Off Limits

"We have just had 11,000 Kiwanians from all over the world in our town. We filled the Colorado Convention Center and also used Currigan Hall. Our members filled the restaurants," says Reda Walsh, president of the Kiwanis Club of Englewood, reading from an e-mail she sent "in frustration" to Post editorial-page editor Sue O'Brien, which was published in the paper's letters section on June 25. "Here's one that really ticks me: The president of Morton Salt Company was here and presented a check for $1,025,000 to Kiwanis in our joint efforts to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders around the world"--but there was no mention of that in the local news. (Although the Post interviewed spokesman Roger Moore, the piece focused on the former James Bond's opinions of Austin Powers, not his work publicizing the iodine-disorder campaign--much less the Kiwanis convention.)

"It just blew us all away," Walsh says. "Had we known we wouldn't have had any publicity whatsoever, we would have marched into TV channels and newspapers, and we would have phoned them and been on their backs. We kept thinking each day, surely there will be something. Finally, my letter to the Denver Post editorial page was the only thing. I think there were two short paragraphs in the Rocky Mountain News about memorial plaques that were given to Dave Sanders's widow and the husband of the teacher who died in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but they didn't even mention that the convention was in Denver. It was unbelievable."

The Kiwanians might have done well to storm Channel 9 on Wednesday, June 23. The news director obviously was desperate for stories that day, since the station aired Heidi Hemmat's insipid piece on Westword's June 17 "Nuts" cartoon. The story centered on a protest held that afternoon by precisely two people--Ron Aigner and Steve Schweitzberger--at the Columbine Library, where Aigner began shouting that Westword must go ("devil shit," he later called the paper) after he spotted a lone News reporter there on a different assignment. Although Hemmat wasn't in attendance, that didn't stop her from filing a report.

"What happened at Columbine was so horrible, so shocking," Hemmat told her 10 p.m. audience, "that more than two months later, it still makes headlines." But that's only because certain media outlets keep dredging up any excuse to run something, anything, Columbine-related. Hemmat's report, for example, paired dramatic April 20 footage of SWAT teams and Columbine students fleeing the school with an interview with Schweitzberger, comments from Schweitzberger's eleven-year-old daughter, and the opinion of a passerby after the cartoon was thrust in her face.

Hemmat reported that Mike Wartella's cartoon featured a teenage boy waving a sawed-off shotgun and proclaiming "Sell your soul to evil"; Schweitzberger (whose Columbine cross campaign made Kenny Be's Worst-Case Scenario in the same issue) pointed out that "Nuts" contained a picture of a propane-tank bomb like the one that didn't go off in the school cafeteria.

True enough, but any non-hysterical reading of the cartoon also revealed that the boy who supposedly represented Evil was wearing a shirt with a Gap Gothics logo (and any fourth-grader worth her Gummi Bears knows that the Gap doesn't make goth clothing). This was a cartoon, for pity's sake, that showed the Snap, Crackle and Pop characters saying "Kill" "Your" "Mommy!"

Snap, Crackle and Pop characters don't really advise kids to kill their mothers. In fact, Kellogg's Rice Krispies don't actually say "snap, crackle, pop." Instead, the Snap, Crackle and Pop characters were invented to sell cereal to kids--and that was precisely Wartella's point: Kids are victims both of ad campaigns created by adults that attempt to sell them products without any consideration for their well-being and of adults who turn around and blame those same kids for the supposedly "evil" culture they live in.

Granted, Wartella's idea--that violent images and insatiable material desires are "America's Greatest By-Product"--is a sophisticated one. But unlike Channel 9, which assumed viewers were stupid enough to fall for its ridiculous excuse to use that dramatic footage one more time, Westword gives its readers credit for being smart enough to grasp sophisticated ideas.

After watching Channel 9's report, Wartella drew his response. Viewer discretion advised: The cartoon on this page requires a thinking cap.

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