Like that creepy cool oroborous, for those short the 10-cent vocab it’s that design of a snake eating its own tail that you may have seen as the logo for Chris Carter’s underrated X-Files companion Millennium – news of the absurd just continues to go ‘round and ‘round.
Over the last few years, the media has glommed onto all manner of inanity in a bid to coax our peepers to stay tuned just a few more minutes. It’s no secret that they bait you with the: “ONE THOUSAND BODIES FOUND BURIED IN A FIELD IN RURAL SOUTH CAROLINA – WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? STAY TUNED!” – forcing you to sit through 18 additional visits by the weather broad (“Great, Chikage Windler… AGAIN (wait a minute – Chickage/Chicago. Windler/Windy City. Who are you fooling?”). Finally they return with roughly two minutes to spare only to reveal the truth behind the tease – the bodies are part of a government sponsored collegiate study on decomposition, and they’re not even bodies, they’re mannequins. This is an outrage. As a betting man, the smart money was on a reanimated Army of Darkness.
One of my favorite creature features to clutch prime CNN airtime was the 2003 Yuletide announcement of ‘Cloned babies.’ These weren’t your grand pappy’s bargain basement cloned babies, mind you, but the mother load – Christmas Eve cloned babies. Toys R’ Us took notice. Bumping the Bite Me Marv Albert doll to the back shelf, your very own Christ child became the toy du jour that year, all thanks to its corporate benefactor, Clonaid. Of course, Clonaid made sure that the company – and not the product – received the lionshare of adulation, flaunting its credentials right up front by trotting out a reanimated mannequin in the form of CEO Brigitte Boisselier who explained that her company, which was founded by the Raelians, a religious sect that believes extraterrestrials created life on Earth through genetic engineering, had created this miracle child, dubbed Eve. And the world would have laughed loudly if it weren’t for the constant media coverage. For every doubting Thomas like myself, there were 40 more Midwestern housewives, out of pure compassion I shall affectionately call them ‘rubes’ – who were ready to goosestep in line behind Raelian frontman Claude Vorilhon. Vorlihon is a former French journalist (sure now you’re laughing) who now calls himself Rael. How do I know this? It followed the ‘Dustin Diamond, TV’s Screech, signed for MTV Celebrity Deathmatch videogame’ scrawl on the E! channel.
My point is this, and it’s not a new fact, news creates itself. Mass market media is the snake eating its own tail. In the past few years we have ducked, dodged and wailed as we have come under attack from sharks, kidnappers, snakehead fish and Killer Clones from Outerspace.
There was that summer (2003) where every time a shark swam within 80 miles of a beach, the AP wire lit up. Just when I thought it was safe to go in the water again! See, I had had this embarrassing tussle with a hermit crab and my Speedo – alas, that’s a tale for another day.
The greatest coverage I saw on the whole shark invasion was a cover story glimpsed while waiting in the supermarket check-out line. The Weekly World News had uncovered a shocking scheme by power-mad dictator Fidel Castro to begin an invasion of the United States by launching genetically bred attack sharks (with frickin’ laser beams on their frickin’ heads, no doubt) to ravage the beaches of Veletia County, Florida. Next stop, Typhoon Lagoon. The piece was brilliant in its absolute absurdity; reflecting the inane craziness of the times.
It’s not just all “News of the Weird” that grabs the headlines. The media loves reporting non-stories. When did non-news become breaking news? I recall fondly, a tale from the Sports pages, when Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Fahvre baited the media with a promise to hold a press conference to deliver a stunning revelation. Fahvre, QB for the Packers for several successful years, had just come off of a disastrous late season 2nd half which saw the Packers eliminated by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2003 playoffs. Speculation in Cheesehead nation reached a fever pitch. Would Fahvre retire? At 11:00 a.m. est on January 6, 2003 Fahvre stepped before the cameras and declared that he would, in deed, be the QB at Green Bay next season. Later that day I gathered my coworkers around the water cooler (well it was actually a half-empty bottle of Pepsi Blue but go with me on this) and dropped this megaton announcement on them: I will, IN DEED, be at work tomorrow, but am considering taking a slightly longer lunch and may go to Fuddruckers. Despite a few overheard ‘Dammits’ and one hushed “F’n glory hound” the story died there.
Still – I gotta’ avoid biting the hand that feeds me and in reality – I owe the media a bucketful of back slapping mad props. Whenever I find myself plumbing the depths of pop-culture for some scathing new Blog matter (I was this close to giving you a primer on “How to Speak Like A Snoop Dog” – Forizzle My Shizzle!!!) the major news outlets including CNN, Fox News and Nickolodeon’s Prime Slime Live toss out the tried and true – up-and-coming pugilist pathogens for me to make a mockery of.
A few years back, it was the blessed arrival of the heavenly named Monkeypox (God is a Comedy Writer!!!), that season’s new ‘Fuscia’ according to the CDSC’s hip new Hot or Not Zone. Monkeypox effectively kicked the punkass SARS to the curb – trading in a curious upper respiratory infection (thank you China for giving my sniffles a promotion and allowing me to write my own “Get out of Work Free” pass) for a disease spread by the Great Satan of the Southwest, prarie dogs. The media scurried to smother that story like Richard Gere cornering a Great Gambian Hog Rat. Like Mo Vaughn on a Krispy Kreme. Like Ruben Stiles on Clay Aik… well, you get my point.
It’s bad enough that my social security account feels the pinch every time a twister roams through America’s Trailer Park seeking to exact revenge on Bill Paxton. I am 33 years old – no spring chicken. Who is gonna spring for my Lark HoverScooter when I roam into that beckoning sunset some 90 odd years from now? Certainly not these Typhoid Mary spreading Southern Belles and Boss Hoggs. Afterall, they couldn’t even work that secession thing (Here’s a tip – if you’re gonna try to secede you should probably know how to spell the word first. Of course, you should probably know that Mom’s make lousy Prom Dates, but hey, who am I to judge.)
So to add insult to injury, the Midwest and Southwest launched mutant prarie dogs upon us. Again with our trusty counter – we’ve been beset upon by Sharks with Fricking Laser Beams on their Frickin Heads, snakehead fish, Killer Clones From Outerspace and now Giant Mutant Prarie Dogs.
But Monkeypox is so passé. All the hipsters know that it’s Bird Flu that’ll vault you past the proverbial velvet ropes. I’d write more but I think I just contracted Captan Tripps.
Back to Grand Master Rael, one rational voice emerged in CNN’s marathon coverage.
Interviewed on Frontline, Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center For Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the premiere bioethicists in the country, said:
“We have a technical term in ethics for groups like Clonaid. We call them wacky. My prediction is over the next couple of weeks they’re going to string the story along, get the name of the cult out there, look for new members, draw more people in to give them money. I think their idea is basically to use this to push themselves forward and, I think, so far pretty effectively.”
This just in – the AP is reporting that in suburban Maryland Heights, MO a snakehead fish was spotted noshing on its own tail.