One of the more entertaining aspects of the Washington Times is its regular "Culture Briefs" section that pulls pop-cult squibs from a wide range of sources and runs daily on page A2.
Today's section excerpts two interesting-sounding (at least in their short form) articles. The first is from a SF Chronicle column by Keith Thompson, who announces:
I'm leaving the left–more precisely, the American cultural left nd what it has become during our time together. … I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives–people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere–reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode…."[After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks] Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the 'courage' of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of September 11 comparable to 'automobile statistics.'…Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.
And then there's this bit from National Review's John Derbyshire, which speaks to a different sort of contempt for contemporary America than the sort from which Thompson recoils. We tune in to our hero in medias res, where he is "stuck" in a room in which a Friends rerun is on the telescreen and, this being a cultural version of Orwell's 1984, the Derb cannot turn away:
It's thin gruel….In fact, if you remove all the references to the sex act and its immediate penumbra of behaviors and dysfunctions (mating, dating, engagements, weddings, pregnancies, ED, PMS, etc.), it is pretty much clear water. Are you going to tell me that this is more mentally stimulating than the old Mary Tyler Moore show? Not to mention 'Cymbeline,' or 'The Marriage of Figaro.'…"
Let's let the Shaxspere and Mozart references slide for the moment. As someone who remembers semi-fondly the old Mary Tyler Moore Show–the very definition of quality TV–and who was never a Friends fan, I'm more than willing to suggest that, in fact, the latter show is just as good as the former. Or, more important, the cultural moment we live in is better because you can still enjoy Mary Tyler Moore in reruns and catch Friends too (along with a bunch of other culture, etc., in ever more user- and maker-friendly circumstances).
Which is to say: Refugees from the "cultural left" and the cultural right are welcome at Reason. Here, they will find more, er, nuanced observations on politics and culture, such as Jesse Walker's reading of the current Corporation for Public Broadcasting brouhaha, which is excerpted in the Times next to the above authors:
The range of views on PBS is broader than both left and right usually prefer to acknowledge. (There's a reason why conservative critics of public TV focus on its documentaries, which are more likely to emerge from the left, while leftist critics cast their eyes on its talking-head shows, which tend to be more open to the right.) But if there's a perspective that dominates the network, it might best be described as "frightened liberal."
Jesse's whole bit is here.