"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 5 November 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Character Assassination



As the global directive to

terrorize the planet with

24-hour syndication of Mad About

You completes its course, one

could be forgiven for doubting

that television ever puts a bad

idea to rest. But once the echo

is tuned out, a subtle system of

television punctuation becomes

discernible, replete with

ellipses and question marks

performing much of the grunt

work of stringing us along, one

segment at a time.


A rare instance of a solid

period, end of story,

case-closed moment took place in

the first presidential debate

when Bob Dole croaked his URL to

a bemused electorate. If the web

were ever cool, if it could even

lay claim to the illusion of

cool, it died that moment. At

some moment between Dole's

muttering of "www" and his

failure to include the dot

between "dolekemp" and "org,"

the web became conclusively,

incontrovertibly lame.


[Smelly Rat]

Being associated with a loser can

hobble those of mightiest

stature, a social curse seen

time and again; witness the

plight of the unfortunates linked to

Mark Fuhrman, Louis Farrakhan, Joe

Esterhaz and Newt Gingrich. And

when misery rains, it pours: The

past few weeks of TV programming

have shown a seismic shift in

attitude towards the digital



Jeffrey Toobin - in the context

of his coverage of the OJ trial,

no less - dismisses the web on

Tom Snyder as a hotbed of addled

Flight 800 theories. John

Heilemann finds himself the fall

guy for the web on a Charlie

Rose discussion of hysterical,

irresponsible CIA-crack

connection rumors. Even Cindy

Crawford, again with Rose, sees

fit to praise each and every

lazy cover shot she's ever

supplied, with the exception of

that used by The Web.



OK, maybe that last example is

somewhat of a stretch, but this

is the web. In the context of

alien autopsies, the Bavarian

Illuminati, the invention of

AIDS in a Minnesota lab, and all

the other cockeyed notions we

all ostensibly believe in, it's

actually a conservative piece of

evidence to include. Considering

that paranoia is the slander

with which the web is currently

being pilloried, the situation

could only be more apt if Perot

were hawking a Palace chat from

his infomercials.



Then again, you showcase

hara-kiri where you can find an

appreciative crowd, preferably

one willing to pay to see it

again. Here again, television is

proving itself more adept than

the web, quickly morphing the

traditionally dim weekend into a

nutcake smorgasbord. From the

first minutes of Sliders, the

afternoon-special-like "portal

into a parallel universe" to the

out-there "truths" of Sunday's

X-Files, it's obvious that the

gurus of programming have taken

notice of a nation of Dilberts

who don't get out much on the




Nestled amidst various Profilers,

Pretenders, Netizens, and

Millennialists, perhaps the most

cynical- and inspired - moment of

the weekend's new programming

schedule arrives in the form of

Dark Skies. Billed as

"reality-based programming,"

Dark Skies offers a

best-of-both-worlds premise,

where the Weekly World News's

Batboy lurks in the wings of the

Ed Sullivan Theater, eyeing the

Beatles hungrily while awaiting

orders from Roswell. The subtext

of such a series is that neither

bullshit or truth alone have

sustained appeal, but when

combined they might prove more

resilient than a double-agent

Energizer Bunny.


[Dole Fell Down]

Which gives rise to the most

deranged hypothesis of all:

Assuming that the networks are

out to get the networked, they

just might want to keep us once

they have us. And the twisted

media give-and-take might prove

to work in ways nobody ever

predicted. After all, for the

web, "cesspool of groundless

rumor, intrigue and conspiracy"

is a much better tagline than

"the graphical, multimedia

portion of the Internet" could

ever aspire to be. With any

luck, it may even prove more

vivid and tenacious than the

image of a failed nominee,

tumbling downwards, dragging

parties, platforms, and palaver

along with him.

courtesy of Duke of URL