Surfing the Spectacle

Our Twilight Zone

There are juxtapositions so startling and surreal that we must gaze upon them again and again to grasp what they tell us about our world.

The revelations are rarely pleasant.

Witness the televised chat between a Saudi Executioner and his primetime hosts.


Abdallah Bin Said al-Bishi may be Mecca’s mightiest court-appointed exterminator. He is a manly man. His sword is swift and deadly.

Which makes him a superb guest for anyone’s television show.

But Al-Bishi is not easy to track down. There are limbs to be severed and sinners to be slain. He’s extremely busy with his work.


Television loves busy men.

One can argue that America’s two greatest gifts to the modern world are weapons of mass destruction and the TV talk show format.

The former gets all the attention, but the latter enjoys
equally widespread and lethal employment.


What is the marvel of the modern television interview?

Nothing ever seems incongruous. The exquisite banality of the format
cloaks any sense of creeping insanity.

The interview with Al-Bishi then is hardly different than ones
you’ve seen with Paris Hilton.

Or Donald Rumsfeld.

This show, which first aired on Lebanon’s LBC network in 2006, is an
excellent reminder of how television journalists in the Middle East
possess similar insight and integrity to those in the West.


Their inquiries are deeply philosophical.


As for Al-Bishi, he seems like a nice guy. Family man. Fun at picnics.

But it’s probably best to avoid him when he’s working.


Even though Al-Bishi might be considered dangerous, don’t think these interviewers are afraid of asking tough questions.

Because they’re not. They want to get the story. The real story.


For all of the glamour and fame of Al-Bishi’s position, he is a modest man.

At the end of the day, he says, his work is just like anyone else’s.

Only his job involves ritualistic dismemberment with its expulsion of internal organs, tissues and brain matter, and yours probably doesn’t.

But that’s not part of the show. This show anyway.


He’s just a regular guy with a regular job. On television. Talking.

Television: Modern culture’s greatest instrument for manufacturing the Normal.

[Watch the interview or read the transcript here. Originally caught on Metafilter.
For accounts and explicit images of what men like Al-Bishi actually do
on their jobs, you have only to search the Web. It’s out there.]

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