- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

Activist ideas

“‘I’d like to burn you at the stake,’ growled Betty Friedan at Phyllis Schlafly during a public debate over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) at Illinois State University in 1973. Friedan and other feminists were unnerved by Schlafly. She was as sophisticated and accomplished as they were, but profoundly antifeminist. They tried everything to pass ERA and defeat Schlafly, from bribing state legislators to using witchcraft, but to no avail. …

“[C]onservative intellectuals did not simply plant the seed from which the grassroots grew, as the story usually goes, but watched the grassroots sprout up simultaneously and independently.

“The intellectuals and activists then came together. Schlafly was a central figure in uniting these two indispensable components of the movement. By writing, speaking, and organizing seminars, she brought ideas to the activists.”

— Bracy Bersnak, writing on “The Book on Phyllis Schlafly,” Nov. 17 in the American Spectator online at www.spectator.org

Not so strange

“The UFO cultural moment in America is long since over, having gone out with the Clintons and grunge rock in the ‘90s. Ironically, the force that killed the UFO fad is the same force that catapulted it to super-stardom: the Internet. …

“In the days when USENET was something other than a spam swap, UFO geeks hit ‘send’ to exchange myths, sightings, speculations, secret documents, lies, truths, and even occasionally facts about those strange lights in the sky. …

Yet in recent years, interest in the UFO phenomenon has withered. …

“The Internet showed this particular emperor to be lacking in clothes. If UFOs and alien visitations were genuine, tangible, objective realities, the Internet would be an unstoppable force for detecting them. … How could marauding alien kidnappers remain hidden in a nation with millions of webcams?

“Just as our technology for finding and understanding UFOs improved dramatically, the manifestations of UFOs dwindled away. … For an allegedly real phenomenon, UFOs sure do a good job of acting like the imaginary friend of the true believers. How strange, that they should disappear just as we develop the ability to see them clearly. Or perhaps it isn’t so strange.”

— Douglas Kern, writing on “Internet Killed the Alien Star,” Nov. 9 in Tech Central Station at www.techcentralstation.com

Art of rioting

“iolence, and particularly violence as an expression of rebellion, occupies such a distinct place in the French aesthetic that this month’s riots can hardly be called anything but, well, French. In France, violence is not merely romanticized … it is intellectualized as a legitimate manifestation of philosophical belief. This is linked strongly, of course, to the revolution and to the guillotine, one of the most macabre symbols of freedom ever conceived. … In the 20th century, it was Jean-Paul Sartre who made the tradition modern. Violence, he wrote, is ‘the beginning of humanity.’ He does not seem to have mentioned what the end is.

“Those rioting these past weeks did not seem to know what the end was, either, but their actions were new iterations of an old tradition. ‘La poesie est dans la rue.’ … Sartre asserted the connection plainly: ‘iolence … is man recreating himself.’ But violence itself is not the creation of anything; it is merely the undoing of the old. It is not art; it is desecration.”

— Keelin McDonell, writing on “A History of Violence,” in the Nov. 28 issue of the New Republic

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