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Photograph by Weekly World News

Biter

What Would 'WWN' Do?

The truth? Americans can't handle the truth.

By Richard von Busack

AS WAR TURNS from a threat to reality, it's satisfying that America's most popular humor periodical is keeping up dissent through satirical exaggeration. I don't mean Mad magazine--despite Mad's much-Internetted Star Wars poster "Gulf Wars 2," depicting President Junior Bush in a clinch with his Leia, the coldly alluring Condoleeza Rice.

No, the periodical I'm referring to is the Weekly World News, the black-and-white supermarket tabloid. Even the cashier stares when you buy the WWN, with its in-depth reports on ruined temples on Mars, the world's fattest infant and the international depredations of the Bat Boy (who was the subject of a recent off-Broadway musical). As Gulf Wars 2 opens at theaters across Iraq, the WWN is exploring angles the other mags and papers are too cowardly to report. A few weeks ago, the paper scooped the world with the report that Saddam was feeding Christians to the lions (a blurry photo from some forgotten gladiator movie proved it conclusively).

But the March 18 issue topped even that: "Enter our Hot Contest! Design Iraq's New Flag!" The WWN proposes to publish the five semifinalists. The winner will be awarded a $100 grand prize, along with a Bat Boy T-shirt. "'This is some average American's claim to achieve lasting fame just like Betsy Ross, who designed the original flag during the Revolutionary War,' says one observer." The address is Iraqi Flag Contest, c/o the WWN, 5401 NW Broken Sound Blvd., Boca Raton, FL 33487; they would prefer a written explanation if your design is very personal. Remember, the Exxon logo is trademarked, so include the registration mark, if that's your idea for submission. My own entry is going to be a crayon drawing of my cat, since I feel a kitty will help cheer up a war-torn land.

Another item hints that Saddam is ready to immigrate to France. (Hussein, with his huge Peter Sellers grimace, is pictured wearing a beret.) Unfortunately, the condition of Saddam moving to France is that he be allowed to live in Versailles and become the French ambassador to the United States.

Only one pundit could find the words to respond to the shocking idea of Saddam in a swallowtail coat and a red sash stuffing his jowls at embassy buffets. And that, of course, is Ed Anger, the WWN's wrathful political columnist, who makes Mike Savage look as pink as Noam Chomsky. Let other sunshine patriots rename their french fries; let that only-in-New Orleans City Councilman try to slake his anger by rededicating the French Quarter as "The Freedom Quarter." Ed Anger gets truly tough: "Give the French Back Their Stupid Statue of Liberty!" he shouts, as he vows never to get near anything Gallic again. ("As for French kissing, Thelma Jean tried that one on me once, and she won't make that mistake again!" Anger thunders.)

The bad news is that the WWN is tipping its hand lately. The same poll that asks readers if they read the National Enquirer, the Globe and the Star also asks if the readers sample The Onion and, of course, Mad magazine. And in a folksy letter to the reader, editor Dick Kulpa comments, "Some of these items are profoundly serious, and others are good for a laugh." Dick Kulpa's "mea Kulpa" column bothers me. He really ought to be insisting that the entire gazette is 100,000 percent true, and that anyone who implies otherwise is in the pay of Saddam, Martians, Wacko Jacko or all of them together in some League of Ultra Extraordinary Evil.

After all, mainstream newspapers have done a lot more damage with the two words "sources say" than the WWN has. Incidentally, sources say a romance is brewing between the Bat Boy and Condoleeza Rice, and you read it here first.


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From the March 27-April 2, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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