Earlier this week,
MU senior Mike Hall
won a year job as an ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor by winning the reality TV show “Dream Job.” Hall’s improbable victory got us thinking about reality.
Despite watching copious amounts of reality TV, we’re more confused than ever about what’s real. With entertainment shaping reality, Sockdolager salutes those who appear
in a few unscripted
Friday, April 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Glimpses of reality

Is there a more overused and utterly meaningless word today than “reality”? Reality used to refer to spontaneous events that were beyond the control of spinmeisters. Now reality’s become the new irony, both figuratively and literally. And reality is far from dead. In fact, it’s being used brilliantly to hawk the most staged and wholly unrealistic situations ever to be presented on the small screen.

This may all seem like harmless voyeuristic fun, but the faux reality being presented on television seems to be gradually seeping into every aspect of American society. Take the recent revelation that the Department of Health and Human Services has been distributing “news” videos anchored by fake reporters to promote the new Medicare prescription drug benefit bill. To paraphrase an idea from our good friend Bill O’Reilly, the reality television craze is helping turn the country into one giant spin zone.

But it appears not all is lost. Last week, Sockdolager caught two flickers of hope that maybe the country hasn’t been put on permanent spin cycle.

One came during former presidential aide Richard Clarke’s public testimony before the Sept. 11 commission. At one point, a commission member began grilling Clarke about apparent contradictions between his new book and public statements he made in 2002 regarding the Bush administration’s efforts to combat terrorism. The commission member couldn’t see how, morally, Clarke could take both positions. Clarke explained that the variance had nothing to do with morality — it was just politics. He had been putting the best face on things for the president. His answer drew applause from the audience, many of whom were relatives of Sept. 11 victims.

That same day, lawyer Michael Newdow was appearing before the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Upon being asked by Chief Justice William Rehnquist how the inclusion of “under God” could be considered divisive when a unanimous Congress added the words in 1954, Newdow responded: “That’s only because no atheists can be elected to office.” Some members of the audience broke out in applause, forcing Rehnquist to threaten them with expulsion.

Now, you may think Clarke a traitor and Newdow a godless fool, but the point is that these folks injected what some people felt was a dose of reality into situations that those same people felt had become totally unhinged from reality. No matter your politics, you’ve probably noticed that such instances have become far too infrequent these days.

By David Bracken

Reality Check

See if you can identify the real answers from the pretenders.

1) The new MU basketball arena is being named Paige Sports Arena in honor of:

a) All babies named Paige, the 49th most popular baby name in 2002, according to the Social Security Administration.

b) U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who recently compared the National Education Association to a “terrorist organization.”

c) Paige Laurie, the 22-year-old daughter of Nancy and Bill Laurie, who donated $25 million toward the arena. Paige Laurie has never been enrolled at MU.

d) Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest baseball pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues.

2) The proposed 7.5 percent increase in UM system tuition is needed to pay for:

a) A new basketball arena once the Paige Sports Arena becomes outdated.

b) Reduced state appropriations and increased costs of operations due to inflation.

c) A new marketing campaign designed to raise Mizzou’s profile among Kansas students.

d) Fighting lawsuits associated with the UM system’s desire to deny information to nosy journalists.

3) Missouri House Bill 983, which proposes to make it a Class A misdemeanor to be under the influence of a controlled substance, is designed to close what “loophole”?

a) The Fourth Amendment.

b) One that prohibits police from performing on-the-spot drug tests.

c) One that prohibits police from arresting people who have the munchies.

d) One that prohibits police from charging someone with a drug violation without physical evidence.

4) Donald Trump recently had this to say about Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts laboring under nearly $2 billion in bond debt:

a) “This has nothing to do with me. This has to do with a company in which I’m a major shareholder.”

b) “I take full responsibility.”

c) “I don’t have time for such trivial concerns. I’m a reality television star.”

d) “Can you please just ask me about my hair?”

5) A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that some Wall Street analysts and investors are upset with retailer Costco because:

a) The company treats its employees too well at the expense of its shareholders.

b) Its executives were failing to take advantage of the company’s overly generous corporate perks.

c) The company is in danger of giving credence to the idea that happy employees make for happy customers.

d) It’s making Wal-Mart look bad.

Answers: 1. c 2. b 3. d 4. a 5. a

Sockdolager firmly believes life is a state of mind.

Send your comments on reality for publication to the Missourian or e-mail us at

Sockdolager Staff

David Bracken, Josh Eiserike, Reed Fischer, Tom Porto, Xinning Huang

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