In her memoir, An American Bride in Kabul*, Phyllis Chesler writes about one of the most improbable stories of love, marriage, journey, discovery, survival, and escape. In recalling events from her youth that brought a young Jewish girl from New York as an American bride to Kabul, she opens a window into the culture of a land and its people that no one foresaw drawn into a war with America. Chesler’s story reads as if Desdemona had survived Othello’s effort to smother her in bed; and then in escaping the Moor’s jealous rage Desdemona found her way back home in Venice where at some distance from the stormy days with her warrior-husband she wrote of her experience, and in telling her story shed light into the mind and culture of the man who had beguiled her with tenderness and tales of his adventures.
Chesler is the bestselling author of Women and Madness, and of some dozen other titles that together disclose an illustrious career of a woman devoted to the cause of feminism, individual freedom, struggle against the old and new variants of anti-Semitism, and defending women against all forms of sexual violence. She lives in New York City, having resided previously in Kabul and Jerusalem, and has taught at the City University of New York where she is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women Studies. Her reputation as one of the leading feminist thinkers was established in the company of prominent feminists such as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett and Germaine Greer, who together were the bright lights of the “second wave” feminism of the early 1970s.
But unlike many of her generation of feminists, and those who came later, Chesler stands apart from the sort of feminism that took hold of Women Studies in North American universities during the past thirty years. The focus in the post-“second wave” academic feminism shifted from gender to race, from issues of freedom and democracy to anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism under the influence of Marxist ideology. This brought about the uncritical embrace of non-Western cultures as equal, if not better, for being uncontaminated by racism and imperialism that, according to Marxists and their fellow travellers in “postcolonial studies”, characterize Western culture. The idea that all cultures are equal is the main tenet of multiculturalism, and while this idea is blatantly untrue it has unfailingly worked to corrode the values of liberal democracy based on individual rights and freedoms in the West.
She later wrote in her autobiography that in reality she felt ‘dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged’ at finding out he had lied to her and the public – an act that ultimately led to his impeachment in later that year.
But it can now be revealed that Hillary, who is now running for the presidency herself in 2016, told Blair he was driven to infidelity in part by his political adversaries, the loneliness of the presidency, and her own failures as a wife.
Hillary told Blair she had received ‘a letter from a psychologist who does family therapy and sexual infidelity problems,’ who told her, ‘most men with fidelity problems [were] raised by two women and felt conflicted between them.’
She said the psychologist believed Bill’s lapse in fidelity was rooted in his childhood.
The Clinton camp found itself dealing with Bill Clinton’s infidelity early on. In a confidential Feb. 16, 1992, memo entitled “Possible Investigation Needs,” Clinton campaign staff proposed ways to suppress and discredit stories about the then-Arkansas governor’s affairs.
Campaign operatives Loretta Lynch and Nancy McFadden wrote the memo, addressed to campaign manager David Wilhelm.
The first item on the itinerary discussed “GF,” a reference to Gennifer Flowers, the actress and adult model who had recently disclosed her 12-year affair with Bill Clinton.
“Exposing GF: completely as a fraud, liar and possible criminal to stop this story and related stories, prevent future non-related stories and expose press inaction and manipulation,” said the memo.
In 1998 Bill Clinton admitted he had had a sexual relationship with Flowers.
On Feb. 23, 1993, Blair joined the Clintons for a family dinner at the White House. The subject of health care reform came up.
“At dinner, [Hillary] to [Bill] at length on the complexities of health care—thinks managed competition a crock; single-payer necessary; maybe add to Medicare,” Blair wrote.
The account is at odds with public statements by the former First Lady that she never supported the single-payer option.
In an interview with the New York Times as she ran for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton said she had never seriously considered adopting a single-payer system, in which the government, using funds appropriated from taxpayers, pays for all health care expenses.
“You know, I have thought about this, as you might guess, for 15 years and I never seriously considered a single payer system,” said Clinton in the interview.
Scary thought: electing Hillary as President tells America’s daughters that to succeed they must endure a man like Bill for life… #tcot
isn’t sexy. Really. It took a feature-length article in the magazine to explain to readers that when men act less like men, heterosexual women want to have sex with them less. Despite women being told that they want men more involved in traditionally female household tasks like cooking, cleaning and childcare, when men actually do so, wives find their husbands considerably less sexy.
Another “surprising” revelation: equality in a marriage, especially in the bedroom, was a major turn-off for women.
A desire for equality, and the lack of desire that equality can create, may make scientific sense, even as it challenges conventional wisdom. As Daniel Bergner has written in his book “What Do Women Want?” and in this magazine, many studies show that women often report fantasies, like those involving submission, that tend to be inconsistent with our notion of progressive relationships.
The word “submission” was used four times in the piece, a radical concept for radical feminists.
Last month Candace Cameron Bure, of Full House fame, set off a firestorm when she suggested while promoting her book that the secret to her marital happiness was the fact that she let her husband take control.
“I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work,” the actress writes in her book.
“The definition I’m using with the word ‘submissive’ is the biblical definition of that,” she said. “So, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”
“And, listen, I love that my man is a leader,” she said. “I want him to lead and be the head of our family. And those major decisions do fall on him. … It doesn’t mean I don’t voice my opinion. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I absolutely do, but it is very difficult to have two heads of authority.”
“In my marriage we are equal … in our importance, but we are just different in our performances within our marriage,” she said.
For these statements the former child star was lampooned by feminist sites like XO Jane, which mocked the concept of gender roles that Bure and social conservatives defend:
I had the pleasure of listening to Phyllis Schlafly explain how feminism was ruining women: liberation turned women into confused sluts and emasculated men (clutch all of the pearls!). It was, of course, both an all-purpose salve and a blame game: If your marriage wasn’t working, that was your fault for rejecting biblical womanhood. Reject instead secular notions of gender and equality, celebrate your femininity, be submissive, and live happily ever after. And do it, even to the detriment of your family.
Conservatives are lampooned daily for their supposed anti-science views. Now that science has reinforced the importance of traditional gender roles within households, will progressives continue their push for total marital equality? If so, conservatives will have the last laugh… all the way to the bedroom.
The country that used to permit the performance of “Can’t Buy Me Love” on the grounds that it was a song critical of prostitution in the West has no problem pimping out its female athletes to soften its rather uptight image ahead of the Olympic Games. The salacious images portray female athletes in poses more typical of lingerie models, pole dancers, and strippers than skiers, curlers and hockey players.
Russian male athletes have yet to pony up to the cameras and bare near-all.
When asked how photos of nearly naked female athletes will quell the concerns surrounding the Sochi games, including “disputes about homophobia, world leaders refusing to attend, and mega-security at Sochi,” the response received was: “It is democratic to look at half naked women. Women are beautiful. Everyone likes a pretty girl. Which is why we send ugly ones to Siberia.”
Saturday, February 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
The BBC/PBS Masterpiece series Sherlock wraps up its third season this Sunday, much to the chagrin of a fan base that has come to embrace the belief, as “The Woman” Irene Adler explained in season 2, that “brainy is the new sexy.” The self-proclaimed sociopath Sherlock Holmes is a character that has turned the otherwise average looking actor Benedict Cumberbatch into an international sex symbol; even religious readers of Christianity Today dig Sherlock’s sex appeal:
The show highlights a male hero who breaks our hypermasculine stereotypes while demonstrating qualities we also find in a mature Christian life: Sensitivity to those around us, friendships that support growth, investment into community, and a discerning focus on truth. No wonder he gets our attention.
“The most attractive person in the room is not always the best-looking; it’s the most interesting.” …The showrunner emphasizes that his Holmes isn’t a Vulcan with no emotions – he’s simply decided that things like sex and jokes would interfere with his deduction. “It’s the decision of a monk, not an affliction,” Moffat says. “It’s an achievable superpower.”
“It wasn’t like, in all fairness, anyone was salivating over Benedict before he was Sherlock Holmes,” he told the University Observer when asked about the newfound popularity of the show among women. “It’s a meeting of part and actor I think that makes geeky sexy.”
The show’s writer went on to admit that this is probably the first time the Sherlock Holmes audience has been “female skewed” despite the fact that more traditionally attractive actors have taken on the role in the past.
Pop culture goes on to obsess over all things geeky, praising Big Bang Theory and Comic-Con to the skies, while establishing a new double standard when it comes to the intersection of gender and sex appeal. Sure, geeky guys can be cute, but it isn’t as if Amy Farrah Fowler look-alikes are trolling geekfests to be drooled over. Sherlock may be breaking new ground when it comes to depicting the sex appeal of an intelligent man, but women are still expected to house their brain in their booty.
Ellis has had a few online conversations, but he has not gone on any dates because he said there are not a lot of Sugar Daddies looking for gay Sugar Babies.
“Being gay in the sugaring world is not a common thing because it’s usually girls who are in their 20s who find older men who just want to spoil them,” Ellis said.
Both students use SeekingArrangement.com, a website used to connect potential Sugar Babies to benefactors offering monthly lifestyle budgets ranging from less than $1,000 to more than $10,000.
The website recently released a press release announcing the top 20 fastest growing Sugar Baby schools: Indiana University is No. 18, Ball State at No. 58 and Purdue University at No. 66.
Seeking Arrangement targets college students looking to earn money to ease student debt. According to a press release, college students make up 42 percent of the website’s Sugar Baby membership.
“A lot of these college students don’t have jobs and they’re fighting to pay student loans with increases in the cost of education,” said Leroy Velasquez, public relations manager for the website. “And rather than graduate with a financial burden on their back before they even get a job, they could just date a Sugar Daddy on Seeking Arrangement and graduate debt free.”
One woman chooses to become a prostitute in order to support a drug addiction. That’s understandable and tragic. My favorite movie, Requiem for a Dream, is a heartbreaking story. A woman is so desperate for her fix that she abandons the man she loves and degrades herself.
But so you can avoid having to pay student loans back for a few years? You let some guy you’re not attracted to pay you to have a fake relationship with him and then rent your body to him?
It just breaks my heart that some women place so low a value on themselves.
Major props to Ed Driscoll for this awesome graphic illustrating the lead story of the week:
The baby-boomer/me generation demands what its “greatest generation” parents got — or, in fact, far more, given its increased rates of longevity. The solution of more taxes and less benefits will fall on young people and the unborn, apparently on the premise that those under 18 do not vote, and those between 18 and 30 either vote less frequently than their grandparents or less knowledgeably about their own self-interest.
The Social Security pyramidal scheme is merely the tip of the ephebiphobic iceberg. Currently student indebtedness exceeds $1 trillion. Many of these loans begin compounding before graduation and are pegged at interest rates far higher than parental mortgages. The cause of this tuition bubble is also not controversial. The prices colleges charge for annual tuition, room and board have for over two decades far exceeded the annual rate of inflation.
There were four causes of such price gouging of students. None of them had anything to do with offering better education for a more competitive price for job-hungry graduates.
At the museum, Shin sought the horrific images from 1945 of thousands of decomposing bodies from a liberated Nazi concentration camp being dug up by a bulldozer.
The horror of that image, which he had viewed for the first time in South Korea, convinced him that he must do what he can to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners languishing today in North Korea’s four concentration camps. Shin has become, despite his desire to remain private, a public face for what is a growing movement to shed light on North Korea’s totalitarian government and its unrelenting political imprisonment of its countrymen.
The international media coverage of North Korea tends to focus on anything but the country’s humanitarian crisis. We hear about the country’s nuclear program or the budding friendship between former American basketball star Dennis Rodman and North Korea’s 31-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un, or the latter’s recent execution of his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, formerly Kim’s No. 2 man.
But Shin is a living testament to the fact that attention must be paid to what is happening to a completely hidden population: Nearly seven decades after the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet forces on Jan. 27, 1945, North Korea’s concentration camps have now existed more than 12 times longer than the Nazi camps and twice as long as the Soviet gulag.
As lunch wound down, Shin’s translator said that they had to leave soon for another interview. So I asked him if we could discuss a light topic — God.
Shin responded that although he isn’t entirely convinced of God’s existence, he does believe he received help from above. “I believe that there was a higher being, a higher power involved with my life, for me to be where I am right now,” he said.
Like all of North Korea, Camp 14 was devoid of any religion, of anything that could challenge the Kim family’s throne.
Today, Shin attends an Evangelical church in Seoul whenever he can, and, in fact, finds solace in Moses and the story of the Exodus — a self-doubting leader who helped an enslaved people escape a tyrant.
“When I look at North Korea now,” Shin said, “It reminds me of ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs.”
Read the whole thing. Jared is an extraordinary writer with a lot of talent. I look forward to seeing what he continues to do.
On the surface, it’s easy to criticize Sunday night’s Grammy Awards telecast for sliding from a celebration of music into a celebration of gay marriage with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s live performance of “Same Love,” featuring Mary Lambert, Madonna, Queen Latifa and 33 couples – gay and straight – tying the knot.
There’s no question that the sanctimonious display, complete with gospel choir, stained-glass cathedral motif and pseudo-religious rhymes was intended to propagandize Americans into further support for gay marriage by giving the appearance of universal acceptance among the glitterati while marginalizing opposition from religious conservatives by reducing their motives to “fear” and “playing God.” “Right wing conservatives think it’s a decision,” the lyric intones. The fact that the socialist mayor of New York’s former lesbian wife agrees with that assessment is of no more concern to the songwriter than the fact that the current Democratic president – and indeed all of the Democratic presidents who went before him – all saw marriage as a male/female issue until right about election time last year.
Still, to turn one’s nose up at the Grammys for letting a show meant to honor art turn into a propaganda-fest is to misrepresent art itself. The simple fact is that all art is propaganda. From the first man scrawling on the first cave wall to da Vinci to the Beatles, the purpose of the artist is always to communicate a unique perspective in the hopes of moving the audience. In fact, for most of human history (and perhaps even still…) art has been less a business and more a patronage system where the wealthy would literally pay for art that promoted their vision of the world, not the artists. It’s hard to say what Michelangelo’s personal beliefs on scripture were, but his employer’s motive of inspiring awe in the face of the divine lives on in the Sistine Chapel and the Accademia to this day. As capitalism has imprinted itself on art, the values of the artist themselves have taken a more dominant role.
The idea of neutral art is as misguided as the idea of objective journalism – it has never existed in all of human history, and it shouldn’t.
Read the whole thing. Spot on. Jeremy is someone else I should make a point to keep an eye on. This is a great piece the way he puts the Grammys in a bigger discussion about the nature of art.
There are none so blind as those who will not see, and hardly anyone wants to see Iran for what it is: an evil regime bound and determined to dominate and destroy us, our friends and our allies. The evidence is luminously clear, but most all of our attention has focused, as usual, on the nuclear issue. Did the Iranians promise to stop enriching uranium or “dismantle” some of the components of their nuclear program? How many Western sanctions are being eased or lifted in exchange? And on and on…
We don’t know the answers to these questions, as the text of the agreement is secret. However, we do know that the Iranians now have six months — the sort of deadline that often slides — to reach a “final” agreement with the 5 + 1 countries.
We can expect the Iranians to prolong and exploit this period to their advantage and our peril. They’ve already begun. The Iranian regime is expanding its regional and global power, killing its domestic enemies, and subverting and intimidating Middle Eastern nations that are reluctant to bend to its will. These matters require serious Western attention, but they aren’t getting much. For us, it’s all about nukes and sanctions.
Allan Bloom, call your office — New York intellectual life really had become an enclave of the Weimar Republic by the early 1960s; as Bloom wrote in 1986’s The Closing of the American Mind, “The self-understanding of hippies, yippies, yuppies, panthers, prelates and presidents has unconsciously been formed by German thought of a half-century earlier; Herbert Marcuse’s accent has been turned into a Middle Western twang; the echt Deutsch label has been replaced by a Made in America label; and the new American life-style has become a Disneyland version of the Weimar Republic for the whole family.”
Just for the sake of history, let’s recall that Clinton could have prevented the attack but failed to do so. Her State Department turned down repeated requests for enhancing security at the U.S. facility in Benghazi. After the attack, she blamed it on a YouTube video and promised one of the parents of the victims that the U.S. government would go after and get the man who made that video. Clinton made good on that threat. The perpetrators who actually carried out the attack, however, remain at large and the Obama government has shown no interest in capturing them.
Far fewer than half the number needed by March 31 have signed up. And, as it turns out, most of the people signing up for Obamacare aren’t the uninsured for whom it was supposedly enacted, but people who were previously insured (many of whom lost their previous insurancebecause of Obamacare’s new requirements). “At most,” writes Bloomberg‘s Megan McArdle, “they’ve signed up 15% of the uninsured that they were expecting to enroll. … Where are the uninsured? Did hardly any of them want coverage beginning Jan. 1?” It looks that way.
In fact, there seem to be more uninsured than there were before Obama took office, leaving Jonah Goldberg to ask, “So what was the point of Obamacare again?”
There are a couple of major flaws leading to fewer millennials than needed signing up. One, it’s cheaper just to pay the fine for violating the individual mandate than to buy insurance that most young people don’t need. Young single men don’t need to buy pregnancy and mammography coverage, but Obamacare mandates it, making policies more expensive. Additionally, Obamacare allows younger people to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. That slices off the 18-26 part of the 18-34 demo that needs to sign up in greater numbers.
The source of an argument says nothing of its validity or truth. You need not be a woman to present a truth about abortion, or a drug user to present a truth about drug policy, or a parent to present a truth about child-rearing. Insisting otherwise, criticizing an argument based upon who makes it, commits ad hominem. Nevertheless, when someone opines on a topic they have no experience with whatsoever, it remains wise to temper exuberance with humility.
Having kids and getting married are considered life milestones. We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren’t accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them. They are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world. They are, by definition, average. And here’s the thing, why on earth are we settling for average?
If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?
One wonders how Glass’s own mother might regard that assessment. Perhaps all children owe their mothers an apology for being born. After all, as Glass presents it, motherhood trespasses upon a woman’s potential greatness.
I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance.
Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business. This word play is holding us back.
Imagine the heights to which women might ascend if they abandoned the insignificant work of nurturing the next generation.
Monday, January 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Second wave feminism, popularized in the 1960′s, is a rich white girl’s game. Just ask Betty Friedan, or better yet, Wendy Davis.
PBS’s 1964 featured commentary on the then-nascent women’s movement that would become known as Second Wave Feminism. The segment contains clips of commercials advertising household products marketed to women to make their lives easier in the home juxtaposed by Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan’s response to these technological innovations: Women were increasingly bored.
Clips from a Friedan interview (what a miserable looking hag) reveal a perspective fueled by stereotypical thinking. Describing “the problem that has no name” she explains, “it’s not being anybody in themselves, really…” detailing that these women lack role models; even the women on TV are nothing more than ”mindless little drudge[s]…whose greatest thrill is to get that kitchen sink pure white…”. Embracing Freudian psychology, Friedan dismissed the roles of wife and mother as useless, even detrimental in light of the now-disputed Alfred Kinsey’s quack theory that “parasitical mother-love” made men gay.
The stereotypes upon which Friedan based her claim revels in the kind of ignorance common among upper middle class white women who could afford to be bored at home. Women composed over 1/3 of the workforce in 1960; contrary to Friedan’s audience, 19 million women were active in the labor force in 1964. When commenting on why black women by and large never read Friedan’s book, Michelle Bernard observed that most black women “…believed that Friedan’s work spoke only to a privileged class of white women who had nothing better to do than whine about how difficult life was as a stay at home mother.”
It becomes obvious reading The Feminine Mystique that Friedan never intended to market to an audience of working women who would’ve appreciated the technological innovations entering the home. Friedan loaded her book with (now disputed) academic citations that would only have been recognizable by her fellow Smith College graduates and their educated, upper-class compatriots. This nomeklatura-style intellectualism comes as no surprise when Friedan’s communist past and Marxist agenda is taken into account:
“…under her maiden name, Betty Goldstein, she was a political activist and professional propagandist for the Communist left for a quarter of a century before the publication of “The Feminist Mystique” launched the modern women’s movement.
…Friedan was from her college days, and until her mid-30s, a Stalinist Marxist, the political intimate of the leaders of America’s Cold War fifth column and for a time even the lover of a young Communist physicist working on atomic bomb projects in Berkeley’s radiation lab with J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her famous description of America’s suburban family household as “a comfortable concentration camp” in “The Feminine Mystique” therefore had more to do with her Marxist hatred for America than with any of her actual experience as a housewife or mother. (Her husband, Carl, also a leftist, once complained that his wife “was in the world during the whole marriage,” had a full-time maid and “seldom was a wife and a mother”).”
Clinton’s presumptive bid to become the first female president does position her as a powerhouse poised to stomp through the patriarchal status quo. But when publications like Time frame that feminist pursuit with images of women in pointy heels that leave feminized male “victims” in their wake, they undermine the female politician’s power even as they attempt to acknowledge it.
I surmise that these female domination images are acceptable when talking about flailing men—The Munk Debates used a similar image for “The End of Men”—but counterproductive stereotyping when talking about actual powerful women. Why?
Hess doesn’t state the mechanics of how such images undermine female power. I will. Women who found their power on breaking the glass ceiling cannot allow dominance imagery because they assume that they cannot withstand an attack, open or stealth, that they are against men. They assume they must engage in passive aggressive argument to win votes, which is ill-served by heel-grinding imagery. It’s also a tacit admission that women cannot dominate men without their consent.
Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
She is an unabashed liberal. In a culture increasingly governed by Marxist Nomenklatura masking itself as “liberal”, conservatives should be bold enough to reclaim that much maligned political descriptor as one of our own. We are, after all, the ideological descendants of classical liberals, making the outspoken once Liberal Democrat, now Libertarian Camille Paglia the perfect match for contemporary politically conservative feminists.
Can’t possibly imagine the lady who, even when she smiles, gives you a look that says, “I know you’re full of s**t,” could possibly fit in the ranks of the right wing? Here are 10 reasons why you need to throw out the stereotypical baby with your lukewarm bathwater thinking and get hot for the fast-talking, heavy thinking, pop culture-loving Camille Paglia.
“The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster,” she says. “These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality.”
“We need a revalorization of the trades that would allow students to enter [manual trades] without social prejudice (which often emanates from parents eager for the false cachet of an Ivy League sticker on the car). Among my students at art schools, for example, have been virtuoso woodworkers who were already earning income as craft furniture-makers. Artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs.”
“…it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women. The routine defamation of capitalism by armchair leftists in academe and the mainstream media has cut young artists and thinkers off from the authentic cultural energies of our time.”
“In my view, comparing the evidence of the 20th century, that socialism in a nation ultimately does lead to economic stagnation and eventually of the creative impulse, in terms of new technology and other things.”
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Newest SNL actor Sasheer Zamata hosts a Girls walking tour of Brooklyn via Above Average. It’s a tight skit with a lot of great one liners like, ”Cafe Grumpy: It’s where Hannah works and they have a drink there called ‘The Hannah’ and…it’s an 8 dollar cup of coffee.” Funny enough, although the real humor in the sketch is that the black fan of a critically defined “all-white-girls” show is being portrayed by a talented black actress who was brought onto SNL to fulfill the critics’ affirmative action casting quota.
The sketch clashes with reality on another note: For many Brooklyn natives, the Girls have worn out their welcome. Citing an increase in obnoxious tourists seeking photographs of baristas at Cafe Grumpy, the New York Daily Newsreports:
“The booksellers at Spoonbill and Sugartown on Bedford Ave. are similarly perplexed by the influx of millennials who show up and recreate the show’s seminal kissing scene in the stacks.
…It gets worse. The show has even spawned its own guidebook — as if HBO’s “take hipsterism and add water” needed more explanation.
“The Unofficial Girls Guide to New York” invites struggling twentysomethings to “get to know New York the way the ‘Girls’ know it.”
But real New York “girls” aren’t buying it.
“I hate anything that puts a label on what we’re doing. I came here to live outside of the box, not in one,” says Johanna Hickey, 31, who works three jobs and lives in Greenpoint. ‘It pisses me off.’”
Last year I started experimenting with Instagram. Inspired by PJM columnist Zombie I decided to create an account to A) confuse the hell out of people, B) stir up trouble, and C) explore the truth of what people believe in the world today without the baggage of my existing politically incorrect identity clouding how they addressed me.
As with Zombie, with “Thoth and Ma’at Married” people can’t even tell if I’m a man or woman — the handle includes the names of both male and female Egyptian deities of writing (and thus serves as my stealth so-con way of promoting marriage too). They likewise can’t tell at first glance what my religion, politics, or philosophy are. I use the account to engage with people all across the spectrum of cultures and ideas to try to learn more about where their values come from and how they think. On January 10, one of the atheists that I follow posted a photo in which he asked for anyone to ask him his opinion about anything. I asked which side he supported in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s the exchange that followed and the revealing admission from an atheist about where he really learned right from wrong in our pop culture-dominated world today:
So he simultaneously admits he knows nothing but expresses his preset ideological opinion that the governments are driven by money and the militaries by primitivism.
Here’s when I drop my counterculture conservative provocation, defining the evil in the issue and then seeing how he or any of his followers choose to react to the facts:
Did my provocation catch any fish? Yes, two revealing responses. The first a somewhat innocent, naive idealist, and the second doubting my facts.
One thing that I’ve learned in these exchanges over the years is to try to cut to the key points you want to make. Don’t go on and on. Just give the link and state your idea. Over-writing is a sign that you’re not confident in what you’re saying.
Here’s where I pose the question that really matters to me for my research and writing: if you’re an atheist, from where do you get your values? I then offer a number of possibilities. Usually I’ll try to throw out five or six, here just three:
Sounds like a good punk rock song title, doesn’t it? “Let Me Stab to Be Corrected.” This is a much more cordial exchange than many that I have with more hostile secularists. But then again, with this particular meme it allowed for more of a thoughtful discussion. Perhaps I should start experimenting with using “Ask My Opinion” and “Ask Anything” type images to fish for more interesting questions…
I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to remind atheists that there are multiple ways of reading the Bible is to start talking about Maimonides. See Douglas Rushkoff’s Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism for the accessible introduction that turned me on to the Rambam not just as a Jewish theologian, but as a foundational thinker of Western civilization and one of the inspirers of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and the founding of America.
And here’s where I got the kind of off-hand, not-even-thinking-about-it, honest admission that I look for when engaging in these kinds of exchanges:
It’s hard for me to pinpoint with as much precision as @isaac_of_portage just which specific pop culture properties most influenced my values and understanding of good and evil. There are just so many from Star Wars to Super Mario to the Disney canon which shaped my childhood and initial adolescence much more than the irregular church attendance in mushy Methodism.
Though, as I mentioned in the exchange, seeing Schindler’s List in seventh grade — amidst the controversy of it being broadcast uncensored, commercial-free on NBC — did psychologically scar me somehow. But it’s a way that I needed to be scarred — it was one of the big beginning-to-wake-up-to-evil moments that would take a long time to process. Throughout my life in my obsessions with movies, books, comics, and video games, I understand that I’ve been influenced both for the good and the bad. Some pop culture properties derive from the foundational stories and myths of Western civilization, others are reinventions of the primitive, pre-modern death cults which one needs to understand in order to make much sense of the first five books of the Bible. (I’ve found from years of these kinds of exchanges that many secularists misinterpret the Bible to such an extent that they end up taking the side of the Egyptians and Canaanites, not realizing just what the ancient Hebrews were rebelling against — nature worship, human sacrifice and temple prostitution.)
So when I talk about Pop Culture Polytheism, I don’t do so with complete condemnation, because it is a religion that I have practiced to one degree or another all my life and still do to a lesser, more controlled extent today. Pop culture polytheists are those who use pop culture properties as substitutes – or supplements — to religion. You can be a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, secular humanist, etc. first and a pop culture polytheist second — many people are, more should be.
When pop culture is understood as a tool for us to better understand and engage with the world then it’s useful and valuable. When it’s held up as how we should model ourselves, when the figures dancing across the screen become like the gods on Mount Olympus, then we’ve got a problem. And that’s what we have to face and confront today. Pop culture polytheism can be a wonderful thing — my wife and I bond deeply over our shared Disney and Star Trek enthusiasms — but it is only a toolbox, not a foundation upon which to build a life. So in keeping with my third New Year’s resolution…
10 Headlines from Around the Web this Week
Starting With 6 Pop Culture Polytheist Idols of the Age
In November,Vanity Fair published Maureen Orth’s revisitation of the Allen-Farrow scandal, including the first-ever media interview with Dylan. The interview was a bombshell: Dylan (who now uses a different name) did not waver from the story she told at age 7 about Allen molesting and sexually assaulting her in the attic of her mother’s home in Connecticut, on Aug. 4, 1992. On her side is her brother, media-star-in-the-making Ronan Farrow. After Allen received a lifetime-achievement award at last Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony,Ronan tweeted, “Missed the Woody Allen tribute—did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”
So what should an outside observer make of the Allen-Farrow debacle, two decades after the fact?
In his June 1993 ruling, Wilk also denied Allen any visitation rights with Dylan or his older adopted child with Farrow, 15-year-old Moses. In May 1994, in a hearing considering custody or increased visitation for Allen, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court cited a “clear consensus” among psychiatric experts involved in the case that Allen’s “interest in Dylan was abnormally intense.”
Popular culture celebrates criminality — both on screen and off. Someday a lot of people are going to be very ashamed that they gave Allen the benefit of the doubt for all these years. I suspect that some day we’ll have a better idea of the full extent of the truth. If Allen is who his accusers claim he is then eventually more victims will emerge. And too many to be denied.
But will anybody care? They still listen to Michael Jackson songs, don’t they?
The high priorities of the leading third wave feminist publication today.
Last night The Wife and I watched the first two episodes of the new season. What struck me as very awkward during the sex scenes is that with the new short haircut and her insistence on displaying her body she honestly looks more boyish than feminine. So these supposedly heterosexual scenes end up having this creepy homoerotic undertone to them. Hannah doesn’t look or behave like a mature woman; in both instances she’s a teenage boy. I knew too many Hannahs in college. She unfortunately is a voice of a generation.
That’s really the nature of the show and of many secular millennial pop culture polytheists: today’s politically correct ideology has pushed girls to aspire to be more masculine and men to be more feminine. In a bigger expression it’s what we see in Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett making the big decisions while hapless, wimpy Barack Obama goes out to whine that his approval ratings are tanking because people just don’t like the idea of a black president.
Sunday, January 19th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
This week both critics and fans of Girls and Downton Abbey sounded off on the treatment of women on screen, highlighting the horrifying potential of 21st century feminist groupthink.
It all began on January 9 when TV critic Tim Molloy stepped in hot water by posing the following question to Lena Dunham:
I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity on the show. By you, particularly. I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you say no one complains about the nudity on Game of Thrones, but I get why they’re doing it. They’re doing it to be salacious. To titillate people. And your character is often naked at random times for no reason.
Dunham deflected the remark with her usual snotty response that boiled down to nudity is realistic and if you don’t like fat bodies, that’s your problem. Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, the show’s producers, supported Dunham’s remarks with their own politically correct, vitriolic comments about misogyny and female oppression.
Although Molloy’s question never did receive a direct answer, the exchange generated even more critical angst and bizarre philosophizing. For example, Megan Gibson at Time feels the nudity on Girls has nothing to do with “titillation” and everything to do with comedic value and expressions of non-sexual intimacy. It is questionable whether the primary audience for Girls, those “white dudes over 50,” would agree.
One telling thing critics didn’t bother to notice: All the uproar over Molloy’s question, even from Apatow and Konner themselves, wasn’t to defend Dunham’s honor — but to defend awkward bodies, female sexuality, and women’s rights under the umbrella term of “feminism.” In other words, if Hannah Horvath jumped off a bridge naked, she wouldn’t be a pathetic individual who succumbed to her psychoses, she’d be a mere statement about feminism in the 21st century.
Sunday, January 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
It’s the economy, stupid.
So says Rachel Burger, who believes that the current economy is to blame for the demise of masculinity, not those darned feminists:
The reality is that the economy–that men themselves created–is far more to blame for the sorry state of American men. The Internet Age, along with global trade and the mass outsourcing of low-skill labor has brought forth in the West a people-based and knowledge-based economy which emphasizes social intelligence. Young women are now outpacing men across the board, from education to employment, and men should take a hint. If men want to pursue their roles as providers and achievers, they’re going to have to woman up.
It’s not the girls’ fault. “After all, it was men who invented the Internet, who created and sold mass-produced computers, who shipped jobs overseas and who even fashioned social media.” Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.
Burger’s is a thinly veiled response to Camille Paglia’s praise of the “modern economy as a male epic” published last month in Time. Unlike Paglia, Burger comes to the table lacking an understanding of the relationship between economy and gender. With a millennial’s narrow perspective on American history, Burger manages great insight into the post-dot-com world of social intelligence-based tech companies while completely skipping over the debacle of NAFTA with the grossly prejudicial term “low-skill labor.”
In that primordial decade known as the ’90s, America’s manual labor industry was eviscerated by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Seventeen years after the agreement was signed, studies showed a loss of 682,900 American jobs, 60% of which were lost in the manufacturing industry. That doesn’t include the jobs that would be necessary without the imports from NAFTA — a whopping 1.47 million. Those jobs, and the financial boost that would’ve come with them, sure would’ve come in handy in 2008 when, as a result of the recession, the U.S. lost 2.6 million jobs. Mexico, the nation that continues to profit from NAFTA, does not defame nor downplay the benefits of so-called “low-skill labor.”
Think terrorists have reached the lowest of the low? Meet 10-year-old Spozhmai from Helmand province. On Sunday night, her kin strapped a bomb on her and sent her on a mission. From Afghanistan’s Tolo News:
Based on initial investigations, the girl’s brother was serving as a commander for the Taliban and he coerced her into carrying out a suicide attack on Afghan security forces.
“My brother, who serves as a Taliban commander, asked me to wear my dress and then the suicide jacket,” Spozhmai said. “After that he left me outside, I was there for several minutes and was shivering from cold, then I shouted and the security forces picked me up.”
…Reportedly, Spozhmai was unable to operate the button to detonate the suicide vest. Despite such issues with reliability, the Taliban has long used preadolescent, uneducated boys to carry out suicide bombings. It is rare to find a young girl wrapped up in it though.
The brother has fled the area, and luckily the girl is in custody and was transferred to Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.
I spotted this on a Facebook site styling itself “The Other 98%.” Dear Lord, I hope that’s not true.
What is wrong with this t-shirt? Besides everything? Let’s just list a few items:
1.) This father is abdicating his responsibility to put boundaries around his dating-age daughter until she’s mature enough to make good decisions on her own. We don’t let our toddlers alone near swimming pools and we shouldn’t let our teenage daughters and sons make their own dating rules. They will make bad ones because they don’t know any better yet. This is called “parenting.”
2.) By declaring that his daughter makes the rules and he is not responsible for her, he is signaling to every male predator out there that his daughter is available for victimization. Or as Barney Stinson says on How I Met Your Mother, “How would we get strippers if girls didn’t have lousy daddies?” This father is advertising his daughter to bad men. Boy Scouts will not be asking this teenage girl out on dates. Her fifty-year-old married schoolteacher will be.
3.) Feminist Father. Feminist? This word might have meant something brave and honest fifty years ago, but is now irrevocably associated with abortion on demand up to and including infanticide after birth, hatred of marriage and men, and a whiny victim status that desires complete equality with men unless they can’t compete, and then the rules should be changed. This is what this father calls himself, and he is evidently encouraging this attitude in his daughter. (Are you surprised he could even father a child?)
4.) The fact that this meme even exists is both pathetic and disturbing. Are such men so emasculated, so morally adrift, that they would actually wear such a thing?
Let’s hope it’s just a meme, and not an actual t-shirt. If I saw a man wearing it, he’d end up crying like a little girl, and nobody wants to see that.
Friday, January 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
My colleague Leslie Loftis makes some excellent points in her latest response in our ongoing dialogue about revamping the feminist movement in America. Regarding the Lean In wing of the movement, Leslie is humorously spot on in her comment, “We ape men and then claim that we do it better.” However, I do take some issue with a few of Leslie’s conclusions: ”That’s what reproductive control absolutism is about, negating biology so we can live like men,” and “ there is nothing that we on the Right can do about this culture war bullhorn problem.”
Leslie’s observations are illustrative of the Right’s ability to focus on the battles within the culture war (or, as Whittaker Chambers so aptly referred to them, symptoms of our cultural crisis) while completely losing focus on the war itself. My position is simple: We must focus, loudly, on the war itself and use the battles within to promote the facts bolstering the truth. To illustrate, I’ll begin by addressing Leslie’s comment, “So in Susan’s “brains, not boobs” terms, I submit a more inclusive and realistic, brains and boobs.”
The greatest challenge we face is the fact that American women, by virtue of the “War on Women” battle, believe themselves to be stuck in their gender. They can’t see themselves as anything but an on-screen goddess or, as Leslie pointed out in her original argument, a real-life slave to a corporation, to a marriage, to children, or to all of the above. Which is why I question her use of the fact that Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbirth. In this case I’m not exactly sure how that relates to rebuilding feminism as much as it plays into the left’s ideology of the ills of womanhood. Embrace your endocrinology for all it is worth, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that your body is a prison cell for which death is the only escape.
This is where the Right must acknowledge that the nomenklatura of cultural Marxists have done an amazing job of framing of the body as a human being’s only object of worth. We must also reason that truthfully, when you have no God and reject the concept of a soul and eternal life, you have nothing else to fall back on but the body. This demoralization has led to a variety of ideological misnomers, including the ultimate lie of the War on Women: the framing of the female body as a prison to be manipulated, abused, and ultimately destroyed.
Camille Paglia gave a wide-ranging interview to the Wall Street Journal last week, covering everything from diminished respect for the military to radical feminism as a threat to all of Western civilization. Paglia, a liberal feminist and lesbian who voted for Obama and excels at destroying sacred cows, said that “our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly” and falsely promises them that they can “have it all.”
Paglia also broached a topic that’s not discussed nearly enough, even in conservative circles. Saying that sex education classes focus too much on mechanics, she said that girls should be taught to consider how vocational decisions they make as teens can impact their futures:
I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don’t have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you’d like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you’re going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented.
In our “have it all” culture, young people — young women in particular — are told to go to college, have a career, and then, perhaps somewhere way off in the future, get married and have kids. But no one really explains to young women about the requisite costs and trade-offs along the way. If a girl thinks she would like to have a family and children some day, it’s essential for her to consider how and when that might happen and whether that goal conflicts with other plans she has for her future. Despite the stereotypes fed to us by Hollywood, for most families, babies do not just pop out into designer 5-bedroom homes with live-in nannies. A 17-year-old girl may not want to think about such mundane things as child care when she is dreaming about a glamorous career as a CSI investigator, but better to consider them at age 17 than to have reality come crashing in later when she has less flexibility to make career-related decisions. Unfortunately, this kind of “family planning” is not only absent from most sex education classes, but it’s also rarely mentioned in career and vocational planning for teens.
Concerned about the Islamic oppression of women? The divine sanction for the beating of women (Qur’an 4:34)? The commodification, the polygamy, the child marriage, the female genital mutilation, the honor killing? Ah – that just confirms that you’re a racist, bigoted Islamophobe – at least as far as the British feminist writer Laurie Penny is concerned. And Penny is by no means alone: her article just provides a particularly egregious case study of the general tolerance of Western feminists for Muslim misogyny.
“Islamophobes,” wrote Penny with admirable certainty in the Guardian last week, “could not care less about women of any creed or colour.” These wicked fellows only criticize the Sharia mistreatment of Muslim women because of their bigotry and hatred. According to Penny, “misogyny only matters when it isn’t being done by white men.” Penny complains:
As a person who writes about women’s issues, I am constantly being told that Islam is the greatest threat to gender equality in this or any other country – mostly by white men, who always know best. This has been an extraordinary year for feminism, but from the Rochdale grooming case to interminable debates over whether traditional Islamic dress is “empowering” or otherwise, the rhetoric and language of feminism has been co-opted by Islamophobes, who could not care less about women of any creed or colour.
How does Laurie Penny know that those whom she tars as “Islamophobes” really don’t care about women? Because, as you’ll see below, some baddies from the BNP and EDL allegedly said some rude things. And that means that any critic of Islamic gender oppression must be using feminism as a cover for his “hatred,” doncha know.
Penny grumbles about a report from Student Rights, which she describes as “a pressure group not run by students,” that stooped to “vastly exaggerating a suggestion by Universities UK that male and female students might be asked to sit separately in some lectures led by Islamic guest speakers.” In the wake of this, she said, “unfortunately, rightwing commentators and tabloids seized upon the issue to imply that Islamic extremists are taking over the British academy.”
3. Call the Midwife provides female role models who embrace professionalism, not porn.
“I remember an RAF Careers Officer coming to my school and telling us about the wonderful work we could do in the RAF… as catering assistants! We were furious to hear we would never be allowed to be pilots. Now every profession a girl would wish to consider is open to her.
But I think the Spice Girl, Girl Power thing veered a lot of young women off course, because it was about investing your self-worth in your physical persona, sexuality and “attitude”. I love the idea that we have put the notion of professional women right up there in front of a new generation of TV watchers.”
2. Call the Midwife is the antidote to bad girl TV.
“One of the things they enjoy the most is playing women who are actually nice to each other. Because as young attractive actresses, they are often only offered parts where women are in opposition to one another, where they are catty, or bitchy or quarrelling over the same man.
“They love the idea of women living together in a supportive community dedicated to their professions and to the service of other women, which brings us back round to your thesis about Call The Midwife as a feminist piece.”
1. Even the boys in your house will become addicted to this show about midwives, nuns and babies.
“One interesting thing we learnt, from a breakdown of our audience figures, is that numerically, more men were watching Call The Midwife than Top Gear…”.
Continuing the “What To Do About Feminism” series, I’m with Susan that we should aim to secure equal education for women, to be followed by equal opportunities. To that end, the video embedded above should be what modern feminism does.
Frankly, my root point in this whole series is that women still need to fight and women of the Right will have to be the ones to do it, feminist label not withstanding. This isn’t new. Susan linked to an insightful Camille Paglia article from 2008 about how feminist history has insufficiently acknowledged how much it owes to capitalism, the industrial revolution, and religion. Until the 1970s, it was a diverse movement. Any call to embrace feminism’s powerful history, must recognize that it was effective when it was diverse, and furthermore — how it was diverse — with women on the Right.
Feminism is all but dead now because when Gloria Steinem and her acolytes took over the movement in the 70s and expelled the Right, they ironically turned modern feminists from pro-woman to pro-man. Regardless of what they say against men or for women, they implicitly accept that the man’s ways are the better ways. We can see this in the “lean in” professional pressure to keep a man’s career timeline and our preference for beat-’em-up heroines. We ape men and then claim that we do it better.
That’s what reproductive control absolutism is about, negating biology so we can live like men. Even if one doesn’t think it foolish, it can’t be done. And I worry that the alliterative “brains, not boobs” buys into a little of this biology denial. We can and should stress education and opportunity, but we will always be at the mercy of our biology. The Mary Wollstonecraft who Susan quoted for the proposition that women only seek control over themselves? She died in childbirth. Control over ourselves will only come with knowledge and acceptance of our biology. As Camille Paglia put it in a passage I can’t currently place, any higher education women’s study program should require at least a course in female endocrinology. So in Susan’s “brains, not boobs” terms, I submit a more inclusive and realistic, brains and boobs.
I also think Susan makes a common and fundamental error about the culture wars:
The moronic War on Women has nothing to do with genitalia and everything to do with quashing the threat of female intellect. Instead of driving this point home, the right’s bullhorn is monopolized with shouts about the evils of abortion.
A new MRC study in Gauteng, the country’s wealthiest province, found that 37.4% of men admitted having committed a rape, while 25.3% of women said they had been raped.
2. Imagine a world today that celebrates when this country’s most famous leader dies at the age of 95, and the president equates him with Abraham Lincoln and America’s founding fathers….
“Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement, a movement that at its start had little prospect for success,” Obama said. “Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice.”
Obama commented that Mandela was imprisoned from the time John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were the leaders of the United States and Soviet Union until the end of the Cold War.
“Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would—like Abraham Lincoln—hold his country together when it threatened to break apart,” Obama said. “And like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations—a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power after only one term.”
“Everybody says they love freedom,” said an incredulous Gingrich, comparing Mandela to America’s founding fathers during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He said the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary deserved acclaim from “everybody who is proud of the farmers at Lexington and Concord who stood up to the British army, everybody who is grateful to George Washington for eight years in the field fighting the British Empire.”
After Mandela died Thursday, Gingrich posted a statement that lauded him as “one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime.”
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Last week, Leslie Loftis hit the ball back into my court in our ongoing discussion on the future of feminism. Her conclusion is simple, but profound: ”Abroad we need action. At home we need to bury the hatchet.” How many on the right would be willing to agree?
“I was troubled to see some comments on my original post wondering why we should care about feminism’s woes. Feminism, the term, or the Marxist influences hidden inside it, true, those will not be missed by the right.”
The boorishness of the comment my counterpart is referring to did, in part, motivate my response to her first piece. Simplistic right-wing criticism of cultural Marxism has become like flatulence riddling otherwise productive conversation on this side of the political spectrum. It’s all well and good for commentators to disavow socialism in the political sphere. It is even more important for those with first-hand experience of Marxism to tell their stories publicly. But for the average reader to dismiss every single aspect of American cultural life as the bastard child of the liberal lie is, quite frankly, defeatist. And, as Loftis so eloquently points out, by dismissing feminism as so much Marxist claptrap, critics of today’s feminism are dismissing every woman born after Steinem as well:
“But despite its modern reputation as a leftist faction, most modern women’s lives are guided by feminism. …The lives of modern women are built upon feminist ideas. As feminism collapses, we need to worry about what comes after.”
The time for silver-tongued lashings has passed. If anything, a real critique of feminism requires the reclamation of classical liberalism from the clutches of contemporary socialism’s PR machine. This begins with the embrace of feminism’s powerful history. In an era nostalgic for social revolution we would be wise to ditch Steinem’s vaginal definition of female inferiority in favor of Mary Wollstonecraft‘s drive for gender equality through education. Put simply: We must re-frame the debate in terms of brains, not boobs.
Friday, November 29th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
In a 1966 interview Beatle John Lennon said, “We’re more popular than Jesus.” He would later clarify, “‘My views are only from what I’ve read or observed of Christianity and what it was, and what it has been, or what it could be. It just seems to me to be shrinking. I’m not knocking it or saying it’s bad. I’m just saying it seems to be shrinking and losing contact.’”
See the previous parts of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s blogging on Ion Mihai Pacepa’s Disinformation:
Susan Sontag, who characterized the KGB’s disinformation play about Pope Pius XII as “an excellent theatrical idea,” spearheaded the transformation of the intellectual movement in the 1960s. New York Magazine described Sontag as “the last significant member” of the New York intellectual crowd (which included the likes of Lionel Trilling) and the source of its demise. What Irving Howe would come to define as “the new sensibility” would usher in the conquest of high culture in the name of pop and the metamorphosis of the intellectual class from theological Marxists into a nihilistic oligarchy.
While Sontag was by no means alone in her endeavor, as an academic she pioneered the already closing gap between high and popular cultures by essentially defaming Matthew Arnold, the Victorian father of modern literary criticism. Arnold defined culture as “a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world.”
“The Matthew Arnold notion of culture,” she wrote, “defines art as the criticism of life – this being understood as the propounding of moral, social and political ideas.” This was deemed abhorrent on several grounds. It took literature, with “its heavy burden of ‘content,’ both reportage and moral judgement,” as a model, and this would no longer do.
Sontag embraced late 19th century aestheticism. Beauty would no longer be the source of moral value; according to Sontag’s stylistics, beauty — or, rather, the pleasure one received from viewing or listening to a piece — would be the only way to value a piece of art. Arnold’s concept of content as character building was thrown out the window along with Arnold’s definition of art. Kramer details,
The people no longer had an interest in distinguishing between Arnold’s implicit high and low cultures. Rather, as Sontag wrote, “the feeling (or sensation) given off by a Rauschenberg painting might be like that of a song by the Supremes.”