about the short run? Is an exterminationncamp fertile ground for the practice ofnpassive resistance? Does one quote Gandhinin the gulag? Is the pressure appliednon the British government in the form ofnsymbolic acts and demonstrations maneuversnthat can be successfully adoptednby Solidarity? What concerns me aboutnthis film is that it provides ammunitionnfor the antinuke, propacifist adherentsnand, significantiy, may affect fence sittersnon the issue of nuclear-weapons deploymentnin Europe. One cannot underestimatenthe influence of the visual media,nespecially when the director has an axnto grind. If the upshot of this film is thatnlarge portions of its audience believenthat passive-resistance tactics are appropriatento our present condition, then thenslide into tyranny may not be farnremoved.nNext on my hit list is The Verdict, anfilm with all the cliches of Rocky 11nand The Paper Chase rolled into onenloud cheer for the underdog. PaulnNewman plays a hard-drinking Bostonnlawyer who is having difficulty compromisingnhis values for the legal vulturesnwho make the rules. Along the waynNewman tilts swords with an utiscrupulousnpanjandrum of the legal professionnwho will do anything to win his case.nJames Mason, who plays this antagonist’snrole very eflfectively, says, “I get big feesnbecause I win.” This is the logic of VincenLombardi: “Winning isn’t everything; it’snthe only thing.” But in this case, the losernwins. On the face of it, there is nothingnparticularly wrong with seeing an underdognwin—I’m all for that. Nor do I havenany gripe with the critical portrayal ofnlawyers. What is troubling is the director’snview that no one plays by the rulesn—^not lawyers, not doctors, not evennNewman, who breaks into a mailbox tonsecure evidence for his case. No one isnuntainted. The moral of this story is thatnwhen no one plays by the rules, the rulesncan be ignored. This is moral relativismnwith a vengeance. The director seems tonbe proclaiming: “Laws were meant to benbroken.” At the end of this film one wonders:nJustice for whom? What laws cann48inChronicles of Cttlturenbe defended? Here is a cynic’s impressionnof a brave new world without commonnnorms, morality, or even simplendecency.nThe last of the top five is also amongnthe most tasteless films I’ve ever seen.nThe World According to Garp is JohnnIrving’s joke on the New York TimesnBook Review and the Hollywood glitteratinThis is inhuman satire that pokesnfun at every conceivable bourgeois conventionnand involves—^with various degreesnof seriousness—castration, sexnchange, self-mutilation, masmrbation,nand murder. There is no topic spared innJohn Irving’s perverse imagination. Ifnthis perversion were kept within thencovers of his financially successful book,nI would be annoyed but not outraged.nThe young are more inclined to see videonpornography than print pornography.nHowever, since this story has been adaptedninto film and degrades the millionsnwho have and will see it, I cannot containnmy dismay. At the risk of hyperbole,nI would describe Mr. Irving’s book as ancomprehensive assault on middle-classnsensibilities. It is designed to shock untilnyou’ve been shocked so often that therenis nothing left but some form of acceptancenand, in some instances, bemusement.nBut this is not a comedy, nor is itnsatire in the usual sense, notwithstandingnthe silly comments in the New YorknTimes. This is degradation in which thenhuman spirit is reduced to a scatalogicalndepiction in living color.nWhat these propaganda films demonstratenis that the campaign to underminenAmerica is in full swing in the land ofnNorman Lear. I cannot prove a causal relationshipnbetween the message in thesenfilms and social despair, but I am confidentnin suggesting that these films play anpart in it. This is not an argument—Inshould hastily note—^for censorship, althoughnthe well-being of any social systemnis based on literary tastefulness andnsocial order. What I am contending isnthat the film industry has lost any semblancenof balance. It is what Daniel Bellncalled a cultural contradiction of capitalism.nIt is a revolutionary force aimingnits ardor at the youthful consumers ofnmass cult. DnI’ll!’ A1IIJi(‘V l>»M^f’IVII M 3nj^ffirtnative-Action ElectionnThe mayoralty race in Chicago hadnplenty to do with race, of course, and itnwould be futile to go once again into thenvalidity or nefariousness of those rudimentarynpassions that accounted for thencontest’s by-now-familiar image. Yetnwhat and how much was made of itsnmore intricate aspects? To our mind, nonconvincing assessment had been formulatednas of election day on the perniciousnabuse of the commonsensical symmetriesnwhich, after all, for better or worse,nrule the basic sensitivities of us all—nblack and white alike.nActually, what was at stake this timenwas neither racial nor party politics, butnthe notion of how we administer absolutionnfor venial sins in the public domain.nnnOverblown as it may sound, that facet ofnthe ganglion of issues, which predicatednthe election, may decide the directionninto which both our civilization andndemocracy are moving. We agree that anman’s complexion may govern somenpolitical emotions on a visceral level,nbut we suspect that unfeimess—^a slightlynbland word at first sight—when perceivednas a structural flaw of the socialnenvironment, can bring some dispositionsnto a state of boiling hatred. Mr.nWashington’s candidacy was widelynperceived by Chicago’s white population—^regardlessnof party affiliation—asnsomething wildly, monstrously unfair.nOnly Chicago blacks and white liberals,nwho accounted for his victory margin,nwere blind to this factor. This makes usnquite pessimistic. Blemishes, even de-n