Jewish World Review Oct. 26 1999 /16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Leftists call the
tune - by the book
THE SUCCESS of the left, despite the instinctive conservatism of the
American people, is based on its control of society's idea generators --
academia, the news media, Hollywood and book publishing. The debate moves to
the tempo of the baton in its hand.
It's depressing to contemplate the totality of that control. Take the
venerable Book of the Month Club. Founded in 1926, the club sells 40 million
books, CDs and videocassettes each year. BOMC and its eight associated clubs
have 4.5 million members.
When a book is chosen as a club main selection, its success is assured. In
any given month, most offerings have nothing to do with politics. But those
that do could come from the window display of a Harvard Square bookstore run
by guys with graying ponytails and Birkenstocks.
November's main selection is "Dutch," Edmund Morris' contemptious biography
of Ronald Reagan. It figures that the club's editors would like this stink
bomb. ("One of the most distinctive biographies we've read," the Book Club
Morris' thesis: The most successful president of the post-war era was a
nitwit, thus the book is loaded with references to the Gipper's "relentless
banality, " "encyclopedic ignorance" and "incoherence."
It is a liberal axiom that the man who defeated communism and gave America
its greatest postwar boom needed three-by-five cards to think. The left is
convinced that Reagan's affinity for free-market economics and staunch
anti-communism can only be explained as the product of an unsophisticated
At the club, sisterhood is powerful. A November alternate selection is
Susan Faludi's "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male."
Faludi, the author of "Backlash" (which warned of a vast patriarchal
conspiracy), wonders why men "so often and so vociferously resist women's
struggles toward independence and a fuller life."
She didn't have to look far for the answer. Men are oppressed by
"ornamentalism," Faludi contends. Their psyches are warped by a culture that
values them only as producers and consumers. To be sure, it's not unusual to
hear guys in bars and bowling allies lamenting the fact that society has
turned them into objects. ("It's a bleepin' shame! Gimme a brew, will ya?")
You can take your feminism from Faludi or you can get it from a Harvard
psychologist. William Pollach's "Real Boys" (another current selection)
claims boys are stereotyped by the "Boy Code," which demands that they be
rough and tough, and sublimate their natural feelings. Pollach's message
seems to be: Boys need a Barbie.
The love that dare not speak its name is voluble at the club. The November
News offers: "Open Secret: Gay Hollywood, 1928-1998," "The Sewing Circle --
Female Stars Who Loved Other Women," "The Gay Kama Sutra" and "A History of
Homosexuality in the Visual Arts." Can "The Art of Gay Cooking" and "Gay
Aerobics" be far away?
The only November title that seems to take a politically incorrect
perspective is Michael Isikoff's "Uncovering Clinton." I say seems to,
because Isikoff actually argues that the felon in chief is no more guilty
than the right-wing cabal that plotted his downfall.
From time to time, BOMC offers conservative titles, usually those that are
acceptable at New York cocktail parties, like Bill Bennett's "The Book of
Still, the editors make little effort to hide their bias.
Last spring, the club offered Wendy Shalit's "A Return to Modesty:
Discovering the Lost Virtue." The News condescendingly disclosed that when
the volume "was presented at a BOMC editorial meeting, our editors found
themselves in a heated debate over the book's central points."
In other words, the idea that young women are exploited by the sexual
revolution is quite controversial -- unlike the notion that men are
exploited by masculinity, which, for the club's editors, is self-evident.
The club would doubtless claim that it pushes what appeals to its members.
But most Americans admire Ronald Reagan, think feminism is divorced from
reality and believe the average male is satisfied with his life.
Selections reflect the politics of editors rather than an assessment of
marketability. Along with network news, college curricula and entertainment
television, The Book of the Month Club is one more strident editorial from
the culture's management.
The rest of us do not get equal
JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.
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©1999, Creators Syndicate