- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

Our Jewish uncle
"[Milton] Berle was a Jewish star for his times. He rejected the ethos of the Hollywood moguls like Louis Mayer and Adolph Zukor, who … did everything in their power to abnegate their identities and promote assimilation. … Long before Joe Lieberman, Berle showed that you could exist as Jew in the mainstream without changing your identity or assimilating.
"The networks didn't agree. By the end of the '60s, the ethos of the Hollywood moguls returned. As television ceased to be a seat-of-the-pants experimental medium, the suits decided that Jews couldn't sell in the hinterlands. Berle, Sid Caesar, and Phil Silvers were some of the stars the networks deemed too urban and too Jewish. …
"Good luck even finding Berle or Silvers on late-night reruns. But it's worth remembering that Caesar and Berle had more latitude to joke about their ethnicity than 'Rhoda' or 'Seinfeld.' … They were unworried about ethnic sensitivities, their own or others. Intuitively, they understood America to be a pretty tolerant place. If Hollywood had paid closer attention, it would have seen that the country had a Jewish uncle called Miltie. And even though he sometimes told some real stinkers whose Jewish uncle doesn't? they loved him."
Franklin Foer, writing on "Kaddish for Uncle Miltie," Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

Refuting Nietzsche
"One hundred sixteen years ago, Friedrich Nietzsche pronounced Western civilization ready to move 'Beyond Good and Evil,' the famous title of his last major book. George W. Bush begs to differ. In doing so, he has reopened one of the great controversies of modern times.
"We are, says Bush, engaged today in 'a monumental struggle between good and evil.' It is only in these old terms, he believes, that we can make sense of our world. …
"Proof that Bush's use of the concept of evil has struck a powerful chord is that once he dared to introduce it, few have been able to offer compelling reasons why it should be thrown out."
University of Virginia professor James W. Chaser, writing on "Bush v. Nietzsche," in the April 1 issue of the Weekly Standard

Loss of the local
"Some critics and historians argue that popular culture is nothing new, that Shakespeare was the popular culture of his day. That is not quite true. Prior to the invention of modern technologies of communications and travel, all culture was local culture. Music, dances, stories, visual representation, and sports all originated from and were sustained by people who were neighbors, who shared large enough amounts of time and small enough amounts of space to build some kind of knowledge of and affection for each other. …
"Most of our cultural life is now defined by distant strangers. … The extent to which mass mediators of culture were able to disturb its local mediation was restrained until the 1960s. Neighborhoods still maintained their own standards, churches did not feel compelled to emulate television and popular music, and ethnic groups still transmitted some notion of identity that predated the products of mass media. But that local, religious and ethnic independence is rapidly waning. …
"Prior to the advent of television, parents were the principal agents in establishing a trajectory for their children's intellectual and moral development. … The family is not the dominant 'screen' in the lives of many children, who are given huge daily doses of television almost from birth."
Kenneth A. Myers, from the new book "Building a Healthy Culture," edited by Don Eberly


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