It is sometimes said regretfully that many Americans today get their “slant” on the news from TV’s late-night comedians. But today’s “baby boomers” and Generation X-ers and Y-ers are not among the first Americans to find their politics strained through the filter of humor. More than a century before Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert began coming into people’s living rooms via broadcast and cable television, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to readers around the world as Mark Twain, was infiltrating the same sanctuary via newspapers, magazines, and books. In a 2008 article for Time magazine, humorist Roy Blount, Jr. showed just how topical, yet timeless, Twain’s humor was and is.
Though the majority of Americans have never heard of him, one hundred years ago a key figure in Islamic socialism was born in Damascus — most scholars believe a few days after Christmas. His name is Michael Aflaq (photo at left). Born of Orthodox Christian parents, Aflaq received a proper middle class education in Syria before studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. What did he study? That strange hybrid pseudo-science so common then as today — “political economy,” the salient parts of which were socialism and Arab nationalism.
The Southern Poverty Legal Center, which might be interested in innocent Americans enduring state-sponsored sexual harassment in airports or the coercion on college campuses faced by Christian students, has found another grave danger which merits its interest — the rehabilitation of Senator Joseph McCarthy.