- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

Irony, schmirony

“Think back to Edward R. Murrow’s famous television broadcast ‘Harvest of Shame’ (1960). The show documented the plight of migrant farm workers through interviews with poor families explaining their toil and an American Farm Bureau Federation representative making sloppy excuses for their poverty. …

“Comparing ‘Harvest of Shame’ to [filmmaker Michael] Moore’s efforts illustrates a sea change in the mass media and the state of American politics. ‘Harvest of Shame’ doesn’t have a drop of irony. Murrow was a moralist, in the best sense of that term. He knew that for things to change, people had to care enough to defend the interests of those too poor and weak to speak for themselves.

“That’s what makes ‘Harvest of Shame’ seem so entirely dated today. Its moral symbolism is overwrought. … At one moment, a narrator calls the show ‘a 1960s Grapes of Wrath.’ For Murrow, injustice did not lend itself to humor or irony; the viewer is not to laugh but get indignant and ready for battle. The postmodern media sap Murrow’s politically charged and moralistic approach. There’s nothing funny or entertaining about his outdated puritanism.”

Kevin Mattson, writing on “The Perils of Michael Moore,” in the spring issue of Dissent

Hollywood killers

“One film, ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ which was released in 1967, was particularly influential in changing how American films depicted violence and criminals. …

“Bonnie and Clyde, killers in real life, were presented in the film as light-hearted innocents who ended up as victims of cold-blooded law enforcers. This film has been widely imitated in the years since its release, including the 1970s and 1980s, two bloody decades in which high real-life homicide rates were accompanied by the release of plenty of films glorifying killing.

“Or was it vice versa?

“Retired Army officer Dave Grossman is actively warning about the influence of violent films and videos on children. … Grossman found that many perpetrators of violence developed their marksmanship skills on video games. One 14-year-old boy named Michael Carneal actually killed several members of a prayer group in Paducah, Ky. He had never fired a gun before, but was well-practiced in marksmanship, having trained on video games. …

“Because Hollywood’s leading stars and producers tend to pride themselves on their deep concern for our world, it’s worth asking: Where is their concern for social responsibility when it comes to their own products?”

Paul M. Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, writing on “Just How Socially Responsible Is Hollywood?” Wednesday in Notable News Now

Keep Hope alive

“[Bob Hope] knew that he was going to make us laugh, and we knew that we were going to laugh, and there was no risk of failure. He was not a cheeky young fellow poking fun at people who could crush him in a moment; he was a charming wag joking about his powerful golfing buddies.

“[In later years,] the jokes were still funny, however, and his TV specials still pulled excellent ratings. His personal appearances were likewise well attended, though more for nostalgia than fun. He was no longer the bright, sassy Bob Hope of yore, he was Bob ‘Texaco’ Hope, and the edge was gone. His films, too, lost much of their innovativeness and creativity and became basically standard narratives with jokes interspersed throughout.

“But the real Bob Hope is still there today, in his delightful movies, TV specials, radio programs, and the memories of the many people before whom he appeared live on stage, especially the service personnel for whom he had such obvious admiration. There he is, alive and well and cheeky as ever, a full century after the happy day on which he was born. …

“Thanks, Bob. Thanks for the memories.”

S.T. Karnick, writing on “Hope’s Memories,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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