Why don’t we borrow from the example of

and take a handful of society’s most annoying and irritating individuals and just plunk them down on some tiny radioactive island somewhere out there, say, in the Bikini Atoll, tickticktickticktick, and, then, after we set up the video cameras and have allowed these creeps to scope each other out, sniff each other’s pheromones, vibe each other’s status, prestige, reputation, comparative fame and Stock Market holdings, then — and only then — would we release an army of starving, excuse me, nutritionally impoverished Red Ants on this teensy little island and let them wend their way to a picnic nonpareil, nibbling the annoying ones to death.

Nah, let’s ditch the island, it’s overdone. Instead, we’ll use the Roman

that great amphitheatre recently refurbished and reopened after being dark for 1,500 years. Hopefully, it won’t still be booked with reruns of that dreary classical Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex” they can’t quite seem to get right. As fallback, we could hold our spectacle at Trump’s Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. The plan: our irritating, annoying coterie can talk themselves and each other into oblivion, an epic version of brilliant sci-fi author

Douglas Adams’
sly literary torture, administering death by bad poetry. I love the idea of the Coliseum, ancient site for those bloody battles between gladiators and wild beasts. After all, Catholic tradition claims the huge arena — completed under Emperor Tiberius in 80 AD — as a shrine where Christian martyrs were fed to the lions while crowds of 75,000 cheered. Sure, some historians dispute this scenario of men being slaughtered while throngs watched, but I guess they never really had to deal with network TV Sweeps Week.

What triggered this whole line of thinking was O.J. Simpson telling Fox TV’s Paula Zahn — wasn’t she one of his exes? — “I’m definitely a victim. You spend 16 months in jail in solitary confinement with rats and roaches and nobody to talk to for something you didn’t do, and you tell me you wouldn’t feel like a victim.”

Victim, schmictim.

Even worse, whining out of one side of his mouth that he was “convicted by the media,” nevertheless O.J. blithely set up his own Web chat the other week to broadcast his innocence, an interactive event where you could PAY $7.95 in advance or $9.95 that day to ask him a question about the crime he of course did not commit. Nor did he apparently flinch from dealing with news reporters to flog the two-and-a-half-hour live farce. Nor is he ashamed of setting up

The Juice Shop,
where the truly desperate jock-sniffers among us can purchase a sickening array of absolutely essential sports memorabilia highlighting his, um, heroic career.

Talk about an ego industry.

Who are the most annoying people alive in America today?

Jim, Washington, D.C., editor, critic, poet:

  • Fred Phelps is beyond annoying. He carries his hell with him wherever he goes.

  • Elizabeth Dole — biggest phony.

  • Ken Burns; will you please stop sanitizing American culture for sake of television land?

  • Andrea Dworkin — if there’s anything worse than self-pity, it’s self-congratulation and, right behind that, self-righteousness.

  • Cal Thomas. What can you say about a draft-dodging saber-rattler in a stay-pressed fight wig? Is that something out of Bunuel, or what? (Maybe early Kubrick.)

Sandy, spoken-word Artist, Mount Airy:
RIGHTEOUS REPUBLICANS. Those guys so busy telling the rest of us how to live good lives while they are busy being so bad. You know the ones I mean: Giuliani, who in an effort to improve the quality of life thinks it’s OK to shoot scary people on their doorsteps, bunker city hall and refuse to give parade permits to people whose politics he doesn’t like and even force pedestrians to cross only at designated corners. Hey, mayor! Quality of life starts at home. Not out with your current girlfriend. Same for Newt, who served his first wife divorce papers when she was in the hospital facing chemo and his second wife shortly after she was diagnosed with a neurological condition that often precedes MS. Will he wait until No. 3 is in a coma?

Vincent, filmmaker, East Coast:
STEVE FORBES! Pat Buchanan’s sister (Bay), Kathy Lee Gifford; the guy who does the infomercials on making millions with classified ads; the guy on the government cash commercials with the question marks on his suit; Dr. Laura.

Sally, journalist, and Paul, attorney, both Philadelphia:
Al Sharpton; William Shatner; Allan Dershowitz; George Stephanopoulos; Kathie Lee; Regis Philbin; Al Sharpton.

Dennis, Off-Broadway playwright and preschool teacher:
Currently the most annoying people in America (to me) are people I know. At least five of them I know well. But they have zero public profile. Who would know anything about them? Oh, and they are good friends of mine.

Lynn, beauty therapist:
The public is so hungry for every miserable detail of peoples’ lives and the media who encourage it by feeding them and even embellishing with intrusive photos and “friends'” interviews. … Media people were credited with keeping secrets of Roosevelt’s disability from polio and also Rock Hudson’s sexual orientation. What happened. Who changed? Readers or reporters or both?

Rich, printer/typographer, San Francisco:
The only one I can think of is Kathy Lee Gifford. I’d like to take her sons and ship them to a Saipan sweatshop for their teen-age years. Let’s see how the ruling elite and their lackeys feel when it’s THEIR KIDS who have to slave 14-hour days for global overlords. Of course, until the columnists for the N.Y. Times and the rest of the self-styled intelligentsia/elite have THEIR jobs shipped overseas, nobody will care much or at least it wont get publicized.

Gordon, counselor, Louisiana:
Rush Limbaugh; Pat Robertson; Sally Struthers; Howard Stern; Michael Reagan.

Lorenzo, spiritual counselor, Manhattan:
Responded with blank e-mail accidentally sent just as his phone rang “with someone about to jump off a bridge.”

Kathy, clinical psychologist, Philadelphia:
First off, I’m not sure venting is helpful in any way. Is there proof? My experience is that people who engage in venting to their heart’s content only vent more and more and forever. Does that help anything? My scrambled take is that everyone is where they are as that is where they need to be and they (we) are there due to a combination of neurological, psychological, spiritual and unknown factors. What a mess; no wonder the universe is so annoying.

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