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War of the Worlds in Reverse

July 22nd, 2003 · No Comments

Call it the Onion effect, or as Radley likes to say: “Reality, parody inch closer.” It’s getting so that I can’t even tell what’s serious anymore.

Take this morning. I awaken to NPR’s Morning Edition listening to what sounds like a story about a new movie. The reporter’s voice is unusually breathy and languid, even for NPR, and she’s describing the plot of a film called The Olive Harvest in the manner that one might try to explain something, with great patience, to a gaggle of retarded toddlers. It’s a preposterously, stereotypically NPR kind of plot about a love triangle in the occupied territories, and as she recounts the reactions of local audiences in Palestine and Israel (the former are horrified that the movie shows Westerners a Palestinian burning down a tree at the end—”we’d never burn a tree”—while Israelis don’t like that their soldiers are portrayed behind bulldozers) there’s a slathered-on tone of condescension, a kind of 19th century National Geographic “look at little-black-Sambo, how quaint” sensibility.

I’m impressed. This is a pretty ballsy parody, making light of a serious geopolitical conflict and NPR’s own silliest tendencies. I lie in bed, blinking slightly as the piece ends, waiting for them to identify the author and players. Nothing. Standard “brought to you by,” followed by a new story. That was a joke, right? A parody?

Breaking from my usual practice of lying about for a half hour or so, soaking in the news by osmosis, I drag myself out of bed and to the desk. They must have announced that it was a parody at the beginning, I reason. I punch the title of the joke-film they made up for the story into Google. What was it again? Right, The Olive Harvest.

Oh. It’s real. The whole story was real.

I laugh like a loon, and wonder what the hell has gone wrong with the world before crawling back into bed for a few more minutes of sleep.

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