- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

Origins of Empire

“[Essayist Gore] Vidal is an unreconstructed son of the South. ‘I am literally,’ he has written, ‘a grandchild of the American Civil War, and I belonged to the losing side. Had the issue of that war been the abolition of slavery, I could not have faulted our defeat — morally at least. But Mr. Lincoln — the first of the modern tyrants — chose to fight the war not on the issue of slavery but on the holiness and indivisibility of a union that he alone had any understanding of. With his centralizing of all power at Washington this “reborn” (sic) union was ready for a world empire …’

“[Vidals] view … is that our government, however popularly elected, represents only the large corporations that control it, as they control the media, through which they persuade the voters to support only two parties, conservative and reactionary. Wars fill their coffers, so at their behest the government levies heavy taxes for the purpose of waging unprovoked and undeclared wars: [Vidals book] ‘Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace’ lists almost 200 from 1945 to 2001.”

Edmund S. Morgan, writing on “A Tract for the Times,” in the Dec. 18 issue of the New York Review of Books

Career goals

“It’s the perfect combination of stories: kids with cancer, ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ and a real-life, Hollywood-endorsed hero. Sure enough, the suit has been covered by media from New Zealand to Sweden, including CNN, ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Today.’ Most of the coverage, unsurprisingly, is deferential toward [lawyer Ed] Masry and [Erin] Brockovich-Ellis.

“Such attention is particularly helpful to Brockovich-Ellis, who is currently trying to cement her status as a celebrity folk hero. Since January, she has been hosting a new TV show on the Lifetime Channel entitled ‘Final Justice.’ (It’s described on the program’s Web site as ‘True stories of ordinary women who fought back against the system and won. Hosted by the underdog heroine herself.’) Brockovich-Ellis can also be found on the back of Organic Valley milk cartons as a spokesperson for the environmental group Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, which offers an ‘Erin Brockovich Action Kit’ encouraging people to join the coalition and support its mission ‘to protect children from toxic substances.’ …

“There is even a chance that Erin Brockovich II may be coming to the box office.”

Eric Umansky, writing on “Erin Brockovich’s Weird Science,” in the Nov. 24 issue of the New Republic

Star power?

“Millions of dollars, big egos and an election are wrapped up in large-scale liberal entertainment tours aimed mainly at bringing the 18- to 30-year-old voter to polls next November. … Today, pop culture and Democratic politics are more unified than OutKast. Even once-complacent stars such as Jay-Z, Natalie Maines, Dave Matthews and Drew Barrymore are giving their time and reputations to liberal causes. …

“Young fans, however, won’t necessarily be easy to convince. …

“To those who were alive during Watergate and Vietnam … government can’t be trusted, and angry emotional pleas are the best way to rally opposition. ‘That go-get-‘em tough stuff really gets us going,’ says Daniel M. Shea, a political science professor at Allegheny College and the author of ‘Mass Politics: The Politics of Popular Culture.’ But, he warns, ‘It’s not like that for young people. Hard-core partisan attacks just don’t resonate with these folks.’”

Damien Cave, writing on “Wish upon a star,” Friday in Salon at www.salon.com


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