Friday, July 18, 2003

Christopher Hitchens is a Baaaaaad Man 

Dennis Perrin has recently joined the lemming-Left's latest pile on, churning out yet another tedious attack upon Christopher Hitchens.

I'll spare the reader a rebuttal to Perrin's tired backbiting, except to note that for one who claims Hitchens as his "mentor" as an essayist ('Back then Christopher Hitchens was It to me', he gushes; 'back then' apparently meaning when Hitchens remained one of the flock), Perrin's writing gives no indication of literary competence: "Hitch could care less about this", he scrawls, when in fact he means the opposite. Indeed, his entire piece is poorly argued, and his prose style is execrable.

Whatever one thinks of Hitchens' broadsides, he exhibits a remarkable command of his native idiom, and in his book reviews is quick to pounce upon schoolboy howlers pertaining to spelling, grammar and usage (e.g., the misuse of 'hopefully'). The fact that the master's finesse seems to have rubbed off on his erstwhile protege not one bit says a great deal more than Perrin's clichéd whines about his former mentor ever will.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Advantage Bush 

An entertaining 2004 Presidential candidate selector says my ideal candidate is George W. Bush. Though I'm not surprised at the overall choice, I do have sharp disagreements with Bush over specific issues (e.g., budgetary concerns, and international trade). Apparently the 100% rating means that Bush is the closest candidate to my ideal, even if he does not share every view I have. Given the paucity of viable Democratic candidates in the field, and my admiration of Bush's handling of foreign policy since 9/11/01, my decision isn't difficult.

Here were my overall results:

1. Bush, George W. - US President (100%)
2. Libertarian Candidate (94%)
3. Gephardt, Cong. Dick, MO - Democrat (90%)
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (73%)
5. Biden, Senator Joe, DE - Democrat (72%)
6. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (70%)
7. Lieberman Senator Joe CT - Democrat (70%)
8. Buchanan, Patrick J. – Reform/Republican (69%)
9. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat (65%)
10. McCain, Senator John, AZ- Republican (63%)
11. Feingold, Senator Russ, WI - Democrat (62%)
12. Leahy, Patrick Senator, Vermont - Democrat (62%)
13. Jackson, Cong. Jesse Jr., IL - Democrat (58%)
14. Graham, Senator Bob, FL - Democrat (57%)
15. Feinstein, Senator Dianne, CA - Democrat (54%)
16. Kaptur, Cong. Marcy, OH - Democrat (53%)
17. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (53%)
18. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (38%)
19. Green Party Candidate (35%)
20. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat (30%)
21. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (28%)
22. Socialist Candidate (23%)
23. Hagelin, John - Natural Law (17%)
24. Bradley, Former Senator Bill NJ - Democrat (16%)
25. Clark, Retired Army General Wesley K "Wes" Arkansas - Democrat (14%)
26. Vilsack, Governor. Tom IA - Democrat (-1%)
27. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (-10%)

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Well-Informed Media Critics 

In a comical little interview from last October's Guardian, radical linguist Noam Chomsky informs us of a dark conspiracy that's taken hold over what was once the people's Internet. It seems that "[t]here are massive efforts on the part of the internet's corporate owners to try to direct it to become a technique of marginalisation and control. Media analyst Norman Solomon did a study of references to the net. Pre-95 it was mostly referred to as an "information superhighway": post-95 it was "free shopping". The effort is to direct people towards commerce or diversions such as pornography".

Chomsky, well-known for his attempts at media criticism (and, infamously, for his obstreperous efforts in the 1970s to whitewash the Cambodian holocaust), is apparently unaware that the Internet is not owned, by corporations or indeed anyone else: rather, it's an abstract name for a global collection of networks operated by various entities, both public and private. Presumably, what Chomsky is fumbling to say is that because companies like GTE and AT&T own the wires, they are controlling what gets downloaded from the servers (in this case commercial and pornographic websites). Far be it from me to question this percipient hypothesis of elite thought control, but I find it more likely people just enjoy buying things they like and looking at pornography- no prodding necessary.

Chomsky also cites Norman Solomon's worried scribblings on a supposed shift in Internet terminology, but, alas, he gets that wrong as well. Solomon does not refer to "free shopping", but e-commerce. Even this critique of Solomon's comes across as obtuse: it is precisely because of massive corporate investment in the Internet and commercialization that it has become user-friendly enough to appeal to the entire population, most of whom before the advent of AOL could barely use a mouse. Perhaps Solomon preferred the old days, when the government and universities ran the servers, and with computer aficionados and academic types the almost exclusive users. My own belief as to why "information superhighway" is no longer used is because it sounds, well, wordy, and pretentious. Terms like the Internet and World Wide Web have supplanted it since the early days of mass popularization.

Solomon is better known for his unintentionally hilarious attack on the cartoon strip Dilbert, in which he objurgates its creator Scott Adams for giving the downtrodden white-collar proletariat a partial outlet for its frustrations with management, but without addressing the larger problems of the corporate structure, thus allowing the workers' revolutionary potential to be dissipated. As a parody of crypto-Marxist theories of immiseration, this is quite funny; unfortunately, Solomon is in earnest.

We need media criticism that provides us evidence the information we're getting about the world is accurate or inaccurate. As it is, Chomsky and Solomon's specious conspiracy theories and witless radical tracts can provide us with only passing amusement.

Friday, July 04, 2003

The American Revolution and its Significance 

On this date each year, Americans celebrate the adoption in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence by the representatives of the Second Continental Congress, and the founding of a noble and unique enterprise in human history. On this date, Americans do not merely celebrate the break from Britain, but the beginning of an experiment that ushered in a worldwide revolution in liberty.

The American colonies were among the most literate societies in the world at the time (indeed, more so than Europe), with New England in particular boasting a literacy rate of 95%. Influenced by Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Paine, the people rallied to the cause of independence and the philosophy of natural rights: that the rights of man (life, liberty, and property) were not bestowed by government but were in fact intrinsic and inalienable. At a time when most of the western world lived under some form of monarchy, the founding of a society based on these ideals and declaring itself free from the world's most powerful empire marked the death knell for oppressive tyranny over human liberty, and the beginning of the emancipation of countless other nations from their colonial masters and homegrown tyrants; it is an emancipation that continues to this day.

July 4 marks the date of the founding of a country whose political system and social ideal became the wonder of billions, and it is for good reason that the first shot of the American Revolution fired at Lexington was said to be the shot heard around the world. On this day we celebrate our liberty, along with the bitter struggles waged throughout history in order to preserve it. Let us never forget that.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The Illustrated Man 

I recently came across a quote that reminded me why Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors:

"The most dangerous thing you can do is to know who you are. See, Norman Mailers's problem is he thinks he's Norman Mailer. And Gore Vidal's problem is he thinks he's Gore Vidal. I don't think I'm Ray Bradbury. You see, there's a big difference. Just do your work everyday, don't go around thinking, "Geez, wow!" The hell with that. The work is important, the work is fun and there's no time: if you get into your work everyday, there's no time to think who you are".

- "The Romance of Places: An Interview with Ray Bradbury," Robert Couteau, Quantum: Science Fiction & Fantasy Review. Spring 1991.

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