- - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crowd non-trouble

“In the developed world, deadly crowd disasters tend to occur at big sales such as the one at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, on Long Island, on Black Friday, 2008; at concerts such as the Who show in Cincinnati, in 1979, at which eleven people died; at sporting events; and at nightclubs. In the developing world, meanwhile, you find them at religious festivals and pilgrimage sites. The crowds in Cairos Tahrir Square have been growing, but political protests or uprisings almost never result in crowd disasters. Which seems, at first glance, counterintuitive.

“Reports on the deaths of protesters in Egypt have focused on those caused by security forces. The crowds themselves have not turned deadly. Perhaps thats because there is more of a common spirit at political gatherings, especially those in which the crowd itself represents a democratic alternative to the regime in power. Most of the deadly crowds you see in the West are manufactured by commercial interests. They arent spontaneous gatherings of the people. There is no popular will being expressed when fans line up for a Justin Bieber appearance at the mall. People dont gather outside a Wal-Mart on a freezing cold night after Thanksgiving to bring about social change. They are there for more personal, arguably more selfish reasons: Wii bundles, or the touch of a celebritys hand.”

John Seabrook, writing on “Egypt and the Dignity of Crowds” on Feb. 1 at the New Yorker

Gervais back?

“So maybe Judd Apatow was the only person actually offended by Ricky Gervais‘ hosting at the Golden Globes? Despite assurances from HFPA members in the immediate aftermath of Gervais‘ excoriating performance that he would never host again, and he had ‘crossed a line,’ Gervais has told the U.K.’s Heat magazine he’s been asked back to host the Globes for a third year in a row.

“In the piece, which Gervais linked to on his own website, he says, ‘The ratings were up again and the organizers asked me to consider a third year. I don’t think I should. I don’t know what I could do better. I certainly couldn’t get more press for them, that’s for sure. You know me. Two seasons is enough.’

“We commend the HFPA on this flip-flop: To keep things as interesting as they were this year, they either needed to ask back Gervais or make tequila shots mandatory for all attendees.”

Willa Paskin, writing on “Ricky Gervais Says Hes Been Asked to Host the Golden Globes Again,” on Feb. 1 at the New York magazine blog Vulture

Civility counts

“Over the past two years, Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss has undertaken a campaign for civility in political discourse. To aid in achieving this civility, he launched the Dreyfuss Initiative in 2010, the proximate goal of which was to promote ‘a … diverse variety of websites representing disparate political opinions … to foster a discussion related to the future of America.’ …

“Oh yes, and I almost forgot to mention that he sees nothing uncivil about the fact that MSNBCs Ed Schultz wishes that former Vice President Dick Cheney would die. Thats right: When recently asked about comments Schultz made in March 2009, wherein Schultz called Cheney an ‘enemy of the country’ and prayed that God would soon whisk him away to ‘the Promised Land,’ Dreyfus said the words were ‘beautifully phrased.’ …

“In all these things, Dreyfuss perfectly demonstrates why salt-of-the-earth Americans look at Hollywood as out of touch with the real world. His personal lack of civility has undermined any efforts he might exert to better political discourse and turned his otherwise admirable endeavors into little more than a bad joke.”

AWR Hawkins, writing on “Richard Dreyfuss Promotes the Kind of Civility Where Wishing Cheney Dead is Okay,” on Feb. 1 at Big Hollywood

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