- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thanks again

“When Christopher Buckley’s novel ‘Thank You for Smoking’ came out in 1994, it was a surprising satire of the vilification of the tobacco industry, the zealotry of health advocates and the pandering of politicians. Just as the first big wave of congressional tobacco hearings got under way, ‘Thank You for Smoking’ delivered the story of a sympathetic (if relentlessly disingenuous) tobacco lobbyist pitted against nefarious do-gooders and a manipulative media.

“Fans had plenty to fear from a movie adaptation, which opened last weekend: Would Hollywood sanitize this irreverent satire of spin culture and demonize its tobacco-shilling protagonist, Nick Naylor? Would the open mockery of health crusaders and the easily duped American public be turned into a cautionary tale about the evils of corporations? Screenwriter and director Jason Reitman remains true to Buckley’s message, but the dozen years between the novel and the film have rendered the once bold satire only mildly titillating: politically incorrect enough to make the audience feel like they’re in on a naughty prank against The Man, but not politically incorrect enough to tip any sacred cows.”

— Brooke Oberwetter, writing on “Politics Nixed In Cancer Stick Flick,” Thursday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Unmanly sneer

“The sneering review in the New York Times Book Review by a novelist called Walter Kirn of Harvey Mansfield’s ‘Manliness’ could have been anticipated, but its obtuseness … is unusual even for the mainstream media culture which Mr. Kirn represents. He compares the professor to Hans and Franz, the German body-builders portrayed by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon on ‘Saturday Night Live’ back in the 1990s. …

“So now are we to suppose that the prestigious New York Times regards it as a sufficient refutation of a serious work of political philosophy to say that it isn’t ‘hip’? There could hardly be a better illustration of the dumbing down of the culture. …

“Embarrassing as is this kind of twaddle masquerading as a book review, what lies behind it is of course politics — and not just politics in the larger senses either.”

— James Bowman, writing on “Manliness and the Mindless,” Wednesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Birth of blogging

“Fifteen years ago Glenn Reynolds started brewing his own beer (‘sometimes terrific … sometimes not so great’). A few years later he began recording his own music. Then, in the summer of 2001, he turned to writing a Web log, and the rest is history. A hitherto obscure law professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, became Instapundit, an insta-star in the firmament of the blogosphere.

“More than a few rival bloggers, at the time, were old-media writers who had decided to try their hand at something new. Instapundit, by contrast, was born along with the form. Indeed, he embodied it … providing instant reactions to current events. Insights appeared alongside thin, one-sentence musings — always supported by links to news stories, columns and, not least, other bloggers. Reading Mr. Reynolds’s blog could become addictive, even if you often felt that you’d be better off spending your time talking to real people — or even reading an old-fashioned newspaper — than clicking your life away.

— Adrian Wooldridge, writing on “Small Is Powerful,” Thursday in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

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