Sunday, October 08, 2000

TV Land

Taking sides

        I came home late the other night and flipped on the guy America couldn't wait to flip off: Bob Costas and his gooey Olympic Moments set to romance-novel violins.

        It was scary.

        I was frightened by the way heart-tugging videos completely eclipsed the actual boxing and Ping-Pong.

        I was alarmed by the way Bob Costas has become the Dick Clark of sports, permanently preserved in hair spray at age 14.

        But I was terrified by the video of Russian wrestler Alexander Karelin. He had demented ax-murderer eyes and pointy shark teeth, and spoke in a voice that sounded like Darth Vader's answering machine at the State Institution for Criminally Insane Psycho Killers. He was picking up wrestlers that weigh more than a truckload of ornery, and slamming them on their heads like sacks of humiliated potatoes with waving arms and legs. Then he was plunging through Siberian snow drifts that would bury Lenin's tomb. Maybe he was going after the mail — but he looked as if he needed somebody to slam and I was next.

        And then, when the Rasslin Russian was defeated in an upset by aw-shucks American Rulon Gardner, NBC showed “Alexander the Great” behind a door, getting a hug, probably crying. And a hushed Bob Costas said, “In spite of his image, he is a cultured man who enjoys classical music and reads poetry.”

        Translation: In spite of the WWF Smackdown video we made, now that U.S.A. won we can admit he's human.

        How cynical can you get?

        To find out I skipped the Olympic Moment about Rulon's parakeet, and switched to CNN NewsStand. The topic was media bias.

        Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz pried the cap off the forbidden bias bottle, and it was stinking up the newsroom. Liberals wrinkled their noses and smelled something — but they all agreed it was NOT bias.

        Mr. Kurtz said reporters are far left of most Americans, especially on abortion and gay rights. But there's no bias, he insisted.

        Time White House correspondent Karen Tumulty said reporters are shallow, lazy, poll-obsessed and have a herd mentality — but they're not biased. Incompetent lemmings — but unbiased lemmings. Sure.

        In 1992, Washington reporters like Ms. Tumulty voted for Bill Clinton by 89 percent. This year, a survey by Editor & Publisher found 44 percent of regular newspaper readers believe stories favor one candidate. The lucky guy: Al Gore. About half of Republicans, two thirds of independents and even a third of Gore voters said the press is in the tank for Mr. Gore.

        Yet the media see nothing. “It's hard to know what to make of these findings,” said Editor & Publisher.

        How stupid can you get?

        To find out I clicked to a more intelligent show on the Comedy Channel: Battlebots.

        A streamlined, polished robot that looked like a stainless-steel speed bump was darting in every direction, trying to deploy a pushy arm to pin down something that looked like the rear axle of a Chevy pickup, with a drive shaft that kept flailing about, trying to hammer the speed bump. Cool.

        I wondered: Could remote-controlled robots fighting in a cage be the wrestlers of the 2018 Olympics?

        Then, just as the pickup axle was about to pound the speed-bump into scrap metal and win, a row of steel circular saws popped out of the floor and shredded its tires, and the speed-bump stiff-armed the crippled pickup into a wall.

        Maybe I need to get a life, but it struck me as a crazy metaphor for the robots who are running for president. The media saws insist they're not biased — as they shred the truth to help speed-bump Gore push pickup-axle Bush out of the picture.

        I went back to the Olympics so I could flip off NBC, and went to bed.

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or comments, call 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.


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