A many syllabled thing

Russell Baker

June 11, 1991|By Russell Baker

WHAT WE are up against is nothing less than the ization of the whole world. The full extent of the threat didn't strike me until I heard of Lebanonization. That was a few weeks ago. Diplomats were saying it would be dreadful to allow the Lebanonization of Iraq.

"Of Iraq?" I cried. "If you ask me, the Lebanonization of anything would be unspeakable, not to mention unpronounceable."

It wasn't quite unpronounceable, however. After practicing a few days by shouting it at a raging sea with my mouth full of pebbles, I could say it quite clearly, and did say it to some young people who wanted to use my car to go get six-packs.

They weren't going to get away with the Lebanonization of my car just because they wanted a few six-packs, I said, and quite clearly too.

If I had been thinking as clearly as I was pronouncing, of course, I would have realized that their request threatened the car not with Lebanonization, but with six-packization. Or should I say that such should have been my realization?

See how the thing has begun to take control of me? After Lebanonization, I began keeping a lookout for symptoms of spreading infestation.

Imagine my alarm when I opened the Washington Post one day to find that "Kitty Kelleyization" seemed to have struck. And in the media, too!

I had been dozing away in the usual sort of Washington story. A senator was accused of passing an adulterous evening in New York long ago, the whole business now resurrected by well-poisoners, I gathered, to damage his career.

They constantly do this sort of thing to each other down there. It's to show they all have "fire in the belly," or some such childishness.

It's how they prove they really do want to be president, believe it or not, and spend the best years of their lives hemmed in by heavily armed guards.

Anyhow I was dozing along in this dim tale, which had become so thin that the Post was now writing about how the story was being covered -- which is to say, the Post was writing about how the Post was writing about it -- when the following passage made my hair stand straight up:

" . . . are these salacious tales simply another example of the Kitty Kelleyization of the media?" asked the reporter. As an old reporter, I hate for people to call my trade "the media," but it's too late to scream about it. The business has now suffered what will probably soon be called "mediaization," though it isn't yet. I don't know why.

Maybe it's because Americans lack the sensual Mediterranean delight in the beauty of vowels, so fear trying to say "mediaization," with all those juicy vowels, especially the three in the middle.

Personally, I always suspected the news business would go downhill fast once we were forced to submit to mediaization, but I never expected to see the day when we would be afflicted by Kitty Kelleyization.

I used to think the whole ization attack would fade after it reached "politicization," just as the Turks' invasion of Europe had fallen back after they reached the gates of Vienna and confronted the heavy implications of all those Strauss waltzes and pastry mit schlag.

In the same way, I thought, the armies of ization would be driven back by a humanity maddened by saying "politicization." How wrong I was. Ization is mightier than the Turks.

Proof? Politicization flourishes even under the nose of the editor of the New York Times. Has this once stern master, enfeebled perhaps by mediaization, enfevered by Kitty Kelleyization, become too weak to resist ization's march? Consider this on his op-ed page recently:

"The politicization of the movement is based on an understanding that most men are increasingly victimized." Aha! You suspect a little victimization may be just around the corner, eh? How right you are. Scarcely a person is still alive who can pass through the eye of a needle without complaining about victimization.

What did the human race have to lament before politicization helped us see the ubiquity of victimization? By which, of course, I mean the ubiquitization of victimization. At least I think that's what I mean. Could I be a victim of Kitty Kelleyization?

Russell Baker is a columnist for the New York Times.

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