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Every now and then, even the Federal Communications Commission has to act as if it gives a damn about the public airwaves beyond Super Bowl halftime shows and potty-mouthed disc jockeys.
This week, the FCC responded to the Center for Media and Democracy's "Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed," by contacting the owners of 77 television stations about practices that can only be described as willful abuses of the public trust.
The Center for Media and Democracy's report isn't about the self-proclaimed "fake news" of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" or its equally astringent companion "The Colbert Report."
The Madison, Wis.-based nonprofit's report documents the far more insidious practice of hiring actors to play television reporters in prepackaged videos slipped into daily news programs.
Viewers aren't told that some of the content of their favorite news programs has been paid for by government and commercial interests that couldn't care less about the integrity of journalism.
The 77 targeted stations have 60 days to explain why they're airing fake news without warning labels before the FCC begins levying very real fines and revoking very real licenses.
In the spirit of uncorrupted and unbiased public service, I've identified the following as examples of "fake news" stories marketers and evil politicos desperately want us to believe:
President Bush reads Albert Camus' "The Stranger" in Crawford, Texas, this summer while the war in Lebanon raged on.
That the White House would have us believe Mr. Bush would even touch a book by a French existentialist is patently absurd. Then again, "The Stranger" is about absurdity.
What is it about Camus' tale of a nihilistic misanthrope who kills an Arab without remorse that speaks so eloquently to Mr. Bush's present circumstances? And does this mean Camus has edged out Jesus as the president's favorite philosopher? Is Kierkegaard's "The Concept of Irony" next on Mr. Bush's reading list?
Joe Lieberman announces he'll continue his quixotic fight to hold on to his Senate seat despite having lost Connecticut's Democratic primary to political neophyte Ned Lamont.
Mr. Lieberman insists it is his love of the Democratic Party that prompts him to oppose the "liberal extremists" who would exercise their right to be represented by someone they believe in by an irresponsible use of the ballot.
To "save" the Democratic Party from itself, Mr. Lieberman will run as an independent while courting the Republican vote. What would Camus say?
Sen. Rick Santorum gets jiggy in a campaign ad featuring senior citizens, polka musicians and the most insincere smile this side of a Hummer dealer.
A grateful senior citizen thanks Mr. Santorum for helping to lead the fight to privatize Social Security. She then orders the senator to "lose it" or something to that effect (a sly reference to the November election?). Mr. Santorum smiles idiotically. Everyone laughs at him.
Though technically a campaign ad and not "fake news," the ad looks as if it were shot on the holodeck of the Federation Star Ship Enterprise. Mr. Santorum looks like he's moving in front of a green screen. The crowd looks bogus and immaterial. Lawrence Welk emerges from the shadows sipping a Mojita. Sartre tears out his one good eye in horror.
Dancing in the streets of Miami earlier this month as thousands of Cuban-Americans celebrate their fondest wish that the stricken Fidel Castro is actually dead and burning in hell.
Condi Rice promises that the United States will airdrop thousands of gambling licenses over Havana during the "transition period," but the wily Fidel refuses to die.
Castro turns up on Cuba's state-run television on his 80th birthday sitting in bed reading Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus" and laughing.
Homeland Security disrupts terror plot to blow up Michigan's Mackinac Bridge with battery-less phones, extending its stellar record of foiled conspiracies on American soil to 2,168 since Sept. 11. A morosely skeptical Primo Levi commits suicide all over again in protest.
Ten years of JonBenet Ramsey coverage in which the whole media-industrial complex transforms itself into a whorehouse anteroom for tabloid journalism. In retaliation for the Ramseys' possible vindication, Geraldo shoots an Arab in Reno just to watch him die.
Emily Litella, the annoying correspondent for Saturday Night Live played by the late, great Gilda Radner, has the last word regarding the presumed guilt of JonBenet's parents all these years: "Never mind."
First Published August 18, 2006 12:00 am