- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Ali's victim
"For all the deification of Muhammad Ali … Ali had a very real victim, a black man in his own right: his archnemesis Joe Frazier, still deeply wounded today by how Ali, a former friend, turned his own people against him. Time and again, Ali called Frazier a 'gorilla and an 'ugly, dumb Uncle Tom. …
"By the time of Alis 1970 interview in the Black Scholar, its impossible to deny that hed become a full-fledged revolutionary. 'I hate to see black women and men, once they get prestige and greatness, where they can go into ghettos and pick up little black babies and make them feel good, to go leave and marry somebody else and put the money in that race … Now the white mans got the heavyweight champion — Joe Fraziers got a white girlfriend.
"Seen in the context of Alis evolution, could it be that, to Ali, such taunting of Frazier wasnt just the mean-spirited nastiness we see it for today? That it was also political? There is no excuse for the way Ali belittled Frazier, a once-proud black man shown … looking into a mirror and wondering aloud, 'Do I look like a gorilla? after Ali regaled one and all with his 'Come on Gorilla, We in Manila shtick, playing on timeworn racial stereotypes."
—Larry Platt, writing on "The Darker Side of Muhammad Ali," June 6 on www.Salon.com

Rhetorical style
"This is a huge peeve of mine whenever I read non-conservatives who write about conservatism. … Take a look at the Nation or the American Prospect, or even the New Republic on a bad day. We are constantly being told that 'federalism or 'state rights or 'individualism or 'family values or, yes, 'free association and 'property rights are really code for segregation, racism, homophobia, greed, Muppet-hating, whatever. …
"This is, hands down, the source of my biggest arguments with … liberals who disagree with what I write. Sometimes, I even hear from writers for various lefty magazines. They lecture me about how the GOP has all sorts of racist baggage … or how I must not actually believe my rhetoric about a colorblind society, federalism, etc. …
"If your opponent doesnt say anything objectively wrong, you subjectively reinterpret what he says so that it means something else. …
"It may also have to do with the fact, as Hannah Arendt noted, that the Left has mastered the art of disputing facts by attacking motives. … Sid Blumenthal and others, for example, have argued that anti-Communism was just an effort by closeted gays and open homophobes to punish liberal homosexuals. Im not making that up."
—Jonah Goldberg, writing on "Taking Conservatism Seriously," June 8 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Unshockable
"It is precisely in its utter lack of outrageousness that the new musical version of 'The Producers differs from its model. Fear and anger arent in evidence here so much as a successful showmans desire to take a proven hit and package it with more polish for an already appreciative public; the new 'Producers is to the old one what the new versions of 'The Fly or 'Batman were to their film or television originals.
"That may be the problem. The old Mel Brooks liked to push his audience around, see how much they could take. … The new Mel Brooks is in winking complicity with an audience he knows, by this point, he can count on. If the new 'Producers is a hit, it isnt, after all, because it challenges social norms about taste or propriety in any significant way, as the film tried so strenuously to do. Which norms, and what propriety? Making jokes about gay theater folk for an audience of New Yorkers comfy enough to giggle at Nathan Lanes in-jokes about his own homosexuality can hardly be considered a feat of artistic or social risk-taking. …
"As for Nazis — well, in a culture that has given us 'Life Is Beautiful and that can rehabilitate Leni Riefenstahl with a glossily admiring coffee-table book of her very own, theres not a great deal of shock value to Holocaust humor or Nazi kitsch."
—Daniel Mendelsohn, writing on "Double Take," in the New York Review of Books, June 21

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