- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Terrorist media

“[Osama bin Laden] often gives his message a contemporary resonance by improvising verse … that identifies him with the earliest heroes of Islamic history. …

“He crafts letters to Muslim audiences with the confidence of a man already writing his own history. … He even turns the tables on the Western media. In his view, it is they, not he, who perpetuate terror.

“‘Terror is the most dreaded weapon in the modern age and the Western media are mercilessly using it against their own people,’ he declares in an October 2001 interview with Al Jazeera. Why is the Western media establishment so anti-humane? Because, in bin Laden’s view, ‘It implants fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means that what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media are doing.’”

— Bruce B. Lawrence, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University and editor of a new translation, “Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden,” in the Nov. 4 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Juror jokes

“I have no sympathy for the legal profession. I too consider a million lawyers at the bottom of the sea a good start. …

“The problem isn’t the rapacious lawyers, though — it’s the idiotic jurors.

“‘Whenever Merck was up there [on the witness stand], it was like wah, wah, wah,’ juror John Ostrom told the Wall Street Journal, imitating the drone of Charlie Brown’s teacher after dunning Merck & Co. for $253 million in damages. He was describing his own reason for finding that Merck’s Vioxx had killed a 59-year-old man, even though the trial established that the man had died of unrelated causes. …

“Of course, Merck is a big, evil corporation, and when you’re dealing with big, evil types, everybody knows close enough is close enough. …

“Ray Hultman and Eleanor Cook, jurors in the Michael Jackson case … recently told … legal commentator Rita Cosby that Jackson was undoubtedly guilty of the crimes with which he’d been charged. You’d think it would take a book to explain why they nevertheless voted to acquit him — and lucky for us, both have signed book deals to do just that.”

— Tim Cavanaugh, writing on “Run Away, Jury,” in the November issue of Reason

Unreconstructed

“The Louisville band My Morning Jacket has a wildly allusive cameo in Cameron Crowe’s ‘Elizabethtown.’ They appear as Ruckus, a Southern-rock group covering ‘Freebird.’ It’s a curious choice: an actual band from the South portraying a fictional band from the South playing one of the most iconic Southern-rock songs ever written. …

“Like all labels, ‘Southern Rock’ can be ghettoizing and silly. … Yet, like most labels, it’s an efficient shorthand, in this case for an unadorned guitar-based rock with a little bluesy swagger, written and played by Southerners. …

“The word ‘Southern’ (and by extension, ‘Southern rock’) has often been used synonymously with ‘racist,’ ‘redneck,’ and ‘stupid.’ In 1970 … Neil Young famously admonished, ‘Southern man, better keep your head/ Don’t forget what your good book said.’ … Which earned a rebuke from unreconstructed Southerners Lynyrd Skynyrd, in ‘Sweet Home Alabama’: ‘Well I heard Mister Young sing about her/ Well, I heard ole Neil put her down/ Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/ A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.’”

— Ethan Hauser, writing on “Southern Rock,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

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