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Who’s On First?

Philip Burrowes

This past month alone has seen several events which in and of themselves could be “stories of the year.” From the religious to the secular, the corporate to the individual, it seems the media have been less captivated than schizophrenic. It’s almost as if the world were engaging in its own sweeps week, and one show had to lose out to another. Like prime-time television, however, the prominence of any one event is as much a product of timing as it is content, and the truly interesting tales can get lost in the shuffle.

Hands down the event of the season was the football World Cup -- unless, of course, you live in the United States and/or call it “soccer.” Here, the footsie WorldCom had played with its accounting was capturing the imagination of the American public, bringing financial mishaps to the headlines in a way not seen since, well, Enron. As anyone who has seen The Phantom Menace knows, however, finance makes for a boring story. People want action, suspense, and romance, like Pearl Harbor. Okay, maybe not -- but who honestly follows the WorldCom mess besides Michael Jordan (who so far has not been implicated)?

We like things to get biblical so we turn to fire and floods. How else do you explain the attention given to the recent antithetical “acts of God” in the southwest? Yes, it’s a warning to the residents of the area that their very livelihood is in danger, but most viewers or readers will not be concerned for their own safety. Fortunately for Arizona, because it lies within the Ninth U.S. Circuit, it can probably have the damage overturned as an unconstitutional infusion of religion into residents’ daily lives. Texas and Colorado are in separate circuits so we may see conflicting decisions, but given the Supreme Court’s voucher decision, Divine Intervention would likely be upheld on appeal.

Satan’s still reportedly set to file an amicus curiae for pinko atheists as practice for the remake of “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” Religion’s always been a touchy subject in this country, however, and if people liked being uncomfortable then Fear Factor would be all too easy. Yet somehow stories about missing people still have legs. One could argue that the whole Chandra Levy affair was only intriguing because of political connections, but what of the concern over Elizabeth Smart? Some argue because of the nature of Smart’s abduction, it haunts people as a possibility they could not protect themselves from. Why all this arguing? Don’t you have better things to worry about?

No Americans died in the explosion outside the consulate in Karachi, supporting the theory that the West is -- and forever will be -- invincible within the confines of Asia. Journalists are therefore free to put that much less effort into reporting on the latest invasions or other silliness, but there are diplomatic concerns outside the continent (Yao Ming or no).

At the latest G8 summit, the world’s most ridiculously rich countries (and, get this, Russia) vowed to help the world’s most ridiculously poor countries (and, get this, South Africa) under the so-called “African Action Plan.” Some of the novel points of the plan include “Promoting Peace” and “Expanding Knowledge,” a hard sell to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Comparisons to the Marshall Plan have been frequent, and ridiculous for any number of reasons. For one, the Marshall Plan was undertaken by one country in an attempt to put a smaller set of nations back on their feet. In comparison the Democratic Republic of Congo alone is around the size of all Western Europe and there are eight countries expected to coordinate their resources and make states of such size work when they never had before. Nor do the G8 have the same fervor in their task that the Truman Administration possessed, as President Bush hasn’t exactly gone stumping in support of the plan. In his mind, “As to Africa, all of us are doing as much as we possibly can” already.

At least he has an opinion, however ridiculous it may be. In fact, President Bush has let few of these events pass him by without gracing us with his in-depth analysis. WorldCom’s mis-accounting was “outrageous;” he admitted to U.S. World Cup coach Bruce Arena the he didn’t know “anything about soccer.” Utilizing his management training, Bush reprimanded the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision as “out of step,” relished the Supreme Court’s as “a great victory,” and told firefighters in Arizona he was “here to say, on behalf of the American people, God bless you.” You may say it’s just part of his job, but how many of you can claim to be as on top of things as this bumbling fool? Blame the media, I suppose.