CYBERSPACE—Please tell us this is not the new editorial paradigm we can expect to see from now on from AOL/Huffington. Please, God?
Writing about the widely-reported story of a man who ran from a San Francisco porn shop yesterday engulfed in flames, AOL crime journalist David Lohr (or his editor) penned the following headline today: "A Sign? Man Bursts Into Flames at San Francisco Sex Shop."
It would have to be a joke headline, right? A cynical play on some vague biblical allusion to burning, maybe bush, maybe something beyond our feeble capacity to hear that only dogs would find funny?
Possibly, but then why would the story open with a quote from a local pastor who’s tried for years to close down local sex shops? “Could this bizarre incident be attributed to a higher power?” Pastor Roget Huang is asked.
“I believe so," answers Huang. "I definitely believe so.” He does not sound in on the joke. Neither does Lohr.
“The police aren't ruling anything out,” he writes, channeling Raymond Chandler.
The police lieutenant agrees. "We don't know what caused it," says SFPD Lt. Troy Dangerfield. "It's still under investigation."
The plot thickens. A call is made to the sex shop from which the man ran Thursday, so engulfed in flames that he remains in critical condition with first-, second- and third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body. A man answers the phone and declines to discuss the incident. (Emphasis added)
"I don't know nothing about it," he says, leaving his grammar in a pool of piss on the floor.
The cop, meanwhile, says an investigation by the San Francisco Fire Department is ongoing.
“Talmadge said a fire investigator is still looking into the case,” reports Lohr. “Oddly, she said authorities have found ‘no damage to the inside of the building at all.’”
That is odd, very odd. A female police lieutenant named Troy? Even in San Francisco, that has to be considered stranger than fiction, maybe even the doing of…
"I don't know if you believe in prayer," Huang tells AOL News, "but ... the last seven years, every August, I go to every store and pray that it [will] be closed down. We have had seven or eight that have been closed down ever since."
That pretty much nailed the case shut right there. And where was the old media while crime reporter David Lohr was getting the scoop from the pastor? The San Francisco Examiner was off on a wild goose chase, of course. Beating a dead horse even more dead, they spoke with the porn shop manager, who totally discounted the possibility that a higher power had targeted his patron, and instead told the Examiner he suspected the man may have been doing drugs in the back viewing booth.
"I would describe it as a Richard Pryor sort of incident," he said, referring to the infamous 1980 report of Pryor setting himself on fire while smoking crack and running down the street screaming for help before the fire was put out.
Hopefully, the man survives to clear up the mystery, because it's likely the porn store manager does not believe in prayer and cannot even comprehend that something more divinely inspired had intervened in the burning man’s perverted plans. But how could he believe in prayer or God? He works in a porn shop!
Some other questions come to mind. Did God also weigh in on the AOL-Huffington Post deal? If so, does s/he have an opinion on the Huffington Post lawsuit by a former HP blogger peeved about the $320 million sell-out that left thousands of gullible contributors like him in the dust?
If so, the AOL/HP staff might want to keep a few fire extinguishers handy while Arianna is in the vicinity. She’s due to combust.