- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

Epic shift

“The familiar narrative of race politics has always evoked the epic vision of the civil rights era: a battle between good and evil, between justice and racism. … Never mind that in recent decades the heroic epic often degenerated into farce in the antics of [Al] Sharpton or a Cynthia McKinney, or that its reverent symbolism increasingly congealed into the cynical orthodoxy of a Jesse Jackson; the narrative still kept its powerful hold on the nation’s politics and the black imagination.

“Up until now, at any rate. For a younger generation of blacks, the symbolic, I-marched-with-Martin politics, not to mention the Jackson-style cronyism that it often degenerated into, doesn’t cut it — and not just because this generation is too young to have felt the billy clubs at Selma.

“Instead of rights activists and ministers, many of these newcomers are lawyers or businessmen. Even though a few grew up poor, they’ve all spent their formative years swimming in the mainstream, including major universities, corporations, and law firms, and they are now solidly middle class.”

— Kay S. Hymowitz, writing on “The New Black Realism,” in the winter issue of City Journal

Blog bile

“The blogocracy, these days, is shot through with recreational hostility.

“Yes, political dialogue got down and dirty long before today. Thomas Jefferson was outed for his jumps over the fence by someone who today would have announced it in a blog. Or, consider Maureen Dowd’s mean probing of Barack Obama in the Times [last week], studiously indulging in blithe, useless probing of his character as if that alone were a duty of some kind. …

“Snarky blogging is … lazy. It recalls Anna Nicole Smith once telling her mother, ‘If my name is out there in the news, good or bad it doesn’t matter … I’m going to do whatever it takes.’

‘This endemic ‘gotcha’ tone in the blogosphere gives off a whiff of testosterone, locker-room sweat, and … Clearasil. It’s crass and idle.”

— John McWhorter, writing on “Barbaric Blogging,” Thursday in the New York Sun

Anna mania

“Deep within the American consciousness beats the heart of a Victorian gentleman, who likes nothing better than a story that shocks as well as titillates and about which he can shake a finger and say, ‘Shame, shame.’ …

“Anna Nicole Smith’s story really is the old morality tale of a girl who strays, becomes a stripper and a gold-digger, falls in with even more unsavory people, and finally comes to an appropriately bad, sad end. But upon this basic penny-dreadful is the overlay of a very 21st-century story of celebrity, where being famous for being famous is more than enough and can trump lack of talent, lack of substance, and, especially, lack of character (whether good or bad or anything noteworthy at all). …

“Some are now complaining about the nonstop coverage of Anna Nicole Smith and are decrying the low level of today’s media. But ratings show people are watching. So Anna Nicole Smith will continue to be on the cover of the celeb magazines … and the news coverage of her death will surely continue. … Even after the mourning and the gloating is over, the media are betting the audience will stay tuned in. And that’s a pretty safe bet.”

— Myrna Blyth, writing on “The News Is Pictures,” Thursday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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