Friday, July 15, 2005

For Some Reason I'm Reminded of an Old Column...


No single television show, however, was to have more influence on the terrible events to come than Extreme Fascist Makeover, launched in 2007. The appearance of this inspired piece of programming is one of the more unlikely subplots of the American tragedy. It was conceived by a onetime political dissident named Matt Taibbi, whose late conversion to the imperial cause has caused him to be judged very harshly by history; indeed, his very name would become a synonym for "traitor" in languages all across the planet. In his memoir, Why Not? Diary of a Collaborator, published shortly before his execution, he describes the origins of the idea:

I tuned into the news on CNN just after watching an old rerun of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and found myself troubled by the drab appearance of President Bush and his lieutenants as they walked through the ruins of Damascus… It occurred to me at that moment that America was a strapping fascist hunk, straining to get out but trapped in the frumpy wardrobe of a Jeffersonian democracy. And I thought to myself: "There’s a tv show in this."

Through family connections, Taibbi managed to get a proposal into the hands of David Collins, an executive producer for Scout Productions, which had produced the gay-makeover show Queer Eye. Negotiations ensued, and finally Taibbi and Scout convinced the John Birch cable channel to produce a pilot with former congressman and Fox anchorman Joe Scarborough engaged as on-air talent. The first program, a "fascist makeover" of President Bush and the Oval Office, was to have far-reaching policy implications for years to come.


The show was an immediate hit, and subsequent episodes featured makeovers of the U.S. Constitution, Reed College, Cuba and the Sundance Film Festival, among others. In one of the highest-rated and most rebroadcast programs in the history of American television, Extreme Fascist Makeover spent a half-hour tackling the New York Times–and ultimately, in what must seen as a humorous gesture, left it exactly as it had been.