- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

‘Reprehensible’ dissent

“The McCarthy era, and particularly the persecution of leftists in Hollywood in the 1950s, is evergreen in our cultural memory. It has been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, and movies, usually following the same basic template: Brave dissidents standing up for the right to espouse unpopular beliefs, right-wing bullies leading a witch-hunt against ‘un-American activities,’ victimized political innocents, despicable sellouts who ‘named names’ to save their careers. …

“The American Communist Party … was not merely a progressive organization that stood for workers’ rights and social justice. It was an arm of Stalinist Soviet Russia, an organization that replicated Soviet-style totalitarian control in its own ranks as best it could without the power to incarcerate and shoot people. …

“The iniquities of McCarthyism are well known and much deplored; those of the Hollywood Left still tend to be shrouded in a veil of romanticized respect for rebels. …

“Some people who cloak themselves in the banner of ‘dissent’ stand for things that are truly reprehensible.”

Cathy Young, writing on “Hollywood Leftist Hypocrisy,” Sunday in the Boston Globe

Shrinking future

“Goodbye, population explosion. Hello, population implosion. Well, not quite yet, but soon.

“Birthrates are falling in almost every country, changing the way the public and policy-makers think about a wide range of issues. To mention only the most obvious, Social Security reform, once a taboo topic in American politics, is now up for debate as lower birthrates lead to an unsustainable ratio of workers to retirees. …

“Although the birthrate decline has begun to have significant effects in the U.S., it is in Europe and East Asia that the consequences will be most dramatic. …

“By the middle of this century, we could find a Europe home to 100 million fewer people than today, and a Japan shrinking by one-fourth.”

Mark Krikorian, writing on “No Child Left Behind,” in the spring issue of the Claremont Review of Books

Ironic sequels

“In Hollywood, the one thing as inevitable as death and taxes is sequels. … For decades, the first rule of making a successful sequel has been simple and unchanging: Figure out what you did right the first time and do it again.

“The problem, of course, is that this isn’t always so easy. … And so, through a long, fitful course of trial and error, the studios have come up with an alternative recipe: Figure out what you did right the first time, and do it again — but this time with an irony-soaked self-referentialism that shows you’re not really taking it seriously. …

“[F]or franchises like ‘Scream’ and ‘Austin Powers,’ spoofing what came before makes a certain amount of sense. … But lately, the form seems to be making its way up the genre food chain, from outright comedies and genre parodies to straighter entertainments like the ‘Get Shorty’ and ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ movies. The results are not heartening. …

” ‘Be Cool’ is so obsessed with what came before that it can hardly go 90 seconds without quoting it; ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ is so indifferent that it sidelines half its cast to make room for a preposterous Gallic cat burglar. But whether from loving their predecessors too much or too little, both wind up drowning in their own irony. If the trend in sequels continues, they won’t be the last.”

Christopher Orr, writing on “Second Time Farce,” Tuesday in the New Republic Online at www.tnr.com

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