever be used as justification to limit freedom and individual autonomy.

As long as people are free to innovate and do lots of cool new things. The benefits of freedom will always outweigh by far any possible downside to freedom.

Estrich and ANS
Quoting failed Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich is pretty odd. Let's show some mercy on ANS, who married a rich senior citizen, and had a baby outside marriage, and was guilty of wanting fame without the shame in Christian America. To paraphrase Mr. Welch," Let us not assassinate this centerfold,you've done enough. At long last, have you no sense of decency?"

A tale of two silicone valleys
Both Andrew Grove and Anna Nicole Smith made their fortunes from silicone. Why do we honor Grove but ridicule Smith?

While Estrich saying "If she were a flat-chested brunette she might be alive today" might pass for conventional wisdom, as does Kern's notion that ANS was stupid, one must not overlook the simple fact that Anna Nicole Smith created herself through breast implants and hair dye. Call her stupid if you want but she knew what she wanted and she achieved it.

I understand Kern's point that most women following ANS' path end up in very bad places but that's not ANS' fault. It's easy to call her stupid but many very successful people have bucked the odds - were they stupid as well?

In my view she made some very poor decisions but they were her decisions to make and they worked for her. In general terms, if one makes good decisions then good things are more likely to happen and if one makes bad decisions then bad things are more likely to happen. ANS got lucky, she played the Lottery and won. I say good for her.

Certainly not stupid to live life on your own terms...
She seemed to live her life like an actress without a movie, more or less on her own terms. Nothing stupid about being sexy or having a strong sex drive. I'd consider it to be more stupid to not enjoy sex at her age! Is Kern just not getting laid enough to be writing such as this? Still, it takes quite an actress to pull off much of what she did with herself. Working in a hairnet wouldn't have suited her at all. She did the best she could with what she had to work with, attractive looks & somewhat of an acting ability.

Do you solve a Problem like aka- A.N. Smith
I do not what your writing of what is "cool" and "innovative" has anything at all to do with the authors question of this Thread. Your writing makes no sense at all to the questions of the topic; But,

The following does make more to what is asked by the author of this thread.

There is laws in place that if "those" who represent the law and are "suppose" to put same said law into action would do it? But, to many do not do their jobs now day only enough to pick up the check on pay day.

Then the laws that are in place would of prevented A.N.Smith from dieing most likely. What law or laws am I hinting at. The laws that when one becomes a threat to theirselve or to others they are picked up and treated for mental proplems.

These laws have been on the book sort of speaking for YEARS but to often are ignored or not acted on. If someone would have befriended A.N. Smith, she would have still been here. But, to often we-(we) are all to busy to be-friend as we use to do more often.

If you read kurts' post in "Relig-Gov-Soc" you see where his decency lays in.
His decency lays in promotion of self gratification as long as you have the freedom and the money to do it and no one gets in his way.

His posts say nothing of relationalship friendships or the like, just "doing cool things" having fun if it feels good.

When is one who promotes libertarianism decent?

Democracy no more in America?
I guess America is back to square one as predicted by Plato so long ago and later repeated by this USA President: "Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide". John Adams (letter to John Taylor, 15 April, 1814) Yet this so called Democracy is all over the world in the name of God, with its ever more inhumane and horrendous war mchinery, mowing down thousand to impose at gun point, what America really is not, but its own outhouse. Can anything be more outhouse like, than to have another nation settled in where one is actually obligated by our Government to respect ist language equal to English? Also, where our jails are filling up with illegal criminals, who many of them have been jailed several times, because, they did not leave the country as order by a court of law. Addtionally most gang members are illegals and thousands run free all over murdering, and sexually attacking children etc. Yes, an outhouse America is, built by none others than Americans themselves, for Americans in the shop of utter lawlessness/anarchy, whose foreman is none other than the Commander in Chief! For the record, I am a Staunch Conservative Christian Republican; a legal immigrant of 50 years from a corrupt and ruthless dictatorship, considering myself somewaht of an authority to put down the above as I have seen much of the world. Yes, a one that believes that he speaks for the Founding Fathers, who would even have harsher words for America, than my words, were they to rise and see their Nation once again an Empire in absolute decay, and not the Democracy they envisioned. To close my remarks this quote: "Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican liberty. George Washington and much later repeated the same by Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell address, under whose decency as an American influenced me to join the Republican party.He also said this: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed". How true as 18000 children die everyday from hunger while America balks in materialism comming out of its ears, with Personal Storage places thriving all over with stuff purchased from the Christian persecuting nation. Will God keep his anger for much longer as America slides ever deeper?

Minister Louis Farrakhan......
...Louis?! Is that you?

It reads like you're channeling Pat Robertson.

You've been waiting for a 'morality' post, yes. Had it all polished and ready....JUST WAITING for the right time to cut-n-paste and fire it off to the world.

*ZAP!!* Take that sinners!!

Sounds like you would like to tell a few of us how to live. Funny, for someone who escaped from a dictatorship.

For the record; I am a staunch free market libertarian.

As far as ANS saga goes, Kern and Estrich are just following the market trend and making money off her cold dead body--just like the MSM. Unless Doug writes for free, here.

Someone above post correctly--change the channel, turn it off, don't read it.

Misunderstanding of "cool"
You misunderstand the context in which I talk about doing "cool things". In this context, "cool things" includes Craig Ventor's efforts to create synthetic biology for biomedical and energy applications. It includes the successful entrepeneurs of the late 90's who are now financing space launch and space development technologies that will help to get up into space. Another example of a "cool" person is Stewart Brand, who helped found the L-5 Society, among other things. Perhaps you should read about Stewart Brand here (

In a free society, many people do screw off and do nothing productive at all. So what? What is the BFD about this? As I said before, for every ANS, there is a Craig Ventor and a Stewart Brand. As long as this is the case, the ANS's of the world do not matter as long as they do not get in the way of the people who do creative human endevours.

The only thing that matters in this world, long term speaking, is creative positive human endevours. Everything else is just entertainment.

Your failure to understand
My references to "cool" and "innovation" are very relevant to this thread in that any free society will have its Anna Nicole Smiths. My point is that as long as they do not interfere with the creative endevours of people who do real work, they are irrelevant. They are not a problem to be "solved".

Of course lots of people will screw off and do nothing productive in a free society. So what? This is not a BFD. As long as they do not interfer with the people who do want to do real things, this is utterly stupid issue to be hung up about. As I said before, for every ANS, there is a Craig Ventor and Stewart Brand.

I agree that ANS is not someone to emulate. However, what law did she violate? The only possible legal violation I can think of is illegal drug use (cocaine, heroin), and the ME has already ruled that out as a cause of death.

Blind to see the forest because Trees block your view
Your attempt-dislousional to respond to my posting:

Do you solve a Problem like aka- A.N. Smith by HGPTheFirst ;

Shows your inaptability to comprehend most postings.
Everything you had and did say had nothing to correlate anything you had to say of or about Anna Nicole Smith related to my above said posting. You have problems.

To spell it for your so educated mind that you are blind to see the forest because the trees are in your way.

Anna needed help; And so does Britany Spears. If I was the family of either one, I would hire the best attorney(s) and go after the ones that are and should have been looking after Anna Nicole Smith and Britany Spears well being before either one of the dipped in to the state of being they are in now. One deceased and the other in trouble.

And I repeat myself again. Your indecency along with the "Night show(s)" indecency toward Anna Nicole Smith and others toward Britany Spears shows just how sick and perverse a big part of society is. What do I mean by the statements herein? Lack of compassion, lack of understanding, lack of anything related to the separation of acting or being animals compared to human kindness.

I am fully justified in saying these on these postings because to many(two is to many) show no caring at all.
I hope that those that has daughters that show the same above said to any woman of their status; has the same things said about their daughters and in the public area so they will know how it feels to. Britany Spears needs help and at least she is somewhere where maybe she can get it, so she does not become Anna Nicole Smith downt the road.

If your answers to my postings continue to show such disregard for dignity of others that are or do become subjects of discussion of TCS? No need to waist my thread(s) on you anymore but to leave you to your on self devices.

My solution to her at this point is a shovel. 3 weeks to bury her is getting pretty sick...

This is irrational
You are becoming quite irrational over this kind of stuff. You (like manny conservatives) take what are individual problems and conflate them into existential civilizational threats that require us all to give up liberty in order to solve. This is not rational. This is known as paranoia in psychiatry.

My point, which I stand by, is that the actions of the Anna Nicole Smith's of the world are completely irrelevant to the people who do real things and have real lives. Hence, this is not a problem for the rest of us to "solve", let alone giving up any measure of personal liberty for.

You are really becoming a bore.

Libertarianism far more "decent" than anything else out there!
Libertarianism is for more individual choice in how we live our own lives as opposed to the government demanding to make our decisions for us. What's not decent about that concept?

She wasn't mentally ill, seemed to have other health problems...
She'd probably suffered a number of plastic surgeries in an attempt to remain attractive. They may have had her on prescription anti depressants since her son died. Saw her on TV a few days before she died & she looked like she was having problems then. Nobody keeps a nurse on full time if they haven't got the health problems to justify it. Might have had some reaction between the prescription drugs & TrimSpa that killed her. It'd be kind of hard to be a Marilyn Monroe impersonator after forty. Doubt she'd want to be stuck in a hairnet wearing job after doing Marilyn Monroe impersonating & other things she did. She was rich enough to retire well without resorting to hairnets if her health hadn't failed her.

First Respectable post, I've seen.
Hello, Cooltruth

Others have said some what alright things. But, most have been well(not worth waisting space here).

Thanks for posting something that more so resembles humaness and not non-humaness.

Libertarianism is for more individual choice in how we live our own lives. What's not decent about t
>>Libertarianism is for more individual choice in how we live our own lives as opposed to the government demanding to make our decisions for us. What's not decent about that concept

What is not decent about that?

When the life styles of Alternative lifestyles-aka Homosexual and ******* gets shoveled down our childrens throats without the approval of the parents, AS BEING OK WHEN IT IS NOT IS TAUGHT;
At our famous, highly intelligent teaching publick schools.


Not to put a snag in her pantyhose, but..., it was stupid, all right. If you do things like take drugs and screwing up your life, expect to die in a messy fashion. If you WANT to go that way and it's only YOUR life you're throwing away...hey, more power to you and you'll even get a Darwin Award for your efforts to better the human race by removing yourself from the gene pool.

But don't expect those of us living our lives a little smarter not to point and laugh at people who do.* The deaths at VT aren't funny by a long shot: they were tragic. But Anna Nicole will provide me with jokes for months to come.

*-There are plenty of ways to "live life to the fullest" without being a complete moron. People may think Steve Irwin was "stupid" for doing what he did, but he was a FAR better example of living life on his own terms. It was sad, but he died doing what he did best: loving the creatures he sought to educate the public on and helping conservation efforts. What did Anna Nicole do besides preserving the human race by taking herself out of the gene pool for the rest of the duration?

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