I had a little jolt the other day when I clicked on the Drudge Report. There was an ad for CNN at the top, with a picture of Christiane Amanpour. And with her picture was the word “Truth.” Actually, “TRUTH.” That’s a pretty strong claim, don’t you think? Fox News took a lot of grief for saying that it was “Fair and Balanced.” It seems like what CNN is doing requires a lot more chutzpah — and with the visage of Christiane Amanpour, of all people. She is a woman with strong opinions, and she obviously has something to say. But, when you think of her, do you think of objective, just-the-facts-ma’am truth? Um, me not.
This article began, “Iran claimed Wednesday that a newly built U.N. station to detect nuclear explosions was set up near its border so that world powers could spy on the country.” My reaction: If only it were so. The U.N. has shown all too little interest in ascertaining the truth — the daunting truth — about what the Iranian regime is up to.
These are heady times in Iran, what with revolution — or call it counterrevolution — in the air and underfoot. Great days to be alive, possibly. The Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri — than whom few are sharper about the Middle East — is one who thinks the regime’s days are numbered. What a pleasure it would be to watch that beast fall: before the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
*#*As this article says, in a blunt first sentence, “Liu Xiaobo lobbied to abolish a vaguely worded Chinese law against subversion, but now it appears the high-profile dissident will stand trial for that very crime.” We further learn that “the evidence against Liu includes six essays he wrote and posted online as well as a bold appeal he co-authored that calls for sweeping democratic reforms, known as Charter 08.”
One of the signers of Charter 08 is Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing lawyer. He said of Liu, “He hoped society would be better. What’s wrong with that?” What indeed?
One of the saddest, most vexing things about American political life is the romance of black elites with Fidel Castro and his Communist dictatorship on Cuba. That romance is now 50 years old, pretty much exactly. I wrote about this in a piece to be found here: “In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.”
Something significant occurred recently: Sixty U.S. black leaders signed a document entitled “Acting on Our Conscience: A Declaration of African-American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba.” The occasion is the imprisonment of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, an Afro-Cuban civil-rights leader. (Of course, the Castros’ cells are filled with Afro-Cuban dissidents and democrats.) Among the signers of the declaration are Cornel West, Jeremiah Wright, and Ron Walters.
This is late. But it is very welcome. Also, the declaration has gotten under the dictatorship’s skin — all the better. Isn’t it nice to contemplate good news, for a change?
UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Originally I’d said that Jesse Jackson was a signer of this document. I’d read that in an article. It turns out to be untrue (which I am of course sorry about).
Okay, have a little news of the va-va-voom variety. This report speaks of a new exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. In the 5th century B.C., a man named Philonides gave a vase to a flute player named Anemone. As the report says, the lid of the vase “bore a picture of male and female genitalia.” And, “to avoid any misunderstanding, Philonides and Anemone’s names were inscribed next to the appropriate parts.”
Well, that’s good! (The avoidance of misunderstanding, I mean.)
A reader of ours has heard a dog not barking. Let me explain. Or rather, have him explain:
I am aware, through my love of folk music, of the massive number of protest songs spawned by the Vietnam War. I am also aware of several songs that were written during the Reagan years, e.g., “El Salvador” by Peter, Paul, and Mary, or “Biko” by Joan Baez. I can’t think of any for the current wars, despite the rampant bloviating by Hollywood types. Am I missing something? Why do you think this might be?
I can’t think of any such songs either (although I am detached from the folk world, aside from enjoying A Mighty Wind). As to why the absence of such songs — I don’t know. Which is kind of a dumb thing for a columnist to admit, right?
(I do know that Peter Maxwell Davies, a British composer, wrote a string quartet meant to depict and decry the Iraq War. But that doesn’t count.) (And, without words — a piece of music can mean whatever a listener wishes it to mean, or nothing at all.)
Let’s do a little language. Was there ever a greater fount of language than Louis Armstrong? I doubt it. He delighted in words and locutions as much as he delighted in notes. I recently read, and reviewed, Terry Teachout’s new biographyof Armstrong. (The review will appear in the next issue of National Review.) (Hope you subscribe!) May I point out a couple of things about language?
I had a dear friend — a native of Waycross, Ga., born in about 1920, and the son of a sharecropper — who’d say, “That’d be too much like right.” Give you an example. Out on the golf course, I might say, “Herb, why’d that guy in front of us not rake the trap?” He’d say, “That’d be too much like right.”
Well, I was pleased to find, in Teachout’s biography, that Armstrong said it too. I myself have used the expression several times, in writing. I remember, particularly, a comment I made in one of my “Salzburg Chronicles” for The New Criterion. Hang on, let me Google it. Okay, found it. This sentence, from 2008, concerns a production (execrable) of Dvořák’s opera Rusalka: “You will not find a moon . . . when Rusalka sings her ‘Song to the Moon’ — that’d be ‘too much like right,’ as my old southern friend would say.”
Have another expression, which I picked up from Terry’s book: “Mike Fright.” “We were all Mike Fright,” scared. And “skip the gutter” — hurry up. What a wonderful language we have, not just English, but our American English, with its regional and generational flavorings.