Best of 2006? Other WashPost Critics Mock Haggard, Tout Communist Brits

December 31st, 2006 8:08 AM

There were more guess-what-I'm-liberal picks of the Washington Post arts writers in Friday's Weekend section, so since it's a slow Sunday morning, here's the others. The movie critics listed their favorite actors of the year. Ann Hornaday closed out her list with this flippant pick:

5. Ted Haggard in "Jesus Camp." In this documentary, the evangelical preacher leers at a camera operator and says, "I know what you did last night." Well, it turned out what he had done last night was score some crystal meth and get together with a male prostitute. Meanwhile, this prevaricator and moral hypocrite had thousands of followers convinced he was a straight and sober man of God. Well played, sir!

Liberals loved "Jesus Camp," made by two liberals who enjoyed showing people a set of frightening evangelical theocrats in training. Hornaday touted that film, but clearly hated "The Passion of the Christ," and its "troubling" literal approach, as if the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses. She preferred the knocking-boots Jesus of "The Last Temptation of Christ." (So if Haggard had honestly went about the sex and drugs and preached that message, she would have liked him much better, apparently.) See Bozell. She lauded how Last Temptation's "lyricism and meaning and spiritual heft have grown with time....The film is one of the most provocative, haunting and devout meditations on spiritual sacrifice and commitment ever made.”

Then it's back to the music critics. Catherine Lewis's list had two liberal/radical picks:

3. Josh Ritter, "Girl in the War." No one really needs another opinion about the war, but Ritter finds a way to make his chilling take relevant in this song, framed as a conversation between Peter and Paul.

4. Billy Bragg reissues. There's much to rediscover among these eight albums, reissued with bonus tracks and live footage. Bragg's feisty political rants and working-class struggles still seem fresh after two decades, and it's easy to get lost in his exuberant bellow, "There is power in a union!"

Josh Ritter is also on the top-ten list of the aforementioned J. Freedom du Lac. The lyrics to this tune do have a "chilling take" at best, which is that God is utterly powerless before the wars of the world and can't do anything to stop them. At worst, Ritter makes God into a fool: "But now talking to God is Laurel begging Hardy for a gun."

Then there's Billy Bragg, who is not merely a "feisty" ranter but another communist. In 1990, he put out a record with the title "The Internationale," which included that song, which is not really an anthem of "working-class struggles," but the official theme song of the Community Party of the Soviet Union, a theme song for Soviet domination. This is the kind of pick that just makes you laugh. It's "still fresh after two decades" to rehash Soviet Union anthems? It recalls all the jokes we used to make in the 1980s when the Washington Post building and the Soviet embassy were on the same block of 16th Street, and we joked about there must be tunnels underneath joining the two.

Mark Jenkins went local, praising a group called The Evens, a spinoff of the old radical D.C. band Fugazi. "This folk-punk duo's (Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina) rougher-edged second album serves eviction notices to certain unnamed "liars," vowing that "Washington is our city!" The Washington City Paper, the local alternative rag, elaborates on the politics of The Evens:

On "Dinner With the President," about a fantasy invitation to the White House, MacKaye is rendered speechless. He sets up the scenario: "If I went I know what I’d like to do." But Farina has to finish his thought: "Stand up and scream while the food is served."

It probably wouldn’t do much good, and the Evens know it. So much of what motivated voters in the midterm election was apparent the last time the Evens released a record, a point made on the soulful "Cut From the Cloth." "How do people sleep amidst the slaughter?" MacKaye asks. "Why would they vote in favor of their own defeat?"