Pundits determined to protest the media’s indulgence of the heedless, lotus-eating masses as civilization collapses around us have a new symbol of their concern in the mortal remains of Anna Nicole Smith.

Bob Herbert, New York Times: “Ms. Smith may be dead and rapidly decomposing, but there’s too much fun still to be reaped from her story to let it die yet. . . . There are other stories out there, but they aren’t nearly as much fun.”

Matt Taibbi, alternet.org: “Most of the rest of us, apparently, would rather sniff Anna Nicole Smith’s corpse than find out what our tax dollars are actually paying for.”

Frank Rich, New York Times: “Cable surfers have tuned out Iraq for a war with laughs: the battle over Anna Nicole’s decomposing corpse.”

As you can see, these sharp social critics are just as eager as lesser commentators to deal with Ms. Smith as not merely a corpse but one in an actual state of decay. As of Monday morning, here’s the count from Google:

“Anna Nicole” and “corpse”: 486,000 citations.

“Anna Nicole” and “rapidly decomposing”: 48,500 citations.

“Anna Nicole” and “former topless dancer’s rapidly decomposing corpse,” a stretch of bravado writing by JIm Loney of Reuters in a story used around the world: 64 citations.