By Patrick Appel

Ross counters the claims of crypto-racism by Josh Marshall et al over McCain's new ad. A reader adds:

I honestly believe the choice to use Paris Hilton and Britney Spears has nothing to do with their race, gender or sexual availability.  I believe they were chosen because they are both vapid, vacuous individuals who are famous for no other reason than tabloid gossip.  Britney Spears is a has-been and Paris Hilton is a never-was.

All of those other individuals are famous for something - there is substance behind their celebrity.  Britney and Paris are paper-thin and without any substance whatsoever.  That's the comparison McCain was going for - trying to allege that Barack Obama is without substance, a celebrity for celebrity's sake.

Another reader has more theories:

1)  Although Paris and Britney are yesterday's news, they have permeated the consciousness of the wider voting electorate.  Even grandmothers know who Paris & Britney are, yet they might not know Beyonce and Jay Z.  Plus, if they had used black celebrities, the race card would have been quickly asserted.

2)  Both Paris and Britney are currently widely despised by the culture-at-large.  For all practical purposes, America has a Paris & Britney hangover.  Not so with the other celebs mentioned.  The McCain message here is that, sure, the party's fun while it's happening, but watch out for the morning after.

3)  Both Paris and Britney have a glossy-but-empty quality to them.  THAT's the central message the McCain campaign were trying to communicate.  Trying to conflate Obama with Oprah (popular among white suburban housewives), Johnny Depp, or J.K. Rowling wouldn't have the same effect.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.