Culture Notes


Issue: "Face Off," Aug. 9, 1997

A correction

WORLD reported two weeks ago that only Fox News was broadcasting the Senate Campaign Finance Hearings, chaired by Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). That was incorrect: The conservative cable network National Empowerment Television, which is sadly unavailable in much of the country, also carried the hearings. (Recently, CNN has televised parts of the hearings also. C-SPAN, which is contractually bound to televise the House of Representatives whenever it is in session, has shown tapes of the hearings at night and on weekends.)

Animal rights and wrongs

If animals have rights, they also have responsibilities! So goes the reasoning as the animal rights movement keeps confusing man and beast. Not only do people oppress animal-Americans. So do other animals-especially cats. It seems that when kitty goes out to play, she wreaks havoc among other living things. A Wisconsin study calculated that America's 60 million cats may kill as many as a billion small mammals and a billion birds each year. In England, the center of militant anti-hunting activism, London's Sunday Telegraph carried a story with the headline "The Charge is Murder: But How Guilty Is Puss?" Not only do England's 8 million cats kill 210 million birds and other wildlife each year, but they maim 42 million more, and spend an average of 30 minutes torturing their victims, to the great distress of animal lovers. But plant-eaters are also in trouble. Mills College, a woman's college in Oakland, Calif., uses 500 goats to keep down the underbrush on its 135-acre campus. But according to a complaint from the local Teamsters union, the goats are taking jobs away from hard-working Americans. As reported in Newsweek, the college says that it "remains committed to fair employment across the species," while the Teamsters say they are willing to let the goats join the union. Meantime, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been picketing the Wienermobile. Oscar Mayer's hot-dog shaped car has been dogged by PETA pickets all along this summer's promotional tour. The Wienermobile, says a spokesman for the organization, "is very, very fun. Which is why it's so invidious. It's selling the idea that eating hot dogs is fun. When, in fact, it is a violent, bloody business, and it has got to stop." At a recent stop in a Baltimore suburb, children were participating in the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener" singing contest, when PETA pickets started chanting "Cruelty we won't tolerate! Get the slaughter off the plate!" Protesters in pig suits began waving signs at the children that read "Did your food have a face?" As the kids started singing how their baloney has a first name, the animal-rights activists started drowning them out with a bullhorn. But then the moms had enough. As reported by Karl Vick of The Washington Post, one of the mothers pointed out, "Wait, wait! I do see leather shoes!" Soon the protesters scattered. Attempts to worship nature often end up denying nature. Cats will always be predators. Goats will always graze. And mothers will always defend their young.

Fiction & reality

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Postmodernists do not believe in absolute truth; since all beliefs are constructions of the mind, there is no difference between truth and fiction. Thus, a feature of postmodernist literature is to blur that distinction. In the movie Contact, based on Carl Sagan's novel about the discovery of other life in outer space (see the review in WORLD, July 26/August 2), producer Robert Zemeckis uses Forrest Gump technology to insert a press conference from President Clinton into his narrative. What the president originally said about the Mars rock-"If this discovery is confirmed, it will surely be one of the most stunning insights that science has uncovered"-now applies to Jodie Foster's radio telescope. Then, in an apalling lapse of taste, the film takes a clip of Mr. Clinton's commiserating over the Oklahoma City bombing and morphs one of its own actors into the scene. An actual, national tragedy is made to refer to the crash of a Vegan space ship. The White House-quite correctly-is strenuously objecting to Hollywood's use of the president's words and image without permission or appropriateness. But perhaps even less excusable is the film's use of real news reporters from CNN who appeared voluntarily in the movie. Bernard Shaw, Larry King, Natalie Allen, Bob Novak, John Holliman, and Wolf Blitzer played themselves under the CNN logo, reporting on the alien contact just as they do on real-life TV. Though the president of CNN has subsequently forbidden his newscasters from pulling this again, the postmodern confusion of truth and fiction continues to be a problem on the nightly news. Not only does the entertainment factor and staged media events drive out factual reporting, but the news stories that get the most play are those that most resemble Hollywood movies-such as the Versace murder and his alleged killer's suicide.


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