- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

Reflecting reality
"Most veteran newspaper journalists live by a simple rule when they cover a truly dramatic event: Tell the story and get out of the way.
"It's an axiom that served Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden well when, in 1996, he began the work that would become his best-selling book 'Black Hawk Down.' And it seems to have guided director Ridley Scott in his brilliant crafting of the film by the same name. Scott's approach to the battle mirrors Bowden's a straightforward, less-is-more re-creation of the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia, that killed 18 Americans and more than 1,000 Somalis. …
"[A] word about the charges of racism leveled against the movie by critics from Entertainment Weekly, Newsday, and the New York Times. Most of the U.S. soldiers were white. The Somalis were black. All of the editorializing in the world will not change that reality. And while the film doesn't purport to be a documentary, the notion that it is somehow racist to reflect that reality is silly.
"With 'Black Hawk Down,' Scott and his collaborators have produced one of the best war films of the past decade."
Stephen Hayes, writing on "The Straight Story," Jan. 18 in the Weekly Standard Online at www.weeklystandard
.com

Enron-o-rama
"Whether you think the story of Enron is a political scandal, a business scandal, both, or neither, that story has just reached a critical turning point. Yes, there's a slew of congressional hearings. … But the real sign of where this is all heading comes with the startling appearance of Al Sharpton.
"You don't usually see Sharpton's picture in the business pages, but there it is in [the] New York Times. … 'Somebody,' Sharpton announced in the course of a news conference … in Houston … 'needs to step forward and call the government to bail out the victims.' … 'I think one thing Ken Lay and President Bush should agree on,' [the Rev. Jesse] Jackson told the Times, 'is that these workers need to be made whole.'
"I certainly don't deny Sharpton and Jackson the right to involve themselves in any public issue they want. … But their appearances in Houston strike me as pure opportunism. I can't imagine how it helps, and in fact it seems most likely to prod along the conversion of a spectacular fallen-business story into a mere circus, not so much Enrongate as Enron-o-rama."
Rob Walker, writing on "Enron-o-Rama," Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

'Hot' no more
"At some point in the Tina Brown era at the New Yorker, I got a call from her asking me to write a piece about 'religion.' After routine flattery, she got to the point. 'We have a fabulous issue coming up on religion, and Dick Avedon is photographing several religious figures and icons, and I wondered whether you could do an accompanying essay,' she asked in her clipped, breathless tone. 'About what?' I asked. 'Religion is a pretty big topic.' 'Oh, that would be up to you,' Ms. Brown replied. 'Anything that's hot right now in religion. Anything hot.'
"In all the commentary on the demise of Ms. Brown's recent venture, Talk magazine, there has been much discussion of its economics, lack of buzz, the ad collapse after September 11, and so on. A surprising omission is any reflection on the guiding philosophy of Tina Brown. …
"When a grown-up editor can actually ask a writer about what's 'hot' in the questions of eternal life, the fate of the soul, and the meaning of existence, you have to wonder if, deep inside her, that's all she actually sees. …
"She was the Bill Clinton of the magazine trade."
Andrew Sullivan, writing on "Some Like It Hot," Thursday in the Wall Street Journal

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