Friday, September 29, 2006

Religious Right vs. Hollywood

On any given day, we can hear, if we wish, right-wing spokesmen (and women) railing against the "media". According to them, the "Media" is a giant conspiracy, run by jews, gays and other subversives, to destroy America by undermining American "Values". No one gets the religious right more twisted up in their undies than Hollywood. And they hate no one more than Disney, though that is mainly for giving gay employees full benefits, not because of Disney's cloying and culturally illiterate pap. Christian organizations regularly call for a boycott of Hollywood movies. Around Academy Awards time, we are assaulted by right-wing talkers insisting that the Oscars are really not that big a deal, that they are not watched by that many people, blah blah.

Now, there is no desire here to defend Oscar night. It is really hard to imagine something less interesting. That so many people DO watch it, is inexplicable. But my reasons for saying that have nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with boredom. Meanwhile, it is actually weird that the religious right are so suspicious of Hollywood--is there any more effective purveyor of the kind of cathartic mayhem and Stalinist kitsch that warms the hearts of fundamentalists? If you visit any country outside the U.S., you will find they are surprised and puzzled that conservatives hate Hollywood. After all, other than Coke, what is a more powerful symbol of American cultural dominion than our movie industry?

For one who has time for neither religious zealots nor for Hollywood, it is almost fun to see them at each other's throats. Too bad neither camp show any sign of climbing out of the gutter.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why is democracy more important to Iraqis than to Americans?

From the UN to the campaign trail, the President never misses a chance to talk about supporting democracy in the Middle East. We are bankrupting our Treasury and sacrificing our young soldiers, ostensibly in the name of this idea. Unfortunately, we are not protecting this idea here at home. Our government and its partisans do not seem to believe that the opposition have the right to a voice. We have been threatened, suppressed, and told we are unpatriotic. We have been told we are siding with the enemy.

It does seem ironic that this president, so convinced of the value of democracy that he will shove it down middle-eastern throats at the point of a gun, sees no reason to protect democratic principles at home. His operatives have orchestrated the removal of the very term "democratic" from our political lexicon, substituting the word "democrat", as in "the Democrat party". The major media networks have gone along, just the first step in erasing our consciousness of the concept for which the word "democracy" stands. You don't have to be a member of the party to care about the devaluation of the word "democratic".

It is clear that what the Bush Administration wants for the Middle East is not democracy at all, but merely pliability. That is a critical distinction, because it means no one should assume we will act on principle. Saddam was a good friend, deserving of billions of dollars in military aid, until he became inconvenient for us. He wasn't the first dictator to find that out, and probably won't be the last. But before we dump the likes of Musharraf, should the day arrive when he, too, becomes inconvenient, we should not forget that the people waiting to take over from him hate us even more than the Iraqis do. Unlike the Iraqis, however, the Pakistanis do in fact have WMD.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Conservatives are finally getting it

From Chris Buckley, second-generation conservative pundit:

"Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles. George Tenet's WMD 'slam-dunk,' Vice President Cheney's 'we will be greeted as liberators,' Don Rumsfeld's avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves 'neo-conservative' (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others' throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000 -- with no end in sight. But not to worry: Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. . . "