Thursday, September 24, 2009



I found some untroubled moments to watch the news this afternoon. Once in a while I like to know what FOX News has to say about the world, if for no other reason than to assemble new ideas for satire. I must actually hear crazy arguments before I can properly mock them. You can't do impressions without listening to your subject first.

FOX started its 7 PM broadcast with "Three Top Stories." The first involved a Muslim terror suspect who allegedly scoured beauty salons throughout New York buying up hydrogen peroxide. The newscaster said that hydrogen peroxide is a "key ingredient in explosives." FOX showed FBI men leading a young, Arab-looking man away in handcuffs.

In the second story, FOX informed me about a "terror imam from Brooklyn." He allegedly knew about the young man's plot, then lied to the police about it. FOX told me that he was being held on a $1.5 million bond for conspiracy. It also told me that authorities charged this "terror imam" with sexual abuse in 1992. I didn't see the connection between sexual abuse and international terrorism, but it sure made the "terror imam" look like a villain. After all, terrorists are bad, and so are sexual predators. But terrorist sexual predators are worse than both: A sum is always more than its component parts.

Finally, FOX interrupted its broadcast to alert me that officials in Dallas arrested a "young Muslim man" for attempting to car bomb a government building. They did not have any pictures to show. They just showed the man's long, Arab-looking name underneath a menacing-looking silhouette. FOX told me that they "would bring me more on this story as soon as they could."

Why were these the top stories? Did 9/11 just happen or something? Is it still October 2001? Does the whole Muslim fear-mongering thing still have traction among FOX viewers? Michael Moore famously mocked FOX for its relentless fixation on "evil Arabs" and vague, terrifying plots in 2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11." It was funny then, even relatively soon after 9/11. But now it's been eight years; Bush's fear-mongering has decayed beyond passe. Any assertion that bloodthirsty Muslims lurk among us now seems pathetically old-fashioned, even hackneyed. It's not 2001 anymore; there's no more Anthrax in the air. People are more worried about Medicaid now than Osama bin Laden. And for good reason: Because health care in America affects many, many more Americans than any terrorist ever will.

But for some reason FOX didn't get the memo or check the calendar. On FOX, it's still a brave battle between proud Americans and evil Muslims with long names and skull caps. Black is still black and white is still white. Hey, I guess it sells; Rupert Murdoch doesn't dish stuff that doesn't sell, truth or fashion be damned.

This is not the only funny thing I saw on the news tonight. I also saw coverage about all the world leaders at the United Nations this week. Leaving all media bias aside (ie, United States and Israel = good; Iran and Libya = bad), I just have to say how silly "collective security" really is. Woodrow Wilson started the League of Nations back in 1920. He wanted Nations to get together and respectfully solve differences without war or acrimony. It didn't work. Franklin Roosevelt tried to do the same when he conceived the United Nations in 1945. There have not been any world wars since then, but just one look at history shows that there has not been too much world peace since the United Nations started hosting world leaders.

But I am not writing about diplomacy. I am writing about the utter foolishness of U.N. speeches. No one listens to them for their substance. No one even really hopes to change minds or solve problems with them. Rather, people listen to them solely for theatrical value. After all, it's all-too predictable what happens, and it is all very staged. For example, Moammar Ghadaffi got up yesterday and railed against Israel, capitalism and the United States for over 90 minutes. As if on cue, the U.S. and Israeli delegations theatrically walked out. They did the same thing when Iran's Ahmedinijad got up and made similar points. Today, Israel's Prime Minister got up and spoke. Libya's and Iran's delegations theatrically walked out. Then the Prime Minister denounced every delegation that did not walk out on Libya's and Iran's speeches the day before.

So is this international diplomacy? Is this genuine dialogue? No--it is classic theater: Simple, emotional, sensational, uncomplicated. The orators speak in grand, emotional tones. They play to the audience. Their rhetoric delights some and outrages others. It is intentional. Delighted delegations applaud; outraged ones visibly walk out. Then later orators chastise delegates who did not walk out on speeches the orators did not like.

Funny stuff. But the sad part is that after all the fun and games, the world's differences remain starkly unchanged.

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