Allson and I have been posting (here and here) on the odd sexual material regularly cropping up in the novels of author/self-styled good ol’ boy James Webb, currently running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate for the state of Virginia with the blessings of literati and Hollywood-ati around the country but not a lot of support from his supposed constituency of gun-toters and blue-collar-wearers in rural Virginia (the National Rifle Association supports Webb’s Republican opponent, George Allen.) And while I agree wholeheartedly that it was indeed below the belt for the Allen campaign to release a list of Webb’s novels’ quirkier passages to the Drudge Report, you still have to wonder about a guy who sticks a gratuitous episode of a father having oral intercourse with his 4-year-old son into the background scenery of a novel (“Lost Soldiers”) that purports to be about Vietnam. Or a bar dancer doing something with a banana that I can’t figure out how it’s possible to do–and I’m a woman. Yes, war is hell–but, really.
At any rate, what fascinates me about the story is way the mainstream media have been tiptoing around the exact contents of Webb’s novels, even as they express outrage that Allen would stoop so low as to spring such a thing on his opponent. The Washington Post has run no fewer than two stories on the novels (here and here)–with nary a hint about the actual activities depicted therein. Here’s how the newsaper that published every single one of Mark Foley’s offending IMS delicately paraphrases the Webb material.
“Allen campaign officials provided excerpts from the books — some of them depicting acts of incest and graphic sexuality — to the Drudge Report Web site Thursday night.”
“Acts of incest and graphic sexuality”–how suitable for the most delicat of ladies! Oh, and the Post is also the newspapers that ran, oh, four, five, even six front-page stories, plus an indignant editorial, about Allen’s describing someone as “macaca” (whatever that is) plus a big feature on how Allen allegedly used the N-word when he was 12 and stole someone’s bicycle when he was in middle school.
Of course, leave it to the Post to shoot itself in the foot as it carefullly disinguishes its own sensibilities from those of the great unwashed. Here’s another quote:
“Margaret R. Soltan, an English professor at George Washington University, said voters should not regard Webb’s novels as indicative of his views, any more than voters in England should have been deterred by some of Winston Churchill’s more shocking writing.
“‘To think along those lines exposes you as a person who has no culture,’ she said.
Ah, I fear that Margaret R. Soltan, English professor, has just won Allen a few more votes.