Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fact or fiction

“Back from holiday, into insanity. Apparently, most British teenagers think Sherlock Holmes was a real person, while a fifth reckon Winston Churchill was a work of fiction. He certainly did a good job thrashing Hitler’s storm troopers. The intermingling of man and myth continues: Richard the Lionheart? Fictional, according to 47 percent. Robin Hood? A bona fide inhabitant of Sherwood Forest with a flair for wealth redistribution, say 51 percent.

“Maybe the respondents were just having a laugh, in the same spirit as filling in your religion as ‘Jedi’ on official forms, or maybe Britain really is raising a generation of young people apt to believe that Jedis are specially trained spiritual warriors who live in Bhutan. In any case, I can’t ponder it too long. I’ve got to catch that great new Obama soap opera.”

Ceri Radford, writing on “Winston Churchill Didn’t Exist” Feb. 4 at the London Daily Telegraph’s arts blog

Racist tolerance

“[I ask] whether our tolerance for ‘non-violent racism’ of various sorts will increase as the black-white binary recedes and the possibility of a horror like Jim Crow grows ever more remote.

“At the moment, there seems to be a tacit agreement — in the media elite especially, but in the wider society as well — that racial chauvinism among African-Americans is grounds for more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger disapproval, whereas racial chauvinism among whites is grounds for outrage and dismissal from polite society.

“This double standard, though, coexists with a widespread sense … that insofar as we tolerate [Louis] Farrakhan-style chauvinism in the black community, we do so only out of deference to the legacy of slavery and all the rest, and we aspire to grow steadily less tolerant of it over time. Like affirmative action, it’s meant to be a temporary response to a temporary problem.”

Ross Douthat, writing on “The Future of Racism” Feb. 4 at his blog at The Atlantic

Second lady?

“In fact, in a country in which the Bushes were rewarded for acting down-home, and the Kerrys punished for being their windsurfing, polyglot selves, most of the criticism of Janet [Huckabee] is so class-based, it would turn out to be great PR: She likes her pie, is middleweight boxing champ Jermain Taylor’s biggest fan,… slams doors, packs heat, and, like most of us, will never be confused with Jackie Kennedy: ‘Janet is not White House material; I doubt she’s learned which fork to use,’ says one of her Little Rock detractors. …

“Janet may not like the media but, oh, the media would like her, the anti-Teresa Heinz, just as they do her husband. (See how excited ABC’s Claire Shipman was … when Janet shared how early in their marriage, Mike sold his guitar collection to buy her a washer-dryer so she wouldn’t have to wash poopy diapers at the Laundromat?) … Handing a speaking role to such a plain-talker was, alas, too high a risk. But underfunded as Huckabee is, hiding a woman who has ‘earned media’ written all over her, and who so clearly is in touch with the concerns of ordinary voters, may turn out to have been the worst campaign decision since Rudy wintered in Florida.”

Melinda Henneberger, writing on “Shoots Bears, Submits to Husband” on Jan. 29 at

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