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Jewish World Review Sept. 17, 2001 / 28 Elul, 5761

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Gary, we miss ya -- WASN'T it just a few minutes ago that we were all privy to the 24/7 diatribe of Gary Condit's indiscretions and misdirections?

The radio talk and TV cable news most recent cash cow had blown in just when we needed it. The new kid on the block always seems to appear when the previous story has had its air sucked dry: when Robert Blake had lost his luster; when the 2000 election battle and accompanied righteous indignation subsided; when the Clinton punching bag had lost its air; when O.J.'s search for Nicole's killer triple bogeyed at the 19th hole. The past ten years has been so fun for the talk show and cable news outlets. Revenues and idiocy raged. Talk show grist hit the Fortune 500 list with a bullet. These stories had legs, gams that would put Kidman and Grable to shame.

But now, it's all changed. Condit is gone, buried beneath the rubble of New York's skyline, Washington's defense, and America's heart. So buried that I wouldn't be surprised that when the release from the Congressman announces that he can neither leave his office in our country's greatest time of need nor drop out of the 2002 election, and abandon country and intern alike, we miss it entirely.

Yes, Condit continues to exist, but his story no longer has talk muscle. An industry who surfs hatred's curl has found the perfect wave, and this one's gonna be a tsunami. They'll be riding it for a long time.

Already the first volleys of unsubstantiated fury have been fired. "Twenty-thirty thousand dead!" "Let's just wipe 'em out!" And that first evening, "We're now bombing Afghanistan!" "Call the authorities if there's a strange neighbor." Quick, define what's strange to you. Expect a number of calls requesting that you be checked out.

Count the times the host apologizes for any misinformation or fool hardy suggestions that set off ill-tempered behavior. It's a trick question. They never do.

But now it's not talk as usual. There's an absurd horror and too, too many bodies. I yearn for the blathering missiles of Condit fodder. I want to hear the unending bombardment of what the definition of "is" is. I would almost hope O.J. might say something idiotic enough so that we could jump on that subject and it would somehow undo America's suffering.

The talk show hosts will tell you how their shows are the voice of the people. Listen to their shows. Count the minutes that you hear the voice of the people. Next, count the minutes to hear the voice of the host. Whose show is it really?

Even I was amazed how quickly the hosts, who all seemed to jump back on the airwaves with almost sincere pledges of nonpartisanship, were able to place the blame of this nightmare of humanity on a recent president who they had built their fortunes on.

New York used to be the target of the rest of the country's slings and arrows, not deranged, terrorist pilots. Today America wants to put its arms around the city and its people. How I long for the days that New York was the home of the hated Yankees, the hated Mets, the hated politicians, the hated whatever. I hate that I now love New York and it's people. I hate it because of the reason I feel for them.

I don't want to feel for New York or Washington for that matter. I want to be upset over the price of gas and worry about where my next work will come from. I need once again to be concerned about shark attacks and Elian Gonzalez. I yearn for talk of the Social Security lock box and Mariah Carey's mental health. Today those stories won't register a blip on the talk show radar screen. Today the unimaginable suffering continues for the victims and their families. For the most part their misery will never end. How they must long for the days of exorbitant gas prices and gun law battles. How much they must crave for angry conversation over O.J.,impeachment and Gary. Compared to today's America, it was a time of folly.

Steve Young is a Prism Award winner and a Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing and is author of "Great Failures Of The Extremely Successful. (Tallfellow Press). Comment by clicking here.

09/10/01: Smelling out a real hero
09/04/01: Don't give up on that dream!
08/24/01: Pitch day at the Mouse
08/21/01: It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Unlimited" Is


© 2001, Steve Young