- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

Fearing Fox

"Some people think Fox News is on the verge of creating the kind of revolution that CNN made 10 years ago altering the basic habits and assumptions of why and how we watch news.

"It's certainly killing the competition. On a series of big events, Fox … has taken larger ratings than its nonsectarian brothers (and, of course, one of the Fox hosts, has a celebrity book that's competing with the various books of the network anchors).

"Starting with the Republican convention in July, building with each debate, then with notable peaks during the Florida phase of the election, and followed by Inauguration Day, Fox trumped both MSNBC and CNN. Now, it's true that all these events are Republican-focused, but that's the fear: In a Republican era, the Republicans will have a monopoly on such events and so will Fox."

Michael Wolff, writing on "The Party Line," in the Feb. 26 issue of New York

American paradox

"The great paradox of American life today is that we suffer from the curse of freedom without power. We are allowed to buy, sell or say anything we please, so long as we do it within the elastic walls of the corporate system.

"Step outside those walls, and you are not just silenced; for all practical purposes, you no longer exist.

"Ralph Nader seemed to understand all this … and that is why, at the center of his 2000 campaign message, he posed an alternative definition of freedom. 'Freedom,' he said, 'is participation in power.' And he was absolutely right … . That affirmative definition of freedom … forces us to ask: 'Who owns our culture? Who decides what our songs and stories will be?'

"Joe Lieberman and Lynne Cheney trooped to Washington [last] fall, summoned by an also-outraged John McCain, to make outraged noises about the marketing of violent and degrading cultural artifacts to children. But … no one asked the one question that matters: 'Why do American parents have to work so many hours, leaving their kids to be raised by the wolves of the media industry?' "

Danny Duncan Collum, writing on "Free Citizens or Spoiled Children?" in the January/February issue of Sojourners

Spreading debauchery

"In recent years, Kwanzaa, Juneteenth, and Cinco de Mayo have all been added to the American holiday lexicon. But no celebration is spreading as far and as fast as Carnival, which in the United States is often simply dubbed Mardi Gras. Call it Mardi Gras creep.

"The slow expansion of Mardi Gras from curious Southern ritual to national observance began when Europe's Catholic countries spread their pre-Lenten bacchanalia to the New World. The first American celebration of Carnival took place in the early 1700s in Mobile, Ala. The festivities there were later overtaken by the more raucous and bawdy ones in New Orleans … .

"But Mardi Gras creep is a two-part phenomenon: Carnival is expanding through time as well as space. The crassest but best-known New Orleans Mardi Gras ritual, the exchange of beads for a flash of [breasts], can now be seen throughout the year in the Crescent City's French Quarter.

"Worse, the practice has spread across the country to any annual event attended by drunken mobs. The rowdy infield at the Kentucky Derby is filled with Mardi Gras beads and the accompanying [breast]-flashing… .

"Old-time New Orleanians complain about the secularization of Mardi Gras… . The complaint isn't that Mardi Gras has become dissolute Mardi Gras is by definition dissolute it's that the Carnival season is no longer placed in its religious context, and followed by Ash Wednesday services and Lenten penitence."

Chris Suellentrop, writing on "Mardi Gras, defined down," Tuesday in Slate at www.slate.com

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