March 16 - March 22, 1995


Alien Star

By Jeff Smith

I DON'T MEAN to sound like an alarmist, but the local media have been taken over by aliens.

I'm not talking aliens as in wetbacks, or even canvasbacks flown south from the land of the RCMP, but actual for-real space aliens in humanoid form. I don't know where they're from, but I can tell you where a bunch of them are hiding out.

Try the editorial department of The Arizona Daily Star.

Somebody in there--not all of them, because I've know Tom Beal from way back when, and he's got so many endearing human failings that he couldn't be imitated, duplicated or cloned by an alien life-form, no matter how sentient--is masquerading as an English-speaking homo sapiens.

And whoever it is has sufficient mastery of the politics of personal power amongst the upright apes that he or she (or it) is able to direct the editorial policies of the Star by writing almost all of the editorials.

I alluded to this disquieting development once before in this space, but at the time I had not yet discovered all the terrifying facts. Certain subsequent disclosures, seemingly unrelated and emanating from locales as far away and foreign as the Far East, have revealed the awful truth: THEY'RE EVERYWHERE.

Initially I began to notice a certain oddness of language usage and construction in the Star's editorial column. I jokingly observed that perhaps the writer was someone not native to the English tongue. Other literate men and women of my acquaintance concurred that the uses of metaphor and simile in the Star editorials, and the relentless flood of adjectives--three to a noun, without fail, and likewise without much relationship to those nouns they modified--bespoke a writer who perhaps had majored in English as a second language at, say, Oral Roberts University. It wasn't until an American military helicopter was shot down over North Korea that I recognized these strenuously overworked linguistic exercises for what they are: alien thought-processes loosely translated into English.

Remember the letter of "confession" from the surviving member of the helicopter crew, addressed to the U.S. government and carbon copied to the entire world, expressing the crewman's contrition for his dastardly deeds of invasion and espionage, and his abject apologies to the wronged and innocent North Korean people? Do you recall thinking, as I did, that no American fighting man in such a situation would suck up to a bunch of foreign loonies in such a groveling manner? Remember reading the letter and just knowing the American never wrote it?

The confession had the unmistakable ring of one of those early instruction manuals for assembly of a Japanese tricycle, or the operation of a first-generation Nikon camera: "Wheels are being situated among forking blades lug holding by not-too-tightening boltnuts."

For the briefest instant I thought, "Holy mackerel--the North Koreans have invaded 4850 S. Park Ave.!" But then I got a grip and realized that even with all the copies of Roget's Thesaurus lying around the Star Editorial Department, a bunch of North Koreans would have a tough time making their prose sound quite this close to idiomatic English. No, the hand of some more highly evolved species is discernible here. And an alien mind that has conquered space and time, overrun the moribund intellect of a once-vigorous and vibrant editorial page, but cannot master the simple, declarative sentence. I submit in evidence the following passages from recent Star editorials:

"Diversity is crashing, as meanwhile a great nation watches whole shimmering webs of life pass from sight and vanish forever."


Or from the same day:

"The governor's bill probably is the fairest because, at least, it would reduce everyone's state income tax mostly on income level."

What does that mean?

And what does this mean:

"Opponents of federal habitat protection ought to pause longest over such conclusions, if only for a moment to face honestly the results of a history of subdivision and clear-cutting, monoculture and water-mining. But so, too, should all Americans think long and hard this spring about the enormity that American life has perpetrated on the life of the American continent."

I'm not quite clear about what the writer is getting at, but I think I hate it when that happens. I mean when life perpetrates an enormity on life. Don't you?

Now in the interests of full-disclosure I must divulge that I once was an editorial writer at The Arizona Daily Star, and though the decision to leave the Star's employ was my own, there probably is a soupcon of spite in my criticism. Their essays never could match the eloquence of my own editorial rantings. And truth to tell, the good old days weren't always that great. I remember when David F. Brinegar was the Star's chief editorial writer, and headlined better than 50 percent of his editorials: "A Good Choice."

I also remember when the Star ran, with straight face and excruciating earnestness, an editorial under the headline: "Stop Vegetables That Kill."

Still, I think it a fair assessment of the current policies and staff of the Star editorial department to say that better days have been seen. Left unsaid in all of this is the most important question: Given that space aliens have taken over the Star's editorial page, what do they intend to do with it? What is their agenda? Or, to define the issue purely in journalistic terms:

Do these Tralfamadorians have an editorial policy, and if so, what is it?

The obvious and simple answer is sure they do and it's the usual knee-jerk liberalism. But that's too simple and obvious. And too easily shot full of holes. If the aliens writing the Star editorials really believed in liberal causes, would they couch their policies in such flaccid, flatulent prose?

I think not. Even a "See Spot run" command of the language could carry the freight of liberal argument a whole lot more effectively than the Star manages. I see a hidden conservative agenda behind this. Talk like a liberal and act like an invertebrate putz and keep everybody wondering what in the hell you're trying to say, and even Rush Limbaugh begins to sound smart.

Who, by the way, is not from another planet. Rush Limbaugh, the ego and the girth are your clues, is another planet. He may even be the wizard behind the curtain at The Arizona Daily Star.

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March 16 - March 22, 1995

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