Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Village of the Damned

dubya denial
The decision matrix on vaporizing the insane - even if it was collateral damage - was only one of the explosive questions unearthed by our excursion in Iraq. The pace has been breakneck and the reports from the frontless war were getting grim. Headlines were governed by accounts of madness, rupture and betrayal ... most weeks are pretty slow in the news business. Treacherous things happen to a few people, but overall the workbench is rather bare. Imelda Marcos went into exile with a shipload of shoes, and Geraldo Rivera once made a fool out of himself by pitching a live transmission of Al Capone's vault being opened only to find cobwebs and a low-technology pack of dust that not even Steven Spielberg would have used on the Indiana Jones sound stage.

But these kinds of futility are not the norm. Not even Saddam Hussein is enjoying this simpleton's rant. The howling of Peter Jennings and the simpering garble of Tom Brokaw are not a symphony to the soul of some whiz kid from Columbia or Syracuse who has just spent the best four years of his life studying theoretical journalism, and working the grind for 15 more years in local affiliates covering swine mating season in Des Moines, or the crystal meth craze in the Southlands.

Many thousands of them will get cannibalized by the beast, but there will be a few that will lose their grip on reality and fall into serious trouble. Some will be broken in spirit, and others will be the object of massive grand juries.

Ask Dan Rather - that's the way it goes in American Journalism, Inc.

Some things are understandable - like a sudden rise in mad cow disease in the Western Hemisphere, or a jacked up crack addict fashioning wings out of garbage can lids and jumping off the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in an attempt at human flight - but getting caught with bad evidence in the face of a mean and venomous presidential campaign is the wrong way to ensure tenure.

I was reflecting on this while I drove back in the afternoon haze from San Bernadino. It was good to get home - but when I got there, the television was already playing the bullish eulogy for old Dan, which seemed more like an angry vendetta than it did the other shoe dropping. But truth be told: without the benefits of timing and generally good karma, a smart kid with solid features and great teeth can make more money as a gigolo in Fresno than an average weather reporter in Sacramento, or even one of Rather's news editors.

Old Dan seemed filled with disgust, but it was clear he had no other choice. Not even ruthlessness could save him now, just like it was in the last days of Ferdinand Marcos and Baby Doc Duvalier.

While some, like Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews, have selected a much more devious path and kept their noses clean - the Smart Money, as it's called in the company of thieves and degenerate gamblers - and bankrolled political insider status to whatever team is in control, for the time being. Crazy Pat and Tweety were part of the power and brimstone cabal in their past, and they now host talking head shows on MSNBC.

Their bloodlines seem to go unchallenged in the trade. Smarter journalistic minds wept openly the day that Crazy Pat landed in the Scarborough slot, while others called it a mockery, like a scene from the Holocaust was dropped into the Dumb and Dumber script.

But tonight there is joy amongst the right wing forces of doom. Screams of anything, just anything to preserve journalistic integrity. Seems we lost it long before Dan Rather ever heard of the Killian documents.


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