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The Onion and South Park Explore the Terror Threat

10/22/2007 12:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tthis was lead story in The Onion last week:

CHICAGO--In what is being called the first conceptual terrorist attack on American soil, the landmark Sears Tower was encased in 18 million tons of strawberry gelatin early Monday morning, leaving thousands shocked, angry, and seriously confused.

....

"I'm no expert, but I know terrorism when I see it," said Kathy Atwood, a Hyde Park mother of four. "Where is the devastating loss of life and massive destruction of infrastructure? This doesn't move me to run for my life at all."

She added: "Real terrorism takes years of training and meticulous planning. My 6-year-old kid can make Jell-O."

South Park, meanwhile, launched an episode arc in which terrorists invade our collective imagination and blow stuff up -- including the barrier separating the nightmarish horrible stuff from everything else. We're waiting to see what's on the other side (warning: violence, gore, death and dismemberment of beloved fictional characters):

Since 9/11, the threat of terrorism has had an outsized grip on our imaginations -- a much bigger one than it has on the reality of daily life, the indignities of airport security notwithstanding. Violent fantasies of the universal caliphate, mandatory burkas at the strip mall, and lately, Iran as Nazi Germany suffuse American political culture, the media, and worse, our strategic policymaking apparatus, which is supposed to be able to coolly evaluate what is actually going in the world -- not in Dick Cheney's head - and act accordingly to protect our security.

Even Tom Friedman is saying now that America went a little nuts after 9/11, that we can't live forever in a 9/12 world. Politicians and pundit's aren't big on self-reflection, so this is where pop culture comes in handy. South Park and The Onion can expose and explore the idea of terrorism as an idea -- which, after all, is what got us into the fix we're in in Iraq and pretty much everywhere else.

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