- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Ignorant opinion
"As intelligent and precise thinking declines, all that remains is a chaos of ideologies, in which the lowest human appetites rule.
"In her essay 'Truth and Politics,' historian Hannah Arendt writes: 'Faces inform opinions, and opinions, inspired by different interests and passions, can differ widely and still be legitimate as long as they respect factual truth. Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed and facts themselves are not in dispute.'
"If ignorance is rife in a republic, what do polls and the constant media attention to them do to deliberative democracy? Modern-day radical egalitarians journalists and pollsters who believe that polls are the definitive voice of the people may applaud the ability of the most uninformed citizen to be heard, but few if any of these champions of polling ever write about or discuss the implications of ignorance to a representative democracy. This is the dirtiest secret of polling."
Matthew Robinson, writing on "Party On, Dudes," in the March/April issue of the American Spectator

Barbie and Britney
"Was Barbie, as feminists said, poisonous for young girls' self-image and the cause of an epidemic of anorexia and bulimia? Or was she as conservatives insisted, taking the view that 'the enemy of my feminist enemy is my friend' simply good childhood fun?
"Actually, both sides are wrong. The vampy fashion doll helped to bring about the sexualization of childhood, evidence of which is everywhere today. In truth, Barbie is the not-so-spiritual godmother of Britney Spears.
"Up until 1959, the year of Barbie's birth, little girls spent a lot of their time burping and feeding the pudgy baby dolls that were a mainstay of the toy market.
"Barbie invited girls to identify not with mom but with their hormonal and independent older teen-aged sisters. Television further fueled the fantasy of teen sophistication. It didn't happen right away, but over time children's television increasingly hyped the teen-ager as the childhood ideal.
"By the 1980s, bewildered parents began to see the emergence of the tween 8-to-12-year-olds who look (and in some cases act) like teen-agers. Today's 8-year-old girls want their MTV, and demand their belly shirts and lip gloss. Even 6-year-olds are Britney wannabes."
Kay Hymowitz, writing on "Thank Barbie for Britney," Friday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Super wimp
"The biggest thing 'Spider-Man' has going for it is the charm of its two young leads, [Tobey] Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who plays Mary Jane, the girl next door, whom Peter has pined for since they were kids. Maguire is a perfect piece of casting. The Peter Parker of the comics is a slight, bespectacled bookworm, picked on by the other kids, and a dutiful nephew to the aunt and uncle who raised him.
"Peter is the opposite of Superman who, in the guise of Clark Kent, was a suave man playing a wimp. Peter really is a wimp. Being Spider-Man allows him to live out his fantasies of being cool. Casting a musclebound, conventionally good-looking stud in the role would have canceled that tension and given the audience no reason to root for him.
"Maguire, who, behind his perpetually dazed expression, understands how to play sly comedy, wins us over immediately. He's like the 98-pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face in those old comic-book ads, only with a canny, ironic sense of his newfound powers."
Charles Taylor, writing on "Spider-Man as Everyman," Friday in Salon at www.salon.com


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