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Sunday, November 05, 2006


New Book- '101 Most Influential' List Used to Bash Capitalism

-By Warner Todd Huston

A new book has hit the stands that has been a "filler" topic for many talk radio programs this week. Called 101 most influential people who never lived, the book is penned by three authors who rate fictional characters of literature and film who they feel had the greatest influence on society.

The book is being treated as light, amusing reading, with USA Today quoting author. Lazar as saying, "The point of the book is to entertain". Most radio interviews I have heard have treated it as a "fun" topic.

But, a recent interview of one of the authors, Dr. Alan Lazar, was aired on Nick Digilio's WLS, Chicago radio program that was quite revealing of the "real purpose" of this book, however.

It seems it has a two fold purpose: bash capitalism and attack big tobacco. Neither purpose is stated upfront.

Pretty heavy subtext for a "book that is to entertain", wouldn't you say?

The number one most influential character proves both points strongly. Chosen number one was the "Marlboro Man", the manly cowboy who for several decades rode and smoked his way across our TVs and advertising enticing us to buy cigarettes.

As the book's website puts it:

1. The Marlboro Man: The American cowboy mythologized by legendary Chicago adman Leo Burnett in service of Big Tobacco still reigns at the reins as a global symbol of capitalism.

During the interview, Dr. Lazer admitted that the choice of "The cowboy of death" -- as USA Today puts it -- was meant as a political statement. "I'm a physician", Lazar said going on to say he and his co-authors wanted to make a statement against Big Tobacco with that choice. "We wanted to say that smoking is bad for you." He also went on to admit that adding another Big Tobacco character to the list, Camel brand's "Joe Camel", was done for the same reason. "Joe Camel is part of our statement against smoking", he informed us.

Lazar also issued a few digs at how capitalism has made his characters able to influence these bad things in our society. The radio host noticed the pattern. "A lot of these are pretty negative on capitalism" he said. Dr. Lazar agreed, pointing out that the reason they put Barbie on the list is because "Barbie teaches every girl that, to be happy, you have to own everything."

That greedy girl.

Conversely, they liked Mary Tyler Moore because on her show "You don't need a man to be happy".

Burn that Bra, Mary. Up with girl power.

So, a book ostensibly made to "entertain" is really meant to celebrate a demeaning of capitalism, an attack on Big Tobacco, and to advocate a tearing down traditional roles and mores.

Sort of destroys the credibility of their list if political statements are all that is meant by the thing, wouldn't you say? Instead of a dispassionate assessment of the actual influence of the characters they evaluated, we end up with their personal political agenda driving their choices.

I'd say this book should rank in the top several hundred books meant for political diatribe, the top two most surely being Hitler's Mein Kampf and Marx's Das Kapitalism! How's that for a list?

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