Friday, May 11, 2018

Guest Post: Question Authority - How Mad Magazine's ethos still matters

Michael J. Socolow, University of Maine

Mad Magazine is still hanging on. In April, it launched a reboot, jokingly calling it its “first issue.”

But in terms of cultural resonance and mass popularity, it’s largely lost its clout.

At its apex in the early 1970s, Mad’s circulation surpassed 2 million. As of 2017, it was 140,000.

As strange as it sounds, I believe the “usual gang of idiots” that produced Mad was performing a vital public service, teaching American adolescents that they shouldn’t believe everything they read in their textbooks or saw on TV.

Mad Magazine comedy humor parody satire

The magazine taught its readers to never swallow what they’re served.
Nick Lehr/The Conversation via Jasperdo, CC BY-NC-ND

Mad preached subversion and unadulterated truth-telling when so-called objective journalism remained deferential to authority. While newscasters regularly parroted questionable government claims, Mad was calling politicians liars when they lied. Long before responsible organs of public opinion like The New York Times and the CBS Evening News discovered it, Mad told its readers all about the credibility gap. The periodical’s skeptical approach to advertisers and authority figures helped raise a less credulous and more critical generation in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today’s media environment differs considerably from the era in which Mad flourished. But it could be argued that consumers are dealing with many of the same issues, from devious advertising to mendacious propaganda.

While Mad’s satiric legacy endures, the question of whether its educational ethos - - its implicit media literacy efforts – remains part of our youth culture is less clear.

A merry-go-round of media panics

In my research on media, broadcasting and advertising history, I’ve noted the cyclical nature of media panics and media reform movements throughout American history.

The pattern goes something like this: A new medium gains popularity. Chagrined politicians and outraged citizens demand new restraints, claiming that opportunists are too easily able to exploit its persuasive power and dupe consumers, rendering their critical faculties useless. But the outrage is overblown. Eventually, audience members become more savvy and educated, rendering such criticism quaint and anachronistic.

During the penny press era of the 1830s, periodicals often fabricated sensational stories like the “Great Moon Hoax” to sell more copies. For a while, it worked, until accurate reporting became more valuable to readers.

Great Moon Hoax New York Sun

During the ‘Great Moon Hoax,’ the New York Sun claimed to have discovered a colony of creatures on the moon.
Wikimedia Commons

When radios became more prevalent in the 1930s, Orson Welles perpetrated a similar extraterrestrial hoax with his infamous “War of the Worlds” program. This broadcast didn’t actually cause widespread fear of an alien invasion among listeners, as some have claimed. But it did spark a national conversation about radio’s power and audience gullibility.

Aside from the penny newspapers and radio, we’ve witnessed moral panics about dime novels, muckraking magazines, telephones, comic books, television, the VCR, and now the internet. Just as Congress went after Orson Welles, we see Mark Zuckerberg testifying about Facebook’s facilitation of Russian bots.

Holding up a mirror to our gullibility

But there’s another theme in the country’s media history that’s often overlooked. In response to each new medium’s persuasive power, a healthy popular response ridiculing the rubes falling for the spectacle has arisen.

For example, in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Mark Twain gave us the duke and the dauphin, two con artists traveling from town to town exploiting ignorance with ridiculous theatrical performances and fabricated tall tales.

They were proto-purveyors of fake news, and Twain, the former journalist, knew all about selling buncombe. His classic short story “Journalism in Tennessee” excoriates crackpot editors and the ridiculous fiction often published as fact in American newspapers.

Then there’s the great P.T. Barnum, who ripped people off in marvelously inventive ways.

“This way to the egress,” read a series of signs inside his famous museum. Ignorant customers, assuming the egress was some sort of exotic animal, soon found themselves passing through the exit door and locked out.

They might have felt ripped off, but, in fact, Barnum had done them a great – and intended – service. His museum made its customers more wary of hyperbole. It employed humor and irony to teach skepticism. Like Twain, Barnum held up a funhouse mirror to America’s emerging mass culture in order to make people reflect on the excesses of commercial communication.

‘Think for yourself. Question authority’

Mad Magazine embodies this same spirit. Begun originally as a horror comic, the periodical evolved into a satirical humor outlet that skewered Madison Avenue, hypocritical politicians and mindless consumption.

Teaching its adolescent readers that governments lie – and only suckers fall for hucksters – Mad implicitly and explicitly subverted the sunny optimism of the Eisenhower and Kennedy years. Its writers and artists poked fun at everyone and everything that claimed a monopoly on truth and virtue.

“The editorial mission statement has always been the same: ‘Everyone is lying to you, including magazines. Think for yourself. Question authority,’” according to longtime editor John Ficarra.

That was a subversive message, especially in an era when the profusion of advertising and Cold War propaganda infected everything in American culture. At a time when American television only relayed three networks and consolidation limited alternative media options, Mad’s message stood out.

Just as intellectuals Daniel Boorstin, Marshall McLuhan and Guy Debord were starting to level critiques against this media environment, Mad was doing the same – but in a way that was widely accessible, proudly idiotic and surprisingly sophisticated.

For example, the implicit existentialism hidden beneath the chaos in every “Spy v. Spy” panel spoke directly to the insanity of Cold War brinksmanship. Conceived and drawn by Cuban exile Antonio Proh√≠as, “Spy v. Spy” featured two spies who, like the United States and the Soviet Union, both observed the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. Each spy was pledged to no one ideology, but rather the complete obliteration of the other – and every plan ultimately backfired in their arms race to nowhere.

Mad Magazine question authority parody satire humor comedy

Mad skewered those who mindlessly supported the people who controlled the levers of power.
Jasperdo, CC BY-NC-SA

The cartoon highlighted the irrationality of mindless hatred and senseless violence. In an essay on the plight of the Vietnam War soldier, literary critic Paul Fussell once wrote that U.S. soldiers were “condemned to sadistic lunacy” by the monotony of violence without end. So too the “Spy v. Spy” guys.

As the credibility gap widened from the Johnson to Nixon administrations, the logic of Mad‘s Cold War critique became more relevant. Circulation soared. Sociologist Todd Gitlin – who had been a leader of the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s – credited Mad with serving an important educational function for his generation.

“In junior high and high school,” he wrote, “I devoured it.”

A step backward?

And yet that healthy skepticism seems to have evaporated in the ensuing decades. Both the run-up to the Iraq War and the acquiescence to the carnival-like coverage of our first reality TV star president seem to be evidence of a widespread failure of media literacy.

We’re still grappling with how to deal with the internet and the way it facilitates information overload, filter bubbles, propaganda and, yes, fake news.

But history has shown that while we can be stupid and credulous, we can also learn to identify irony, recognize hypocrisy and laugh at ourselves. And we’ll learn far more about employing our critical faculties when we’re disarmed by humor than when we’re lectured at by pedants. A direct thread skewering the gullibility of media consumers can be traced from Barnum to Twain to Mad to “South Park” to The Onion.

While Mad’s legacy lives on, today’s media environment is more polarized and diffuse. It also tends to be far more cynical and nihilistic. Mad humorously taught kids that adults hid truths from them, not that in a world of fake news, the very notion of truth was meaningless. Paradox informed the Mad ethos; at its best, Mad could be biting and gentle, humorous and tragic, and ruthless and endearing – all at the same time.

The ConversationThat’s the sensibility we’ve lost. And it’s why we need an outlet like Mad more than ever.

Michael J. Socolow, Associate Professor, Communication and Journalism, University of Maine

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

From the Archives - A Rare Treat for Theatergoers: 'Lady in the Dark' (1998)

This review appeared in The Metro Herald in May 1998, twenty years ago this month.

A Rare Treat for Theatergoers: Lady in the Dark
Rick Sincere
Metro Herald Entertainment Editor

Idiosyncrasy saves us from boredom and blandness. In a world of popular culture driven by focus groups, polls, and plagiarism, it's no wonder that television and the theatre seem infected by a sameness virus. Luckily, individual human choices are able to transcend this groupthink. And the American Century Theater (TACT) in Arlington shows us how the idiosyncratic choices of a few individuals can slash through the morass of predictability and yawns we have grown to expect from so many cultural institutions.

theatre two gunston middle school American Century Theater Arlington
Last season's Orson Welles' Moby Dick Rehearsed, for instance, was a triumph of physicality and illusion. The show had to be extended several times -- yet it was a play that hardly anyone had ever heard about before the TACT production.

Artistic director Jack Marshall has done it again with Lady in the Dark. Except, in this case, TACT is presenting a play that almost all literate theatergoers have heard about, but hardly anyone under the age of 80 has seen.

Lady in the Dark, with a libretto by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, frequently appears on lists of the "greatest American musicals." Yet it is not part of the basic musical theatre repertoire. Some plays become classics because of repetition -- what community theatre company has not already performed Guys and Dolls or The Fantasticks three or four times? Some become classics because of a special cult status. Anyone Can Whistle achieved this when it closed after nine performances, but its producers were canny enough to record an original cast album.

Lady in the Dark cast albumLady in the Dark is of a different breed. It closed after less then a year when leading lady Gertrude Lawrence left the show. It had no original cast album (the concept had not yet emerged in 1941). According to research by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, fewer than 20 productions of Lady in the Dark have been mounted since 1942. This production by the American Century Theater is the first since 1965. Its reputation grew through the Hot Stove League of musical theater aficionados. It's discussed with the same distant admiration as baseball fans banter about a one-season pitching phenomenon of the 1930s. Textbooks explore it at length. Anthologies include it. But no one has seen it.

Except for three songs in the second act -- "Tchaichowsky," "The Saga of Jenny," and "My Ship" -- hardly a soul has heard any of the score. Yet Lady in the Dark is legendary. Why?

In January 1941, Lady in the Dark set records for expenditure. The production cost a then-unimaginable $150,000. (At the time, top ticket prices for Broadway plays were $4.40.) It had four interlocking turntables, extravagant sets and costumes, and a cast of 50 that included Danny Kaye, Victor Mature, MacDonald Carey, and Natalie Schafer (later Mrs. Thurston Howell on Gilligan's Island). Weill scored the show for a full symphony orchestra.

Theater lore has it that later producers found the show entirely too daunting. Jack Marshall, however, is dauntless.

It is said that theatre requires nothing more than actors, a performing space, and lighting. Everything else is gravy -- bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors. TACT proves that it is possible to mount a complicated, literate musical play without the special effects that so frightened other producers. In the small black-box theatre at Gunston Arts Center, set designer Hal Crawford and lighting designer David Walden have created a workable space that does all that is necessary to convey what Hart and his colleagues intended.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Lady in the Dark is basically a non-musical play with extended musical sequences. The musical sequences -- little one-act operas -- exist only in the dreams of troubled magazine editor Liza Elliott (Maureen Kerrigan). The non-musical scenes are played out in the drab offices of Elliott and her psychoanalyst, Dr. Brooks (Bernard Engel). Significantly, these scenes are played at the most distant edges of the stage, as far from the audience as possible. This allows the musical scenes to take up the fullest extent of the performing space, literally blossoming before our eyes with the colorful costumes of designer Edu. Bernardino.

Liza, a driven career woman, has suddenly begun to have panic attacks and fits of depression. For these, she seeks the help of Dr. Brooks. In what may be the play's most unsatisfactory facet, she resolves her problems in barely a week. Within that week, however, we are able to observe the inner workings of Liza's mind -- the "lady" in the "dark."

Lady in the Dark cast album Gertrude LawrenceGiven the structure of the play, with dream sequences being as disjointed as dreams are, the commercial temptation for Weill and Gershwin would have been to write a collection of potential hit songs -- something in the revue tradition of the Ziegfeld Follies or Garrick Gaieties. Instead, they wrote integrated, operatic playlets in which discrete songs are difficult to discern at all. Ironically, the play itself does not nearly approach the full integration that Rodgers and Hammerstein achieved with Oklahoma! two years later, setting the standard for American musical theatre for the next quarter century.

The play does, however, give opportunities for both dramatic and musical virtuoso performances. Standout Jason Gilbert is manic as photographer Russell Paxton. Buzz Mauro is pleasingly sleazy as advertising director, Charley Johnson, a perfect foil for "boss lady" Liza. Timothy Hayes Lynch is appropriately, WASPishly staid as Liza's longtime live-in lover, Kendall Nesbitt. In a small but important role as high-school student Ben Butler, Kerry DeMatteis is sweetly but unintentionally inconsiderate (and well-cast for age -- DeMatteis seems not to have aged a day since his Washington area debut in a Georgetown University production of Gemini almost 14 years ago). Somewhat off the mark, however, is Tom Manger as Randy Curtis, who simply fails to come across convincingly as a Hollywood matinee idol.

Aside from Liza, the female roles in Lady in the Dark are underwritten, but Mary McGowan is a finely-tuned Maggie Grant, Liza's right hand, and Brenda Wesner gets a few comic turns as Allison DuBois.

There is a reason, unfortunately, to feel sorry for all these talented cast members. They will now put Lady in the Dark on their resumes -- but no one will believe them. No one, that is, except for those who hear about the American Century Theater's bold decision to mount a play that scares off richer and more powerful producers.

Lady in the Dark has been extended through May 30 at the Gunston Arts Center, Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington, Virginia. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with 2:30 matinees on May 16, 17, and 23. Tickets are $20 and $17 (students/seniors). For information and reservations, call 703-553-8782.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Rundown of Recent Podcasts on 'The Score'

The Score Bearing Drift Rick Sincere podcast radio
As announced here on March 17, I have become host and producer of The Score, a podcast on Bearing Drift, Virginia's leading political web site for conservative and libertarian writers. In addition to appearing on Bearing Drift, The Score is also broadcast over-the-air on WINC-AM and FM in Winchester, Virginia, and is available as a podcast on the Red State Talk Radio Network.

Since that time, I have assembled, edited, and posted eight episodes of The Score, with a wide array of interviews and features.

The first episode ("The Score: Student Debt and Social Security, LPVA Senate Hopeful, and African Progress") appeared March 17 and featured interviews with Elliott Harding, Matt Waters, and Marian Tupy.

My second episode ("The Score: Focus on the First Amendment") had interviews with former ACLU executive director Nadine Strossen, author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (published May 1 by Oxford University Press); John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute; and William Hitchcock of the Miller Center of Public Affairs, who talked about his new book, The Age of Eisenhower.  A bonus feature was an interview about hemp farming with author Doug Fine.

Big Chicken Maryn McKennaThe following week drew on interviews with authors I met at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville ("The Score: Senate Hopefuls, True Crime, Big Chicken, and Dead Center"). It also featured interviews with U.S. Senate candidates Corey Stewart and Nick Freitas. The authors included Bill Sizemore, Radley Balko, Maryn McKenna, and Jason Altmire. Added bonus: Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding.

The next episode continued with author interviews from the Virginia Festival of the Book ("The Score: Pentagon Science, Richard Nixon, Social Activists, and Nicotine Regulation"), including Sharon Weinberger, Roben Farzad, and John Farrell. I also introduced a feature called "From the Archives" with Ken Hughes of the Miller Center and talked to Jamie Kirchick of the Brookings Institution and Phil Kerpen of American Commitment.

Seven days later, more author interviews ("The Score: Campus Censors, Grassroots Activism, Chappaquiddick, and More") with Keith Whittington, Emily Dufton, Joe Tone, and Jamie Kirchick, in a return appearance, plus a new weekly film review segment with Tim Hulsey, who took a look at the Ted Kennedy biopic Chappaquiddick. We also remembered the late David Rothbard of CFACT in our "From the Archives" retrospective.

Two weeks ago ("The Score: Barbara Bush, Tom Garrett, and Sgt. Stubby"), we spoke to Barbara Perry of the Miller Center about the late First Lady Barbara Bush, had a lengthy two-part interview with Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA5), and pulled an interview with GMU Professor Colin Dueck "From the Archives." Tim Hulsey reviewed Sgt. Stubby, an animated film about a military dog in World War I.

Little Pink House eminent domain KeloLast week's show ("The Score: Madieu Williams, Tim Kaine, Pink House, General Assembly") included an interview with former NFL player and union representative Madieu Williams; a joint interview with David Toscano, minority leader in the House of Delegates, and state Senator Creigh Deeds; excerpts from an interview with Senegal's ambassador to the United States, Babacar Diagne; and an excerpt from a speech at UVA by Senator Tim Kaine; and Tim Hulsey's reviews of Little Pink House and I Can Only Imagine.  The "From the Archives" segment featured author Evan Thomas.

This week's episode (posted just a few hours ago) has interviews with U.S. Senate candidates E.W. Jackson and Nick Freitas; Delegate Rob Bell; and Will Lyster of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.  Tim Hulsey reviews Avengers: Infinity War and we look back at the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign with E.W. Jackson in "From the Archives."

I'll post these rundowns periodically and -- I hope -- more frequently in the months to come.

Guest Post - Kentucky Derby: the mint julep has always been about staying cool

Jeffrey Miller, Colorado State University

The Kentucky Derby is about more than horses and hats. It’s also where one of the South’s favorite cocktails – the mint julep – takes center stage.

Since the 1930s, the drink – a mix of mint, syrup, bourbon, water and crushed ice – has been the traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. At this year’s Derby, organizers plan to serve around 120,000 mint juleps, which will require 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.

Like gin and Jägermeister, the julep started as a medicine. Since medieval times, mint had been prescribed for stomach ailments; it soothes the lining of the digestive tract and stimulates the production of bile, an essential digestive fluid. Though some say the drink was invented by slaves working the cotton fields outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the version of the julep we know today probably originated in Persia, where people mixed syrup with mint or rose water.

The mint julep has been a Southern tradition since at least the early 19th century. The first mention of the drink in the U.S. comes from Englishman John Davis’ book “Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States: 1798-1802.” In it Davis describes the julep as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it” consumed by Virginians as a morning eye-opener.

Early recipes for juleps used various kinds of liquor. Brandy and cognac were popular bases in Europe, as was gin. But as juleps became more closely associated with the Kentucky Derby, bourbon – America’s native whiskey – became the alcoholic mixer of choice.

Juleps are traditionally served in silver cups. The most likely reason is that the metal cups “frost up” from the ice. In the oppressive heat of the pre-air-conditioned South, gripping a cool cup made the drink that much more refreshing.

Kentucky Derby mint julep bourbon

The cup is almost as important as the drink.
Jami430, CC BY-SA

In the 19th-century South, silver julep cups were a popular gift for baby christenings, weddings and graduations, and many middle-class Southern households probably had a set of julep cups.

In a 1908 edition of Fuel Magazine, a Lexington, Kentucky, native named Samuel Judson Roberts explained the importance of the cup.

“Take a silver cup – always a silver cup. Fill it with ice pulverized to the fineness of snow.” Once the drink is mixed, “shake the cup slowly until a coating of a thick white frost forms on the outside. Trim with mint and hand to an appreciative gentleman.”

The ConversationToday you don’t have to be a gentleman to enjoy the drink. But as you cheer on your favorite horse, you can enjoy it all the same.

Jeffrey Miller, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, Hospitality Management, Colorado State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, May 04, 2018

From the Archives: James Robinson discusses 'why nations fail' at George Mason University

James Robinson discusses 'why nations fail' at George Mason University
May 4, 2013 7:37 PM MST

In his first speaking engagement at George Mason University on the evening of May 2, Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson paid a compliment to the school by noting its “distinct intellectual atmosphere.”

Why Nations Fail Robinson Acemoglu GMU economics history
Robinson appeared at the Arlington campus of GMU at the invitation of the Mercatus Center to discuss his recent book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, which he co-wrote with MIT's Daron Acemoglu.

In his lecture, Robinson explained how his and Acemoglu's empirical research had led to a predictive theory about how nations develop economically and politically. All countries, he said, can be plotted on a matrix using the categories “inclusive” (politics and economics) and “extractive” (politics and economics).

Success or failure for nations depends on whether they have inclusive or extractive institutions, Robinson said, and these institutions have their origins deep in history – although circumstances can change through the adoption and adaptations of new, better institutions.

England and Virginia

As an example of this kind of change, Robinson noted that 200 years before the Industrial Revolution, England was an economic backwater on the edge of Europe. Elizabeth I's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was unexpected and unpredictable, yet by 1788, Great Britain was Europe's most formidable economic power and the world's leading colonizer. This was the result of institutional change in law and society.

After signing books for fans and admirers, Robinson clarified and expanded some of his remarks in an interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner.

He explained that although the Spanish and English colonies in the Americas both began with the same model, the English experience at Jamestown, Virginia, set North America down a more economically prosperous path than the colonies in South America trod.

The circumstances in Virginia and, for instance, Buenos Aires, “were very different,” Robinson said.

“Because there were very few indigenous people [who were] organized in a very different way in Virginia as compared to, say, the central valley of Mexico, a very different type of society emerged.” This society was “based on creating incentives and opportunities for European [settlers] rather than exploiting indigenous people,” which was the case in Latin America.

Mysterious development?

Asked whether there is a difference in the questions of “why nations fail” and “why nations succeed,” Robinson replied that “they're two sides of the same coin.”

The reason his book has the title it does is that he and his co-author “don't think of economic development as being mysterious.”

Instead, he said, “to us, the puzzling thing is, why on earth don't poor countries that ought to be able to generate huge amounts of wealth and improve the living standards of their people” do so by investing in education, adopting technologies, and securing property rights?

“Why don't they do it?,” he repeated. “We've always found failure more puzzling. Why is it people don't take advantages of these huge opportunities?” This question is particularly salient when countries have abundant mineral resources, climates and soils conducive to agriculture, and convenient locations for trade and industry -- yet still fail to develop economically.

Cultural predictors

Many commentators on economic development – Thomas Sowell, for instance – focus on cultural values as the basis for success or failure. Robinson and Acemoglu take a different approach by emphasizing institutions.

Their approach, Robinson said, came about “mostly because of the empirical work we've done, all the scientific research. We've always found measures of institutions to have much more predictive power than different measures of culture.”

He conceded that “there's a problem of language here. When I talk about institutions, I don't just mean things written down, like the U.S. Constitution.”

He gave the example of the limit of two presidential terms, which was established as “a social norm that lasted for 150 years” by George Washington, before Franklin Roosevelt parted with the tradition and, eventually, the Constitution was amended to make the tradition statutory.

Nobel laureate economist Douglass North, he pointed out, “talks about informal institutions, social norms, and I think that's enormously important. It's not just about written-down laws. Social norms and informal institutions are quite similar to what a lot of people talk about when they talk about culture.”

When Robinson and Acemoglu talk about culture, however, “it's not about values or normative beliefs or normative principles or religious principles. We don't find that to be important; we don't think it's important” in terms of predictive value for economic success or failure.

Why Nations Fail is published in hardback by Crown Business and in paperback by Profile Books Ltd.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 4, 2013. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

From the Archives: More Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death

More Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death
May 2, 2011 10:22 AM MST

In the hours since President Barack Obama officially announced the killing of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a lightning raid by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, various Virginia political leaders offered their thoughts and comments on the news.

Not all of them reacted immediately. Some of their statements were issued late last night; others have trickled out this morning. A common theme is “vigilance.”

‘We cannot rest’

Governor Bob McDonnell distributed a statement to the media dated May 2:

"This is a great and historic moment for America and the world. I applaud President Barack Obama, his Administration and the brave men and women of our military for this successful operation. The death of Osama Bin Laden brings final justice to the evil perpetrator of the attacks of 9/11. Justice has truly been served. While we celebrate this news, we must also remember that The War on Terror is not over. We cannot rest until our nation is secure, and all threats to our freedom and our people are eliminated. On this day, and every day, we continue to remember those we lost on that tragic day in September 2001, the brave service men and women who have died defending our nation in the years following that attack, and the family and friends they have left behind. We will never forget."


Former Delegate Brian Moran (D-Alexandria), now the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, also issued a statement:

“This is a great victory for our nation and our world. President Obama and the brave men and women of the armed services and the intelligence community succeeded in bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice for the murder of thousands of Americans on September 11, 2011.”

politicians death of Osama Bin Laden UBL Virginia
Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA3) said, in part:

"It is my hope that this victory will provide some comfort to the families of those victims of his decades of terrorist acts all over the world, especially the victims of the embassy bombings of the late 1990s, the attack on the Norfolk-based USS Cole in 2000, and the 9/11 attacks in 2001. We also need to honor and remember the thousands of men and women who have given their lives over the last decade fighting terrorism and their families.”

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA11) repeated the phrase, “Justice has been served,” but added:

“President Obama made it clear from his first days in office that bringing down Bin Laden was a top priority. I applaud his persistence and that of our nation's military and intelligence community in seeking out Bin Laden. I'm confident our forces will continue to aggressively pursue other Al Queda leaders and weaken this vile terrorist organization.”

Eighth District Democrat Jim Moran does not appear to have issued any comment on the bin Laden news, but his 2010 Republican election opponent, Patrick Murray, said in an email message to supporters: "This is a blow to Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists, but it does not mean that our fight is over. In fact this is likely to lead to retaliatory attacks against us and our interests around the world, so we must remain vigilant."


The "justice has been served" meme also appeared in a brief statement released by longtime Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA10):

"Justice, indeed, has been served. The killing of Osama bin Laden is critically important in the United States’ fight against terrorism and I want to congratulate and thank the hard working men and women in our Armed Services and in the intelligence community who have dedicated themselves day-in and day-out to bringing our enemies to justice. I also want to congratulate President Obama and President Bush for their leadership. Hopefully the demise of Osama bin Laden will bring closure to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. We must remain vigilant, however, as we continue to fight terrorists around the globe. The threat remains very real and we should not let down our guard."

Vigilance appeared in the reaction of freshman Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA9):

“The announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed is a true victory for the United States. Almost 10 years ago, the 9/11 attacks cost thousands of innocent American lives. Our men and women in uniform and the intelligence community have fought tirelessly to protect our nation – many of them sacrificing everything. I thank them for their dedication to justice. The fight against terrorism is not over. We must continue to remain vigilant.”

Like Bobby Scott, First District Republican Congressman Rob Wittman noted a local connection in the news:

“Today, America marks a major victory in the war on terror following the announcement that the world’s most wanted terrorist and the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks and the bombing of the Norfolk-based USS Cole (DDG 67) on October 12, 2000, has been killed by American forces. Americans stand proud of a job well done by our military and intelligence communities and we honor the lives lost of those fighting to defend freedom and see justice served for nearly a decade.”

Representative Robert Hurt (R-VA5), who represents the Charlottesville area in Congress, said:

“The death of Osama bin Laden marks a great victory in the War on Terror and is welcomed news for all Americans. It is my hope that this announcement brings some amount of justice and closure to the families of the victims of September 11th and to those who have lost loved ones throughout the War on Terror.”

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA4), concluded his press release by saying:

“As Americans, we proudly celebrate this victory and join President Obama in commending the brave men and women that made this day possible—the day when we can finally say that Bin Laden is dead. The streets once filled with twisted steel and smoke are now rightfully filled with celebration. Yet, we must remain vigilant against the metastasized threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates and resist the temptation to allow our joy to lure us into complacency. I am committed to supporting our men and women in uniform and will not waiver in my duty to ensure that our Armed Forces remain ready to protect the United States at home and our interests around the globe.”

Neither Senator Mark Warner nor Senator Jim Webb have put out a news release. Similarly, there has been no official reaction from the offices of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 2, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

From the Archives: Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces

Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces
May 2, 2011 9:25 AM MST

In response to a request for a comment from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, retired U.S. Air Force colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who is challenging incumbent Representative Bob Goodlatte for the 2012 Republican nomination in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, said with regard to the killing of Osama bin Laden this weekend:

“I tend to share the views of former President George W. Bush, recalling Bush's March 13, 2002, press conference, where he acknowledged that we hadn't heard a lot from Osama bin Laden (even nine years ago) and that the US does not believe bin Laden is ‘at the center of any command structure.’"

‘Bring the troops home’
Dr. Kwiatkowski, who has been a popular speaker on the libertarian lecture circuit, added that “it was interesting that late Sunday night President Obama indicated we had the body, and then by Monday morning we hear that the body was buried at sea. I expect that this sudden lack of a viewable corpse will be a point of debate for both those who support the Bush/Obama policy in the region, and for those who oppose it. I encourage the President and the Congress to use the published death of Osama bin Laden as a real opportunity to bring the troops home from both Afghanistan and Iraq, and to use those billions and billions of tax dollars to truly defend our borders, and to balance our budget at home.”

libertarians osama bin laden death cato institute
Kwiatkowski was one of several prominent libertarians who have reacted to the news of the al-Qaeda founder’s death in Pakistan. Here is a sampling of their opinions from around the World Wide Web.

Wayne Allyn Root, currently the chairman of the Libertarian National Congressional Committee and the Libertarian Party’s 2008 vice-presidential candidate, issued a brief statement late Sunday that said, in part (emphasis in original):

“I want to congratulate the Navy Seal Team that tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden. I feel blessed for their courage.

“Congratulations are due for all American military and intelligence on their RELENTLESS decade long battle to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

“Tonight there is no politics, or partisan divide. This was a victory for America and all Americans.”

‘Establishing more liberal societies’

Christopher A. Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, wrote on the Institute’s blog, Cato@Liberty:

“Bin Laden’s death does not end the threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates, but it goes a long way toward delivering justice for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and al Qaeda’s other acts of terrorism. Importantly, the operation appears to bear resemblance to earlier operations that captured the 9/11 plotters Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh. The details should remind us that some of the most effective counterterrorism techniques do not rely on tens of thousands of troops stationed indefinitely in distant lands.”

Preble’s Cato colleague, director of information studies Jim Harper, argued in a separate blog post:

“Osama bin Laden failed to reach any of his geopolitical goals. He did not topple any Middle East dictator toward the end of establishing a Muslim caliphate. Indeed, the people of the Middle East have begun toppling their own dictators toward the end (we earnestly hope) of establishing more liberal societies.”

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said simply in a news release:

"I commend our troops, the intelligence community, and the military leaders involved in both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for their perseverance and courage in pursuit of this most grievous enemy of the United States of America."

‘Rethink our foreign policy’
Dave Nalle, national chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, wrote on

“Even though it's basically meaningless, let's all pretend that killing bin Laden makes all the difference and puts the specter of 9/11 to rest. Let's say ‘mission accomplished’ and move on the way we should have when Bush first made that declaration. This shouldn't be a milestone in the War on Terror, it should be the gravestone which marks the end of that ill-conceived venture which has been as bungled by this administration as it was by the previous one.

“Let's call it a turning point and an opportunity to rethink our foreign policy and what our objectives ought to be. This might be the time to return to a model of foreign policy which doesn't rely on the failed Wilsonian vision of being everyone's big sister and forcing obedience where we can't buy affection. We've tried that approach and we can no longer afford to try to out-tyrant the tyrants and out terrorize the terrorists. That's a game which no one wins.”

‘Intelligence gathering’
Writing at the Nolan Chart, libertarian blogger Evan Mazur noted:

“Yes, America finally killed bin Laden and that's something everyone can be grateful for, but his death was not due to the presence of tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, but from intelligence gathering and a surgical strike in Pakistan that reportedly involved no civilian casualties. Such a focused strike was exactly the plan former Congressman and 2008 Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr had in mind. Congressman Ron Paul, who originally voted in favor of the use of force in Afghanistan on the condition that troops would be used to focus on the terrorists, came to regret that decision because the nature of the mission changed from that of terrorist hunting to nation building. Like Barr, he wanted to focus not on conducting a war in Afghanistan but on Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cohorts.”

Finally, Jeff Frazee, chairman of Young Americans for Liberty, pointed out in a widely-quoted Facebook status update:

"Only government can fail for 10 years and spend trillions of [your] dollars over budget and still be cheered and celebrated after it finally accomplishes what it originally set out to do."

As this article went to press, neither of the two libertarian-identified candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination – Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson – had commented publicly on the death of Osama bin Laden.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 2, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

From the Archives: Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death

Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death
May 2, 2011 3:19 AM MST

President Barack Obama’s late-night confirmation of the death of Osama bin Laden – an announcement that had been preceded by hours of speculation on Twitter – led naturally to reactions by political leaders across the country, including those in Virginia.


death of Osama bin Laden UBL
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA7) said that the “men and women of our armed forces and intelligence community have fought valiantly for the last decade and this is a major victory and testament to their dedication. I commend President Obama who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice. While this is no doubt a major event in our battle against terrorism, we will not relent in our fight against terror and our efforts to keep America safe and secure.”

In a news release distributed by his office, U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6) said:

“The brave men and women of our military work hard day in and day out to preserve our security and deserve our gratitude for accomplishing this dangerous mission. Without their dedication to the mission and their resolve to track Osama Bin Laden, tonight’s announcement would not have been possible.”

Freshman Representative Scott Rigell (R-VA2) tweeted:

“Hearing now that Navy SEALS led the operation. So incredibly proud of them. True warriors in defense of freedom.”

Three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated after the 2012 election by Democrat Jim Webb also had reactions.

Former Governor and Senator George F. Allen released a statement that said, in part:

“The death of Osama Bin Laden is important symbolically and strategically, but it is not the end of the war on terror. Radical terrorism is larger than any one person or one group. America and her allies are still the target of the enemies of freedom, and we must remain vigilant in our fight.”

Jamie Radtke, another candidate for the 2012 GOP nomination, said on her campaign web site:

“Our war against militant Islamic terrorism is not over. Prudence suggests that we face greater risks in the near-term, as al-Qaeda attempts to show that bin Laden’s demise does not end their war against America and the world. It is my prayer, however, that Osama bin Laden’s death will be a turning point in the war in Afghanistan.”

Northern Virginia businessman Timothy Donner, the most recent entrant into the Republican Senate race, said on Twitter:

“We are grateful and proud to our brave military for making this moment possible” and “while this death stirs memories of the unspeakable horror of 9/11, this represents the triumph of American will.”

Party Leaders
Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said in a statement distributed via email to journalists:

"This is a tremendous day, not only for the Commonwealth of Virginia, but for our entire country. The man who plotted the murder of hundreds of innocents on Virginia soil and thousands elsewhere has finally been brought to justice.”

Former Governor L. Douglas Wilder (D-Richmond) first tweeted “Looks like we got him,” followed by “Americans owe a great debt of gratitude to our men & women in the U.S. military and in the intelligence community.”

As this goes to press, other members of the Virginia congressional delegation, other announced candidates for the U.S. Senate, and other state party chairmen had not responded to the news of bin Laden’s demise.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 2, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.