June 25, 2016

Now Playing

The Lobster
(Reviewed June 23, 2016)

A fantastical satire against bureaucracy whose real-world target is less than immediately recognizable

Me Before You
(Reviewed June 14, 2016)

A well-made film that teaches an obnoxious lesson

(Reviewed June 2, 2016)

You should be ashamed to be watching this movie. I know I was.

Love & Friendship
(Reviewed May 25, 2016)

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

ENTRY from June 23, 2016

"To the Republicans who have been silent on Trump," read the headline to Fareed Zakaria’s op ed in The Washington Post last weekend "— your honor is at stake." In the article to which the headline was attached mention was made of several prominent Republicans who have not (so far) repudiated Mr Trump as their party’s presidential nominee, but by the end it was clear that the columnist was primarily focusing on Senator John McCain as someone whose life story as a naval aviator and long-term prisoner of war in North Vietnam has given him an almost 19th century level of solicitude about his own honor. And now here was one, Fareed Zakaria, coming forth to tell him that his years of honorable suffering in the Hanoi Hilton count for naught in his honor-accounting unless he also supports the candidate Mr Zakaria supports in this year’s presidential election.

Can you guess why Mr Zakaria never even tries to explain who made him the arbiter of Senator McCain’s honor? He simply takes it for granted that that privilege is comprehended in his divine right as a media pundit to command the inferior class of mere politicians. He has soldiers under him too, as he supposes, and he says to this man, "Go," and he goeth, and to another, "Come," and he cometh," and to his servant "Do this," and he doeth it. At least he doeth it if he knoweth what’s good for him. Naturally, it would never occur to this precious pundit that much of Mr Trump’s support is a reaction against precisely this arrogance on the part of the media in supposing they have the right to tell their fellow citizens for whom it is — and is not — permissible to vote if they wish to avoid being cast out into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth with the ungodly.

Back in 2008, when Senator McCain was himself the Republican candidate, I seem to remember it was the cartoonist Garry Trudeau who pioneered this technique of getting at the ex-POW by pretending to question his honor for not being of the same opinion as Garry Trudeau about — I forget what. Something or other. But neither Mr Trudeau nor Mr Zakaria has the slightest idea about how honor actually works. Honor is a judgment we pass upon ourselves when we join certain kinds of honor groups — especially military ones — of those whom we acknowledge as our equals. We therefore allow them to pass judgment upon our honor by virtue of their own. At no time, needless to say, has either of these gentlemen of the press ever been a fellow member with Senator McCain of any group which he would consider entitled to judge of his honor.
  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

Master of Suspense June 7, 2016.
Hitchcock made the movies and the movies made post-modernism — from The Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2015/16 ... Full Article

Scandals and Experts May 31, 2016.
What if the Trumpists’ much-mentioned grievance is not so much their own misfortunes as the insufferable self-righteousness of their supposed betters? — From The New Criterion of May, 2016 ... Full Article

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

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