"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 1 February 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 02.1.01


Yes, it would be easy for us to have a little fun at the expense at those creepy (and now, officially dead) O'Hairs, the professional atheists best remembered for their angry little low-rent cable TV show and their mysterious 1995 disappearance that, according to their admirers, "captivated the nation." Madalyn Murray O'Hair, delusional and monomaniacal, liked to call herself "the most hated woman in America"; a sort of less successful, more openly reviled version of Mary "Mother Jones" Harris (a.k.a. "the most feared woman in America"), manning the ramparts for the godless. All the while with that bitter little grimace on her face. And now we find out that investigators believe they have found the bones of her, her son Jon Garth Murray, and granddaughter Robin Murray O'Hair, on a ranch in . . . Austin, Texas. The stomping grounds of George W. Bush! The born-again president who has practically handed God a cabinet post! The irony!

And there is some irony in the latest triumph of the righteous. American society copes with atheists in four stages: pity, bargaining, hatred, and denial. Nothing (short of a sensitive supporting player on "Dawson's Creek" with a penchant for Blue-footed Boobies and Christmas Tree burning) is likely to change that any time soon. Certainly not the goofy hijinks of the O'Hairs or their followers, who found one cheerful note in her death by noting that Madalyn O'Hair was able to avoid "the fate she had feared throughout much of her life — being prayed over while on her deathbed by religious zealots, and scandalized by reports of a last-minute conversion to Christianity." Instead, her remaining son, William Murray, a Christian evangelist, is taking the opportunity to trash his mother to the press, saying, "She never really had the joy of living."

On the website for his Religious Freedom Coalition, Murray spreads plenty of joy, writing of how he was "born into a home of near constant rage and violence" where, "As a result of my mother's constant angry outbursts she could not hold down a job." They lived with an uncle who kept "hoards of pornography in his room" while his mother "filled the house with statues of mating animals" and "accepted the communist doctrine," even holding "socialist and communist study group meetings in the basement of our Baltimore home." His mother told him that "it was better to be a homosexual than to be a Christian" and "that the most important things in life were the physical pleasures of drink, food and sex." (OK, so maybe she wasn't that crazy.) "For many years," Preacher Murray tells us, "I drank a quart of vodka a day and by the time I was thirty I had been married twice. I lived only to eat, drink and have what I thought were sexual pleasures." Now here was a guy we could relate to. But then he found Jesus, and became as much the tiresome zealot as his mom. Too bad, he could have been on to something there.

As the Bush Administration gears up for Gulf War II: This Time It's Personal, the West has been hit by the news that cloned humans will walk the Earth by 2003. The scientists involved claim that the process will only be used to help infertile couples have children — but Jesus suckin' Zeus, aren't "the children" the same excuse they give for everything from running for President to canceling professional wrestling? Clearly, cloning secrets are to be used to create an army of atomic supermen to attack world capitals. But that will take time, and until then, we're going to have to fight Iraq with limited clone armies. To that end, we're beginning to make our clone/don't clone lists.

Senator Joe Lieberman is first on the Don't Clone list. After all, why clone a man who can already appear on two sides of an issue? Last fall he managed to run for President as a friend of Hollywood, accepting large cash donations from the entertainment industry, yet this week felt just fine blasting MTV for Jackass. Despite numerous verbal and written warnings throughout the show not to try this at home, young Jason Lind, 13, tried it at home anyway, and imitated a stunt on the show that required him to douse himself with gasoline and have a friend set him ablaze. Needless to say, these boys are on our Please Clone list; we're going to need to send many more like them to fight Saddam. "I recognize that the program is rated for adults and that it comes with general disclaimers. But there are some things that are so potentially dangerous and inciting, particularly to vulnerable children, that they simply should not be put on TV, and this is clearly one that crosses that line,'' Lieberman said. Lieberman's theory, that television is the original cloning device whose all encompassing power can turn all good Americans into mindless robots, certainly fell apart last fall when, despite all the TV time he had, he couldn't convince the masses to make him our Vice President. Despite all his TV exposure, no reports have reached our offices of people imitating Lieberman, converting to Judaism, trying to look short, or talk with a nasal accent, even though his debate with Dick Cheney garnered higher ratings than Jackass ever will. If television can't be used to mind-control the masses like we thought, we've already lost a valuable weapon in the war against Saddam, and we urge Congress to start cloning now.

But as the winds of war carry across the Atlantic, a spot on the Don't Clone list has opened for French peasant farmer rebel José Bové, who popped up in Brazil this week to attack another US multinational corporation, on our Don't Clone list . (Hasn't France exported enough of these hale and well-met Depardieu-types already?) Nicknamed "Asterix" after the French cartoon character who repels invaders, the former Roquefort cheese farmer — whose giant mustache would more accurately make him Yosemite Sam Bové — is best known for capitalizing on the French disdain for all things American by trashing a French McDonald's a few years ago. It grates on us that American teenagers who do this all the time have never been invited to meet with Jacques Chirac, but such are the fickle whims of global politics. Worse, while Bové 's countrymen panic yet again over Mad Cow disease, Bové continued his assault on safe, tasty, American food by attacking a Monsanto bioresearch farm with 1,300 peasants behind him. France's inferiority complex over all things American is a bit tiresome, but that doesn't mean the French won't be a vital ally in the upcoming fight. Which is why we're declaring all Mad Cows as candidates for cloning and use as superweapons in the battle ahead. The deranged free rangers need to be bred and run herdlike over the Iraqi border. Overwhelming Saddam with bad beef may sound iffy, but we've starved his people so long even that'll look good. As for Bové, we await his next attack, most likely on the USDA and their damnable Imperialist "safety standards" which they unfairly impose on all French wines, cheeses, and desserts.

It must be great being fictional. Whether you're a tortured kitty or an abused child, a moral and upright and increasingly stupid nation stands ready to defend you, despite the small fact that you don't actually exist.

For instance, only a moron — a demographic type that continues to grow geometrically — could mistake BonsaiKitten.com for anything other than a particularly straight-faced joke. Cats, as a rule, do not function enormously well when stuffed into glass jars. But that technicality hasn't stopped a continually growing herd of cat, ahem, "lovers" — including the Humane Society of the United States, catlovers.about.com and the "Meowmies" — from leaping to the defense of the pretend animals. Anywhere someone is not actually torturing kitties, these courageous, confused champions of animal and/or other rights will be there, complaining loudly.

A more complicated question is that of virtual porn. The Supreme Court is set to review the Child Pornography Protection Act, which — despite its name — is not designed to protect child pornography. Passed by Congress in 1996, it bans not only kiddie porn but anything that looks like kiddie porn, including virtual images of non-existent children engaging in non-existent sex (possibly with non-existent cats). A reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision striking down parts of the law could have a profound effect on almost everything digital, including video game violence and increasingly graphic (in both senses of the word) on-line communities.

Of course, if we as a society are willing to stand up and defend our pretend pets, how can we not shield our invented children from such imaginary abuses? How would we be able to face the statistical composite of the grandchildren we imagine we're going to have? Just because they're fictional doesn't mean they don't feel.

The great dot-com massacre has brought out the sadist (to say nothing of the masochist) in many people recently, but at least one obit is a source of good news to everyone. Disney announced Monday that go.com, the Mouse's signature portal, and the one-stop, super-sticky new media monolith which would carry the ubiquitous Disney brand into the future, had gone up to that Magic Kingdom in the sky. Given the sinister synergies and overall tendentiousness of Go, concerned netizens are bound to be pleased, not to mention everybody who lacks the muscle of Disney/Cap Cities/Miramax/ESPN etc. It's ironic, as well, because the kind of relentless cross-promotion that is a portal's stock in trade should have made Go go. But seeing as how they didn't give away any money, provide free porn chat, or have the good sense to purchase Suck when the time was right, we can only say that Disney got just what was coming to them. Of course, as Will Munny says in Unforgiven, "We've all got it coming." But at least Disney deserves the obloquy that is part and parcel of web death.

We love a good catfight, which is why we were delighted to see former Out publisher Henry Scott let loose with a few hisses against the merging gay-media triumvirate of PlanetOut, Gay.com, and the Advocate. Scott claims that this lavender AOL Time Warner will have seven times the online users and print subscribers of its nearest competitors. (We'll skip over any suggestions that gay porn sites probably have much, much more than seven times the traffic of the charmingly earnest, scrubbed-clean PlanetOut.com.) But what's amusing about Scott's claim is that he presided over the folding of Out magazine's original website, which was a money-loser but probably could have been spun off and pawned off on some greater fool before the market tanked. Some critics suggest that Scott himself was largely responsible for Out's landing in the hands of the Advocate: That's the point raised by gay gossip site Data Lounge, whose editors recently launched a volley against Scott. Of course, the lounge lizards skipped over some inconvenient facts — namely, their former business relationship with Out Publishing. You see, Data Lounge's parent company, Mediapolis, used to host Out.com before Scott pulled the plug in March 1997, and redirected the traffic to Datalounge.com for a few days. Scott then cut a deal to sell Out.com's traffic to PlanetOut. While that deal didn't last long, it nicely foreshadowed the subsequent acquisition of Out by the Advocate, and the Advocate's yet-to-close deal with PlanetOut. Can anyone be surprised by this sordid, incestuous mess? Who doesn't have daggers out for a former flame's new love?

"Stop this right-wing AGONY," reads the subject line on a spam we received this week from Agonizer.com. Whether that Agony refers to suffering inflicted on the nation by the Bush cabinet, the agonized struggle of Ariel Sharon to muster his fasci to the polls in the Holy Land, or perhaps the pained Holy Laughter that issues from John Ashcroft when the Holy Spirit's tongue of flame licks his whiskers at a Pentecostal revival, we were frankly baffled. But the email assured us that "The time has come for a new, open, and PROUDLY left-wing reinvention of activism." Agonizer turns out to be the work of one Mike McPadden, a hot-tempered Brooklynite whose web presence involves some energetic penning of agitated email. We're dismayed that Agonizer's site credits eschew giving any thanks to Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" episode, which we strongly suspect gave the site its name. Has our culture become such an undifferentiated broth that stumped webmasters won't even give a simple acknowledgment to their sources? More puzzling still was Agonizer's interview with Pete Bagge, which describes Suck as a "fitfully amusing online magazine" with a "standard liberal-intellectual line" (characterizations we were happy to see Bagge disputing). Still, we suppose it's healthy to hear what others think of you. But we remained puzzled by Agonizer's effort to enlist us in its war on the Right until we took another look at the email and realized that Suck was just one of many recipients. Some others:

shansen@salon.com, charlestaylor@salon.com, jmillman@salon.com, jstark@salon.com, wyman@salon.com, dreher@nypost.com, jsweeny@salon.com, areiter@salon.com, janelle@salon.com, km@salon.com, dcave@salon.com, marybeth@well.com, arubin@salon.com, Kcashman98@aol.com

That's when we began to understand, and to feel Agonizer's pain.

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courtesy of the Sucksters