May 31, 2016

Now Playing

Love & Friendship
(Reviewed May 25, 2016)

Jane Austen as seen by Whit Stillman — who doesn’t quite see all of her

(Reviewed August 29, 2014)

A portrait of modern sanctity which — very oddly, in my view — asks not to be taken too seriously

(Reviewed August 27, 2014)

The movie it took twelve years to make — about a childhood that appears to be taking much, much longer

America: Imagine the World Without Her
(Reviewed July 31, 2014)

Another foray by Dinesh D’Souza into the lists in order to break a lance on President Obama — and Howard Zinn. At least the latter is effectively unhorsed.

ENTRY from May 27, 2016

Your blogospondent has been reading with great interest David Rieff’s new book, In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies — partly in order to determine whether or not it has been inspired by the new vogue among the militantly politically correct for forgetting the past — or, more accurately, misremembering it. I haven’t yet discovered the answer to my question, but I don’t quite like the sound of one of Mr Rieff’s answers to a question by Rebecca Onion, who interviewed him for Slate about the book. She asks him what he thinks of efforts to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford or the name of Woodrow Wilson from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. Here’s what he replies:

I think it depends on the case. I think Woodrow Wilson was a truly terrible man and a truly terrible president. I’m not a fan of pretty much anything he did. I do think that there are cases where it seems to me it’s not a bad thing to change the names. My own view, which is maybe part of my own kind of caution, is that this should be exceptional. That it really should be the case of a figure who really did commit terrible crimes. I was for the effort to force the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes [at Oxford]. I thought in a multiracial society having a statue to a great racist imperial figure … that seemed to me a perfectly reasonable change to make.

Ah, but the problem here is not that Rhodes or Wilson are being remembered when they should be forgotten but that they are being remembered one way instead of another. Those who advocate the cancellation of their commemorations at institutions now controlled by people more like themselves than Rhodes or Wilson or their contemporaries do not advocate forgetting them. On the contrary! Rhodes, to take Mr Rieff’s example, is to be remembered as "a great racist imperial figure" — which is to say, a bogyman, never to be forgotten by the p.c. crowd lest others of his nefarious kind (and of course we are to suppose them all around us) should creep back into power some day.
  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

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

A Man or a Mouse? March 31, 2016.
On the political consequences of the decline and fall of America’s honor culture — From The New Criterion of March, 2016 ... Full Article

The King of Tastelessness February 29, 2016.
Inexperienced? Maybe only a veteran of "reality TV" like Donald Trump has the right experience to be president today — From The New Criterion of February, 2016 ... Full Article

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