Cyber satire circles the globe
Published 11:15 am Wednesday, November 22, 2000
By By BONNIE BARTEL LATINO
It is the sibilant laughter – Of a midsummer's breeze – Whispering its way through – A virgin glade; It is the maddening shriek – Of a banshee's wail – That echoes around – The oblivion of men's minds; It is the enchanting lure – Of a siren's song – That teasingly caresses – The human soul; And all are facets of a greater whole – It is the jewel of thought – The diamond in the rough – It is. . . imagination.
The entire world's "jewel of thought" seems to have been captured by America's presidential gridlock. If our voting fiasco proves anything, it is that this country is populated with people whose imaginations are as fertile, if not as eloquently articulate, as is young Mr. Vale's.
As one would expect, late night TV hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno have jumped feet first onto the chadwagon. As if their cousins in the world of broadcast journalism hadn't contributed enough to our electoral conundrum, Leno and Letterman hit the airwaves, running at the mouth with political barbs. There hasn't been this much political joke fodder since Monica discovered the joy of cigars. Letterman's one liner that America has "electile dysfunction" may be the most accurate comment of all.
Not to be outdone by TV's talking heads, print journalists have contributed to the satirical commotion. The always astute, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Paul Greenberg, said determining the " … intentions of the voters in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade … is an art somewhere between origami and psychoanalysis … (but) it's the Pregnant Chad that has made editorial writers all over the country sound more like doctors in an obstetrics ward, or maybe lawyers in a paternity case. How far along does a Pregnant Chad have to be before it is counted as a person? … Can it survive on its own outside the voting machine? … Is this an election or a particularly obtuse sex education class?"
Ahh, but journalists and TV hosts are paid to be funny. Some of the best parody has come from the imaginations of ordinary people who perhaps are using humor as an outlet for their growing frustration with our current political purgatory. The world is "wired"literally and figuratively.
Anonymous cyber-satire is circling the globe via the Internet quicker than you can say, "I bet ole Al Gore is sorry now that he ever INVENTED the electoral college."
For benefit of those who don't have a computer, let's take a look at some of the electronic gags in which human imagination sparkles far brighter than did either of our potential national leaders in the presidential debates. Due to space limitations I have shortened most.
These first examples have a definite Republican slant, but probably even the yeller'est "Yellow Dog Democrat" will find humor in this faux-letter to the Florida Lottery Commission: "Dear Sir: I know I chose the winning numbers for Wednesday's Lotto drawing … I thought I was choosing one set of winning numbers, when in reality I chose a completely different set. The numbers and boxes on the form are so close together, it's impossible to determine which box to fill in for which number. I checked with at least 3,000 other people, who all had the same problem. If you review the form I filled out, it will become very clear that I'm entitled to the money. Please reply with the date, time, and location, for me to collect the winnings due me. Thank you – Al Gore."
A similar theme espoused the Gore Bank Deposit Theorem, wherein you deposit $10,000, but write $100,000 on the deposit slip and insist the bank keeps counting until the deposit equals the latter sum.
Another e-mail brought an official-looking news release: "BELGRADESerbian president Vojislav Kostunica has deployed more than 30,000 peacekeeping troops to the U.S., pledging full support to the troubled North American nation as it struggles to establish democracy … Serbian forces have been stationed throughout the U.S., with an emphasis on certain trouble zones – Florida, Oregon and eastern Tennessee, where Gore set up headquarters in Bush territory. An additional 10,000 troops are expected in the capital city of Washington, D. C. by Friday."
Not to be outdone, English pundits jumped on the chadwagon with this: "To the citizens of the United States of America, In the light of your failure to elect a president and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories – except Utah, which she does not fancy. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency … Americans should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents and should start driving on the left-hand side of the road … Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys … You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen." … July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 8th will be a new national holiday … It will be called Indecisive Day …Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us round the twist for years."
Another letter to America, this one from "the state of Florida," threatens to hold the election hostage until every American who has elderly parents retired in the state of Florida comes and takes them back "home."
There are also musical ditties, such as the Palm Beach (Hokey) Pokey: " … You bring your lawyers in, You drag the whole thing out; You bring your lawyers in, And you put it all in doubt; You do the Palm Beach Pokey, And you turn around the count – That's what it's all about! You let your doctors spin, You let the pundits spout; You let your doctors spin, And your people whine and pout; You do the Palm Beach Pokey, And you turn around the count, That's what it's all about!"
At least one e-mail had a philanthropic appeal: "Please help! As you are aware, if the current voting results in Florida stand, George W. Bush could be our next President. This will have catastrophic results in our indispensable entertainment industry. Barbra Streisand, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Whoopie Goldberg, Jane Fonda, and Alec Baldwin have sworn to leave the country if George W. Bush is elected President. YOU can help. We need volunteers to help pack the moving vans for these irreplaceable national treasures so they can relocate before they change their minds. Thank You." What did we laugh about before the Floridians tried to vote? What will we do when all the chad-dust settles? We might just have to go back to laughing at ourselves. Goodness knows, the rest of the world is doing just that. It's a dang good thing Americans can still take a joke. After all, the inauguration is coming – and that's no chad.
Atmore native Bonnie Bartel Latino is a former columnist for "Stars and Stripes" in Europe and won a 1999 media Fellowship to Vanderbilt University to study "The Culture of the South."