- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2005

Illogical intellectual

“After [Susan] Sontag published an essay last year in the New York Times about the Abu Ghraib scandal in which she compared prisoner abuse by Americans to mass executions carried out at Nazi concentration camps — arguing, in effect, that human brutality is all of a piece — I wrote a column in which I referred to her as a ‘pseudo-intellectual.’ In retrospect, that was unfair. Sontag was a heroine of the political left, a talented writer who tackled ambitious subjects in respected journals. She was indeed an intellectual. She was just a very bad intellectual.

“What I mean is that, for all her rhetorical gifts, Sontag could not think — or, rather, she could not reason. She didn’t do if-then logic. She tossed around ideas as though they were horseshoes and hoped that their proximity to a thesis formed an argument. This method made her consistently provocative, consistently readable, and consistently irrelevant.”

Mark Goldblatt, writing “On the Death of Susan Sontag,” Monday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Muslim neighbors

“As the world is focused on the victims of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, a debate is raging among Muslim scholars about an ancient topic: Who is your neighbor? … Muslim concern is reserved for the Umma, or Islamic community. Wander through Muslim Web sites, and you will find ample confirmation for this insight.

“Of course some Muslims find this embarrassing. One blogger pillories the stinginess of the Saudi Arabian government, which offered only a $10 million contribution to tsunami relief operations. ‘Contrast this with $155 million raised a year ago in a Saudi telethon to support the families of Palestinian suicide bombers,’ the blogger writes.

“This debate is particularly fascinating as it points to signs of an emerging Western Islam that has come under some influence of Christian views on charity, which reject the idea of discriminating against needy people based on their religious persuasion.

“It would be unthinkable, for example, for huge charitable Christian organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services or the Lutheran World Relief to give preference to Catholic or Lutheran — or even just Christian — recipients.”

Uwe Siemon-Netto in “Are There Muslim Samaritans?” Tuesdayfor United Press International

Married to the slob

“In two decades of TV acting, Courtney Thorne-Smith has never stopped looking like a cheerleader. … But for Cheryl, Smith’s character in the ABC series ‘According to Jim’ … it’s as if her cheerleaderly aspirations have suffered a perverse cosmic scramble and she ended up married not to the equally simple and beautiful quarterback everyone expected her to marry, but to the boorish, buffalo-faced center. … Cheryl is married to Jim, and Jim is played by Jim Belushi. …

“In the current sitcom lineup … several shows pair extremely attractive women, who are often clad in plunging tops and tight jeans suitable for a Maxim photo spread, with TV husbands who are … downright fat. …

“It’s tempting to register a feminist complaint about the message these shows convey — that they perpetuate the view that women shouldn’t expect autonomy or fulfillment in romance and marriage. They … play to a certain male fantasy: living the gluttonous, irresponsible, self-absorbed life of an infant and basking in the unconditional love of a good-looking woman.”

Matt Feeney, writing on “Beauty and the Beast,” Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.com

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