It's 1996. There has been no Natalee Holloway, no Laci Peterson, no Monica. Kosovo hasn't happened, or Sept. 11, or Fallujah or Katrina. No Swift boats. No heck of a job.
There's only little JonBenet Ramsey to seize the nation's fervid imagination. And seize it she does, so thoroughly that 10 years later - when just about almost the only features on the all-news landscape recognizable to our 1996 selves are Israel in Lebanon and the garrulous Fidel Castro - the unexpected turn in her case is like a gift from above for the 24-hour cable networks.
From Thailand, of all places, it comes flooding back, borne by the sophisticated technologies that allow us to eavesdrop on any bit of pathos, anywhere in the world, live.
The slender, self-possessed young man, telling his story to a crush of reporters, takes us back to the days when you could really enjoy the breathless news in all its grisly and voyeuristic and family-destroying grandeur, because it so unabashedly didn't matter. Today's news mostly does matter, drearily.
If only O.J. could finally come up with the guy who killed Nicole, how happy we'd be.