- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

Celebrity cycle

“Like other American social tides, the fascination with celebrities has been cyclical, and after several decades of rising (as it also did from the 1920s through the ‘40s), perhaps it will now (as in the ‘60s) ebb. …

“[T]he designated media gatekeepers are saying that Paris Hilton, the very embodiment of modern celebrity black magic, is over. Maybe she’s the canary in the mine, whose end heralds the end of this extreme era. At the denouement of our last celebrity-media-mad epoch, in the Sweet Smell of Success ‘50s, there was another sexy, [promiscuous] young Hilton whom the gossip rags obsessed over.

“Nicky Hilton, the great-uncle of Paris (and namesake of her sister), dated Mamie Van Doren, Natalie Wood, and Joan Collins, and married Elizabeth Taylor. By the time he died druggily in 1969, however, the public couldn’t have cared less, and the celebrity media that had made him briefly famous were dead or dying as well. So perhaps we won’t always have Paris.”

— Kurt Andersen, writing on “Celebrity Death Watch,” in the April 3 issue of New York

Armchair radical

“Eric Lott, who teaches English and American studies at the University of Virginia … [has a new] book ‘The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual’ [which] is to stay-at-home tenured radicals what the television remote is to couch potatoes. Without parking hassles or library bottlenecks, you get the latest on unforgettable conferences and pathbreaking journal articles. …

“To be sure, Lott seeks more than to guide would-be tenured radicals; he has a mission and an animus. He wants to carve out a space for radicals to the left of detestable ‘boomer liberals,’ who have seized the limelight and distorted politics. …

“In an era of pallid Democrats and furtive leftists, Lott comes out shouting his revolutionary loyalties. He marches with real working people. … Unfortunately, he marches only from the podium to the speaker’s table. …

” ‘The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual’ [is] an almost flawless exemplar of tenured vacuity and mock radicalism.”

— Russell Jacoby, writing on “Brother From Another Planet,” in the April 10 issue of the Nation

False prophet

“In 1969, an obscure Republican political strategist named Kevin Phillips published a nerdy, statistics-laden book titled ‘The Emerging Republican Majority.’ … Phillips long ago left behind both obscurity and conservatism, becoming one of our most ubiquitous political commentators and one of the most left-wing. His biennial books have become illogical, dizzying screeds. And his diagnoses, predictions, and advice to Democrats have been consistently, embarrassingly wrong.

“Phillips’ faults are on full, gaseous display in his latest jeremiad, ‘American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.’ …

“Phillips’ argument is that oil dependency, Christian fundamentalism, and excessive debt are destroying the country. He is not wrong that these are dangers. But he wildly misunderstands, distorts, and overstates all of them. …

“Democrats would be wise to beware of geeks bearing such gifts.”

— Jacob Weisberg, writing on “The Erring Republican Authority,” Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.comz

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