bad news, unlike the supply of oil, is beyond danger ofndepletion. The wide appeal of this romance has made thenproduction and circulation of expose literature a growthnindustry. Nor is the romance confined to the world ofntabloid journalism; the expose impulse is conspicuously atnwork in all levels of writing, particularly in biography,nwhere the reader has learned to expect both the warts andnthe hairs on the warts.nIt would be a mistake to oversimplify the appeal of thisnromance, as if it were an utterly perverse kind of muckrak-nThe romance of corruption is demystifying, secularizing,nand reductive, so that among possible interpretations ofnaction onfy the lowest, the meanest, the mostndemeaning, the rottenest, or the ugliest is considerednauthentic.n18 / CHRONICLESning. Expose literature gives a double pleasure: the pleasurenof a vision of life in the high places of power, prestige, ornvirtue enriched by the pleasure of a demystifying secondnversion of that vision. The expose literature purporting tontell the dirty truth about John F. Kennedy does not so muchncancel out the legend of Camelot as feed on it. As DannJenkins, author of Semi-Tough, says of I Never Played thenGame: “If you don’t like this book, you don’t like findingnout the truth about sports and having fun learning it.”nThis double attraction, in which the traditional order ofnvirtue is reversed in favor of honesty and courage, if notnsimplified by omitting charity and prudence altogether, isnan important feature in movies like Death Wish 3, Rambo:nFirst Blood Part II, and To Live and Die in L.A. Suchnmovies are expose entertainment, the inside dope about thenrotten establishment, in which a moralistic celebration ofnhonesty and courage keeps impulses to charity and prudencenfrom contaminating the self-indulgent and popcornnourishednpleasure of sadistic violence. To the extent thatnthey are ways not of contending with evil but of exploiting itnfor pleasure, they are insincere in their apparent commitmentnto good social order. Of course, any dramatization ofnhonesty and courage, regardless of context, might havenredeeming personal or social value, since it is alwaysnpossible that particular viewers will transvalue the context.nHowever, movies of this kind strenuously resist such transvaluing.nThey imply, as does so much expose literature, anvoguish and sentimental conviction that civilization, as it isnconstituted, is bound to deteriorate no matter how muchnvirtue is expended in its defense—as if their makers hadnread and never recovered from Rousseau’s two discoursesnon the effects of the arts and sciences and the origins ofninequality.nIf honesty and courage are to be adequately defined asnsufficient virtues, they need a dramatic context in whichncharity and prudence are defined as being hypocritically onnthe side of evil. This is the way it is in Rambo, and the effectnis relief from the burden of distinguishing between revengenand justice, just as Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearestnand Kenneth Anger’s two Hollywood Babylon books givennnrelief from the burden of distinguishing between scandalmongeringnand the kind of charitable and prudent truthtellingnthat does not simply replace one hyperbolic interpretationnwith another.nThe problem, of course, is the human appetite fornrevenge and the human capacity to blur the distinctionnbetween revenge and justice in the interest of feeding thatnappetite. It is easy enough to conclude while watchingnDeath Wish 3 that the audience is greatiy enjoying thenexperience of revenge and that the movie is conniving withnthe audience by making it easy to identify the passion fornrevenge as a passion for justice. But this might be true fornpart of any audience watching Shakespeare’s Lear or thenmuch-admired movie High Noon. In each, the dramaticnpitch demands a parity between violent crime and violentnpunishment, so that each can serve as a blank check to benfilled out by each viewer according to his need for vengeance.nAn important difference, however, is that Lear andnHigh Noon, unlike Death Wish 3, offer significant resistancento any attempt to blur the distinction between justicenand revenge and to detach honesty and courage from allnconsiderations of charity and prudence—a detachment thatncharacterized the public’s initial reaction to BernhardnGoetz’s heroics in the New York subway.nThe priority of honesty and courage helps to articulatenvictimization in a world where the sense of victimization isnas pervasive as the discontent with civilization from which itnis inseparable. Articulated victimization is an importantnfactor in the success of Cosell’s I Never Played the Game.nWho cannot empathize with a “loyal employee” who for 30nyears “had busted his ass for the network” only to be treatednshabbily? Victimization, violently correctible by individualsnor groups acting outside established but ineffective orncorrupt regulations, is what Rambo: First Blood Part II,nDeath Wish 3, and To Live and Die in L.A. are about. It isnalso what the IRA and Shiite Hezbullahs are about, so thatnsuch movies can be said to explain terrorism by giving thenexperience of it from the terrorists’ point of view. This is annagreeably simplified philosophy in which justice and revengenare synonyms; it is ideal for all those who have toonlong busted their asses for unappreciative masters or whonhave been tricked into investing too much of themselves innenterprises that were probably fraudulent to begin with.nNow undeceived, they are able to see themselves not asnhaving been imprudent simpletons but as innocent victimsnwhose radical honesty, having been cynically exploited, isnnow courageously identified in full view of the victimizers.n* ^ *nThe disillusioning revisions of the expose writer havenmuch in common with the Indian purification ritual knownnas the “busk,” which Thoreau encountered in WilliamnBartram’s late-18th-century account of his travels in thensoutheastern United States and about which he writesnadmiringly in Walden. This ritual, a cultural spring housecleaning,ninvolved a gathering together of the worn out, thenfilthy, the useless, and the rotten in order to throw it awaynor burn it. Thoreau sees it as a sacrament; indeed, asnR.W.B. Lewis notes in The American Adam, Walden itselfncan be read as a “metaphoric expansion of Bartram’s busk.”nIt is hard to imagine a nonbusking society. Perhaps onencould write a history of the human race in terms of then