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Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

not a valid confession without receipt of sin

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 23, 1995.

Reading, and especially writing, history can leave you with a profound sense of cynicism. While it is easy to laugh, cringe or glower at the ludicrousness of our national media today, only a quick glance at the past is needed to realize it can and has been worse. Twenty years ago, a magazine called the National Lampoon released a satire of small town American newspapers, carrying in its back pages a small capsule of not quite mea culpas. It offered heartfelt apologies like the following “An article in yesterday’s paper misidentified Mrs. Hazel Smith as Dorian, the Witch of the North. Further, Ms. Smith’s late husband was not a child molesting pervert and murderer but a well known veterinarian and philanthropist. In the same issue, an article incorrectly identified the First Lady as General Hades, a gathering to celebrate Children’s Day as a convening of the Joint Chiefs, and a Declaration to Improve Life as a Declaration of War against Bolivia.” And so forth.

Like the movie Network, its satire is often lost today, because most of the outlandish predictions came true.

For example, in Detroit, a young woman, Delitha Word, was pulled from a car on a bridge, terrorized, and either jumped or was pushed to her death. All the while, crowds of people applauded or looked on without helping. What a ghastly comment on American life, what a metaphor alert. But, that was yesterday.

Today we learn that there was no crowd, much less one cheering on her death, and that she jumped on her own. This does not reduce in any major form that an unnatural death occurred, maybe murder, but nothing like the press made it out.

As a book is published this week about Ruby Ridge and the FBI’s handling of that bungled affair, and as Waco’s literary debut previously showed, and as the Simpson trial daily demonstrates, the American Press is coming to resemble the X-files more and more. The Truth is out there, but it is Terra Incognita to our media hacks who are always willing to substitute an adverb for leg work.

Now, some corrections from last week. Jerry Garcia was not an insect alien from the planet Zog, Pope John XXIII was not my real father and I’ve never slept with Cindy Crawford - yet. Sorry for those easy-to-make mistakes.