GRAVES REGISTRY: Fallon of the Comcast Empire


My wife and I were watching the 6:30 news the other night. For those of you not television oriented (congratulations), that's the program where Brian Williams tells you what happened that day in between soft-focus, new agey hypes for prescription medications.

The commercials must be every doctor's nightmare. A patient can always claim that the drug must work because they saw it on the news, not something frivolous like "How I Met Your Mother." The ratio lately seems to be one piece of actual news for every 3 or 4 drug plugs.

Erectile dysfunction is either a source of particular concern or of unlimited revenue to the NBC news organization. I'm not sure that the effectiveness of the drug developed to combat it is conveyed by the commercial's final image of a man and a woman lounging in separate bathtubs in the middle of a field. I suppose a couple cavorting in the same tub would raise eyebrows at 6:30, even with "Two and a Half Men" and Charlie Sheen's trademark leer airing at 7:30.

Drug use is a hotly discussed topic at the moment. Colorado and Washington State's recent legalization of marijuana has prompted heated debates in bars all across the country. One of the prevalent concerns is over the prospect of a pot smoker getting behind the wheel of a car.

The stampede of commercials make severe inroads in the amount of time that can be devoted to actual news, so I was very surprised that NBC felt the need to devote so much time to the news that Jimmy Fallon was taking over as host of "The Tonight Show." Maybe in the NBC boardroom it was an earth-shaking event, but I can barely manage to stay awake until 10:00 any more.

I like Jimmy Fallon, but his assumption to a position that the network evidently regards to be as lofty as Lord Grantham's on "Downton Abbey" seemed more the province of those entertainment programs like "ET Tonight," where Hallie Berry's wardrobe malfunctions are addressed with the same straight-faced sobriety as the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.

But Fallon holds an exalted place in the NBC (read Comcast) family now and we all know from the "Godfather" movies how important family is. Incidentally, an unofficial survey recently found that responders who actually thought that the proposed acquisition of Time Warner cable by Comcast portends good news for the American consumer were either shareholders, Miley Cyrus fans, or people who claim to have been abducted by space aliens at least once.

It's a shame that NBC's decision to promote its own best interests didn't reflect a sudden drought of news worthy stories from other sources. Unfortunately, that never seems to be the case.

In Florida, one of those peculiar juries that the state is noted for assembling decided that emptying a handgun into a car constitutes attempted murder upon its three young occupants, but the fact that the shooter succeeded in killing one of them leaves reasonable doubt as to the charge of murder. Maybe Dr. Seuss could explain the logic at work here.

The three victims of the brutal assault were -- dare I say "of course" -- young black men and the killer was a very angry white guy who didn't like the loud rap music that they were playing. Keep in mind that the protagonists here are three teenagers, going through a stage in life that is often characterized by a rebellion against authority figures, frequent general obnoxiousness, and a fondness for loud music and a 47-year-old software engineer, who could have assumed the adult role in this tragedy. Instead Michael Dunn opted to get a handgun out of his glove compartment and empty it into the offending SUV, fatally wounding 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Dunn and his girlfriend then went back to their motel and ordered pizza. (Honest.) While Davis was dying, his killer was walking his dog. If he was concerned at all that he might have actually hurt someone, I'm sure Dunn figured he could offer up Florida's tried and tested Stand Your Ground law for justification, the one that was so effective when a cop-wannabe named George Zimmerman killed another black teenager.

Dunn's story was that he thought he saw a shotgun or maybe a lethal pipe sticking out of one of the SUV's windows. No weapons of any kind were found in the teen's vehicle. Mr. Dunn's girlfriend testified that he didn't say anything to her about seeing a gun on the evening of the killing. Alternating between tears and clichéd catch phrases (he sensed " a clear and present danger") on the witness stand, Dunn insisted that he was justified in killing the young man.

"Oh my God, where is all this hostility coming from?" he recalled thinking. Michael Dunn faces a 60-year prison sentence for three counts of attempted murder. But I doubt that he'll ever look deeply enough into himself to figure out the real origins of the hostility.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.


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