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Crank Call

Note to Crank Call readers: The author of this column has spent the past two weeks struggling with a computer virus and was last seen headed toward the lake with stones in his pockets, chains around his ankles and his laptop strapped securely to his waist. As of press time, Seven Days had no further information about his fate. We have, however, gained access to his files, which he managed to copy to a compact disk and mail to us with a note saying, "Please do not harm my family and friends. It's not their fault."

We hope and pray that Mr. Kurth will be found alive, and soon; meantime, we've put together what we believe was on his mind before he left. --Eds.

Good grief! If this week's commemoration of the events of September 11, 2001, was "muted" and "low-key," I'd hate to be around when they pull out all the stops! I lost track of the number of emails I got on Thursday featuring pictures of the American eagle and admonitions that I "stand tall" and "never forget." And I thought if I had to look one more time at George W. Bush's pious face and beady eyes posed against the American flag, they would have to come and cart me away for real.

I know -- you're not supposed to make light of things like this. You're supposed to become somber and patriotic when you hear the digits "911" -- as opposed to when you dial them, when you might be expected to be screaming for help. Sometimes I get a little confused. It seems you can make jokes about anything nowadays, apart from Catholic priests, "Amber" alerts and the State of Israel.

Take, for instance, the gag that follows, which sailed into my box, unsigned and unsolicited, on the very day of this sad anniversary, and which I quote verbatim as I received it. Ready? It's a hoot:

Two Arab terrorists were in a locker room taking a shower after their bomb-making class, when one of them noticed that the other had a huge cork stuck in his butt.

"If you do not mind me saying," said the second, "that cork looks very uncomfortable. Why do you not take it out?"

"I regret that I cannot," lamented the first Arab. "It is permanently stuck in my butt."

"I do not understand," said the other.

[Please note how these Arabs speak to each other -- slowly, in wooden English. That's so you can recognize them and report them to the authorities. You can fill in their demonic accents by yourself, just as they do on the news with voice-over translations. But back to the joke.]

The first Arab says, "I was walking along the beach and I tripped over an oil lamp. There was a puff of smoke, and then a huge old man in an American flag attire with a white beard and top hat came boiling out. He said, ‘I am Uncle Sam, the Genie. I can grant you one wish.'"

I said, "No shit?"

"GOD BLESS AMERICA!"

That's right, folks. That's all there was -- God bless America. This hilarious anecdote was accompanied by a warning to Arabs, Muslims and "everyone else who wears dirty rags on their heads" that President Bush has "fixed the Maytag" and is settling scores. That'll knock their knees together in Islamabad!

Really, if all you did was watch TV last week, you'd have thought that 9/11 was about Bush, and not about the nearly 3000 people who lost their lives in the worst terrorist attack so far on American shores. (Six thousand Iraqis have already died in that conflict, but who's counting?) Despite his pledge to keep out of it and let this year's 9/11 celebrations be a day "for the families," Dubya managed to be all over the screen, talking tough, saluting the troops, choking up and praying on cue. And he was lionized as America's veritable savior in two disgustingly sentimental prime-time documentaries and one "ludicrously glamorized" TV movie on Showtime, as Paul Krugman bravely put it in The New York Times.

We all know what Dubya was really doing on that awful day, two years ago. He was flying aimlessly around the country on Air Force One while his handlers figured out what to do with him. But American memories are sadly so short that 69 percent of the population, according to a survey in the Washington Post, still believes "that it was at least likely that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."

Of course, there's no evidence for this -- none, zero, zip -- but that hasn't stopped Bush and the media cartel that keeps him in power from pretending there is. "In the past six weeks," Krugman adds, "President Bush has invoked 9/11 not just to defend Iraq policy and argue for oil drilling in the Arctic, but in response to questions about tax cuts, unemployment, budget deficits and even campaign finance."

It's all the same, I guess, if you're dealing with people with rags on their heads. And if you blinked quickly over the weekend you wouldn't have noticed that the U.S. and Britain, having failed to find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction anywhere in Iraq, have decided to "delay indefinitely" the publication of a long-awaited "progress report" on the issue, originally scheduled to appear this Tuesday. The Iraq Survey Group, an Anglo-American team of 1400 scientists, military and intelligence experts, has been scouring Iraq for the past four months looking for evidence to justify this war, and guess what. There ain't any.

How ironic, then, that the 9/11 anniversary should have fallen this year in the same week that Leni Riefenstahl, "Hitler's Filmmaker" and "Propagandist for the Third Reich," the last of the Fuhrer's "intimate entourage" and a woman whose name is now a byword for political fakery, died in Munich at the age of 101.

"Reality doesn't interest me," Riefenstahl once said. Her undoubted masterpiece, Triumph of the Will, opens with an aerial shot of the 1936 Nazi rally at Nuremberg, where the Allies were later clever enough to hold German leaders accountable for war crimes. The film shows Hitler arriving by plane, like Wotan from the clouds, and explaining to the gathered crowd that his "great command" to dominate the world "was not given by any earthly superior. It was given by God, who created our people."

Sound familiar?

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