September 28th, 2005

Reality Television

It's worth pondering what the propaganda machines of Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union could have done with reality television. Thankfully, the Bush Administration is doing its part to help that thought experiment along:
In its standard format, the popular ABC series finds hard-pressed but deserving families, sends them away for short vacations and then, in a whirlwind of carpentry and appliance-shopping, gives them new homes. This time, though, the show will broadcast from an underserved shelter near Biloxi, where a convoy of trucks stocked with everything from mattresses to pants will arrive, courtesy of Sears, one of the show's sponsors.

It's not clear exactly what Mrs. Bush will do, but Tom Forman, executive producer and creator, said he is hoping that she'll just pitch in and help unload.

"I think we say, 'Mrs. Bush, the stuff is over here, the people are over there, could you grab the other end of that mattress?' " Forman said. Press secretary Susan Whitson envisioned something closer to handing out clothing and thanking volunteers.
Walter Benjamin advised us to respond to the aestheticization of politics by politicizing art. But when you can't tell which is which, that move becomes more difficult to make.

Challenging

masoo has a recent entry on his "real" blog in which he lists which of the "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books" he has read. I'm doing the same:
3 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7 Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling

13 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

19 Sex by Madonna
20 Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel

22 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23 Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

25 In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

34 Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam

39 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

41 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42 Beloved by Toni Morrison

51 A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

53 Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

56 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57 The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

59 Ordinary People by Judith Guest

61 What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62 Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume


69 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71 Native Son by Richard Wright


75 Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76 Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle

84 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85 Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

88 Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
I'm surprised Our Bodies, Ourselves isn't on the list. Goodness knows it has been the biggest "bad" influence on my own life. Comparing the titles I've read to the ones that masoo has, the main difference is that I've read more of the children's books on the list. The reason is clear: he was born fifteen years before I was.

What I find useful about this particular exercise is that it underscores the degree to which attempts at censorship are a problem at all levels, from pre-school to graduate school. Defending Mark Twain or Toni Morrison is great, but defending them together with Judy Blume and Katherine Patterson. To paraphrase one of the more outwardly puzzling passages in Toni Negri and Michael Hardt's Multitude, hope for a better world falls squarely on the side of those who advocate for an "open source" society.