Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thrill-Seeking Risk-Avoiders

In The New York Times, Charles McGrath reveals a secret truth about The Dangerous Book for Boys, the runaway bestseller that's been lavishly praised by Rush Limbaugh and other right-wingers:

What's odd about "The Dangerous Book" ... is that, with the exception of shooting and cooking a rabbit, the activities it recommends are not dangerous at all. The book includes almost none of the underground know-how that was part of the birthright of an American boy who grew up, say, in the 1950's: how to fashion a raft out of empty oil drums; how to siphon gasoline using just your mouth and a rubber tube; how to make a slingshot out of coat-hanger wire; how to light a cigarette in the wind; how to make a bomb from match heads and a piece of pipe. There is a chapter on how to build a go-cart, but no suggestion about how you might soup it up with a pulley, a belt and a lawnmower engine....

What I keep wondering is: Why do we believe that modern boys are emasculated wusses who avoid danger because feminism and political correctness have made them that way?

Weren't we just being told fairly recently about new "teen crazes" like ghost-riding the whip ("leaving the wheel of a moving car and walking, running, or dancing beside it"), as seen in videos like this? Or fence plowing ("The concept is simple: Pick out a fence, run toward it at high speed, and launch yourself like a missile to plow through the wood"), as seen here? Wasn't it only a few years ago that we were hearing about kids hurting themselves imitating Jackass stunts? And, of course, there's the ever-popular sport of falling off your skateboard while trying to do something scary and dangerous.

Isn't all this stuff done mostly by boys? And don't large numbers of boys do reckless things at least some of the time? If so, then why do we let the media -- why do we let Rush freaking Limbaugh -- tell us that boys don't do dangerous things anymore?

People looking to sell products will tell us anything they think we'll believe, even if what they're saying can be debunked by anyone with the slightest bit of skepticism. It's bad enough that we're not skeptical when someone's trying to sell us a product -- why aren't we more skeptical when Rush Limbaugh's trying to sell a product and his usual feminist-bashing ideology?


(Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.)