- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

'Terminal illness'
"There's probably no agreeing on precisely when Reader's Digest took a turn for the worse. There was the move last year to stick a celebrity photograph on the cover of each issue, rather than the picture of an ordinary American whose story of heroism would inspire readers.
"It's a saddening transformation, and one that must especially upset conservatives, who seem able to do little more than sit by the bed of a good friend in the throes of a terminal illness. Reader's Digest was not only the greatest and most popular magazine of the 20th century, it was also a steady ally. Monthly celebrations of traditional American values, staunch anti-Communism during the Cold War, and an optimistic philosophy of moral and personal aspiration made it stand out in the lowest-common-denominator world of magazine publishing.
"The Digest simply isn't what it used to be."
John J. Miller, writing on "InDigestible," in the Feb. 11 issue of National Review

Missionary man
"Just because Tom Cruise has never foisted the likes of 'Battlefield Earth' on us doesn't mean he's not doing his best to spread the word of L. Ron Hubbard.
"Why, just the other day, in fact, Cruise took the opportunity to turn a 'Vanilla Sky' PR stop in Germany into a Scientology stumpfest.
"According to the BBC, Cruise arranged a little pre-premiere tete-a-tete with Germany's U.S. ambassador Dan Coats to ask his help in persuading Germany to reconsider its stance on the Church of Scientology. (The German government put the religion under 'official scrutiny' back in 1997, concluding that it's more about milking money from its members than enhancing their souls.)
"Cruise's meeting with the ambassador is said to have lasted about an hour, after which the actor lingered, chatting and signing autographs for embassy staffers."
Amy Reiter, writing on "Tom's cruising Europe for Scientology," yesterday in Salon at www.salon.com

Tribal war
"The culturati's discomfort with Ridley Scott's 'Black Hawk Down' is drearily predictable. Given the "deconstruction" of traditional values such as masculinity, honor, and self-sacrifice, any celebration of the qualities that few intellectuals possess will only put them in a funk. Nor are they too happy about the movie's popularity, which to them confirms their bigoted notion that the American people are brainwashed oafs vulnerable to the mystifying propaganda of military-corporate power.
"At one level this is all old hat, reflecting the Lilliputian parochialism of the cultural elite. But a more interesting criticism that has cropped up is that the film is racist. Once again, the cheap melodrama of race blinds pundits to a more important point: the issue isn't the conflict of black and white, or even the First World and the Third, but the more revealing and ancient clash between tribalism and civilization.
"Scott, in fact, makes this same point in the first 20 minutes of 'Gladiator.' There the pale Germans, future pretenders to master-race status, are the tribal savages. Like the Somalis, they are remarkably brave and individually superb fighters. But they are no match for the superior technology, discipline, and political values of the Romans. So too in Mogadishu. Against horrendous numerical odds and a berserker enemy with no compunctions against using women and children as shields. American soldiers accomplished their mission, rescued their fallen comrades, and inflicted astronomical casualties while losing 19 of their own."
Bruce S. Thornton, writing on "Black Hawk Down and the War on Terror," yesterday in Front Page at www.frontpagemag.com

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