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Culture Notes

Culture

Issue: "Debunking Darwinism," Nov. 22, 1997

Manson kills again

Chalk up another victim of the Manson clan-not by the crazed mass murderer locked up in prison, but by his fans, the shock-rock group Marilyn Manson. Raymond Kuntz, of Burlington, N.D., testified before a congressional hearing on a bill to require parental advisories on recordings and blamed the group for his 15-year-old son's suicide. Other suicides have been blamed on the death worship preached by various bands, but this case seems to show a closer influence than usual. Mr. Kuntz said that his son Richard was a major fan of Marilyn Manson, whose act includes calls to kill parents and children, overt Satanism and invectives against Christianity, and other celebrations of evil, including suicide. Mr. Kuntz distributed copies of his son's favorite song, "Reflecting God," which includes the lyrics "one shot and the world gets smaller/let's jump upon the sharp swords/and cut away our smiles/without the threat of death/there's no reason to live at all/my world is unaffected, there is an exit here." When Richard shot himself in his room, he was playing a Manson album. Next to his bed was a draft of a research paper he had written on the band . The paper surveyed the band's behavior and the protests being made by Christians and others at Manson concerts. "Believing that what he is doing is good and promoting it through music," Richard wrote, "he gains followers by epitomizing children's black thoughts of rebellion."

STARSHIP STORM TROOPERS

The scariest part of the new hit movie Starship Troopers is not the giant bugs or the body parts littering the screen, but the human society it projects. Here is the progressivist's utopia: Everything is ethnically diverse, equal, and harmonious. We have a one-world government, permits to have children, and women in combat (and in uni-sex communal showers). According to the interactive computerized news shows, everyone is happy. Democracy, though, has become outdated, so the world is run by a benign military elite. "Civilians" enjoy their prosperity and are taken care of by the "citizens" whose military service has proven their devotion to society and given them the sole right to vote. Director Paul Verhoeven, exaggerating hints in the original novel by Robert Heinlein, is portraying a kinder, gentler application of fascism. The connection is made explicit by the Starship Troopers' uniforms, complete with storm-trooper-style caps and gestapo trench coats. The film also becomes a window into the fascist mind. Nazis consistently described the Jews and their other enemies as "vermin." The movie's good-guy Nazis pledge to exterminate the repulsive alien "race," perform medical experiments on them, and blast them away with no qualms, suggesting how the real Nazis could have done what they did.Mr. Verhoeven, who lived as a child in Nazi-occupied Holland, may claim that he is being ironic. But look for many of the movie's fans to think that this vision of the future makes a lot of sense.

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The winner of this year's "Bad Writing Contest," sponsored by the journal Philosophy and Literature, is the distinguished and widely influential critic Fredric Jameson, professor of comparative literature at Duke University. The second- and third-place runners up were also English professors. Dr. Jameson, a Marxist and an important postmodern theorist, won for a sentence in his book Signatures of the Visible: "The visual is essentially pornographic, which is to say that it has its end in rapt, mindless fascination; thinking about its attributes becomes an adjunct to that, if it is unwilling to betray its object; while the most austere films necessarily draw their energy from the attempt to repress their own excess (rather than from the more thankless effort to discipline the viewer)." In the citation, the judges said Dr. Jameson was "a man who on the evidence of his many admired books finds it difficult to write intelligibly and impossible to write well. Whether this is because of the deep complexity of Prof. Jameson's ideas or their patent absurdity is something readers must decide for themselves." About 60 entrants were nominated by readers. The prize is a set of "decent, well-written books."

STARSHIP STORM TROOPERS

The scariest part of the new hit movie Starship Troopers is not the giant bugs or the body parts littering the screen, but the human society it projects. Here is the progressivist's utopia: Everything is ethnically diverse, equal, and harmonious. We have a one-world government, permits to have children, and women in combat (and in uni-sex communal showers). According to the interactive computerized news shows, everyone is happy. Democracy, though, has become outdated, so the world is run by a benign military elite. "Civilians" enjoy their prosperity and are taken care of by the "citizens" whose military service has proven their devotion to society and given them the sole right to vote. Director Paul Verhoeven, exaggerating hints in the original novel by Robert Heinlein, is portraying a kinder, gentler application of fascism. The connection is made explicit by the Starship Troopers' uniforms, complete with storm-trooper-style caps and gestapo trench coats. The film also becomes a window into the fascist mind. Nazis consistently described the Jews and their other enemies as "vermin." The movie's good-guy Nazis pledge to exterminate the repulsive alien "race," perform medical experiments on them, and blast them away with no qualms, suggesting how the real Nazis could have done what they did.

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