Appall-O-Meter

Dave Mulcahey

Operation Infinite Spin 5.4

Who knew that the Voice of America was part of some anti-patriotic liberal conspiracy? You might think the worldwide radio service, a holdover from the Cold War, still piped Yankee propaganda to the oppressed in remote parts of the world. Far from it, according to some critics. As the New York Times reports, some political refugees from Afghanistan have started referring to VOA as the Voice of Taliban.

Their beef? The VOA aired an interview with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader. The deeper problem, though, is that the radio service has tried to move beyond mere propaganda to provide something like objective, high-quality news reporting. 

In early October, the Bush administration replaced VOAs director with a more reliable conservative, but many right-wingers remain doubtful that he will bring the service on board with Operation Enduring Freedom. Objectivity, apparently, has no role in the psy-ops we have planned for the Middle East. The Times quoted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, thus on VOA programming: If we turn this into a PBS documentaryseesawing on every side and being balancedthats not promoting democracy.

The Frugality of Evil 4.2

For all their well-documented courtesy to landlords, rental clerks and the like, the suicide hijackers were none too generous with a certain sort of service personnel. Just one look at Marwan Al-Shehhi was enough to know that he was cheap, maintains Samantha, a dancer at the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret in Las Vegas. 

Some big-man terrorist, huh? Samantha fumed to a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. He spent about $20 for a quick dance and didnt tip more. 

Im glad hes dead with the rest of them, she added, and I dont like feeling something like that. But he wasnt just a bad tipperhe killed people. 

Towering Banality 2.9

Jihadsters buying lap dances in Vegas. Ironic, sure, but not exactly eccentric behavior, even for religious zealots. I mean, its nothing like, say, plunking down $50 to see Puppetry of the Penis, the two-man show currently running at the John Houseman Theater in New York. This spectacle features a couple of Australian gentleman bending and stretching their johnsons into various installationsor, as a reviewer for the New York Times put it, into shapes more often associated with balloon animals. The show is also playing to packed houses in Canada and Britain.

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Dave Mulcahey, a former managing editor of The Baffler, wrote In These Times’ monthly Appallo-o-meter” feature for nearly 10 years, until the fall of 2009.
Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
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