- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Country ‘throwback’

“Ten years into a recording career characterized by almost as many controversies as hits, [Toby] Keith, 42, knows a little about firefights. He sparred with his original label, Mercury, to the point where they finally dropped him. When he released last year’s triple-platinum ‘Unleashed,’ many critics blasted [the hit single ‘Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)’] for being overly jingoistic. He’s had high-profile dust-ups with Peter Jennings and Dixie Chick Natalie Maines. But even with all this friction — or perhaps because of it — Keith has grown into country music’s first real post-Garth [Brooks] male superstar. …

“To many along Music Row, he’s an uncouth throwback to the redneck image country has striven to shed, endangering the genre’s progress.”

Chris Willman, writing on “The Patriot Act,” in this Friday’s issue of Entertainment Weekly

Bullying 101

“Four and a half years after Columbine … [b]ullying is invoked as the cause of everything from school shootings to youth suicide to adult depression and violent crime — or if not the cause, then a strong correlate. Concern about the ‘culture of cruelty’ in childhood has inspired antibullying legislation in 13 states and a surge in bully-proofing consultants peddling their services to elementary and middle schools. …

“Amid widespread concern that Americans are ever more prone to pathologize normal kid behavior (diagnosing rowdy boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for example), it’s easy to miss an arguably more insidious process at work: The unwitting effect of the bully-proofers’ approach is to normalize more subtly and deeply pathological behavior. …

“It may sound inspiringly democratic to suggest that all kids are incipient bullies or victims, and thus heroes if they rise above the behavior. But the message is in fact demoralizing and surely wrong.”

Ann Hulbert, writing on “Elephant in the Room,” Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

Confused coalition

“Allan Johnson, a high school English teacher and debate coach from Fairfax, Va., held a sign saying ‘U.S. Troops Out of Iraq. Bring Them Home Now!’ at Saturday’s ‘End the Occupation’ rally in Washington. In fact, though, Johnson isn’t sure he wants to bring the troops home now or to end the American occupation of Iraq. At least, not yet.

“‘We’ve made a giant mess,’ said Johnson … who wore his long snowy hair in a ponytail and had a sparkling stud in one ear. ‘I would hate for the Bush administration to halfway fix things and then leave, and then blame the Iraqis if things go wrong.’ …

“But his own sign? He glanced at it, startled and explained that someone had handed it to him. ‘I didn’t even look at it,’ he said. ‘I was just waving it.’ …

“The End the Occupation rally, co-sponsored by ANSWER, a front group for the Stalinist Workers’ World Party, and the more moderate United for Peace and Justice, seemed the only game in town. Many [protesters] apparently decided to pretend that ‘end the occupation’ really means ‘bring in the U.N.,’ despite ANSWER’s blunt and repeated avowals that it means nothing of the sort. …

“At Saturday’s rally, presidential candidate Al Sharpton, dapper in a cream-colored jacket and black turtleneck, drew some of the event’s loudest cheers when he roared, ‘Don’t give Bush 87 billion! Don’t give him 87 cents! Give our troops a ride home!’”

Michelle Goldberg, writing on “Dazed and confused about Iraq,” Monday in Salon at www.salon.com

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