- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2005

Thin gruel

“My position on [pop culture] has, until recently, been the default position of most 50-somethings in all times and places: that the quality of our amusements has been sliding downhill since about, oh, 20 or 25 years ago. … Rap music? ‘Desperate Housewives?’ Quentin Tarantino? National Review will sell you a mug with my picture on it and the legend: ‘Pop culture is filth.’ …

“I was stuck … in a room where the TV was showing a rerun of ‘Friends,’ a show I would normally leap from a high cliff to avoid. I wasn’t in the room in order to watch the show, but couldn’t help taking some of it in. …

“It’s thin gruel. … In fact, if you remove all the references to the sex act and its immediate penumbra of behaviors and dysfunctions (mating, dating, engagements, weddings, pregnancies, ED, PMS, etc.), it is pretty much clear water. Are you going to tell me that this is more mentally stimulating than the old Mary Tyler Moore show? Not to mention ‘Cymbeline,’ or ‘The Marriage of Figaro.’…”

John Derbyshire, writing on “Pop Culture Is Nourishing,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

PBS perspective

“Threaten to defund PBS, and you’ll get a lot of angry mail from constituents who think that would mean the end of ‘Sesame Street.’ Nudge PBS in a new direction, and you can acquire a soapbox or two. …

“The range of views on PBS is broader than both left and right usually prefer to acknowledge. (There’s a reason why conservative critics of public TV focus on its documentaries, which are more likely to emerge from the left, while leftist critics cast their eyes on its talking-head shows, which tend to be more open to the right.) But if there’s a perspective that dominates the network, it might best be described as ‘frightened liberal.’”

Jesse Walker, writing on “A Rumble on Sesame Street,” Thursday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Simpering’ left

“I’m leaving the left — more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together. …

“I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives — people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere — reciting all the ways Iraq’s democratic experiment might yet implode. …

“Leading voices in America’s ‘peace’ movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom. …

“I began my activist career championing the 1968 presidential candidacies of Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. … I marched for peace and farm worker justice, lobbied for women’s right to choose and environmental protections, signed up with George McGovern in 1972 and got elected as the youngest delegate ever to a Democratic convention. …

“[After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks] Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the ‘courage’ of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of September 11 comparable to ‘automobile statistics.’ … Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.

“All of this came back to me as I watched the left’s anemic, smirking response to Iraq’s election in January.”

Keith Thompson, writing on “Leaving the left,” May 22 in the San Francisco Chronicle

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