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Triumph of the Deranged

The biggest perk to writing about television is that the people who work in the medium will never stop surprising you. Unfortunately, it's always the kind of surprise you feel while blindly reaching for the source of some mysterious kitchen odor and sinking your fingers into a six-week old burrito lodged under the fridge.

Sure the pay is lousy and the conference room pastries are decidedly stale, but for those of us with bottomless wells of righteous indignation, eviscerating the boob tube means there's never a dearth of bankrupt souls, ripe for damnation.

For example, the Fox News Channel program News Watch recently reported on the publication of some fan mail addressed to notorious n'er-do-well Theodore Kaczynski, the one and only Unabomber. Thanks to the University of Michigan and TheSmokingGun.com we can see that mixed in with the crazed rantings of Kaczynski's fellow tinfoil haberdashers are the crazed rantings of some of network news' biggest and brightest, all begging for an interview.

It turns out that Katie Couric, America's early-morning sweetheart, is something of a whore. She tells Kaczynski: "I look forward to hopefully hearing from you. I'd also be more than happy to just come and meet with you." Well, isn't that cutest thing. Katie and Ted, pen-pals forever. Maybe the Unabomber can join her and Matt for a cooking segment. I hear fresh roadkill really spices up Luddite Hermit Stew.

One of Barbara Walter's producers, a woman named Katie Thompson, assures the Unabomber that, "No one else could more powerfully express your views, and this interview would help bring readers to your book." That's just swell. Barbara wants to help Teddy sell some books. Maybe she could set him up with her agent who could get him some endorsement deals as well. Fruit of the Loom perhaps? Or maybe the Pitney-Bowes postage meter people?

Just imagine next Oscar night when ABC presents The Barbara Walters Special featuring powerful, touching interviews with Oprah, Burt Reynolds, Michael J. Fox and Theodore Kaczynski.

BARBARA WALTERS: Ted, if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

THE UNABOMBER: The kind that made the paper that I wrapped my bombs in.

BW: That's very touching. I knew you had a sensitive side. Are you starting to tear up? Would you like a Kleenex?

UB: Kleenex is a clenched fist of oppression wielded with harsh impunity by the homogenized corporate superstate. Death to technological tyrants.

BW: So what do you think of Burt Reynolds?

A producer for Good Morning America tries reaching out to Kaczynski by bonding over shared 18th-century ideals and confiding that he too has "a cabin in the woods... that has no electricity or running water."

Wow, ratings at GMA must be way down if the producers are living in refrigeator boxes. You think Charlie Gibson even gets enough to eat?

Yet as bad as these examples are, the missive from Shawn Effran, a producer for CBS's 60 Minutes II is the clear winner of this Race to Destroy the Tiny Smidgen of Journalistic Credibility TV News Has Left. Effran, who probably wrote a follow-up letter offering to wash Kaczynski's car, explains that, "I want to give you the opportunity to show the American people that you are, in fact, rational, clear-headed and sane."

Of course, he's sane and rational. After all, he always used correct postage to mail his letter bombs which helped destroy the shadowy airline cabal that is conspiring to rule the world thru bad food and repeated showings of "Beethoven II." And you really do have to be clear-headed to try and commit suicide using your own underwear -- after all, it's not like he tried using somone else's.

If one were to check Effran's files, I'll bet one would turn up previous letters that included an invitation for Jeffrey Dahmer to debate the merits of vegetarianism, an offer for Timothy McVeigh to dispense fertilizing tips and a suggestion that Osama Bin Laden enlighten us about his Fourth of July plans.

The sad thing is that I'm not trying to make some tasteless, inappropriate one-liners here. Effran may not brag about it, but he'd do anything to get McVeigh or Kaczynski to talk and probably defends that lust with lofty talk about the public's right to know. Just like "the public has a right to know" which trailer-park hussy caused Jerry Springer's latest overweight lesbian couple to split up.

Naturally, the only person with any dignity remaining after this whole affair is the homicidal maniac. So far, Kaczynski has refused all interview requests and must be feeling pretty smug that his rantings about a demented society have been so nicely substantiated by network television news.


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