Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dinosaur Trial Begins

The long-awaited trial of Dr. Dino has commenced. The jury has been sworn, the lawyers have delivered their opening statements. Today the evidence begins to pour in.

Angela Fail filed a workman-like story for the Pensacola News Journal. Very Journalism School, very balanced, very fair, very... well, prosaic and boring:
"Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo. Between them, the Hovinds are charged with 58 counts of tax fraud involving their Creation Science Ministry. The ministry includes Dinosaur Adventure Land on North Palafox Street, a creationist theme park dedicated to debunking evolution."
"Dedicated to debunking evolution?" Debunking? Kent Hovind is a mountebank who made millions off the ignorance and fear of an uneducated, timorous public by selling them the hallucinatory notion that the bible proves dinosaurs inhabited the earth at the same time as mankind. He no more 'debunks' evolution than the Wizard of Oz proves monkeys can fly.

Ms. Fail does okay setting up the prosecutor's story:
"Heldmeyer said from 1999 to March 2004, the Hovinds took in more than $5 million. Their income came from amusement-park profits and merchandise -- books, audiotapes and videotapes -- they sold on site and through phone and online orders, she said. About half the money went to employees."
Then she blew it by not reporting the context: what Hovind sells isn't "merchandise" -- it's pure baloney sandwiched between slices of claptrap and bunkum.

Angela! Loosen up, have some fun. More to the point, let us have some fun. Give us the smell of the courtroom, the smirk in the corner of that juror's pursed lips, the sight of the lawyer who takes mincing steps across the courtroom floor like someone whose shoes are too tight.

Wake up, Angela! This could be a career maker for you. Sure, it's a tax fraud case. Sure, you're looking ahead at a string of dreary days while soporous accountants and vapid IRS agents dutifully drone on and on about numbers without end. But your own trial reports shouldn't be equally torpid.

Take a clue from H.L. Mencken's timeless coverage of the Scopes "Monkey Trial." Look behind the curtain. Follow "the squirming and jabbering mass" out to the Hills of Zion. Tell us "to what extreme lengths the salvation of the local primates has been pushed." Let us know if the prosecutor's speech about taxing churches had the same effect as if she "had bawled it up a rainspout in the interior of Afghanistan."

It might not conform to the usual journalism rules. Then again, apparently this isn't the usual kind of case. The defense attorneys already are complaining that when they executed a search warrant "
IRS agents stepped outside their authority... interrogating employees and confiscating records and money."

Holy moley, no! Armed with a court-authorized search warrant, the agents actually "confiscated" potential evidence? How low can they go?

There seems to be enough hokum in this courtroom to fill a museum of natural history -- you know the kind we mean. A museum that shows dinosaurs in their natural habit grazing at the fast food window.

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