August 26, 2016

Now Playing

Florence Foster Jenkins
(Reviewed August 19, 2016)

A bittersweet but well-executed comedy to which there is much more than may at first appear.

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
(Reviewed August 18, 2016)

If this is how both sides in America have decided to do politics in the age of Trump, there’s not much point finding fault, is there?

Captain Fantastic
(Reviewed July 27, 2016)

A movie to promote the self-conceit of ageing hippies left behind by "history"

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
(Reviewed July 12, 2016)

A funny-serious adventure in the photogenic New Zealand wilderness that, like the author’s Boy has coming-of-age pretensions

ENTRY from August 18, 2016

With Barack Obama, the Democrats first made the leap to choosing a presidential nominee solely on the basis of his rhetoric — just as it was his speech at the Democratic National convention in 2004 that catapaulted him from obscurity to a U.S. senate seat and thus into contention for the presidency — and without regard to anything much he could point to as a substantive accomplishment in politics, government.or anything else. He could argue, if he chose, that Dreams from My Father, a best-selling book was an accomplishment (though being a "fiction writer" was meant to count against Senator Jim Webb of Virginia when he ran and won against Senator George Allen in 2006), but if so that also must be counted no more than a rhetorical achievement.

I wonder if it isn’t the case that the media now suppose this to be the electoral norm — and negatively as well as positively. Donald Trump can point to business successes (as well as best-selling authorship, though his books appear to have been written by somebody else) as relevant accomplishments, and doubtless he would prefer to divert attention from some of his less successful enterprises, but so far in the campaign both the good and the bad in Mr Trump’s career have taken a back seat to his rhetoric, too. In the eyes of the unremittingly hostile media, his chief sins — often his only sins, or the only ones thought worthy of mention — are rhetorical. He is thus the negative image, as it were, of President Obama, whose only virtues were rhetorical.

It is as if, so a dispassionate observer of the campaign to date might suppose, making a joke about the assassination of a political opponent (assuming, for the moment, that that was what Mr Trump was doing in mentioning the Second Amendment in connection with Hillary Clinton) was the worst thing Donald Trump ever did in his life. Well, it’s not good, to be sure, though Joe Biden did it a quarter century ago — in repeating a joke about the Secret Service’s order to shoot Dan Quayle if anything happened to George H.W. Bush — and nobody thought twice about it. But if Mr Trump is as bad as they keep telling us he is, there must be lots of worse stuff than that which the media are chosing to go lighter on or to ignore completely. Likewise, his mentioning the ethnicity of the judge in the suits against Trump University is almost all anyone in the media has talked about — much more, at any rate, than about the potential scandal of Trump U. itself.
  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

Master of Suspense June 7, 2016.
Hitchcock made the movies and the movies made post-modernism — from The Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2015/16 ... Full Article

Scandals and Experts May 31, 2016.
What if the Trumpists’ much-mentioned grievance is not so much their own misfortunes as the insufferable self-righteousness of their supposed betters? — From The New Criterion of May, 2016 ... Full Article

Politics Without Honor April 30, 2016.
 To put honor, trust, decorum in the service of self-interest is to misunderstand the meaning of the words — From The New Criterion of April, 2016 ... Full Article

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