Friday, October 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

So, the latest example of the virtues of American democracy is the shocking revelation that there are some lurid sex scenes in some of the novels written by VA Senatorial candidate Jim Webb.

Should you wish to read the passages in question (assuming you haven’t already, James Joyner has them). And I agree with James, many of the scenes are pretty tame, and more importantly the writing isn’t all that impressive.

While some think that this will lead to Allen’s victory, I have to wonder.

And, I would note the following from Michelle Malkin, who can normally be counted on to be a partisan cheerleader:

if this what Republican Senate candidates need to do to win elections, I don’t think any of us should be cheering.

Indeed. Malkin’s post noted previous attempts to use the contents of novels (by Lynne Cheney and Scooter Libby, to be precise) to score political points.

And I also have to agree with AllahPundit at Hot Air who asks:

Have we actually reached the point where Senate seats now turn on the sex scandals of fictional characters?

It does seem a bit much, to put it mildly. Are we going to get to the point in our politics where anyone who has ever written a lurid scene in a novel need not apply?

And really, as Radley Balko notes, context matters–especially for the more provocative of the excerpts. Indeed, I would further back up Radley’s analysis that some of this stuff that is being touted as examples of Webb’s inner thoughts is clearly the result of things that he has observed in his time abroad. I hesitate to bring up the details, but I have actually heard of the fruit-related incident in the context of an American serviceman attending a show (so to speak) whilst stationed in Asia. As such, at least two of the more bizarre passages are potentially explainable as something actually observed.

In an interview Webb has stated that the scene of most controversy (which involves a father his young son and oral-genital contact) was a description of something he had actually witnessed: vis CNSN:

Webb Says His Novels ‘Inappropriate’ for News Radio“It’s not a sexual act,” Webb told Plotkin regarding the “Lost Soldiers” excerpt. “I actually saw this happen in a slum in Bangkok when I was there as a journalist.”

“The duty of a writer is to illuminate his surroundings,” he added.

Coincidentally, a Cambodian woman in Las Vegas is facing sexual assault charges for performing a similar act on her young son, according to an Oct. 14 report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The article quotes an office manager for the Cambodian Association of America, who described the act as a sign of respect or love.

“It’s an exception,” Thira Srey told the Review-Journal of the practice. According to the report, the act is usually performed by a mother or caretaker on a child who is one year old or younger. In Webb’s novel, the child is four years old.

This whole situation may be one the sillier ones I have encountered in my years of observing American politics. It certainly is demonstrative of the clear desperation at the Allen camp–especially since this information came out as part of an official campaign press release rather than being released by allies or surrogates.

Update: Hot Air has an audio clip of the interview listed above. I agree with AllahPundit (and disagree with E. M. Zanotti), I think Webb comported himself well in the interview and went a long way towards diffusing the whole sordid affair.

Meanwhile, Rob at Say Anything has more info of relevance to the act noted above.

Also, a commenter at Say Anything makes a salient point:

if a work of fiction were truly representative of the character of the author, we’d have long since put Stephen King someplace safe, Mickey Spillane and John D. MacDonald would be under some serious suspicion for, well, everything, and Anne Rice would be in a padded cell.

Now, I will grant that none of those folks is running for office. However, it is a point worth pondering.

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7 Responses to “The Politics of Fiction”

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  • pt
    1. Outside The Beltway | OTB Says:

      Jim Webb’s Dirty Books

      Senator George Allen has issued a press release detailing lurid, strange, and otherwise lame scenes from the novels of his Democratic opponent, former Navy Secretary James Webb.
      The Author’s Disturbing Writings Show a Continued P…

    2. The American Mind Says:

      Webb Defends Racy Book Passage

      Virginia U.S. Senate candidate James Webb justifiably felt it wasn’t appropriate to have racy portions of his novels read on the radio:
      “I don’t know why you’re reading that on WTOP,” Webb told host Mark Plotkin. “I …

    3. SoloD Says:

      Interesting how quickly CW can chnage. This morning it seemed that this was a master stroke that would doom Webb to obscurity. But by this afternoon, people are openly wondering if this doesn’t say more about George Allen than jim Webb.

      To me it raises questions about what type of people that George Allen thinks he represents. Does he think that they are so provincial that they don’t understand fiction? That they are so conservative that they will ignore all context of the stories? That they are so naive to believe that the Allen campaign just found this writing and hasn’t been sitting on it until just the right moment? And if not, isn’t the “outrage” just fake political acting? Like so many conservatives have been accusing the Democrats of doing with Mark Foley?

      This speaks of desperation. Allen may still win, but it won’t be because of this.

    4. KipEsquire Says:

      Rodney Balko? Is he Radley’s cousin? ;-)

    5. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

      SoloD: Good points.

      Kip: Fixed. Thanks. I think that I have done that before, in fact.

    6. JH Says:

      Thanks for the sanity. This whole thing is an embarrasemnet. I wonder what would have happened if William Faulkner ran in 38

    7. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Poll Shows Webb with Slight Edge Says:

      [...] I guess Smutgate didn’t harm Webb after all (not that I expected it to do so): Webb has slight lead in Va. Senate race Among likely voters, the former Republican was the choice of 50 percent of those surveyed while 46 percent favored Allen and 4 percent were undecided. [...]

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