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Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2001 / 17 Tishrei, 5762

James Lileks

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America, loathe or it leave it -- America, Loathe or It Leave It: that's the refrain of the foaming left, the folks who believe we deserved the WTC attack. Most blame our geopolitical imperialism, of course. If we'd played nice before, they'd have crashed only one plane into the towers. But there's another segment that blames the attack on American cultural imperialism. According to this view, the world hates us because "Baywatch" is the most popular show on the planet.

Really? It's not as if the Marines kick in the doors of TV stations around the world and force them to substitute "Baywatch" for local programming. Someone living in a grimy industrial city might actually want to watch pretty people running along a beach solving crime. It has the same relationship to their life that "Star Trek" does to someone living in New York. There's a reason American culture finds root in so many different places: it's fun. Even at its stupidest, it demonstrates a society whose freedom and polycultural fabric is taken for granted by its citizenry. Such impiety naturally bothers the easily-bothered.

Contempt for the results of free will is often contempt for free will itself. What's the point of having elections if your guy loses? What's the point of free will if people choose sugar over substance? Yes, yes, in a more perfect world we'd all be glued to the tube for The Federal Register Hour, where experts discuss new laws, and how each one brings us .034% closer to heaven. But consider what the Taliban would force the world to watch - if they permitted TV, of course:

Daybreak - Noon: Prayers

Noon: The Prayer Hour

One PM: Singing and Dancing

Two PM: Televised execution of everyone who sang and danced during yesterday's show

Three PM: Forbidden Body Part of the Day. Today: why the pancreas is sinful

Four-Six PM: Protocols of the Elders of Zion (miniseries) (repeat)

Six PM: How to waste ammunition by firing wildly into the air

Seven PM: fundraiser for children orphaned by bullets falling inexplicably from the sky, perhaps as a part of a Zionist scheme

Eight PM: Sign off. "Death to America!" performed by the Kabul Men's Chorus who, forbidden to play music, just glower in stirring four-part harmony.

It's this or Baywatch, really. Although David Hasselhoff in a full-body veil is not exactly a bad idea.

Ah, but what of our metastizing commercial institutions? The anti-globalists are always bothered by Starbucks, for example, as a soulless retail entity that pops up everywhere and destroys . . . um . . . well, it destroys something. They have a corporate logo, so they must be evil. McCulture, it's been called - a baleful scourge that makes everyone into soulless robots hungry for grease, salt, salty grease and greasy salt. But for an interesting lesson in how McCulture actually works, turn to Egypt, and listen to the song stylings of one Shaaban Abdel-Rehim.

He's an illiterate worker who gained huge popularity last summer with a charming ditty called I HATE ISRAEL. Essentially, he just yells a variety of trenchant political commentary" "I hate Israel, and I hate destruction, it (Israel) loves destruction / I love Yassir Arafat and he is very dear to me."

And so forth. Catchy, eh? It's got a beat, and you can mount a pogrom to it. The song was popular not only in the street, but in the offices of the intellegentsia: one newspaper columnist wrote "A hero? A comedian? I believe he's both." Originally, the song was called "I Don't Like Israel," but a censor at Egypt's Art Censorship Board asked Shabaan to change it to "hate."

Keep in mind this is one of our "moderate allies."

Here's the delightful twist: Shaaban Abdel-Rehim was hired for an ad campaign for . . . you guessed it. McDonald's. He didn't sing the song, but he appeared in ads for . . . the McFalafel. McDonald's International blamed it on "a local marketing decision, " and the ad vanished from the air when complaints began. In one sense, this is proof that McCulture does indeed stifle local traditions.

Good for McCulture.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
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01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
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12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
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At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
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11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2001, James Lileks