Gleanings From the Media
Continental Divide: It’s not just London Bridge that seems to be falling down these days in Europe, judging by articles in several European newspapers translated and reprinted in the April issue of World Press Review.
“Europe is cracking,” Leopold Unger writes in the February 11 issue of the liberal Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. “Thirteen years after the loss of the common enemy, on the first try, the unity of the West is unraveling like an old sweater. The West is torn. Saddam is laughing. Iraq divided his enemies.”
The cause, Unger argues, is an alliance among countries with divergent interests. “Today Europe doesn’t have — and never has had — a genuinely common and cohesive foreign policy, not to mention a defense policy.… [I]f Europe wants to be taken seriously, its foreign policy and its input toward preserving democratic values cannot come down to an anti-American fixation.”
Unger’s sentiments were echoed in France by Jean-Marie Colombani of the liberal daily Le Monde. “What is the strategic doctrine that Europe would propose as an alternative to the preventive war sought by the United States? When have our heads of state and government ever dealt with this issue in a concerted manner? What can they suggest, even at a minimum?” The 21st century, Colombani writes, “demands the emergence of the Old Continent as a power that is peaceful but not pacifist, and that is a full partner of the United States but not its satellite.”
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In Da White House: Meanwhile, back on this side of the Atlantic, The Nation is lamenting the return to political prominence of the macho man.
“The once-mocked figure of the dominant male has become a real-life hero,” writes Richard Goldstein in the March 24 issue of the liberal weekly. “From Colin Powell dissing the French as cowards to Donald Rumsfeld raising his fists at the podium, the Bush administration bristles with an almost cartoonish macho.”
Pop culture paved the way for the return of the “neo-macho hero,” Goldstein argues, with rap artists such as Eminem leading a backlash against feminism. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, he says, politics followed suit, from the commander in chief on down.
“These two young patriarchs seem utterly opposite,” Goldstein writes of President George W.Bush and Eminem, “but they have fundamental things in common. Both are social conservatives who stand for a male-dominated order. Both owe their appeal to anxiety over sexual and social change. Both offer the spectacle of an aggrieved man reacting with righteous rage. These qualities, which once seemed dangerous, now read as reassuring. The macho stance that once looked stylized is now a mark of authenticity.”
Goldstein places machismo firmly at the center of American foreign policy, arguing that the cultural attitude underpins the Bush administration’s designs for Iraq. “Male grievance has found a geopolitical target in Saddam,” he writes. “Sexual revenge has been sublimated into military payback. Underlying this process is a sense of the world as a jungle where friendship is transient, danger is everywhere and one can never have enough power. This is the classic rationale for macho.”
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LSDeity: “Drugs,” Lawrence Bush writes in the March-April issue of the secular bimonthly Jewish Currents, “provided a generational experience of spirituality on a par with the ‘Great Awakening’ of early American Methodism or any other wave of evangelical revivalism that has swept our country throughout its history.”
Fear of nuclear extinction among baby boomers, he writes, “helped to drive the baby boomers away from science and rationalism and toward religiosity.” The search for spirituality, he argues, led many during the 1960s to explore their “mystical consciousness” through the use of LSD.
“I, too, exposed myself to psychedelic drugs numerous times in my teens and found my experiences to be deeply fortifying to my identity,” Bush confesses. “Psychedelics did not, however, convince me of God’s existence, of the illusory or handicapped nature of my waking consciousness, or of there being ‘deeper realities’ just beyond the horizon.”
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Paper Honeymoon: In a special edition devoted to media matrimony, the “Love Beat” column of the weekly New York Observer reports this week on the engagement of Ira Stoll, managing editor of the New York Sun, to Aliza Phillips, features editor of the Forward. According to the Observer’s Anna Jane Grossman, the pair met in 1999 when Stoll was managing editor of the Forward and Phillips came to work as his assistant. The romance only began, however, after Stoll “split the Forward to work for the Jerusalem Post in May of 2000,” as Grossman delicately puts it.
Working at “rival publications” appears to take some maneuvering; “I don’t tell him what’s going to be in the Forward the next week, and he doesn’t tell me about some hot scoop he’s working on in the Sun,” Phillips told the Observer. They are said to be planning “a Conservative Jewish wedding” sometime in December.