- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The fate of tyrants

“[Stalins] brutality was not merely the result of a paranoid or fanatic mind. It was the combination of cruelty with cautiousness, of paranoia with shrewdness, of detached inhumanity with an extraordinarily realistic grasp of human nature that made Stalin so dangerous and so mesmerizing to his followers and enemies alike. …

“But a system based on lies, purges and terror did not wear well in the long run. In the 1960s, the Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik described the future of the Soviet system with an apt analogy: A policeman — representing the government — holds a rifle aimed at a citizen — Soviet society — who is ordered to hold his arms up; over time, the policeman slowly lowers the rifle, and the citizen gradually lowers his arms.

“Indeed this is what happened: Stalin ruthlessly slaughtered millions; Khrushchev suppressed the Hungarian uprising in 1956 but no longer had the stomach for mass terror; Brezhnev flinched at the prospect of sending troops to Poland to smash the Solidarity movement; Gorbachev was unwilling to use massive force to save Soviet rule in Eastern Europe, and in 1991, the putschists and the army could not mow down thousands of people in the Moscow streets. Economics hastened the decline of the Soviet system. But it also collapsed of its own weight.”

Samuel Kassow, writing on “Killers in White Gowns,” Oct. 17 in the Forward

Acts of war

“One of the problems with the way cultural relativism has fallen upon us in our time is that we are only supposed to be critical inward. Any criticisms of other cultures or other systems of belief or other modes of social conduct are dismissed as expressions of some sort of bigotry. …

“In our present war, we are up to our necks in this problem, primarily because any criticism of Muslims can be interpreted as bigotry toward all its believers. The upshot is that we seem to continue pussyfooting around our troubles and not making it clear to the public what is going on and how we have to handle it. …

“I believe we should have a moratorium on immigration from anywhere in the Islamic world because the nature of destructive technology is such that even very small numbers of immigrants — 19, for instance — can kill large numbers of people if that is their mission. War always shuts down borders, and we are, ladies and gentlemen, in a war.”

Stanley Crouch, writing on “War shuts borders, and this is war,” Monday in the New York Daily News

Without comedians

“The truly puzzling thing about ‘Scary Movie 3’ … is its distinct lack of Wayans brothers. … The answer, I hope, has something to do with ‘Scary Movie 3’s director, David Zucker. A decade ago, Zucker, along with buddy Jim Abrahams and brother Jerry Zucker — the ZAZ boys, for short — practiced an art they dubbed ‘comedy without comedians.’ The trio issued ‘Airplane!’ (1980) and ‘The Naked Gun’ (1988). …

“[T]hey cast ‘Airplane!’ not with comedians but with the kind of B-list actors — Graves, Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen — who would have appeared in the straight version of such a film. They deadpanned lines like:

“‘This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.’

“‘A hospital — what is it?’

“‘A big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.’”

Bryan Curtis, writing on “Straight Men,” Monday in Slate at www.slate.com


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