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Media Person
Fish Got To Walk

July 29, 2002. MediaWeek, pg. 34

IT'S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE IN THE MEDIA HAD THE GUTS TO stand up for an innocent victim who's been smeared, vilified, stereotyped and all but given a pre-emptive death sentence in the worst wave of bigoted tabloid hysteria Media Person has seen, at least since last summer. Of course Media Person is talking about the so-called Frankenfish, aka The Fish From Hell, aka The Pond Shark, aka The Beast That Walks Like a Man, aka Godzilla With Gills, aka The Thing From Beyond the Pond, oka (officially known as) the Chinese northern snakehead fish.

Its flaws exaggerated beyond recognition, its virtues ignored, the snakehead has replaced al Qaeda and Martha Stewart as the most terrifying specters threatening the American public. Not since the glory days of the Killer Bees and the Soviet Union (and whatever became of either of them?) have we seen its like for sheer panic generation.

Fortunately, as you know from long experience, whenever this kind of massive chaos and horror break out, you can always turn to Media Person for the cold facts that will dispel the madness and restore the pure, clear air of calm reason. (No, no, hold your applause; MP's just doing his job.)

So. Let us begin, in the spirit of honest scientific inquiry, to repair the damage.

Rumor: The snakehead is "predatory" and has lots of big teeth.

Fact: So what? We're predatory, and we have lots of big teeth. Did you ever look closely at a photo of Julia Roberts?

Rumor: The snakehead is an attack fish, a monster that devours all other fish species in its vicinity and is a menace to the environment.

Fact: So what? We devour all fish in the vicinity, and we're a menace to the environment. If the environment can survive humans, it can surely handle the snakehead fish. As for the "monster" thing, come on, that's just name-calling. Aren't we mature enough to rise above this kind of childish-insult stuff?.

Rumor: The snakehead eats not only other fish, but also ducks, geese, turtles and small pets who wander near the water.

Fact: OK, that one's true. Hey, nobody's perfect. But if the snakeheads didn't get them, the alligators would, anyway.

Rumor: The snakehead can walk! It sneaks out of slimy ponds in the dark of night and migrates across country, ultimately infesting every river, brook, lake and estuary on the continent. If there is no body of water nearby, it will head for the nearest highway and hitch rides on tractor-trailers, devouring the driver at the end of the journey to eliminate any witnesses.

Fact: It's a fish, for crying out loud, not a kid on roller blades. It has no feet. Sure, the thing can drag itself a couple of yards on its pectoral fins, sort of like Clint Eastwood crawling out of the bar after Gene Hackman kicks the bejesus out of him in Unforgiven, but it's not going to win any Walk for the Cure events. When it does leave the pond, all it's trying to do is better itself, just as our ancestors once did. Yes, it wants to evolve into a higher being! That plucky little snakehead is taking its first halting step up the ladder of economic opportunity and deserves a helping hand, not a stomping foot.

Rumor: It is illegal to buy, sell, grow or smoke snakeheads in most states.

Fact: False! Depends what you mean by "smoke." Actually, smoked snakehead goes very nicely on a bagel with cream cheese.

Rumor: The snakehead was smuggled into this country by Iraqi "sleeper" agents. Once the snakehead population has grown to approximately 18 billion (which it is capable of doing in a few months), the fish will be trained to attack U.S. Coast Guard installations, decimate the nation's lily supply and demoralize our trout fishermen by chewing off their feet.

Fact: Piffle. The snakehead originates in a particularly gentle province of China, where it is prized as a takeout item (since it self-delivers) and is served poached or fried with ginger, scallions, bamboo shoots and Cajun hot sauce. Two of these fish were purchased in New York's Chinatown and tossed into a pond in Crofton, Md., by a local resident because he could no longer feed them after they had each reached a length of approximately 8 feet and a weight of 860 pounds and had eaten his pet mastiff.

Rumor: Snakeheads reproduce with astonishing speed.

Fact: Even though a female snakehead is theoretically capable of hatching as many as 180 fry (as cute little baby fishies are called by those in the know) up to 40 times a year, fishologists say that most do not, as they are concerned with preserving their figures because the male snakefish is attracted only to females with clean, sleek lines. OK, the male snakefish is a pig, but this is true in many species.

Rumor: The town of Crofton, Md., has completely disappeared. The government is covering this up.

Fact: Nonsense. It has been very quiet there lately, but everyone's probably just away on vacation.


Copyright 2002 MediaWeek.

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