Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, October 21, 2011

End of What's-His-Name

News from Libya provokes reactions as weird as the man himself: “CBS: Qaddafi. ABC: Gadhafi. NBC: Khaddafy," tweets a White House correspondent. A satellite radio reporter adds: “Gadhafi is dead--someone reach into his wallet and look at his driver’s license so we finally know how to spell his last name!"

Along with death jokes, a tyrant’s last minutes are on prime-time in a cellphone cinéma vérité montage for family viewing, a long way from early days of TV when Abraham Zapruder’s home movies later emerged as the only record of JFK’s assassination.

The Libyan dictator’s bloody end is telescoped into only a few hours of a Thursday by 21st century technology—-from rumors to confirmation by mobile phone video, TV viewing, cable commentary and even a blog prediction of punditry to come.

The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan said half a century ago, and today’s messages are multiple and immediate. Even Hillary Clinton’s unguarded first reaction to the news is on the screen.

By late evening, Jon Stewart’s take on GOP partisan puffery is available with the carping of ancient John McCain and Tea Party neophyte Marco Rubio, who had earlier in the day been busy refuting charges of retouching his family’s history as Cuban refugees.

To round it all out, the Daily Beast provides an excerpt from Condoleeza Rice’s memoir of her uneasy encounter with the Libyan loony who had a fixation on her as “my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders...Leezza, Leezza, Leezza...I love her very much.”

It all ends with a glimpse of the future as the new Libyan government offers up its first official lie—-that the dictator was killed in “a crossfire” when pictures clearly show him bloodied, captured and being menaced with his own golden gun.

As Walter Cronkite used to say at the end of his nightly newscasts, “And that’s the way it is” on October 20, 2011.

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