- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Let it Beatle

“Since declaring themselves defunct more than 30 years ago, the Beatles have alternately receded and loomed as figures of cultural authority and musical influence. … But the Beatles have never quite gone away — nor are they likely to, since their continued popularity is due less to boomer nostalgia than to the band’s timelessness. …

“The Beatles are simple enough for children, but as those children grow, the band becomes less and less simple.

“Younger fans, who will carry Beatle fandom into the wilds of this century and prove it wasn’t just boomer hallucination, will need to discover the group’s multiplicity for themselves. And they will. But it will happen without the help of the Beatle organization’s increasingly conventionalized reissue catalog, which has been intent thus far on making the Beatles and the cultural history that revolves around them seem far less extreme, less mad and multidimensional than they were.”

Devin McKinney, writing on “Sixties for Sale,” in the December issue of the American Prospect

Democracy’s defense

“Defending our democracy demands more than successful military campaigns. It also requires an understanding of the ideals, ideas and institutions that have shaped our country.

“This is not a new concept. America’s founders recognized the importance of an informed and educated citizenry as necessary for the survival of our participatory democracy. James Madison famously said, ‘The diffusion of knowledge is the only true guardian of liberty.’ Such knowledge tells us who we are as a people and why our country is worth fighting for. Such knowledge is part of our homeland defense.

“Our values, ideas and collective memories are not self-sustaining. Just as free peoples must take responsibility for their own defense, they also must pass on to future generations the knowledge that sustains democracy.”

Bruce Cole, writing on “How to Combat American Amnesia,’” Monday in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

Heal thyself?

“Since his show hit the air last fall, Dr. Phil McGraw has become a father figure to a country hurting for a male role model. His comforting but directive style has a hold on America — he’s second only to Oprah in ratings, and boasts a steady flow of bestselling books. …

“But the very qualities that make Dr. Phil an appealing, trustworthy authority figure — his unrelenting self-confidence and poise, his aggressive tactics, his irreproachable attitude — appear to be the same traits that have created trouble for him in the past and that continue to plague him today, even as his popularity increases exponentially.

“In just the past month, McGraw has come under criticism for marketing nutritional supplements bearing his likeness, and was hit with a lawsuit filed last week from a guest on his show who claims his staff confined her in an apartment against her will, which led to a tragic — and bizarre — injury. … While plenty of unconventional public figures are criticized unduly for wandering off the most socially acceptable path, McGraw’s alleged slips are a little more serious than he’d have us believe, and seem to fit a pattern of controlling, arrogant behavior.”

Heather Havrilesky, writing on “Who’s your daddy?” Monday in Salon at www.salon.com

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