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Thursday, June 25, 2009

A fly in the appointment

Some are calling him a Ninja Warrior. He is also being compared to Mr Miyagi, the wizened martial arts instructor in Karate Kid, adept at catching a fly with chopsticks.

The video of his latest feat has made him the hottest star on You-Tube, a conversation point on TV shows, generated thousands of newspaper and Internet commentaries, and hauled him back to the top of the standings for stand-up comedians.

What did President Obama do to earn all these accolades? No, it was not his election victory. That is history. He did not annihilate al Qaeda, bring peace to the Middle East, tame Iran and North Korea, solve the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, or fix the global economic crisis.

The President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America’s Armed Forces swatted a fly!

So what’s the big deal? I have several times killed seven with one blow. But then where I come from, flies move in swarms. One does not have to be particularly adept, gifted with superior hand-eye co-ordination, or equipped with a laser targeting device.

Visit my local nyama choma joint, and you will build up an appetite by swatting away the hordes of flying pests that want to share your meal. And here we are talking, not just about the common housefly that provoked the most powerful man in the world, but the larger, meaner fluorescent green monsters that specialise in landing straight on your food after paying a visit to the toilet. Since one does not ordinarily carry a can of Doom around, it is plain hands or a rolled up newspaper employed with less than perfect results, to shoo away or splatter the flies competing for your hard-earned lunch.

At those times, dozens of flies will fall victim to the fatal blows, but you will not earn a single centimetre in the local newspaper. If you are the president of the United States, however, and the violent confrontation with an intrusive fly happens before television cameras, a media blitzkrieg is assured.

During the Q&A session with John Harwood, Obama was distracted by the fly and after swatting it said : “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? I got the sucker.”

A week has passed by since the fateful encounter, and the interest has not dried up. An entire industry has sprung up around spoof videos of Obama the Fly Killer now dominating YouTube.

Scientific studies on why it is so difficult to catch a fly have suddenly found renewed interest; a piece on BBC Online on the best way to catch a fly has generated massive reader response; an animal welfare group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has received complaints about the presidential execution of an innocent fly, and responded by sending President Obama a device for catching flies so they can be released outside unharmed.

Our brother Obama probably never imagined the sort of buzz he would generate by pausing during a televised interview to display lightning-fast reflexes and smash a fly that foolishly landed on his arm. Then he carried on as of nothing had happened, and on his way out of the studio displayed another side of his character by, most unpresidential, bending down to pick up the corpse and carrying it out in tissue paper to a final resting place. The guy may be coated in Teflon but some of the things that happen to him are just too good to be true.

Which is why I am persuaded it was all a set-up by the most media-savvy president in US history.

How a housefly would sneak its way right into the US capitol, make its way through sealed and fortified windows and right into an air-conditioned television studio at the precise moment the president of the US is live is beyond belief.

Since I’ve never heard of a fly that can be trained to perch on the president’s arm on cue, the only conclusion I can reach is that it was a not a fly at all, but a drone.

Read up on technological advances in the US military, and you will learn a lot about pilotless, remote-controlled drones that can be dispatched to fire bullets, take pictures and direct bombs. Combine that with nano-technology, and hey presto! A fly is dispatched to be swatted by the US president on TV.

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