Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Americans Give Mixed Reviews to Columbine Sequel

In the aftermath of a mass murder wrought by a disturbed teenager in Red Lake, Minnesota that left ten people dead, including the 16 year-old gunman, most Americans are largely unimpressed with the follow up to the Columbine tragedy that captivated the nation in 1999.

"It was shocking when Kip Kinkle and those kids in Colorado did it, but now it's like, 'okay, been there, done that," said Darleen Wise, a 23 year-old Dairy Queen employee in Austin, Texas. "I'm not saying it's not sad. But lots of things are sad. Like that Schiavo woman they're starving to death in Florida. Starving people is wrong, no matter how messed up they are."

In Little Creek, Missisippi, members of Families United in Christ said the Red Lake shooting did not give them the same leverage for attacks on popular culture as earlier school shootings. "Things have changed a lot in six years," said the Reverend Hyde Penshaw, who arranged a Marylin Manson CD burning rally after the Littleton incident. "We're much more focused on the gays and sex, not the Goth and violence stuff. We're trying to find out if he watched Will & Grace or saw Janet Jackson expose herself. But apparently he didn't even watch football. He just listened to some skinhead bands no one's ever heard of and read weirdo comic books. It's pretty useless."

News organizations have reported that coverage of the shooting has done little to boost ratings. While CNN reported an average 1.3 increase in ratings during its nearly non-stop coverage of the Columbine shootings in the three days following the massacre, viewer interest in Red Lake has been tepid. "We were going to do a whole segment on how to look for warning signs that a teenager might go ballistic and start shooting his classmates," said Scott Rhodes, a producer at the network. "But when we saw last nights numbers, we scrapped it. We even took Red Lake off our main page."

Jason O'Neil, a 19 year-old high school sophomore in Laremy, Wyoming, who is known for shooting frogs in his backyard and is described by his classmates as the most likely at his school to pull a 'Columbine,' said that after seeing the indifference to the recent Minnesota shooting, he would not consider following the same path. "Not that I'm saying I definitely would have done something like that, even though most of the kids at my school are douchebags," said O'Neill. "But now if I were going to do something to teach them a lesson, I'd probably just stick to taking a shit in the sloppy joe meat and not tell anyone."

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Finally Saw Fahrenheit 9/11

Last night I saw Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and was appropriately shaken up by it. As soon as the screen went black, about ten minutes into the film, and the theater was filled with the sounds of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and the screams of horror and confusion that followed, the woman sitting behind me started bawling. I wondered if she had lost someone in the 9/11 attacks. Or perhaps it was just that she, like everyone in New York City, had a more vivid memory of that day than most people in the rest of the country. Perhaps she was one of the millions of New Yorkers wandering around through the eerily quiet steets that day like a zombie, who was not only grappling with the more academic concept that America had been attacked by a foreign enemy, wondering what this would mean to our future, and how we might respond against whom, but was trying to figure out how the hell she was going to get home, gazing up at skyscrapers all around her, wondering if at any moment they would be crashing down upon her.

She cried a lot during the movie. So did a lot of other people. So did I. Like all the accounts I've read about, the audience's reaction to the film was the most dramatic I've ever witnessed. Crying. Hissing. Shouting angrily at the screen. Applauding. And this was not an audience of politically idealisitic NYU students. This was an audience in Astoria, Queens, and was as diverse as one could imagine: old people, young people, families of every ethnic background...

This just in.

Interesting. As I was writing this , I glanced back at the muted TV behind me to see soon-to-bail Homeland Security Secrtary Tom Ridge standing behind a podium. A live broadcast. Uh-oh. I un-muted the TV. He announced a specific, credible terrorist threat against targets in New York City, Washington, D.C. and northern New Jersey. In NYC, the specific target is the New York Stock Exchange. Hence, the much maligned Terror Alert Level has been raised to Orange.

Um, excuse me?

It is my understanding, according to every report of the terror alert level being raised or lowered, that the terror alert level in NYC has always been Orange ever since the system was enacted. So now it has been raised in New York from Orange to Orange? This just underscores how useless and meaningless the whole color coded alert system is. It's a cheap facade, and everyone knows it. It indicates how half-hearted and cynical the Bush administration's response has been to protecting homeland security. After all, doesn't it seem just a wee bit convenient that this announcement comes on the Sunday following the week in which the White House has made much ado that it will quickly be following the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission report? Well, gee, I guess they must be! Look at this, right away they're cracking terrorist plots. I'll sure sleep easy tonight.

There was a time, not very long ago I'm ebarrassed to admit, that I was still listening to the government's announcements of terrorist threats with some small shred confidence that they were actually based on a genuine, heartfelt effort to protect the American people. This was blind, self-delusional confidence, and in the back of my mind, I knew it. The war in Iraq was utterly immoral and wrong, and I knew that before it started. The color-coded alert system was a silly PR stunt, and I knew that too. But the idea that our leaders only saw the so-called war on terror only as a convenient political tool for the administration to advance its own agenda, at the expense of national security, was just too terrifying and depressing to fully accept. Then, a few months ago, John Ashcroft made the startling announcement that, according to multiple sources, Al Qaeda's plans to attack the U.S. this summer were 90% complete. By the next day, government terrorism experts were saying that Ashcroft's one source had also claimed credit for the massive blackout in North America last summer, and had zero credibility in the intelligence community. They thought this source could be nothing more that a guy in the Middle East with a fax machine.

That pretty much sealed it for me. This administartion is useless in stopping the threat of terrorism and only cares about protecting America insofar as it will ensure that Bush is re-elected.

This was supposed to be about Fahrenheit. Great film, but who needs it when Bush does such an excellent job of showing how completely corrupt he is on his own?

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Insufferable Heat

Summer in NYC. Muggy. Sticky. Like John Madden's armpit. Today is Saturday. Like every weekend this summer, the sun is just a tease, beckoning you to come out to enjoy the day and go for a walk and maybe grab an ice cream from Mr. Softee, so that just when you're a good two blocks from your front door, a little dark cloud can sneak up from behind and piss on you and send you scurrying back home for cover.

All I want to do today is go see Fahrenheit 9/11. Been wanting to see it for weeks. And each time I've tried, it rains. Coincidence? Or proof that the Republicans are indeed bound in an unholy alliance with the forces of darkness?