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Culture Briefs

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reality TV

"Of all the odd things about the Soviet Union, perhaps the oddest was the way in which official propaganda — which told people what the world was supposed to look like — so often triumphed over everyday experience, which revealed that things were different. …

"Soviet propaganda was blared from radios and televisions, posted on walls, printed in newspapers, repeated at party and Komsomol meetings. It was constant, it was repetitive, it was specific. During Stalins lifetime, it could be very dangerous to contradict any of it in public, and many people were afraid to do so in private as well. Yet some people believed it, or wanted to believe it, or reckoned it was a good idea to believe in it. And thus it was not ineffective.

"When the propagandists said that Soviet citizens were becoming ever richer and better fed, many people were inclined to think that this could be true, even though they themselves lived poorly and badly. … And when the propagandists said that all Soviet citizens should thank Comrade Stalin for their happy Soviet childhood, many could not refuse this either. Even if they knew from personal experience that not all Soviet childhoods were happy, they could imagine that some really had been."

Anne Applebaum, writing on "Angel Factories" on May 21 at the New Republic

Journalism's end

"The departure in ignominy of Helen Thomas has been commented on below, and I don't have much to add, except how pathetic is this? 'The Hearst website is temporarily down, thanks to the traffic hitting the site.'

"Helen Thomas was an unreadable and unread columnist, and the only time she generates so much traffic that it crashes the site is the announcement that her career's self-destructed. That tells you a lot about American newspapering right there. Good thing two columnists didn't say something dumb or the site could have been out for weeks. …

"A guy with a flip camera just took out one of the most storied names in American journalism. Presumably US newspaper managements have been assured by Obama, Pelosi, Frank et al that that bailout's a-comin' any day now. The alternative is that they're inept timeserving mediocrities too dullwitted even to know they're going over the falls."

Mark Steyn, writing on "Gone … Going … Going …" on June 7 at the National Review blog, the Corner

Never live down

"Pray that your life's work won't someday be reduced to a single catchphrase. That's the moral that Gary Coleman leaves with us in the wake of his death by brain hemorrhage at the age of 42. As onlookers tweeted 'Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Jesus?' to each other, reminiscing about the 'Diff'rent Strokes' star's one claim to eternal life, it's hard not to contemplate the purgatory of being assaulted by that one stilted, clownish phrase everywhere you go.

"Imagine hearing those same four words, written by some smart-ass writer you may never have met — hearing them over and over and over again. At the coffee joint, at the restaurant, at the hotel, there's that sound again, the sound of someone imitating your voice at age 10, the voice of an indignant child.

"Now imagine that you've never lost the stature of a child, adding insult to injury. Imagine the rage that you'd feel, encountering that stupid catchphrase that has nothing at all to do with you — an adult, a real live human being, not a cartoon character. It's no wonder Coleman seems to have spent a great deal of his time as an adult bouncing between depression and outrage."

Heather Havrilesky, writing on "Gary Coleman: Damned by a catchphrase," on May 28 at Salon

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