- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2000

Mindless infancy

"Today, America's overwhelming power is at once political, military, and economic and cultural as well. The world's dominant myths and heroes now spring, as if newly invented, from the American pantheon. There's scarcely a child on the planet who doesn't know the most popular Disney characters. Some people see this trend as an irreversible American cultural invasion spreading over the globe, obliterating the rich diversity of minority voices… .
"What accounts for this American triumph? It is Hollywood's unsurpassed ability to produce shows of universal appeal veritable machines of escapism and emotion that promote images of a utopia in which everyone wants to live… .
"America's manipulative entertainment only rarely qualifies as art. Generally speaking, a Hollywood movie is a short-lived consumer product for a public that is all too happy to regress, for a moment, to a state of mindless infancy."
Jacques Attali, writing on "How Hollywood Rules," in the February/March issue of Civilization

Time and greed

"Tellingly, the media, which excoriated the gilded 1980s, have mostly ignored the rapacity of the 1990s. In 1987, a Time magazine cover story grumped, 'What's Wrong: Hypocrisy, Betrayal and Greed Unsettle the Nation's Soul.' …
"What accounts for the disparate treatment? … During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan led the country, while Bill Clinton was at helm in the 1990s. Time magazine was openly contemptuous of Reagan in that 1987 article. 'The problem starts at the top,' it preached. 'No better symbol exists of the public philosophy of the Reagan era than the Adam Smith neckties worn proudly by presidential confidants… . For Reagan, money is the measure of achievement, and he has left no doubt that he prefers the company of the wealthy.' President Clinton, of course, hobnobs with rich friends who offer million-dollar loans to finance the purchase of a glitzy New York home… .
"In Oliver Stone's 1987 movie 'Wall Street,' Michael Douglas played the high-flying investment banker Gordon Gekko. In a memorable scene, Gekko ends his paean to American capitalism by proclaiming, 'Greed … is good.' Maybe, but it seems we only call it by its name when the Oval Office is occupied by a Republican."
Kenneth Lee, writing on "Greed Is Chic at Last," in the Feb. 14 issue of the Weekly Standard

New realities

"Mainline denominations seven of them supply 90 percent of the [National Council of Churches'] unrestricted income have suffered massive membership losses. 'When these churches catch a cold,' said outgoing NCC General Secretary Joan Brown Campbell, 'the NCC gets pneumonia.' …
"NCC ideologies have been promoted by supporting church bureaucracies, resulting in a weakness that enervates not only their own ministries but also their capacity to support the NCC… .
"Early in its history, the NCC developed [a program] … dedicated to politics essentially the creation of an ecclesiastical auxiliary for left-wing Democrats. Propelled by civil rights sentiments, the NCC promoted protests, sit-ins, lockouts, campus takeovers, media events, boycotts, shareholders' revolutions, marches, demonstrations, sanctions, and a Washington office to coordinate similar activities by leaders of its member denominations… .
"Having prospered for a season, this movement is being overcome by new realities. It's twilight time for the NCC."
Parker T. Williamson, writing on "Twilight Time for the NCC," in the January/February issue of Touchstone

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