October 20, 2018

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 11, 2018

Have you noticed? An awful lot of people lately have taken it upon themselves to pronounce on what is and what is not honorable — and, in many cases, who is and is not competent to pronounce upon the subject. On that point, no one ever thinks he himself lacks such competence, but I’m afraid that that only shows we all do. Lack competence. This is because we can no longer agree upon the meaning of the word. You can tell by the frequency with which it is used to buttress a partisan political point — in effect to call those who disagree with us dishonorable for no better reason than that they disagree with us. Such a thing would itself have been dishonorable in the days when honor was well understood — and understood as that which preserved civic cohesion in spite of political differences.

But the days when “the Honorable” was anything more than ornamentation for a letterhead are long gone, as you could tell from what some of us old-timers might have supposed to be the eminently non-partisan occasion of the funeral of a great American hero, Senator John McCain. “You had to control your gag reflex,” wrote Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, “watching Vice President Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) extol McCain’s greatness as he was accorded the honor of lying in state.” And why was that, Jennifer? Because she thought it hypocritical and disingenuous of them to pay homage to an honorable man with whom they had had serious political differences, some of them expressed (as she was now doing) according to current custom in personal terms.

No credit to these men, then, as there might once have been, for rising above such differences on such an occasion. And, indeed, Ms Rubin has given redundant demonstrations that she herself must be incapable of such a feat. Not that the late Senator McCain had been, in life, what you’d call a throwback to the days of honor in politics. His capacity to bear a grudge beyond the grave was evident in his pointedly not inviting President Trump or Sarah Palin to his funeral. The late hero, it seems, was at least as prepared as Jennifer Rubin or anyone else in the media, who had lionized him in death as part of their campaign against the President, to use his honor and the prestige attaching to it to settle political scores.
  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

Constituting Truth September 30, 2018.
How have we come to take it for granted that "truth" must be defined in partisan terms? — From The New Criterion of September, 2018 ... Full Article

Paradise Recycled August 13, 2018.
The lives of 19th-century utopians were more interesting than the utopias they imagined. — From The Weekly Standard of August 13, 2018 ... Full Article

Hungry like the Wolf June 30, 2018.
For all their passionate hatred of President Trump, the media increasingly seem to be just going through the motions in pursuing him — From The New Criterion of June, 2018 ... Full Article

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