- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Real evil

"A few years ago, a mild-mannered Columbia professor named Andrew Delbanco wrote a very good book called 'The Death of Satan.' His Nietzschean-sounding thesis was that Americans had lost the ability to imagine real evil… .

"Starting around 1997 with 'The Devil's Advocate' starring Al Pacino Hollywood has issued an unprecedented stream of devil movies. In just the last year, there have been over a dozen, including 'Stigmata,' 'The Ninth Gate,' and 'Bedazzled.' But virtually all of these films make Lucifer either very cool or profoundly mechanical… .

"In almost all of these movies, the devil is less the Prince of Lies than just a villain with superpowers. There's one glaring exception: the recent rerelease of 1973's 'The Exorcist.' No popular film in the last two decades treats the devil with more seriousness and subtlety; indeed, it is stunning to watch the film today… . Satan is not treated as someone or something that can be reduced to petty human motivations or simplistic ambitions or explanations. He is what he is: a mystery, the omnipresent tempter. He is the devil without quotation marks.

"It is this willingness to take an evil phenomenon seriously, and to refrain from facile debunking that is sorely missing in today's culture."

Jonah Goldberg, writing on "Hollywood's Grinch," in the Jan. 22 issue of National Review

You are your work

"To go to San Francisco today is to be struck with a weird kind of deja vu: hordes of idealistic young, acutely conscious of being part of a revolution that their elders only dimly understand, still dominate the city. But there the resemblance with the youthquake of 30 years ago ends. These Banana Republic-clad revolutionaries work like immigrants. They talk of nothing but work; they spend 10, 12, 14 hours, or even more at work; they dream of work… .

"It's pretty clear that while Americans are deeply divided over many of the cultural values that they once took for granted, just about everyone embraces a high-energy, high-spirited new work ethic. Increasingly, we view work not just as a way to pay the rent and orthodontist but as an end in itself …

"In fact, our jobs define our identity. In France and England, it's bad form to ask, 'What do you do?' Such a rule would leave Americans speechless. In the U.S., you are what you do."

Kay S. Hymowitz, writing on "Ecstatic Capitalism's Brave New Work Ethic," in the winter issue of City Journal

Election panic

"Back on the first night of the Election That Wouldn't Die, Judy Woodruff turned to her colleagues. 'Could you pass the crow?' she asked. Predictably, since he likes second thoughts so much he's been caught having a first one, her CNN stablemate Jeff Greenfield spent the next several days demonstrating that the reflective side of TV news consists in knowing how to eat your crow and have it too.

"One observation he didn't make was that rushing to judgment is a tough habit to break, since the networks' premature calls weren't nearly as reckless as their insistence on treating the deadlock that followed as an emergency. Until it became obvious that we were all going to be here for a while, TV was far readier than the public to proclaim that the ship of state had hit the fan.

"Paradoxically, inflaming the situation was TV's way of clarifying it; going into crisis mode defined what kind of event this was. Come what may, the tube pines for sure things."

Tom Carson, writing on "Mud and Guts," in the February issue of Esquire


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