March 24, 2017

Now Playing

Manchester by the Sea
(Reviewed February 24, 2017)

A great actors’ movie but, to that extent, not so great as a movie — From The American Spectator

(Reviewed February 7, 2017)

Martin Scorsese’s attempt to reconcile Christianity with multiculturalism is unlikely to impress anyone not already a convert to the latter

La La Land
(Reviewed January 30, 2017)

A feeble parody of the old-time Hollywood musical that appears to have wowed critics not in spite of but because of all the ways it falls short of its original

Hacksaw Ridge
(Reviewed November 21, 2016)

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

ENTRY from March 21, 2017

In my media column in the current edition of The New Criterion, I have occasion to mention the advertising blitz with which The New York Times greeted the new Trump administration. It appeared to me to have been based on Times columnist Jim Rutenberg’s conceit of himself and his colleagues as a brave little band of paratroopers called on to defend what he calls "the realm of the true" from — well, from "the hyperpartisan debate," though it was a debate which the Times itself, at his urging, had already joined as one of the partisans. I had thought that the tide of e-mailed appeals — all based on some such formula as (to paraphrase) "We love truth! Don’t you love truth too? Click here to get more truth than you will know what to do with" — was finally ebbing when, over the weekend I got another, this one from "Times Insider" featuring a photo of a tray full of pin-on buttons over the caption: "Buttons adorn the tables in The New York Times’s cafeteria." The buttons read: "Truth. The alternative is a lie."

That presumably harks back to Kellyanne Conway’s now notorious appeal to "alternative facts," which I wrote about in this space in January, but it is patently untrue. In fact, you could call the slogan itself a lie if, like the Times and so much of the rest of the media nowadays, you don’t have any nostalgic attachment to the notion that a lie and an error are distinct and incompatible terms — the former, unlike the latter, requiring an intention to deceive. Whoever dreamed up this slogan was certainly in error if he or she thought that the alternative to truth, let alone Truth, was a lie. Sometimes, it is, it’s true. But the slogan reads: "The alternative. . ." and so ignores, whether with an intention to deceive or not, the obvious truth that the alternative may also be one of many other things, such as a half-truth, a "truthful exaggeration," an untruthful exaggeration, a mistake, a mistaken inference or hypothesis or (one of the Times’s own favorites) a mere speculation dressed up in Truth’s clothing.

For example: "Trump May Have Pushed Dutch Voters Away From Populism" headlined the Truth-loving Times on Friday, though the article to which the headline was appended also mentioned several other possible if equally speculative explanations for the Dutch election result. It was an article which I almost didn’t bother to read, since the headline led me to suppose that it was just another of the paper’s daily, almost hourly, attacks on the President based on nothing but surmise and speculation — such as that against his hypothetical collusion with Russian hackers or other, as yet unidentified Russian agents doing unknown and undiscoverable dirty deeds to "interfere" with last November’s election and so to deprive Mrs Clinton of her rightful victory. Maybe.
  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

Cessation of the Oracles February 28, 2017.
The media’s failure to recognize the degradation of their own authority could tip us off as to the reason for same — from The New Criterion of February, 2017 ... Full Article

Faking it and Making it January 31, 2017.
There’s something pretty fake about the assumption that "fake news" all comes from one side — From The New Criterion of January, 2017 ... Full Article

Groovin’ on the Shock December 31, 2016.
First, cartoon movies; then, a cartoon election. Seems logical. Yet the media affect surprise — From The New Criterion of December, 2016 ... Full Article

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