- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

Celebrity ‘scum’

“When Donald Trump calls someone scum, he knows of what he speaks. So when we caught his angry diatribe on … Fox News, we sat up and paid attention. ‘I think he’s disgusting. I think he’s scum,’ said Trump. ‘I don’t care how old or how sick he is. He ought to be arrested.’ … This time his target was a doddering nonagenarian named Mark Felt, better known as Deep Throat. …

“Watergate … marked the point when America’s rising capacity for cynicism crossed paths with our declining capacity for outrage. … Today we assume everything is a conspiracy. We just can’t be bothered to [care].

“And so, as Felt collected the largest advance paid to a senile author … he became just another celebrity. Twenty-five years ago, political conspiracies were occasions for righteous anger. Now they’re merchandising opportunities.”

Daniel Radosh, writing on “What Lies Beneath,” in the September/October issue of Radar

‘Finest hour’

“Here’s the situation: a billion-dollar spacecraft manned by three astronauts is speeding toward the moon when suddenly an oxygen tank in the service module blows up. … Back at command center, a worried official succumbs to despair: ‘This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever faced.’ The flight director looks him in the eye and says, quite levelly, ‘With all due respect, sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.’

“That’s a favorite moment of ‘Apollo 13’ for fans of the movie. …

“I happened to catch a showing of ‘Apollo 13’ on the History Channel … [a few days before] Katrina [revealed] herself to be the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

“What do you think, brothers and sisters? Could this terrible storm one day cause some church historian to write of American Christians, ‘This was their finest hour’?

“Many evangelicals are involved in short-term relief efforts. They are helping displaced people from Louisiana and Mississippi to find shelter and meet basic needs. Other congregations are going further and making long-term commitments to affected individuals and churches. They are giving evacuees the gift of time: time to talk about it, with someone to listen.”

— Janie B. Cheaney, writing “Will it be our finest hour?” in the Sept. 24 issue of World

‘Deadly fear’

“Instilling deadly fear throughout the population was one of Mao Zedong’s lasting contributions to China since the late ‘20s. …

“The process of instilling deadly fear, which Mao admired when he saw peasants torturing and killing landlords in 1926 in Hunan, his home province, was perfected in 1942 at Yanan, his guerrilla headquarters. …

“[A]bject and long-lasting obedience was produced by terror followed by confession. Mao’s master at extracting information at Yanan was Kang Sheng, who had been trained by the [Soviet secret police] and wore a black uniform. … To his victims he said, ‘Why does the Communist Party make so much effort to rescue you? When a person confesses to the party, we immediately remove the evidence about him … and we are happy that he has become conscious. … Finally, I warn those people who do not wish to confess, we have maintained a lenient policy, but leniency has a limit.’ ”

Jonathan Mirsky, writing on “China: The Uses of Fear,” in the Oct. 6 issue of the New York Review of Books

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