THEY HAVE been having a huge, high-powered conference of intellectuals in Paris, and the reports from it are fascinating. Culture and economics have been under heavy discussion. French President Mitterrand and French Minister of Culture Jack Lang and all the famous international thinkers and celebrities you ever heard about were reported to be there. Kate Millett, William Styron, Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag, Mary McCarthy and John Kenneth Galbraith were among the Americans present; others came from Latin America, Africa, all over the world.
Given this awesome collection of people, it was therefore startling to read in The Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal the other day that the assembled intellectuals had been concentrating much of their wrath on the TV series "Dallas." "If there was a villain at the conference, it was the American television show 'Dallas,'" E. J. Dionne reported in The Times. "Speaker after speaker referred to the internationally popular program as an example of the power of the United States to project what they saw as some of the worst products of American culture into almost every home in the non-Communist world." In The Journal, leisure and arts editor Raymond Sokolov wrote, "'Dallas' came in for the heaviest attacks. . . . Here was a target Israeli writers and Algerian filmmakers could agree should be destroyed." 2 Now, we are not going to suggest that such anti- "Dallas" chatter be suppressed, even though, as we understand it from these news accounts, some of the conferees ruminated on ways to suppress "Dallas." No, we are and always have been for free speech. But there is also such a thing as taste--and to have chosen the moment they did to attack "Dallas" seems to us to bespeak a terrible lack of sensitivity on the part of these people.
This is the week, after all, in which Rebecca has just died in a terrible air crash. And as if that would not alone have been grounds for a little restraint, we remind you that Bobby has only just had the shock of learning that Pam plans to leave him and take the baby. You think Miss Ellie is going to be able to live through that after all she has so recently endured, losing the court fight over Jock's will and all? And how long, when you get right down to it, has Jock been gone? Poor Miss Ellie--how much can a mother take?
We will go further. We hold no brief for J. R. himself, God knows. But the man has just lost his oil pumping variance and faces possible financial extinction. Even the cruelest among us, you'd think, would choose another time for such an assault. Have the intellectuals no shame? Have the French no feelings?