On Monday night's edition of Paula Zahn Now, the top story (promoted throughout the day) was introduced thusly by Zahn prior to breaking for a commercial:
ZAHN: And we move on to the question of whether the crisis in the Middle East is actually a prelude to the end of the world.
But, first, a word from our sponsors. George Carlin parodied this kind of lunacy more than thirty years ago. Today, it’s not part of a comedian’s hyperbolic bit; it’s what passes as news.
Back from the commercial break, Zahn welcomes correspondent Delia Gallagher, whose title sounds ripped off from The Daily Show:
And tonight, faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher is here because the Mideast fighting has many preachers and followers saying that the end is near again.
Faith and values correspondent. It’s official: “real news” and fake news are now nearly indistinguishable. Moreover, what is a faith and values correspondent? It sounds like something Jerry Falwell concocted to justify his appearances on CNN.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: I know. I know it sounds a little far-fetched, Paula, but the fact is I've talked to a lot of believers who say the events that we are seeing were talked about in the Bible and do suggest that perhaps the end is imminent.
I’ve talked to a lot people who think their dogs are human, but should that be a top news story?
Gallagher sets up the segment with the time-honored video and voice-over, interspersed with comments from the Armageddon faithful, including this evangelical preacher:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could get raptured out of this building before I get through finished preaching. We are that close to the coming of the Son of Man.
Well, in that case, screw it. I’m through paying my Con Ed bill.
GALLAGHER: So are we really on the road to Armageddon? Middle East expert and writer of end times fiction Joel Rosenberg has few doubts the rapture is on the way.
I have no doubt that Rosenberg - an evangelical Christian from an Orthodox Jewish background (can I get an oy vey?!) - is a writer of fiction. But Middle East expert? Rosenberg specializes in writing end times fiction. Calling him a Middle East expert is a little like calling a Christian Scientist doctor an authority on antibiotics.
JOEL ROSENBERG, AUTHOR, "THE COPPER SCROLL": You have the rapture, then the rise of the Antichrist, and then a terrible period of seven years of terrible war and famine and plague. This is known as the tribulation. And it's at the end of the tribulation that this massive attack on Israel, known as Armageddon, will happen, and then the second coming of Jesus.
Good times, those end times.
GALLAGHER: While there's no scientific evidence to support a dramatic increase in the number of earthquakes, believers also make accusations of a military alliance they say will play a role in the coming of the end time.
ROSENBERG: Russia and Iran and their Islamic allies will attack Israel, but Israel will not defend itself using military weapons. God is going to supernaturally intervene. We're talking about fire from heaven, we're talking about a massive earthquake, we're talking about disease spreading. It will involve a supernatural judgment that the whole world will watch on CNN.
Did he just plug CNN’s future coverage of Armageddon? Yes, I believe he did. And if “we’re talking about fire from heaven,” “about a massive earthquake” and “about disease spreading,” how exactly would it be possible that “the whole world will watch on CNN”? What rapturous brown-nosing!
Following the next commercial break, Zahn trots out that bastion of Christian love and reason, Reverend Jerry Falwell. His general view?
FALWELL: So the bottom line is, I believe that we ought to be living every day as though this is the crowning day.
Nice wording, reverend.
Ensuring balance, Zahn has also invited the more moderate Kevin Bean of New York’s St. Bartholomew's Church. But what happens when he injects some sanity into the conversation?
BEAN: I think our responsibility is for here and now and I think that any correlation that is made with present war making or other political schemes with the events that could lead to a final day and the second coming of Jesus and the separation of the faithful from the rest is an arrogant identification with these present day events with...
ZAHN: ... Arrogant, you say, and yet the Bible does talk about one-third of the world being wiped out, a world filled with 10-headed beasts, things coming up out of the ocean.
That's no typo. Those aren't Jerry Falwell's words. They're Paula's.
At the top of the program, Zahn covered the day’s events in the ongoing violence between Israel and Hezbollah. Surface-level reportage that touched on Israel’s widening of the war, the flight and despair of Lebanese civilians, Israel’s official response to Sunday’s horrific bombing in Qana, and George and Condi’s “renewed sense of urgency to get a peace deal done.” She could have then sifted through the rhetoric on all sides and explored this crisis within a frame of historical context and current facts on the ground, leaving her audience with a deeper understanding of the complex machinations at work.
Instead, Zahn shamelessly plays upon her audience’s worst fears, while diverting attention from what is happening in the here and now.