While Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden is taking a much-deserved vacation in Peru, I skipped town myself last weekend and headed for the less exotic Hot Springs, Arkansas. As I was making my way west late Friday morning, a news report came on the radio announcing that a truck had spilled its load along I-40 near Conway, a mishap that would eventually cause a 20-mile backup. About an hour later, I heard another report on the wreck that included one small detail: pig entrails.
According to a story in Saturday's Arkansas Democrat Gazette, an unidentified pedestrian had stepped onto the interstate to retrieve a bag. The driver of the pig-entrails-bearing tractor trailer stepped on the brakes and rear-ended a car. The truck jackknifed and then spilled its guts along 100 feet of highway that was nice and hot on this 90-degree-plus day.
Initially, I thought the part about the entrails was a hoax. Too fantastic. Perhaps, I thought, it was a wiseguy deejay having fun on a Friday.
I'm an avid listener of the radio, particularly AM talk radio, but I often find myself wondering if what's being said is even true. Is there really a project afoot by the Chinese to build a non-government-regulated highway through the middle of the United States?
There've been some rumblings — and a lot of outraged squeaking from conservative talk-show hosts and bloggers — that the Democrats want to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine, a long-defunct FCC regulation that would require balance when presenting controversial views. Last week, the House of Representatives voted to bar the FCC from using federal funds to impose the regulation. I see this less as a victory for freedom of expression and more as much ado about nothing. It's hard to believe that the FCC is powerful enough to put a muzzle on someone like Rush Limbaugh while contending with the companies that make a ton of money from his show. And heaven forbid if the Fairness Doctrine were effective. Do we really want to make Limbaugh a free-speech martyr?
So back to those entrails — a true story and also fantastic. A backhoe was used to pick up the bigger pig parts and a chemical was used to make the blood congeal for easier scooping.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...