(Still catching up on e-mail): Some readers are upset that in a column the other day I reviewed Ben Stein’s movie without, as I admitted up front, having sat through it.
That would be fair criticism if I had actually reviewed the movie. I do sometimes review movies: see here, here, here, and of course here. When I review a movie I do what reviewers do: pass comment on the plot, acting, production techniques, and any large issues the movie might raise.
In my “Blood Libel” piece I didn’t do any of that. What I did was, comment on a news story, which is a thing we do here. News story: Conservative writer / actor / business journalist Ben Stein has taken a major role in a movie in support of creationism, arguing inter alia that our schools and colleges dismiss and persecute creationists, and that Darwin’s theory of evolution was an inspiration for the Holocaust. That’s a news story. It’s in the public prints. It’s all over the Internet. I’ve been reading about it for weeks, from all sides. I don’t have to go to Mars to write about Mars; there are plenty of facts in the public domain I can work from.
The 2,246 words of my column actually break down as follows:
343 words wondering aloud why Ben Stein would make a creationist movie.149 words linking to some news stories about alleged copyright infringement on the part of the movie-makers (including a link to one of their rebuttals).754 words on the dishonesty of creationists, with illustrating examples, not even mentioning the darn movie.148 words describing and linking to some comment / analysis sites about the movie.523 words on a proper conservative attitude to science, again with no mention of the movie.170 words on the audacity and barbarism of Stein in particular, for his having participated in a creationist movie, and the ditto of creationists in general.159 words in which I mock Stein’s folly, and call on him to return to the banner of Western Civ.
That’s all fair comment, based on facts that not even any of my critical e-mailers dispute. And it does not constitute a movie review, nor was it intended to. You want me to do a formal review of Expelled? Be careful what you wish for. Anyway, our Jim Manzi already did an excellent one, which I doubt I could improve on, except in level of vituperation. (You’re too darned nice Jim. Kick ‘em where it hurts. Make the buggers howl.)
If the news stories I’m working from are false or misleading – if, that is, Ben Stein did not participate in making a movie in support of creationism, or that said movie does not argue that our schools and colleges dismiss and persecute creationists, nor that Darwin’s theory of evolution was an inspiration for the Holocaust – if, I say, the news stories are false, I offer Ben Stein my groveling and unreserved apologies for having based my commentary on false reports. But why would I doubt the news stories, when both the movie’s promoters and its detractors, both favorable and unfavorable reviewers, all say the things about it that I have based my commentary on? Sorry, but this is what we do: comment on the news.