November 15, 2019

Now Playing

Juliet Naked
(Reviewed September 21, 2018)

An amusing but slight adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel which can laugh at its characters without precluding the possibility that they may laugh at themselves

Won't You Be My Neighbor?
(Reviewed September 20, 2018)

Did Mr Rogers’s extraordinary capacity for love end up producing a generation of haters?

Lady Bird
(Reviewed March 6, 2018)

A delightful and not entirely politically correct movie about growing up as a Catholic schoolgirl in 2002-2003

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
(Reviewed February 22, 2018)

An occasionally amusing parable of guilt and forgiveness whose setting in small-town America, like the prejudices of its author, does it no favors

ENTRY from September 25, 2019

The first time I can remember coming across the idea was when, nearly 20 years ago now, I read the late Christopher Hitchens’s Letters to a Young Contrarian and was surprised by the author’s contempt for one of my own intellectual heroes, Blaise Pascal, for having proposed his famous "wager" in favor of belief in God. Hitchens seems to have thought that if you believed only because you thought you had something to gain and nothing to lose by believing, which was the essence of Pascal’s Wager, God Himself — if there were a God — would spurn you from Him for a belief based only on a base calculation of its advantages to yourself.

Not only do I doubt that anyone before the 20th century believed such a thing, I doubt that anyone before the 20th century could have believed such a thing. But along with modernism and moral licentiousness there came something of a cultural obsession with purity of motive — perhaps as the twin of that other modern obsession with sniffing out and condemning relatively harmless little social hypocrisies, formerly only (and famously) the tribute that vice paid to virtue. T.S. Eliot gave voice to the new attitude in Murder in the Cathedral:

The last act is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
  Full Entry

Media MadnessBefore there was Howard Kurtz’s Media Madness, there was mine — now, alas, out of print but still available while supplies last for the cost of shipping and handling. Send $5.99 to me in care of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1730 M Street, Suite 910, Washington, D.C. 20036

Honor, A HistoryAlso available, now in paperback and Kindle version, 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

Revolutionism Redux, Part I September 30, 2019.
On the perils of the modern revolutionary mindset — From The New Criterion of September, 2019 ... Full Article

Report from an alternative universe June 30, 2019.
What do they know of Media-land who only Media-land know? — From The New Criterion of June, 2019 ... Full Article

Irony of Ironies May 31, 2019.
A parody of news coverage becomes self-parody and no one seems to notice — From The New Criterion of May, 2019 ... Full Article

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