Thursday, January 06, 2005

Terrorism and TV

In his most recent New York Times "Arts" commentary, that bastard - er, excuse me, that should read "bastion" - of liberal, Bush-bashing, Michael Moore-loving (etc. etc.) Frank Rich makes the argument that fiction writers do a better job presenting the terrorism threats than does the current Administration. As he spews his usual venom about what he percieves are the shortcomings of our government's efforts to fight terrorism, I am forced to admit that one of his points, but only one, is correct. He does mention, in passing, that the Fox series "24" - or the "Perils of Jack Bower" - is a good fictional drama.

"24," which stars Keiffer Sutherland as the perpetually in-motion-and-in-danger Counter Terrorism Unit operative, Jack Bauer," is an excellent drama. The writing is unbelievable and the intersecting plot llines top anything I have seen in most movies, much less current television drama. It is a source of wonder and awe to me how the writers can make an hour-by-hour drama of one day in Jack Bauer's life fill out a 24 episode drama season. If I had Jack Bauer's life, I would crawl into a cave in northeast Pakistan, run Osama out, and hide. Jack has more crises and drama in "24" hours than Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (what is it about the name "Jack," anyway?) has in a really bad decade. It is an excellent show, probably in my top 5 list of current television.

Now, back to the Frank Rich "commentary." First of all, having read most of Rich's diatribes over the past year ( not for the information that I might gleen, mind you, but merely to see what garbage he can actually get past whatever editors the Times have left) I sincerely wonder how these op-eds are run under the Times' "Arts" section. It is my understanding that the Arts section is for reviewing movies, television, books, plays, and entertainment. Rich has redefined what the "Arts" section should be, i.e. his private soapbox for trashing anything that is not liberal, left-leaning, socialist, Democratic or, at the very least, anti-establishment. When Michael Moore, my all-time leading candidate for emergency gastric bypass surgery, comes out with his next trash-u-mentary on health care delivery in America, take my word for it: It will get both thumbs up (if, indeed, he has thumbs at all) from Frank Rich. If Whoopie Goldberg, the next project for "Extreme Makeover - Personal Edition," does a profane, hatefilled, anti-everything standup comedy at New York’s ApolloTheater, it will be "boffo" box office for Rich.

After trashing everything related to the first term of the Bush Adminstration - for the life of me, I cannot see where the column has any other purpose - he appears to be arguing that fiction writers and Hollywood do a better job presenting possible terror threats to the American public than does Homeland Security. I struggle, like Sisyphus, to try and understand his point. Is he porposing that Homeland Security and the Defense Department should be making educational films on "How to Survive A Terrorist Attack?" I am not at all sure I want to see an educational film in our schools on "The Child's Guide to Finding Your Parents After a Dirty Bomb." Those films I remember from the 50s and 60s on how to get under your desk and hide your eyes from an atomic bomb or how to build a home fallout shelter caused more paranoia than provided any useful information.

Surely, even someone as fixated on fear and hate as Rich does not believe our government should do this. But, what are we to think when Rich concludes his latest harangue with:
"As 2005 begins, we must confront the prospect that a fictional TV action hero is more engaged with the war on terror than those in Washington who actually have his job."

What does this mean? Does it mean that Jack Bower does a better job than our current counter terrorist agents? Well, he probably does in his fictional world. That is the type of logic that would say "President Thomas Whitmore [played by Bill Pullman in "Independence Day"] does a better job fighting space aliens than our current President." Or, does he mean that "President Beck [played by Morgan Freeman in "Deep Impact"] does a better job handling a crisis than President Bush." Ok, I will grant that both are probably true. But, Rich must have missed the memo that was intended to remind him that "movies and TV are not the real world." In case he did, let me paraphrase for Mr. Rich: "Yo, Frank! What you are reviewing are works of fiction; they do not actually happen in the real world."

I think Frank Rich is starting to believe his own hype. He is trying to use his back-of-the-newspaper "Arts and Entertainment" column to indulge an ego that is as inflated as his torso. In my opinion, Rich uses his review - and the label "review" is applied very tenuously - columns to foist his extreme political and social views on his unfortunate readership. Luckily, for his continued employment, his readers - save this Southern aberration - are residents of grand old N.Y.C. People of that demographic and geographic ilk (remember, these are the people who elected Hillary Clinton as their Senator after, what, 12 days of residency?) are apparently entertained by Rich’s nonstop, repetitive, partisan illogicality. While I do find his extremism entertaining in a snide sort of way, I really wonder how he can still write under the Arts section.

Regardless, I think Frank Rich needs to cut back on his fiction input. He probably needs to spend a day or two reading the more important sections of his own newspaper or, better still, reading a newspaper from "the real world" so he can clear his mind of his warped fantasies. Then he will know that there are, indeed, Jack Bauers and Jack Ryans who work in reality and actually die doing their jobs. While the hero seldom dies in Rich’s world, they really do in reality.


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