Renowned metallurgist Rosie O'Donnell proclaimed on TV on Thursday that Sept. 11, 2001, was a more significant date than most of us realized. It was, in her words, "the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel."
This, of course, came as news to steelworkers, welders, blacksmiths, firefighters, manufacturers of samurai swords and other fools who hadn't realized that steel is forged in magic furnaces using dragon breath and pixie dust.
O'Donnell made this and other profoundly stupid comments on the daytime talk show "The View," ABC's update of the ancient practice of women chattering around the village well.
The former "queen of nice" seems to think that the show is the perfect venue to audition for grand marshal of the next tinfoil hat parade. If you visit O'Donnell's Web site (www.rosie.com), you'll find her application's supporting materials: all sorts of unadulterated moonbattery presented in the Esperanto of global derangement - a form of instant-message-style free verse. For example, she writes about the British sailors and marines held prisoner in Iran:
the british did it on purpose
into iranian waters
US MILITARY BUILD UP ON THE IRANIAN BORDER
we will be in iran
come on people
u have 2 c
i know u can
You may be unfamiliar with such psych-ward stylings, but I get e-mail written like this all the time. Perhaps if you believe the jackbooted thugs are at your door, it's reasonable to think you don't have time to spell out your words.
Anyway, in last week's rant, O'Donnell focused on World Trade Center Building 7, which has become the grassy knoll for 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Asked if the government was responsible for its collapse, she coyly replied that she didn't know, wink, wink. All she knows is that it's "impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved" and that, for the "first time in history, steel was melted by fire." Wink, wink, again. For the record, fire can melt steel, and buildings collapse when heat weakens steel. But that misses the point. The point is we shouldn't have to argue with crazy people.
Still, not even the heat of ridicule can weaken O'Donnell's steely resolve to make an idiot of herself.
That's fine. Normally we expect such outbursts from the poor souls who rage against unseen threats at bus stations and public libraries. But even the rich and famous have a right to mutter inanities, shout non sequiturs or shriek possum recipes.
But ABC isn't obliged to give O'Donnell a nationally televised platform. Barbara Walters, the matriarch of "The View" and its executive producer, is supposed to be a titan of American journalism. She has all the awards any broadcast journalist could ever want. But today she knowingly gives a soapbox to a wacko.
Walters and ABC no doubt will seek comfort in any number of rationalizations, from gooey platitudes about free speech to the glories of diverse opinion to the fundamental unseriousness of Cafe Vienna-moment television. And yes, human train wrecks make for good ratings - which is why O'Donnell may get her desired $40 million when she shops for a new contract.
Granted, "The View" isn't "60 Minutes," so why should we care if the girl talk gets a little silly? After all, Walters has spent much of her career muddying the distinction between entertainment and hard news, what with her saccharine "What kind of tree would you be?" interviews.
Yet there is a difference between taking silly topics seriously and being silly about serious stuff. When you discuss hair-care products or lavish weddings, the subject telegraphs its own triviality. Walters may risk her journalistic reputation jibber-jabbering about such things, but that ship sailed long ago. It's another thing entirely when ABC's most venerated on-air journalist gives a megaphone to someone who frets that poor Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was railroaded, who insinuates that the U.S. government had a hand in 9/11, and who insists Elvis Presley is alive and living on an island with Bruce Lee. (OK, I made that last one up.)
But so far, O'Donnell has gotten a pass because she isn't a mere wacko but a left-wing wacko. If O'Donnell sounded like Pat Robertson, the network would call in the butterfly net right quick. But because O'Donnell's crazy accusations are directed rightward at that evil George W. Bush, it's considered forgivable excess.
So come on, ABC. For your own credibility, send her someplace where she won't be a harm to herself or anybody else, someplace with rubber sporks.
u have 2 c
i know u can.