- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Moving line

“In the [United States] … the government still tries to draw a line between mere sexual explicitness, which is protected by the First Amendment, and obscenity, which is not. Because this distinction is based on ‘community standards,’ which are influenced by what publishers manage to get away with, the line is constantly moving. By running pictures of topless women along with serious articles by well-known writers, Hugh Hefner inspired a horde of imitators … and helped make sexual content acceptable, if not respectable.”

— Jacob Sullum, writing on “Girly Mags vs. the Censors,” in the May issue of Reason

Anti-war nostalgia

“The demonstrations on the National Mall in Washington on the fourth anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq reminded many Americans of the demonstrations on that very ground during the Vietnam War.

“But it looked that way because America is infatuated with the Vietnam War. People now in their 30s and 40s who were too young to be cognizant of what was going on during that era have been fed a steady diet of Vietnam nostalgia all their lives. That spoon-feeding has been greatly aided by television news, which came of age during the Vietnam War. …

“So there is little wonder that an unpopular war in our present day would prompt comparison with an unpopular war that has dominated much of our film and literature for the past 35 years. …

“Each life lost in both wars represents a tear in the fabric of our nation, but it is important to resist the urge to indulge in fatalistic nostalgia.

“There is one sobering similarity: the extent to which portrayal of the Iraq War has been manipulated by promotion-hungry media and their pet politicians who are running for office on an anti-war platform. …

“To what does the New York Times devote more ink: a handful of atrocities committed by American soldiers or the daily, nonstop murder of civilians committed by extremist Islamic groups in Iraq, murders that now number in the tens of thousands?”

— Stephanie Ramage, writing on “How we became the bad guys,” in the (Atlanta) Sunday Paper

Humor weapon

“Communism and humor aren’t exactly two things you’d expect to go together. When confronted with an onslaught of death, despair and dictatorship, one doesn’t usually think: Laugh riot!

“And with good reason: Over the last hundred years, Communism was responsible for the death and imprisonment of millions. It was the source of measureless suffering and despair, a worldwide scourge that dominated much of the 20th century. In other words, it was about as far from funny as you can get. …

“As is often the case, it’s instructive to look at the example of President Reagan. Toward the end of the [new documentary, ‘Hammer & Tickle’], we learn that he assigned a State Department official to collect Communist jokes for him. Many of these were then used in speeches as a way of brightening an otherwise gloomy subject. The few videos of Reagan retelling those jokes are some of the documentary’s funniest moments.

“Reagan’s willingness to joke, even while recognizing the seriousness of the threat, should remind us that although we have many weapons in our arsenal against fear and oppression, one of the most powerful is a sense of humor — and the freedom to use it.”

— Peter Suderman, writing on “Commie Comedy,” Friday in National Review Online at www.national review.com

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