Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Pilot Fish

Think about your favorite movie scene centered around a confrontation with a bully. Have you noticed how often writers like to include a little bully-in-training as a companion to the side of beef menacing our hero? He's the guy who's always taunting the protagonist from within the sheltering penumbra of his collosal pal. By the time most writers and actors put a scene like that in the can, the audience isn't thinking much about the bully, who's portrayed more as a force of nature than a character. Nope, they're thinking about pounding the bejeesus out of the little pisspot who thinks he's tough so long as he's got the big guy to back him up.

Once upon a time, one of those pilot fish grew up and became the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and they decided to ingratiate themselves with the bully-in-chief by doing their best to make sure no one saw the faces of the people who died while following the bully's orders.

"Mission Accomplished!" declaimed Sinclair, and then, from the shadow of the friendly bully, the company decided it was a good idea to start taunting the hero of our piece by airing a 42-minute attack ad against John Kerry, called "Stolen Honor".

But the audience, once safely on the other side of the screen, was all grown up, and just waiting to unload a whole can of adult whoop-ass on a target-rich environment. So, first came the boycott, then the uncomfortable questions from the stockholding New York State Controller, then the shareholder action, then their Washington Bureau chief protested, in print, the planned airing of the "documentary", so they had to fire him, all while their stock tumbled for two weeks, erasing about $100,000,000 of market value.

Suddenly, it wasn't about John Kerry anymore. It was about... ummm.. the media! Right, that's it. POW's and the media. That worked! At least the audience with money got off their backs and started buying the stock again.

The moral of our tale? When the pilot fish starts mouthing off, take a swing at him. Maybe the bully will get the picture that on November 2nd, you're thinking about cleaning his clock, too.

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