Friday Choice Cuts

This week has been a veritable hotbed of controversy. Here’s our wrap.

Amina Arraf, a lesbian Syrian blogger, was abducted by Syrian authorities during the week, prompting howls of protest around the world - at least until it emerged that she may be the figment of someone’s imagination. If that’s the case, it would be a distasteful distraction from the life-and-death struggle many Syrians are engaged in - even 13-year-old boys.

Linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky has won this year’s Sydney Peace Prize amid controversy surrounding his reaction to the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Less controversially, Canadian troubadour Leonard Cohen has been awarded a major Spanish literary prize for “a literary work which has influenced three generations around the world by creating a sentimental imagery in which poetry and music are melded into an unchanging worth.” Cohen’s lyrics are deeply influenced by Andalucian poet Federico García Lorca.

But many bookish Spaniards have been outraged by a controversy of their own, concerning the historical legacy of General Francisco Franco, the country’s far-right dictator from 1936 to 1975. A new state-subsidised national dictionary of biography has portrayed Franco’s reign as “authoritarian, but not totalitarian”. The Franco entry was penned by Professor Luis Suárez, an 86-year-old medieval historian known to be a Franco apologist.

There seems to be something inherently dark about the human appetite for storytelling - even among children. After all, Jack and Jill might well have gone up the hill, but Jack broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. But when is the darkness too dark? An article in the Wall Street Journal last weekend about the darkness of much young adult fiction has sparked a fascinating debate. Here’s an overview of the reaction.

Even the Smurfs have weighed in with a controversy of their own. They have, according to one French academic, done the impossible and merged Stalinism and Nazism. Antoine Bueno created headlines this week when he labelled the cartoon characters, created by Peyo in 1958, as deeply racist, thus deeply offending all across the world lovers of the blue characters known variously as Schtroumpfs in France, Pitufos in Spain, Torpikek in Hungary, Sumafu in Japan and, in China, lan jing ling.

And finally David Nichols has just published The Bogan Delusion through Affirm Press. In this essay in The Conversation, he asks, do bogans actually exist?

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