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The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage
by Stefan Kanfer
The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage.
 
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Stefan Kanfer
Barbra’s Dictionary
What’s a lefty celebrity to do?!
3 January 2006

Poor Barbra Streisand. In her long career, she has sung on Broadway and in films, recorded hit albums, made gazillions. She even has her own website, where she kind of blogs from time to time. But has all this brought happiness?

She wanted Gray Davis to be governor, for example, and that awful Arnold won. Then there was the two-part miniseries about Ronald Reagan, disavowed by CBS after the network underwrote it—just because of a storm of protest from conservative radio programs and outraged bloggers. All that fuss and bother just because the fictive dialogue featured Reagan characterizing himself as the Prince of Darkness and calling AIDS a besetting sin that the sufferers deserved. So what if the quotations were lies, concocted by hostile scriptwriters? How could CBS have done this to her? The show starred James Brolin, Barbra Streisand’s very own husband, in the title role.

And now, the Los Angeles Times has canned her very own favorite columnist, ultra-lefty Robert Scheer. This appalling move could not be allowed to pass. In all her glorious fury, the diva launched the ultimate weapon—a Letter to the Editor:

“This letter is to inform you that I am canceling my subscription to the LA Times. . . . Your publisher’s decision to fire Robert Scheer is a great disservice to the spirit of the community.” Barbra took her epochal countermeasure, she noted, “in the light of the obvious step away from the principles of journalistic integrity.”

It would be interesting to know from what dictionary the writer plucks her definitions. “Integrity,” according to Webster’s Unabridged, means “moral soundness; honesty; freedom from corrupting influence or motive.” Here is superblogger Mickey Kaus, commenting on the fired columnist: “Never trust content from Robert Scheer!” Why? Because, among other calculated mendacities, Scheer once claimed that the U.S. government gave a “gift of $43 million to the Taliban” to reward them “for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God.” In fact, the government deliberately earmarked the money not to go to the Taliban. “Scheer tried to discreetly clean up his mess in a post-9/11 column, but too late to stop the mostly-bogus angle from being prominently recycled, in the New Yorker and elsewhere,” Kaus observed.

A master of moral equivalence, a dweller in an alternate reality, and manifestly a user of Barbra’s dictionary, Scheer once defined Ariel Sharon as “a man of barbaric impulse.” He granted that Yasser Arafat was a bad guy but added that the Palestinian leader had been “unrelentingly reviled by the news media while Sharon, no less monstrous in his behavior, hardly [had] been criticized.”

And yet this journalist of Streisandian integrity has lost his perch. Manifestly, justice has become meaningless in Hollywood—when celebrities bang their spoons on their high chairs, nobody listens any more.

Still, all isn’t lost. Scheer can continue to prevaricate on Arianna Huffington’s site, and Streisand can still fulminate on her equally ponderous one, doing the Humpty Dumpty act that has characterized her golden years. “When I use a word,” said the big egg of Through the Looking Glass, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

Just like Barbra, more or less.

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More by Stefan Kanfer:
“The American Theater’s First Broad”
Summer Shorts in a Wide Range of Styles
Operatic Naiveté
More . . .
If you liked this story, you may also be interested in:
The Inexhaustible Hamlet
The “Affirmative Consent” Trap
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