HE to Scott Mantz: I’ve pointed this out on several occasions, but at the time of its release Phil Kaufman‘s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (’78) had nothing to do with anything. It was just a well-made Bay Area spooker (man’s head on dog’s body!)…just a remake that Kaufman decided to do, knowing full well that the social metaphor that had fortified and deepened the 1956 Don Siegel original had evaporated. Kaufman’s version is not amazing. It’s just okay or, you know, good in a spotty kind of way.

Where was the late ‘70s metaphor for creeping conformity (i.e., large seed pods taking over bodies)? It was obvious 22 years earlier with suburban multitudes falling into line with bland Eisenhower-era vales and lifestyles, but not so much in the era of cocaine, Studio 54 and Jimmy Carter.

Oh, and ghoulish Donald Sutherland howling and pointing is not an echo of the pandemic, Scott — most of us see him as a representative of wokesters accusing those who’ve failed to uphold woke standards -— those who’ve used the wrong term, tweeted something clumsy or inappropriate 5 or 10 years ago, failed to submit to anti-racist training, answered a question in the wrong way or muttered in passing that “all lives matter.”

Mantz doesn’t want to acknowledge that wokesters are the same people who burned Oliver Reed at the stake in The Devils. He’s understandably scared of even alluding to this. But Bret Stephens gets it.

“Our compromised liberalism has left a generation of writers weighing their every word for fear that a wrong one could wreck their professional lives. The result is safer, but also more timid; more correct, but also less interesting. It is simultaneously bad for those who write, and boring for those who read. It is as deadly an enemy of writing as has ever been devised.

“The more some ideas become undiscussable, the more some things become unsayable, the more difficult it becomes to write well. We are killing democracy one weak verb, blurred analogy and deleted sentence at a time.

“I should be more precise. When I say ‘we’ I don’t mean normal people who haven’t been trained in the art of never saying what they really think. I mean those of us who are supposed to be the gatekeepers of what was once a robust and confident liberal culture that believed in the value of clear expression and bold argument. This is a culture that has been losing its nerve for 30 years. As we go, so does the rest of democracy.”