- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

'Idol' slaves?

"Hope, uncertainty, euphoria, disillusionment: This is a familiar career arc for pop stars caught in the manufacturing cogs of the star-making machine, from Ronnie Spector and the Monkees to the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys and O-Town.

"Will this be the fate of winner Kelly Clarkson and the other finalists of Fox's summer smash 'American Idol: The Search for a Superstar'? At first glance, Clarkson would seem to have it made. This week sees the release of her first chart-bound single, 'Before Your Love/A Moment Like This.' But Clarkson is less an artist, in the old-fashioned sense, than the extruded product of an impersonal manufacturing process.

"Clarkson and the other finalists signed an unusually onerous contract with 19 Group, the production company headed by British pop entrepreneur Simon Fuller. These young performers are wrapped up for recording, management and merchandising under the most restrictive terms imaginable: Their careers are literally not their own."

Eric Olsen, writing on "Slaves of Celebrity," Wednesday in Salon at www.salon.com


Chomsky, credible?

"For leftists like me who had long considered [Noam] Chomsky as our own beacon of moral clarity, it is hard to say which development is more catastrophic: the fact that Chomsky-bashing has become a major political pastime, or the fact that Chomsky has become so very difficult to defend.

"Chomsky's response to the war in Afghanistan offered a repellent mix of hysteria and hauteur, as in this early interview: 'The U.S. has already demanded that Pakistan terminate the food and other supplies that are keeping at least some of the starving and suffering people of Afghanistan alive. If that demand is implemented, unknown numbers of people who have not the remotest connection to terrorism will die, possibly millions. Let me repeat: The U.S. has demanded that Pakistan kill possibly millions of people who are themselves victims of the Taliban. We can learn a great deal about the moral level of the reigning intellectual culture of the West by observing the reaction to this demand.'

"By the same token, we can learn a great deal about the moral level of the anti-war left by observing its willingness to debate claims like these; over the past year, unfortunately, Chomsky and his followers have demonstrated rather little capacity for self-criticism. It is not permissible, apparently, to argue that Chomsky was right about Vietnam, Nicaragua, and East Timor but wrong about Afghanistan; those who fail to acknowledge Chomsky's infallibility about Afghanistan are guilty of thought-crime or conservatism, whichever is worse."

Penn State professor Michael Berube, writing on "Peace Puzzle," in Sunday's Boston Globe


'Beyond hope'

"It lasted but a moment, but while it lasted it was political theater to be relished. The wondrously eccentric U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit discovered that the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. The judges sided with Michael Newdow, who had complained that his daughter is injured when forced to listen in public school to the assertion that there is a God.

"It took Jerry Falwell all of 30 minutes after the announcement of the court decision to declare that he was launching a campaign for a million signatures in protest against it. That seemed an exceedingly modest goal. A moral entrepreneur of greater imagination might have set a goal of 100 million signatures, with the assurance that the millions of contributions received would be spent in reaching the 180 million patriotic laggards. Sometimes nothing short of unanimity will do, or at least virtual unanimity, recognizing that the Ninth Circuit, Mr. Newdow and Paul Kurtz's American Humanist Society are beyond hope."

Richard John Neuhaus, writing on "Political Blasphemy," in the October issue of First Things

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