Allen, Webb, truth, fiction

A right-wing group calls on the Democratic challenger to leave the U.S. Senate race over "XXX" fiction.

Published October 27, 2006 4:43PM (EDT)

The Traditional Values Coalition is calling on Jim Webb to withdraw from the Senate race in Virginia because of what it calls "XXX-rated writing" in some of his novels.

Never mind that Webb's novels are fiction -- or, as TVC's executive director puts it in the group's press release, "fiction." Never mind that the book singled out in TVC's press release -- Webb's "Lost Soldiers" -- was praised at the time of its publication by Republican Sen. John McCain, who said it "captures well the lingering scars of the war" in Vietnam.

Never mind that the scene from "Lost Soldiers" that TVC quotes in its press release was plainly meant to be disturbing. In it, two men are walking along a mud path when they see "a shirtless man," his face "devastated with wrinkles," his eyes "so red that they appeared to be burned by fire," pick up his happy naked son, "turn[] him upside down, and put the boy's penis in his mouth." The right-wing Cybercast News Service says the passage sounds like a "child sex scene," but that hardly seems fair, at least based on the pages of "Lost Soldiers" we've seen. This isn't exactly a member of Congress jacking off while instant-messaging a teenage boy. The scene in Webb's novel takes place in a setting of grim desperation, a foul-smelling neighborhood of open-air hog slaughter pens where the people who aren't walking "listlessly" "sit motionless under outdoor stalls, some numb from opium and others merely enduring the heat."

And never mind that leading lights on the right have written a fair amount of smut for smut's sake. There's a "pouting sex kitten," an "exotic mistress" and "after-bout inhalation" in Newt Gingrich's "1945. " In Lynne Cheney's 1981 novel "Sisters," the female heroine sees two women in a lesbian embrace and feels "curiously moved, curiously envious of them." And in Scooter Libby's 1998 book, "The Apprentice," a 10-year-old girl is placed in a cage with a bear that has been "trained to couple with young girls."

We must have missed the press release where TVC equated Cheney and Libby and Gingrich with Mark Foley. In the meantime, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has issued a press release of its own. The DSCC notes that the things George Allen stands accused of doing -- calling S.R. Sidharth "macaca," using the"N-word," spray-painting racist graffiti in high school -- "are real, not written in a novel."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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