By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Of course, the desire to escape from real-world problems is what drives travelers to faraway lands in the first place, and it’s one symptom of our impoverished idea of utopia that paradise keeps getting farther and farther away from anything resembling a real society. Over the last few years, Bali has seen a boom in $600-a-night resorts located miles from the beaches frequented by budget tourists (you know, the kind of people who got blown up), protected from intruders by armed guards and wholly self-contained. Everything is there for you already: natural splendor, fine dining, aromatic spas, private swimming pools, exquisite traditional architecture and the sense of timeless tranquillity that is a favored illusion of millennial tourism. Except for the smiling servants, cooks, masseuses and cleaners, all trained to international standards, these modern havens offer you Bali -- sorry, Roosevelt -- without the inconvenience of the Balinese.
It has always been the dream of the suburbs that they, too, could be a kind of heaven on earth -- a bastion of middle-class comfort in which people felt free to attend their kids‘ soccer games, shop at Home Depot, pump cheap gas into their SUVs and eat without fear at the local Ponderosa. While this fantasy has been shaken in recent years -- by, among other things, the Columbine shootings and the spate of child kidnappings -- nothing has assaulted it so directly as the ongoing saga of the ”Sniper on the Loose“ (to use a network tag line). Suddenly, simply buying crafts at Michael’s seems as perilous as defusing land mines.
The result has been a kind of top-down hysteria, less visible among ordinary people -- my friends in D.C. are going about their lives, albeit a bit nervously -- than among those in the public eye. As government officials close down schools and issue statements of various levels of opacity (I‘m looking forward to the TV movie about Montgomery County’s deliciously monikered Police Chief Moose), Washington-area journalists are spinning in a delirious vortex of killings, lying informants, Tarot cards, retired FBI profilers, weird communiques between cops and suspect(s), and highly publicized arrests followed by still more shootings. Although the media have obviously become fixated -- the Washington press corps has even lost interest in talking about the election -- you can understand the obsession. The sniper saga isn‘t just a classic news story, it’s far more compelling than any collapsed mineshaft. After all, that only happens to miners, but any one of us could be out there at the gas pump. Why, these bastards might even shoot somebody holding a microphone. It‘s one thing to cover this kind of random violence in crazy-ass places like Bosnia, Congo or Indonesia, but these are the suburbs for crying out loud.
We are living, of course, in an era of meta-journalistic self-involvement, so when the media weren’t beating the sniper story to death, they were busy beating to death the story of how the media were beating the sniper story to death. Enough already. The other night on Larry King, CBS‘s pawky Bob Schieffer grew enraged at charges that he and his colleagues were treating the manhunt as a kind of game. ”I don’t know any reporter around here that thinks we‘re covering the Orange Bowl,“ he fumed. The poor man was so rattled that he forgot to call it the FedEx Orange Bowl.