February 20, 2017

Now Playing

(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

American Pastoral
(Reviewed November 4, 2016)

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

ENTRY from February 7, 2017

Even Donald Trump’s supporters, if there are any left, seem to be joining in the chorus of derision about his reply to Bill O’Reilly’s assertion that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is a "killer." Mr Trump had just said that he respected Mr Putin, and could easily have replied: "What has that got to do with it? He’s the leader of a nuclear-armed superpower with whom it is overwhelmingly in our interest to get along as best we can. That’s the relevant fact here — the "alternative fact," if you like — which is no less a fact for that. It can’t be our major concern what he does to his domestic political opponents, which is more or less (mostly less) what Russian autocrats of all stripes and varieties have always done."

Instead, you will remember, he said this: "There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?" These words were immediately seized upon by the hostile, and even much of the hitherto slightly friendly media as drawing a moral equivalence between our own, American system — about which many in the outraged media have often said similar or worse things — and the Russian one. Well, you can see how they would say such a thing. But it appears not to have occurred to anybody that maybe making moral comparisons of any kind between countries might not be the best way to conduct diplomacy. Even TV diplomacy of the kind favored by Mr Trump.

The media are presumably longing for the good old days when Jimmy Carter conducted foreign relations as an opportunity for preaching the Democratic gospel of "human rights." But one needn’t have anything against human rights to point out that this is not a very effective way even of promoting human rights, let alone increasing American influence in the world, which must be the pre-requisite of such promotion. Mr Carter was ahead of his time, however, the first major political figure to treat virtue-signaling as the object of political action — or, as at the moment it is, of re-action. Mr Trump must be surprised to learn how few on the left want to get anything done anymore. Not even to make America great again. All they want to do is boast to the world about how great they are.
  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.

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After the Fact October 31, 2016.
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