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Jewish World Review Oct. 26 1999 /16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Don Feder

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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 News rhapsodized.)

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 mind.

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 Virtues."

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 time.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate