- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

Imperial ‘Survivor’

“The latest iteration of CBS’s ‘Survivor,’ TV’s longest-running reality show series, is to be set, yet again, in the tropics. ‘Survivor Guatemala: the Mayan Empire’ began filming in June. … Officials in Guatemala are hoping that this latest ‘Survivor’ will spur American tourists to visit the country’s remarkable Mayan ruins.

“That may well happen, and good luck to Guatemala and its infomercial. But as edifying as it might be for large numbers of Americans to steep themselves in someone else’s empire, ‘Survivor’ is probably not the best vehicle for encouraging educated foreign travel. …

“The longevity of ‘Survivor’ can perhaps be attributed to the fact that for the purposes of the competition, these tropical and quasi-tropical settings (even, oddly enough, the Australian outback) are effectively interchangeable. … In ‘Survivor,’ it’s ‘American values’ that are rewarded and endlessly strategic individualism that prevails.

“Sorry, Guatemala, but ‘Survivor’ is ultimately about one empire only, and that one is America’s.”

Amy S. Greenberg, writing on “Americans in the Tropics,” in the October issue of Common-Place at www.common-place.org

PC roots

“Back in the 1960s, the radicals, often for good reason, fought for freedom of speech on campus. How did they transmogrify into censors when they achieved positions of influence and power?

“Remembering some of the leftist activists I knew in college during the 1960s, I’m not surprised some showed a totalitarian taint when they got some power. …

“A number of trends converged to give ideologues permission to advocate censorship. …

“Concern for oppressed people became the conviction that those identified as disadvantaged should not have to endure any remotely nasty comments. The laudable desire to eliminate sexual harassment moved from dealing with individual cases to the right not to have to tolerate a ‘hostile environment.’

“All this was accompanied by a willingness of advocates of speech and conduct codes to brand anyone who questioned them, even from the perspective of a free-speech advocate, as a racist or defender of rapists.”

Alan W. Bock, writing on “Decontaminating the university,” Sunday in the Orange County (Calif.) Register


“[T]his was the thing about ‘In Cold Blood’ — and about [Truman] Capote’s trumpeting of his ‘nonfiction novel’ as an innovative narrative form that drew on both the persuasiveness of fact and the poetic altitude of fiction: It decisively upped the literary ante. Every detail … seemed thrilling and potentially life-transforming. It was as though the more details you had firmly in hand … the closer you might come to comprehending not only the age-old question of good versus evil, but the haphazard workings of fate itself.

“It was as if the details could explain why one moment the small-town assumption that it is safe to sleep with unlocked doors still holds up, and the next moment the worst has happened and your neighbors suddenly strike you as potentially homicidal. …

“The book made Capote, as he put it, ‘the most famous author in America.’ …

“Capote might have written a mediocre thriller, or a piece of competent journalism, instead of a book that transformed the workmanlike genre of true-crime into a starkly realistic yet lyrical work of art that changed the way literary journalism was done, for better and for worse.”

Daphne Merkin, writing on “In Warm Blood,” Oct. 6 in Slate at www.slate.com

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