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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

May 6, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 22




global perspective Mistaking velocity for intelligence, decibels for wit

by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large

Casual encounter in a television studio. The guest on after me, Tammy Bruce, author on book tour, handed me, "The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on our Culture and Values."

I've a soft spot for the writer hawking wares. But not, alas, for this book.

Fine topics for someone seeking a good argument: the "Agenda of the Radical Gay Elite," the "Betrayal by the Black Elite," the "Real Agenda of the Academic Elite."

But this isn't a book about those issues. This is an "I-me" book about Tammy Bruce's striding across the cultural battlefield; her every thought, move and intention. She says "aye-aye-aye-aye" more often than Carmen Miranda. It's "I-I-I-I" 14 times in the opening two paragraphs. She should sue her editors for dereliction of duty.

The Left is anyone Bruce takes aim at plus those in the immediate vicinity. No nuance. A dimwitted judge makes an indefensible ruling. The Left did it. The extremes of gaydom -- Bruce described herself as a lesbian feminist -- do what extremes do. The Left did it.

Maybe the Left did do it. But Bruce doesn't support her argument, she gets herself in the way of it with a zealotry as relentless as a print version of a right-wing talk show.

The right's commentators -- rare now the witty urbane conservative -- mistake velocity of delivery for intelligence, decibel level for wit, and self-centered monologues for erudition.

Bruce never cracks a smile or turns a phrase. One almost longs for writers like R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. ("The Liberal Crack-Up," 1984).

In that book Tyrrell was rhubarbing on about television taking over the nation's minds and sensibilities, a world where Jack Klugman, an M.D. on "Quincy," was asked to testify on "orphan drugs" before Congress, and M*A*S*H surgeon Alan Alda lectured at medical schools. But then see what Tyrrell did with it: "When Laurence Olivier played Hamlet he was never asked to testify before Parliament on domestic political conditions in Denmark."

Here's Bruce in Chapter Eight, "Trashing the Public Trust." I-me on every page, then every paragraph, until, six pages in, every other sentence: "I chose the quote from a journalist….", "I can't tell you how many times. …" "I, like you, do know a few more. …"

Until, finally, "I'll go into details later."

Not for me you won't. I closed the book.

Arthur's Daily Ditty

Left and Right: Weak and Strong?
If Left is Right, is Right all Wrong?
Most Americans ignore this riddle; they're
Snug and smug smack in the middle.
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