Solomon: Halloween Could Use Some Real Scary Faces
If you're still considering ideas for a Halloween costume that might scare the daylights out of friends and neighbors, here's a suggestion: Why not dress up as a prominent symbol of a modern industry that many folks find horrifying?Polls consistently show that the public has a very dim view of "the media." Every day, Americans are aghast when they turn on a television or look at a magazine rack.So, in keeping with the trick-or-treat spirit of Halloween, here are some characters suitable for a truly frightening masquerade. Imagine if your neighbor answered a knock at the front door and discovered:* A local TV news anchor.Talk about a sight to make one's blood run cold! Usually, the local news on the tube is not for the faint of heart. The informal slogan in many TV newsrooms is: "If it bleeds, it leads." That's an appropriate motto for a den of vampires and ghouls.* An actor on often-repeated TV commercials.To pull this one off, paste an idiotic grin on your mouth. Tape your eyes shut with dollar signs. And keep opening your wallet.* A pontificating pundit.Wear a bow tie and pretend you're George Will on ABC's "This Week" program. (A tilt of the nose, pointed high in the air, would make your portrayal more convincing.) Repeat the conventional blather with an erudite tone and you can impersonate a regular on the PBS "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" show. Keep reciting narrow-minded cliches at high decibels and you might pass as a star of the shoutfest known as "The McLaughlin Group."* A host of daytime trash television.Jenny Jones. Or Ricki Lake. Or Jerry Springer. Or Geraldo Rivera.Help!* A one-armed hatchet man.To personify the bombastic commentator holding forth on national television, you could don a Pat Buchanan or Robert Novak mask. The costume should have only a right arm. Instead of a left arm, display just a bloodied stump.* Al Bundy from "Married ... With Children."If you find a mask with a good likeness, you're apt to elicit quite a few screams.* The TV lawyer.A Perry Mason get-up is a poor bet to make anyone's hair stand on end. What you need is a disguise that bears a resemblance to, say, Alan Dershowitz -- an attorney who prefers rich, famous (and often creepy) clients and seems to spend more time in broadcast studios than courtrooms.* The supermarket tabloid.It's difficult to exude sleaziness in the mode of the National Enquirer. (Some lurid headlines across your chest might help.) But if you accomplish the feat, you'd be surprised how many people thumb through your pages and then slip you into their shopping cart.* A lottery ticket.At first glance, this may not appear to be a media product. But in every region of the country, lotteries thrive on media hype -- mostly in the form of ads bought by the state government's gambling operation. To get the ambience just right, put on a lotto mask and walk around with pockets turned inside out.A few cautionary notes:Don't try to resemble Newsweek columnist Meg Greenfield. You can't scare people if you put them to sleep first.Avoid wearing masks that look like Dan Rather, Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw. We ought to be frightened by the glitzy anchors dispensing nightly news on the networks, but we're much more likely to ask for autographs.And don't dress up as Bill Gates. It's okay to startle people. But let's not cause any heart attacks.Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His book "Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News" (co-authored with Jeff Cohen) was recently published by Common Courage Press.