December 6, 2016

Now Playing

Hacksaw Ridge
(Reviewed November 21, 2016)

A fine war movie in spite of its being pitched to an audience with a pacifist predisposition

American Pastoral
(Reviewed November 4, 2016)

An adaptation which brings out the worst in Philip Roth’s novel

(Reviewed September 22, 2016)

Is it unreasonable to care about Clint Eastwood’s mild falsification of what actually happened after "the Miracle on the Hudson"?

Hell or High Water
(Reviewed September 15, 2016)

A sometimes amusing but morally illiterate "neo-Western" which seems likely to spawn numerous imitators

ENTRY from November 15, 2016

It is already becoming clear that, in the Trump era, we’d better get used to the ubiquity of virtue-signaling on the left, as it has lately become even easier than it already was. "Not my president!" reads the message that lots and lots of our fellow citizens apparently feel it incumbent upon themselves to share with the rest of us, and it is often accompanied by the noise of chanting, disruption of traffic and destruction or defacement of property. Of course the statement itself is patently false. Mr Trump is, or soon will be, the president of the noise-makers as of everyone else, like it or not, unless they propose to follow the various celebrities who have threatened (or promised — could we but hold them to it) to leave the country. But what makes them feel the need to share their feelings with us? What makes them think anybody else cares what they think?

As it happens, I noticed the following passage in the (London) Times’s obituary (pay wall) yesterday of the late Man from U.N.C.L.E., Robert Vaughn. "He looked beyond his acting career when he was asked how he would most like to be remembered. "My opposition," he said, "to the Vietnam War." Could there be a lesson in this, both about the nature of celebrity and about politics? How on earth did it happen that this man, who enjoyed very considerable success in life through his own efforts, even though these only consisted of acting, came to regard it as natural to regard a political statement (particularly a political statement in opposition to something) not only as an accomplishment but as the accomplishment of his life, the act by which this actor would wish above all others to be remembered?

Now it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a lot of successful actors secretly feel a bit guilty that they have arrived at fame and fortune only through impersonating other people and look around for what they regard as noble causes to affiliate themselves to, in order to justify their exaggerated reputations. But it is also true that an essential part of the celebrity culture — the culture that gave us Donald Trump — has always been its implict randomness. "Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us" as Us magazine puts it, or used to put it. At least we like to think they’re just like us, since thinking so is the flip side of thinking we might be celebrities ourselves. And from there it is not a very long or arduous journey to thinking that we are celebrities ourselves and therefore entitled, like Robert Vaughn, to regard it as in itself a quasi-heroic achievement publicly to proclaim a political allegiance — or a political dissent.
  Full Entry

Media MadnessMy book Media Madness, is available for order from Encounter Books. Less a polemic than an attempt to understand the origins of the mass media’s folie de grandeur, the book is a warning even to those who are deserting the big networks, newsweeklies and large-circulation dailies not to carry with them into the more attractive world of niche media the undisciplined habits of thought that the old media culture has given rise to. To order this book, click here.

Honor, A HistoryAlso available, now in paperback, is Honor, A History, which was first published in 2006. A study of Western cultural artifacts, from the epics of Homer to the movies and TV shows of today, it is focused on explaining why Western ideas of honor developed so differently from those elsewhere — and especially from the savage honor cultures of the Islamic world. The book then goes on to trace the collapse and ultimate rejection of the old Western honor culture from World War I until the present day and to suggest the conditions that would have to prevail for its revival.

Recent Articles

After the Fact October 31, 2016.
Just whose "truth" is it we are now all supposed to be "post"? — From The New Criterion of October, 2016 ... Full Article

The End of the News September 30, 2016.
The media have left their first love, the news, and their own raffish past for what they imagine to be a high-class mistress called "narrative" — From The New Criterion of September, 2016 ... Full Article

House of Cads June 30, 2016.
The ladies and gentlemen have long since left the building — From The New Criterion of June, 2016 ... Full Article

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