So, I was lying on the couch last Saturday evening (a bit past six pm on Sat. March 29th), letting the over-the-counter cold medicine do its work, when I came across something both surprising and appalling. Not feeling up to watching something with subtitles and no longer having access to Book TV, I was switching back and forth between the four cable news channels (as opposed to the two I usually watch), when I caught a Tolkien reference on one of them. Fox News, which I rarely watch, was running some kind of special designed to stir up fear and trembling in the viewers, one of those Are-You-Scared-Yet?/We-Can-Make-You-Scared things. This particular one was called "JIHAD USA: HOMEGROWN TERROR" and was looking at the phenomenon of copycat attacks and would-be attacks by people who have no connection to al-Qaeda. Rather than drawing what would seem to be the obvious conclusion -- such hairbrained plots are a predictable side-effect of the war, and our conduct of the war, and unpreventable in a society as heavily (and irresponsibly) armed as ours -- they had a pundit (whose name I unfortunately missed) who saw the whole thing in terms of a Tolkien analogy:
"ben Ladin is the Lord without the Rings".
Granted, this is not an exact quote and I missed the context that had led up to this remark, but if I understood him rightly he was claiming that Ben Ladin was like Sauron, holed up in his lair, but that he'd sent the Rings of Power (jihadist doctrine) out into the world where they were working his evil (inspiring terrorist plots).
Like I said, appalling.
I consider this the down side of Tolkien's permeation of our culture: he now has admirers across the board, from the white supremacists who are forging evidence that he was sympathetic to their cause (a fraud exposed by David Doughan in a recent issue of AMON HEN) to, well, this guy.
current audiobook : JOHN ADAMS by David McCullough (still)