Best of Fish & Bicycles: “Late Night War”

Originally Published: January 15, 2010


wordsAdvice I’ve given my son at soccer games:

You gotta fight for the ball!

We all do it. Metaphors and idioms date back to ancient civilizations, and without figurative expression there’d be no good art, literature, or music.

I almost hesitate to add to the din about the Leno-O’Brien-NBC conflict, but I just couldn’t stand to stay silent about how over-the-top the violence metaphors have become in the coverage of this story.

Headline #1:

A war? Really?!

Headline #2, with lede:

    Kimmel slays Leno

    The bloodbath shows no signs of abating — and the breakout supporting star in the Leno-Conan war is shaping up to be Jimmy Kimmel. After doing a viciously dead-on Leno impersonation on his own late-night ABC show earlier this week, Kimmel appeared on Leno last night and really let rip…

The latter article continues:

    It’s one thing to make sport of the other guys on your own turf. But Kimmel, bless him, fired his missiles directly on Leno and his viewers on Leno’s own show. This is the late-night equivalent of wearing a Yankees t-shirt in Fenway Park — a feat of insane heroism.

Again, we all do it. It’s embedded in our language and our competitive culture.

I just find it painful to read this hyperbolic dramatization about something so trivial, when literal wars, and disasters like the Haitian earthquake, have wrought very real death and destruction.

How, I wonder, does the family of a soldier or civilian killed in Iraq or Afghanistan feel when journalists refer to the conflict at NBC as a war? How does a Haitian American feel, who doesn’t know if their relatives in Haiti are dead or alive, a person counting on rescue workers for some real heroism, when a verbal dispute between a bunch of millionaires is referred to as a bloodbath?

A lot of people, especially politicians, like to say that 9/11 changed America, and in many ways it has. But you’d think that when unspeakable murder and destruction hit home on that day, we might, as a nation, from that day forward, think it odd when the same language used to describe 9/11 is used to describe TV trivialities.

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