Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'West Wing' in Shadowland

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'West Wing' in Shadowland

Article excerpt

I had planned to write a spoof about the existence of the "shadow government."

I realize that continuity of essential services is important after a major catastrophe. But it seemed to me that for millions of citizens, other components of modern culture now play a more essential role in their daily lives than government.

So I was going to propose the need for emergency agencies such as Shadow TV Guide (to inform viewers who survive a surprise nuclear attack which stations are still on the air and who is showing the best reruns of "West Wing"). I also thought of Shadow Talk Radio (Rush Limbaugh, Larry King, Dr. Laura, and Howard Stern all housed together in a secret underground studio, sleeping in shifts, and broadcasting on special frequencies that can be tuned in on toasters and other household appliances).

I couldn't make it work. As a humorist, part of me is always looking for a laugh. The problem with 9/11 satire is that it tends to trivialize a subject that is deadly serious. I'm all for getting back to business as usual, but nobody should be making this enormous and complicated crisis seem normal.

A radio announcer in my area introduces the hourly station breaks by saying, "Now, for the latest on the war against terrorism, let's go to ABC News." After a few weeks, that line began to sound routine, like a weather update. When I go online, the AOL headlines are presented as minimalist blurbs so that "New Fighting in Al Qaeda Stronghold" seems roughly equivalent in news value to "Dow Drifts Lower Amid Investor Worries" and "NCAA Gears Up For March Madness. …

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