"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 26 August 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Fashions of the Times



We began to notice a telltale

drape in media coverage earlier

this summer, when we thought we

recognized Richard Jewell from a

Calvin Klein ad. While reporters

on the international beat have

taken their cue from Michiko

Kakutani, and now debate the

relative nihilism of terrorist

groups past and present ("even

terrorists aren't motivated by

ideology"), home-grown hacks

look to be lifting patterns of

speech from the fashion pages.



Eisenhower jackets were spotted

on Seventh Avenue recently, and

the charges brought against

eight men and one woman in

Seattle are said to read "like

Ozzie and Harriet go to

terrorism school."

"Increasingly, officials say,

the face of domestic terrorism

is a bomber next door," went the

lead, a McCarthyesque echo

appropriate, perhaps, to a

season in which military coats

are the front-line defense to

autumn's encroaching chill and

"realism" coats fashion's more

militaristic urges.


Or have our metaphors gotten away

from us (again), and in our

attempt at media reconnaissance

have we wandered, not into a

minefield, but simply a




We'll admit it: we could be

wrong, and fashion might be a

victimless crime. New York Times

Magazine style editor Holly

Brubach, putting a

Schwarzkopfian spin on things,

asserts that it's "real women"

who have their fingers on the

trigger of style's loaded

message: "We like clothes, we

recognize their powers of

enhancement, and we want to

deploy them in our lives." While

the Times shot "real women" for

last Sunday's Magazine, and

though many seem overpowered -

even assaulted - by plaid, none

appear injured.


Still, it's difficult not to

suspect that the experience will

leave emotional scars. Plucked

from the streets of New York, if

not completely at random, then

certainly by chance, these women

were dressed up, posed, and then

abandoned; fingered and then

left behind, like so many

hospitality girls at a foreign




Confusion over who wields the

sharp end of style's pointed

shtick, is, of course, what

encourages blurring the fall

line, and leaves us searching

the runways for clues about the

latest disasters, sartorial and

stratospheric alike. After all,

the idea that "it could happen

to anyone" is potent fuel, and

is used to launch fantasies both

paranoid and fabulous. Walking

across town, minding one's own

business, you could be destined

for a brush with fame or a brush

with death.



Terrorism's appeal as campaign

tactic stems from a marriage of

anonymity and chance - we don't

know who did it, or where it

will happen next. Fashion is

ultimately more predictable, of

course, but the move of "real

people" into the limelight,

whether by dint of Calvin Klein or the

Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

turns the catwalk of media

attention into a public dressing

room. And under those harsh

lights, everyone starts to look




How can we tell? We have a

peephole. It's called the

Magellan Search Voyeur, and on

its own, it combines the

ham-fisted surveillance style of

the ATF with the reflexive

tackiness of DKNY's subway ads.

While the loose phrases can

erupt into a kind of primitive

tone poem ("cliffs

notes/magna/dog tags/dirt bike"

reads one), there's little here

that would surprise anyone. The

keyword searches of the net's

most clueless customers are laid

bare here, and, for the most

part, they reveal a collective

consciousness obsessed more with

nookie than nitro. Still, if the

feds are to be believed, it's

net searches that gave the

Seattle Ozzies and Harriet their

rebellious recipes. Magellan

hardly needs to remind us that

these searches are the product

of "users like you."


Putting together an outfit is

apparently no more difficult

than assembling a pipe bomb - "I

don't want to call it a fad, but

it almost seems like that's what

is going on with these bombers,"

says one ATF supervisor. Will

Ms. Brubach be called as an

expert witness?

courtesy of Duchess of Churl