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Just Wondering . . .

Some questions from the back of the class.

12:00 AM, May 1, 2003 • By JOEL ENGEL
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WHY DIDN'T TIM ROBBINS exercise his right of free speech to defend Senator Rick Santorum from the arrows and insults directed at him after he suggested that gay sex should not be protected by the Constitution? Doesn't Robbins believe that the calls for the senator's resignation are akin to McCarthyism, or that the chorus of boos will have a chilling effect on free expression? And why did Robbins's "wife," Susan Sarandon, not so long ago lead the calls for a boycott of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's television show, when, as her entire family have been recently teaching us, free speech should come free of criticism and repercussions?

What have longtime Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer and his ideological soulmate across the pond, the Independent's Robert Fisk, ever been right about? Having read both of them for years, I'm forced to ask: Was I out of town that week?

If the Motion Picture Academy's own rules state that the Oscar for Best Documentary can go only to a non-fiction film, then why was Michael Moore voted the award for "Bowling for Columbine," a film proven to contain as much fiction as fact (see here and here and here)? Considering how many lies Moore inserted into the film, why didn't Rob Reiner deserve the Best Documentary Oscar two decades ago for "This Is Spinal Tap"? Indeed, why doesn't Christopher Guest own two Best Documentary Oscars, for "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show" (with a third in the works for "A Mighty Wind"), each of which contains more truth than Moore's "Bowling"?

Why was the United States blamed for the way Iraqis looted Iraq and stole from an Iraqi museum? And where was Maxine Waters, demanding that we understand their rage?

Is there really "nothing scarier than conservatives in transports of social and political engineering," as Maureen Dowd stated in her April 23 column? Aren't there about, oh, fifty million more frightening things than that, including human beings having to decide between being incinerated and falling a hundred stories? Or prisons in which children as young as five are held and tortured because their parents refuse to join the ruling party?

Isn't this panic over the SARS virus a tad over-hyped? Haven't there been, according to the World Health Organization, fewer than 300 deaths worldwide from SARS? And aren't there, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 36,000 deaths from influenza every year, in just this country?

Isn't it intolerant to call someone intolerant?

With the Dixie Chicks posing nude on a magazine cover to atone for their intemperate remarks, don't we wish that Shania Twain had opened her mouth instead?

Why is a plausible link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda invisible to the same people who can quickly connect the dots between the president and a worldwide conspiracy of oil and defense interests?

Aren't critics of the speed with which Iraq's multilateral government is progressing forgetting that our own Constitutional Convention came years after the fighting ended; that it was preceded by weeks of jockeying over the seating of delegates; and that it took months of fractious debate before the long ratification process began? Don't they know that if George Washington hadn't rejected the kingship suggested to him years before, there wouldn't now be a First Amendment to misinterpret?

Finally, a question for Jimmy Carter and the Norwegian Nobel Committee: Gentlemen, who, in your estimation, would be more deserving of a Peace Prize, Winston Churchill, who proclaimed "We will fight them on the beaches," or Neville Chamberlain, who stepped off the plane from Munich that September afternoon in 1938 and declared, "I believe it is peace for our time"?

Just asking.

Joel Engel is an author and journalist in Southern California.