Paul Dunk, On Assignment, Massachusetts

Paul Dunk

CDC, Atlanta—Scientists at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta are set to announce on Friday a link between televised political ads and the recent nationwide outbreak of lung infection. A spokesperson at the CDC, Eileen DuBonnet, said to expect more details at Friday’s press conference, but that the findings are “based on surveys taken by over 18,000 citizens who have fallen ill at some point during the past two months.” These victims, according to DuBonnet, are experiencing symptoms ranging from a “dry, hacking cough,” to, “thoughts of suicide.”

Asked what specifically about the ads are causing the illness, DuBonnet said, “It’s the lying. In a typical hour long episode of prime time television, such as ‘Glee,’ a viewer can be subjected to at least eighteen 30-second spots for various candidates running for office. Oftentimes opponents run ads back-to-back, so a viewer will get accusations from each camp in a contested election within a minute’s time. Our immune systems just can’t handle the onslaught. The effect is traumatizing, and prolonged trauma has long been known to cause physical and even mental illness.”

Wyatt Edwards, 51, a dry-goods store owner from Atlanta, has been suffering since late September and says the illness has nearly ruined both his business and personal life. “It’s unbelievable,” he says, “I can’t stop hacking! I sure as hell can’t wait on customers at the store. At night it’s even worse. Half the time I’m coughing so much that the wife gets mad and I have to go sleep on the couch. It’s cold in the living room . . . and I’m stuck there all night . . . so the damn thing just gets worse! Antibiotics don’t help! Nothing helps! I just want to go blow my brains out.”

His wife, Jan, 46, concurs: “He isn’t kidding, except for that business about killing himself.  Another week listening to the hacking – – and I’ll do it for him.”

The cure for this malady, according to DuBonnet, is simply refraining from watching live television and editing the ads out before viewing your favorite recorded shows. She went on to say that the CDC has done extensive studies backing up their claims, and will document them at Friday’s meeting with the press. When told about a related story coming out of Flagstaff, Arizona, where researchers at the H.A.B.A. have determined that prolonged exposure to ‘Glee’ can cause blindness or self-immolation among certain American male demographics, DuBonnet declined comment and hurried back to the lab.

Ask your doctor if the mute button is right for you.

Paul Dunk, on assignment, Atlanta

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