Monday, January 19, 2009

Historical Perspective, Courtesy of Rupert Murdoch

Every soul on the Internet including oppressed Uighurs in western China has already posted some wisecrack noting a correlation between the inauguration of Barack Obama and the identity of the National Football Conference champions. Unable to think of a wisecrack, we turn here to a glimpse into the history of television-specifically that of the Fox network-for an appreciation of just which side of the correlation is more amazing.

The first and second seasons of "24", which were broadcast in 2000-2002, had as a central figure presidential candidate and then President Palmer, an African American. The series was set in that vague present/near future, and as a suspense drama, had to be SOMEWHAT concerned (OK, it was "24," so somewhat is a very loose term here) with the audience's willing suspension of disbelief. So the writers and producers agreed, and the ratings agreed with them, that Americans were prepared to consider the possibility that an African American could become President in the foreseeable future.

Sometime in the early 2000s, coinciding with "24," Fox's original prime time hit "The Simpsons," ran an episode in which the town of Springfield had to cope with an additional area code (Roger Daltry and Peter Townsend were guest stars). Long story short, a group led by Homer seceded and formed "New Springfield." Whereupon the following scene takes place.

Homer, Mayor of New Springfield, sitting on sidewalk in lawn chair: "Now all we have to is sit back and wait for an NFL franchise."

Stranger in suit: "Pardon me, sir, I couldn't help overhearing. I represent the Arizona Cardinals and..."

Homer, interrupting quickly: "Keep walkin'."

Not so very long ago, two groups of smart people whose job, in part, is to figure out what Americans think came to the following conclusions. Confronted with the idea of an African American President, Americans would think "sure, why not." Confronted with the reality of the Arizona Cardinals, Americans would start laughing.

Look in the dictionary. "Equality" and "parity" aren't synonyms. But they're close.


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