December 2006

Highlights from one week of stupidity

By Katharhynn Heidelberg

Caveat. Perspective is pretty much everything. Accordingly, if you thought the week of Nov. 13-18 was peachykeen and dandy-fine, that’s great. It’s true that probably many occurrences were spurred by logic, reason and intelligence during this same span. But there was also a whole lotta stupid going on, from grown men attacking each other over a video-game console, to George Bush at last comparing Iraq to Vietnam — and predictably, reaching a conclusion that is the exact opposite of reality.

Two more notable highlights: Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was obligated to allay concerns that Homaidin al-Turki — who was recently sentenced on 12 counts of subjecting his family’s Indonesian nanny to unlawful sexual contact, plus falsely imprisoning her for years — had been unfairly prosecuted because he is Muslim.

On its face, that’s reasonable enough. Obviously, no one wants to see a person jailed because of his religious beliefs. And it’s true there’s a good deal of ignorance, bigotry and misguided fear when it comes to Islam. But Islam is not why al-Turki is going to prison, and it boggles the mind that our AG had to explain Colorado’s “injustice” to Saudi Arabia.

Pause and let that sink in. Saudi Arabia, the rabidly misogynistic land where rape victims can be imprisoned or even, some accounts insist, killed; where radical Wahhabi religious police virtually rule by whim and where native son bin Laden probably hides his wealth. Yes, that Saudi Arabia demanded to know how we could possibly prosecute one of its citizens over what he did to a mere woman, and a lower-class non- Saudi woman at that. (Al-Turki denied his guilt at sentencing and also spoke of the criminalizing of “basic Muslim behaviors.” Is it a “basic Muslim behavior” to take sexual liberties with a captive servant? One suspects law-abiding Muslims would beg to differ.) Al-Turki would not — so the Saudis say — have been convicted in his own country. Yeah. No kidding.

But rather than simply point out that our laws are not subject to the approval of Saudi Arabia, our federal government’s response to all the fuss was to put Suthers on a plane to Riyadh and have him humbly explain Colorado justice. Apparently, it pays to have Uncle Sam over an oil barrel. Because I can’t imagine the feds sending U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to other nations to explain why, for instance, the U.S. has imprisoned their citizens without trial, or “rendered” them to countries that practice torture. That’s too bad. Showing other countries the same level of diplomacy and tact that are Saudi Arabia’s for the asking might go a long way toward countering the anti-American sentiment that breeds future terrorists.

Here’s hoping Suthers’ face time with King Abudullah actually achieves the placation the feds are so keen on. That Saudi Arabia will stop viewing a pattern sexual offender as the victim?

That’s probably hoping for too much. Of course, Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a corner on antipathy toward women. Twelve years later, it’s the gift that keeps on giving for O.J. Simpson, which brings us to pop culture’s stupidity contribution for the week of Nov. 13.

He who was acquitted when the glove could not be fitted, unleashed one of the sickest publicity campaigns in recorded history. His book “If I Did It” was hyped as a hypothetical explanation of how and why he would have killed his ex-wife Nicole and her waiter, Ron Goldman — if, of course, he did it.

The outcry was deafening, much of it directed at publisher Judith Regan, who “interviewed” O.J. for a segment on Fox — the fair and balanced network owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Regan’s publishing company. Once people began pointing out the obvious conflict and sleazy marketeering, Regan began (as a victim’s relative told ABC News) covering her ass. She doesn’t agree with O.J., of course. And she wasn’t doing the interview for profit, but to effect revenge against all spousal abusers! She also whined about how journalists who’ve interviewed killers weren’t picked on for doing so.

There is, of course, a reason for that. While networks and publishing houses are frequently owned by the same corporation, other networks disclose that link when featuring an author. More important, their journalists are not also publishers who’ve just handed over a mint to their “interview” subjects for a book deal that will ultimately benefit the owner of the network airing the interview. Accordingly, there’s no personal vested financial interest in generating book sales. Duh?

At least this lunacy ultimately proved a flash in the pan. Murdoch, in a rare concession to good taste (spurred by advertising pressure and Fox affiliate revolts) — heaven forbid he simply concede to good journalism — pulled the plug on both the segment and the book deal Nov. 20. Good call. But not enough, alas, to restore one’s faith in the common sense of man.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is a journalist in Montrose.