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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Political > TV > Arguing The World (Documentary)

Arguing The World (Political Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Documentary: B



The stereotype of the New York Intellectual is addressed by default in producer/director Joseph Dorman’s Arguing The World (1997) look sat their rise through four men: Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe and Irving Kristol.  It traces their lives from their childhoods in immigrant New York neighborhoods to their leap from students, to ideological duelers, to dealing with anti-Semitism, the rise of Stalin, McCarthy witch hunts, WWII and what the future could hold.  They were also revolutionaries and radicals, trying to pick what they though would work best.


So here they were, throwing around Capitalism, Communism, Fascism, Socialism, Radicalism and what Democracy and Freedom did or did not mean.  If it is not Capitalism, alternate ideas today are considered laughable and are minimalized or marginalized.  In real life, these ideas are still with us and always will be, unless you Forest Gump your way though real life and how the world works.  We learn about how they participated in the New Front of the 1930s and New Left of the 1960s, but by the time of this program, had split off into very differing directions that reflect the splits in U.S. political discourse today.  Of course, like to many of the political debate shows, the viewpoints are overwhelmingly male and the program is incapable of dealing with Feminism and other civil rights issues.  This is a glaring problem in that it oversimplifies things as if you can just think you know what is going on and that will protect you.  This also shows in the differences between the men later, some of who are surprised by some of the things the other men are saying.


It is the kind of dangerous pretension we are suffering through today as bad things happen while those with a voice say one thing and think that is adequate while millions suffer.  This is the same mentality on a less intellectual scale that allowed George W. Bush to beat Democrats twice, despite his great lack of popularity.  When finished watching the program, one wishes these men had taken more verbal, legal and forward action.  Some of the naïve revolutionary ideas were doomed form the start, but at least they were not as dumbed down as discourse in mass media is today.  That is why on public television could have made this show possible, which is required viewing at least once.  Too bad it skips the pain of the times, but there goes that intellectual false sense of security again.


The 1.33 X 1 image is typical of TV productions of the time, with the newer footage taped in the NTSC format and adding a healthy mix of old film footage.  This is a clean copy considering the type of sourcing.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 features simple stereo that is still clean, if not remarkable, for its time.  The combination is just fine.  Extras include a text statement by director Dorman, bios on him and the four “leads” of the program, a stills section, how to get the book tie-in to this show, trailers for two other political First Run DVDs, and a good-but-brief Dorman TV interview that runs about 9.5 minutes.


Bell is amusing when he claims to be “a Socialist in Economics, a Liberal in Politics a Conservative in Culture” whatever that means.  Does this really keep one open to new ideas?  It still sounds too safe, but he does take Kristol to task over factoring out corporate responsibility as he built the think tanks that made Neo-Cons possible.  Diana Trilling is a literary critic who talks about hearing from Kristol’s wife about giving her name to a “Democrats For Nixon” newspaper ad.  She was no McGovern fan, but refused.  The ad was printed and included the names of various Democrats in 1972.  She sites this as the beginning of Neo-Conservatism and in effect, the beginning of the selling-out of the party.  It is the saddest and most poignant moment in the program.  That Democrats and liberals were so stupid is mind-boggling, and then let Neo-Cons spew rhetoric about the free market when they made merger mania, rollback of civil rights and the gutting of the S&Ls for starters possible.  That would make a good documentary.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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