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Roger Kimball

More disreputable climate alarmism from the ivy league

Meet Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale and wacko climate alarmist. Just how wacko?  He blithely compares critics of climate panic to Nazi Einsatzgruppe commanders. Yes, really. Here’s how he starts a recent Op-Ed in our former paper of  record. “Before he fired the shot, the Einsatzgruppe commander lifted the Jewish child in the air and said, ‘You must die so that we can live.’ . . . The Holocaust may seem a distant horror whose lessons have already been learned. But sadly, the anxieties of our own era could once again give rise to scapegoats and imagined enemies, while contemporary environmental stresses could encourage new variations on Hitler’s ideas,  . . .”

Gosh.  Godwin’s Law holds that if an online discussion goes on long enough, someone will invoke Hitler or the Nazis and thereby lose the argument. Yale Professor Synder does not wait around: he jumps right in screaming: “The Next Genocide.” An editor at a major, formerly responsible, newspaper actually let this silly headline see the light of day. And listen to this: “The full consequences of climate change,” intones Yale history Professor Synder, “may reach America only decades after warming wreaks havoc in  other regions. And by then it will be too late for climate science and energy technology to make any difference.” The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

It’s long been clear that environmentalism is the new religion for leftists.  You can never be Green enough, comrade, and the ideology of climate change provides an unending rationale for economic redistribution.  Never mind that if the gibberish Yale history professor Synder spouts were acted on the first casualties would be the world’s poor. The opportunities for moral self-aggrandizement that ecological panic affords are just too attractive to let facts get in the way. Yale history professor Synder pretends that he is speaking up for science against greedy business interests.  But really he is parroting the pseudo-science of cynical operators like Al Gore, who has added tens of millions of dollars to his personal fisc by exploiting government-supported eco-panic and reprehensible boondoggles like Solyndra.

The Times can countenance no dissent on this issue, so they of course deny articulate critics of Yale History Professor Synder an audience. Bruce Everett, a specialist in energy economics who spent six years at the Department of Energy, has written a devastating rebuttal to Yale history Professor Synder’s drivel. Naturally you won’t find it at the Times.  I am pleased to report, however, that it is available at The New Criterion’s weblog.  Here’s a taste:

Like many climate activists, Professor Snyder sees climate change as an argument between scientists and “certain political and business elites”. In his view, “These deniers tend to present the empirical findings of scientists as a conspiracy and question the validity of science—an intellectual stance that is uncomfortably close to Hitler’s.” Catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is not a fact, but rather a hypothesis to be tested against observations. In reality, the catastrophic climate hypothesis is based on a series of assumptions about the way the climate system works and is supported neither by theory nor by empirical evidence. Climate activists have predicted for years that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide would cause an alarming rise in temperature, reaching levels later this century that would bring widespread global disruption and misery. Atmospheric temperatures, however, have remained flat for the last 15 years or so. Since the predicted catastrophe has not actually occurred, activists have worked hard to substitute the notion of consensus for that of science. The catastrophic climate hypothesis must be true, they argue, since so many prominent people, both scientists and others, support it. Many scientists with opposing views have been unable to get funding or have simply been intimidated into silence. It’s the climate activists’ view that represents the true denial of science, harking back to the Middle Ages when the Church insisted that all questions be resolved not by empirical evidence but by committees of experts reading scripture, with dissenters burned at the stake. I agree with Professor Snyder that denying science is dangerous for modern societies, but climate activists are on the wrong side of this issue.

Read the whole thing here.



Posted at 5:47 am on September 24th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

Remember “the most transparent administration in history”?

A couple of years ago, I wrote in this space about OpenTheBooks.com, then a fledgling project spearheaded by the great Adam Andrzejewski, an Illinois-based businessman who ran for Governor there in 2010. Andrzejewski had the peculiar idea that public money ought to be publicly accountable, that your tax dollars, for examples, shouldn’t get funneled into various slush funds that politicians then use to buy votes or pamper themselves. Andrzejewski’s idea was to create a publicly accessible data base that would track government spending at the federal, state, and local levels. Back in 2013, he and his colleagues had already made an impressive start. I happened to be writing around tax time, so I was interested to see some of the places my tax dollars went in my home state of Connecticut. In 2011, I learned, the University of Connecticut paid James A. Calhoun $5,027,132.  An entity called Avon paid one unnamed Instructor $4,299,931, another $4,201,649. And so on.  It made me think twice, I can tell you, about writing out my tax check to the state.

Mr. Andrzejewski and his colleagues have not been idle these past couple of years. As I learned at a luncheon presentation yesterday, they have gone a long way towards fullsilling their goal of disclosing “Every dime. Online. In Real Time.”  It’s good to be a public servant in New York. In 2011, the New York Public Library paid Paul Le Clerc $711,114. The Town of Clarkstown paid Thomas Putrill $543,416 in 2009 for unnamed services, and the Nassau Health Care Corp. shelled out $525,648 to Leonard O. Barrett.  I wonder what it was in 2014? We’ll find out soon enough.

But grossly inflated public salaries are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg (though I continue to be impressed by the retired Los Angeles fire chief who annual pension is $999,000 and change.) No, the real scandal, or the big bucks at any rate,  are elsewhere in the system: the more than $2 billion spent annually on “farm subsidies,” for example, a good chunk of which winds up in such conspicuously rural venues as the island of Manhattan, NY. Or how about the $317,000 in “farm subsidies” received by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Charities in Chicago? There’s the scandal of the Veterans’ Administration, which rakes in millions upon millions but squanders it on administrators, not doctors. It’s the culture of  “pay-to-play” in which political donations come back to the donor in the form of plum government contracts. And on and on.

Mr. Andrzejewski and his colleagues are well on their way to assembling a national database that will put the government’s checkbooks, on the state and local as well as the federal level, online for the people who fork over the money to scrutinize.  Now when a politician tells you that taxes cannot be cut, that in fact they must be raised, the people who pay their salaries can look to see where the money is going. Why, they might wonder, are low-interest, taxpayer-supported Small Business Association loans going to Botox clinics or Beverly Hills country clubs (yes, really).

The culture of corruption that has grown up in the U.S. government is not quite, not yet, as bad as some other places, but it is growing apace.  Barack Obama came to office promising “the most transparent administration in history.” There is considerable irony that then Senator Obama co-sponsored a bill with former Republican Senator Tom Coburn to bring greater transparency to the federal government.  As soon as Obama was elected President, however, the only thing transparent was the secrecy and mendacity that of his administration. Everyone understands that it is just business as usual: that Lois Lerner of the IRS, or here boss John Koskinen, can weaponize the IRS to attack conservatives and then stonewall before Congress with (so far) absolutely impunity.

At stake in what OpenTheBooks.com is endeavoring to do is the future of our political culture: will we continue our descent in unaccountable, tin-pot oligarchy and corruption, or will the citizens rise up and demand a cleansing of the Augean stables? It is too early to say.  But an admonitory observation which I quoted in a column some time ago is pertinent: “A democracy will continue to  exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts  from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always  votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the  result that every democracy will finally  collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is)  always followed by a dictatorship.”

‘The majority always  votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury.” It was precisely that exchange that Madison warned about in Federalist 10. Adam Andrzejewski is doing yeoman’s service bringing us back to Madison’s founding wisdom.  His initiative deserves your support. Check out OpenTheBooks.com and get involved. The dollars you save will likely be your own.


Posted at 7:26 am on September 23rd, 2015 by Roger Kimball

The Race Post-Walker

The thing I find most amusing about the political season is the apodictic certitude with which pundits and even lesser mortals deliver their dicta. “Bush/Trump/Walker/Rubio/Christie/[insert name here]” cannot win because [static broadcast in which only stray words are intelligible but the tone is positively Teutonic in confidence].  It works the other way, too: So-and-So is the only one who can win because [recitation of poll numbers, psychological portrait of the electorate, or simply bare assertion delivered in preemptory tones follows here].

Naturally this phenomenon is not party specific.  Lefties feel free to indulge in pronunciamenti about Republican candidates (and Donald Trump) and vice-versa.  The certitude of tone is as reliable as the reliably fallible nature of the prognostication. Naturally, it is the distance between those poles — the width of that juncture — that accounts for the comedy.

I hasten to add that my pointing out the machinery of this comedy by no means suggests that I do not indulge in it myself. Opinions delivered in existentially stentorian tones are impressive at least as much, probably more, to the utterer as to his audience. Try it yourself.  A mirror will do almost as well as an audience. “Carly Fiorina [or whoever] is the only one who can win the nomination, unite the party [say something about the base and women here] and has a chance of countering Hillary’s war-on-women rhetoric.”

Feels good, doesn’t it?  Repeat it a few times and not only will you sound convincing but you’ll even come to believe it.

Which doesn’t mean, it is worth pointing out,  that you cannot also believe 8 or 13 other, conflicting things at the same time.  The human mind is a marvelously plastic thing, able to jump from certitude to contradictory certitude in the twinkling of an eye. [Literary types may wish to quote Walt Whitman here about being large and containing multitudes.]

I mention all this because now, in the immediate aftermath of Scott Walker’s surprise announcement [you were surprised, weren’t you?] that he was putting his campaign in abeyance, we can be sure that there will be a fresh crop of certitudes about what happens next. Here’s my contribution to the harvest:

1. Further withdrawals Now that Scott Walker has led the way [Perry’s withdrawal didn't count because, Oops!,  he was never really in], there will be enormous pressure for further withdrawals. Ding, dong: Mike Huckabee, are you home? Avon is definitely calling.  It’s calling for you, too, Rand Paul, and you as well John Kasich. Do yourselves, your party, and the country a favor by bowing out gracefully. The exit is narrow, however, so Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal will just have to wait. Christie, of course, will have to go by himself. Did I forget to mention Rick Santorum, Lindsey what’s-his-name and David, no, George, isn’t it? Pataki?  Yes, I did.

Posted at 5:53 am on September 22nd, 2015 by Roger Kimball

A Farewell to Gilbert & Sullivan

I have often, in these virtual pages and elsewhere, had occasion to remark on what dark days these are for the arts of parody and satire. Both require the robust deployment of humor and fearless resort to caricature, leg-pulling, and commonly understood stereotypes. The art world and the world of academia have been great enemies of parody and satire partly because both have descended into self-parody: when (as I noted just a week ago) a normal observer cannot reliably distinguish between art and garbage — I mean real garbage, the stuff you put into plastic bags which are then hauled away by large trucks with open compactors in their sterns — well, when that happens, parody is impossible. The ne plus ultra: where does that line reside?  Was it reached in the early years of the last century when Marcel Duchamp exhibited an ordinary urinal, called it “Fountain,” and pretended it was art? Or perhaps it was reached when Duchamp exhibited an ordinary snow shovel, called it “In Advance of a Broken Arm,” and pretended that was art?  Or maybe we reach the terminal line in 1961 when Piero Manzoni, er, created “Merda d’artista,” “Artist’s Shit,” which was exactly what Manzoni advertised it as, to wit, 60 tin cans each filled with a few grams of Essence of Manzoni, a single container of which, in 2007, could be yours for (if Sotheby’s is anything to go by) €124,000.  (Doubtless the work has appreciated since then: Manzoni died in 1963, age 29, so there will be no more merda from that source and over the years several cans have exploded, rendering the works even more scarce.)

But all this represents only one front in the war against parody and satire: the juggernaut of an absurd reality that outpaces the wildest imaginings of the would-be parodist or satirist.  As anyone who has had occasion to peek into the ivy-bowered halls of academia knows, a kindred phenomenon has been at work there. “Beyond parody,” in fact, sounds like a suitable description for institutions that regularly treat the inherited humanistic tradition as fodder for politicized linguistic legerdemain.  Over the years, I have devoted hundreds of pages to anatomizing those repellent absurdities, a summa  of which can be found in my book Tenured Radicals: How Politics is Corrupting our Higher Education.

Yet as I say, phenomena such as “Merda d’artista” or “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl” (to take a once-famous feminist effusion) represent only one side of the war on parody and satire.  The other side advances under the banner of political correctness, a clumsy term, rendered inexpressive by overuse, but so far the most convenient shorthand for the speech- and thought-blighting demand for narrow conformity that is lumbering across our cultural landscape.  “Trigger warnings,” “micro-aggressions,” “safe spaces” designed to protect coddled sensibilities from anything they might deem offensive or provocative. It’s unclear to me where all this will end. Perhaps in a new form of totalitarian control. In the Soviet era, as readers of Milan Kundera’s The Joke will recall,  jokes in a totalitarian society are no laughing matter. “The book,” I noted in an essay on Kundera some years ago,

traces the fortunes and amours of a young student, Ludvik, after his exasperatingly patriotic girlfriend decides to show the authorities a postcard he had written her as a joke: “Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky! Ludvik.” As a result of this whimsy, Ludvik finds himself expelled from the Communist Party and the university, and is eventually conscripted to work in the mines for several years.

The Joke is a novel, right? I.e., fiction, which is to say, not true.  But consider this story from the academy just a few days ago: “A group of 20 university professors are hoping the federal government will try to prosecute climate change skeptics. The group sent a letter to the White House earlier this month comparing those who are a bit doubtful regarding man-made global warming to the tobacco industry.”

That was last week.  Just yesterday, The New York Times reported on the fate of Gilbert and Sullivan in New York: “A production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado,’” we read, “was canceled after it drew criticism over how its largely non-Asian cast planned to portray the stereotyped Japanese characters and culture that are often seen as central to the work, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players announced on their website.”

Posted at 7:48 am on September 19th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

Who won the GOP debate last night?

I mean the grown-ups debate, the one with 11 people. Let’s start with do did not win it. Top losers:

  1. CNN: pathetic serious of “gotcha” questions intended (as Ezra Pound said in a different context) to be stirrers up of strife among the candidates rather than to illuminate the issues.  Plus, Jack Tapper is no Megyn Kelly.
  2. John Kasich: too high a quota of semi-coherent accommodationism.


  1. Best line goes to Scott Walker: “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House.”
  2. Rubio was excellent overall: a bit of humor, polished, commanding answers all around, excellent grasp of the issues.
  3. Christie was eloquent and moving on planned parenthood. Almost put himself back in the race.
  4. Carly, along with Rubio, gave perhaps the best all-round performance.  She’s clearly in command of the issues.  Spoke to the point and was even good dealing with Trump on CNN’s stupid question about his remark about her appearance:  the women of America heard him loud and clear. She too was splendid on planned parenthood, also excellent on the liar-in-chief in the other party, i.e., Hillary.
  5. Cruz, as always, was excellent on the issues but, also as always, seemed to be lecturing more than speaking.

I thought Walker, Rubio, and Christie came out looking stronger. Cruz treaded water. Carly Fiorina did herself a lot of good.

Trrump? He was marginally more mature last night than during his first performance. No women were called pigs.  Punditry is not prophecy but here’s a prediction,  when we look back on the 2016 election from the safe distance of November 2016, the high watermark  on the wall next to Trump’s name will be September-October 2015.  He will start to recede soon.

Rand Paul seemed like somebody’s mascot.  Jeb Bush actually did have more energy: the “Everyready” line was amusing, and Trump’s response was nearly generous.

Hukabee?  ’buff said.

One great tidbit from the first debate: Bobby Jindal shone.  His line about Obama waging war on trans fats but negotiating with Iran was a stunner.

The overall take-away from the evening should encourage us about the strength of the GOP bench and the reinforce our impatience with the media.



Posted at 4:55 am on September 17th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

Cultural Suicide: A Do-It-Yourself Guide

“ . . . they went up on the breadth of the Earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and the fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” – Revelation 20:9

It’s curious how often life imitates art. Germany recently won plaudits from the world’s elites when it announced it would accept 800,000 Muslim “refugeesthis year. There have been some cold feet in Berlin since then, but it’s probably too late. The hordes are on their way. Per Jean Rean Raspail’s 1973 novel The Camp of Saints, on an Easter weekend with an old professor watching an armada of rotting ships steaming slowly up to the coast of the Riviera:

On this Easter Sunday evening, eight hundred thousand living beings, and thousands of dead ones, were making their peaceful assault on the Western World. Tomorrow it would all be over.

The Camp of the Saints tells the story of the destruction of European civilization (including its outpost in the United States), partly by a flood of unassimilable wretches from India, partly by a failure of nerve on the part of the custodians of European civilization. The choice, Respail noted in an afterword, was stark:

To let them in would destroy us. To reject them would destroy them.

Is this a false dichotomy? Maybe. But think about this: As I write, Munich is gearing up for Oktoberfest, the annual festival the city has been celebrating since 1810. There will be beer, lots of it, and pork sausages and women in dirndls. A good time will be had by all.

Well, almost all — the Muslims are not amused. And one Morad Almurdi, writing from the Netherlands, has started a petition demanding the end of Oktoberfest. “Dear City council of Munich,” he writes:

I am writing this letter to bring to your attention something that I and many Muslims believe is unfair and requires attention.

I would like to inform you that the Oktoberfest is an Intolerant and Anti-Islamic event. We tried to ignore the event, but there too many Un-Islamic acts done at the Oktoberfest. Such as alcohol consumption, public nudity etc.

We understand that the Oktoberfest is a yearly German tradition, but we, Muslims, can not tolerate this Un-Islamic event, because it offends us and all Muslims on the earth.

We are requesting the immediate cancellation of the upcoming Oktoberfest event.

We also believe that the Oktoberfest might also offend all the Muslim refugees coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. The cancellation of the Oktoberfest event will help refugees not to forget their Islamic history. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

I doubt that Oktoberfest will be cancelled this year. But stay tuned.

Do you suppose the Germans will muster the gumption to point out that complains about alcohol consumption “etc.” are un-German, and contrary to their way of life?

More and more, The Camp of the Saints seems like a proleptic documentary, not a work of fiction.

Auf Wiedersehen, Schengen: Austria Reimposes Border Controls with Hungary

Posted at 8:36 am on September 16th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

A word about “fundamentals”

In a characteristically percipient column at FreeBeacon.com,  Matthew Continetti, writing about Hillary Clinton’s campaign woes, quotes former Obama strategist Dan Pfeiffer in July about HRC: “Stop the bed-wetting: Hillary Clinton’s doing fine,” Pfeiffer wrote at CNN. “Bed-wetting,” he explained, “is a term of art in Obamaland.” Noted.  But the burden of his expostulation was not about juvenile (or perhaps senile) urinary emergencies but fundamentals. “For all the contretemps about emails, speeches and roped-off reporters,” he concluded,  “elections are about fundamentals and the fundamentals point to a decisive if hard fought victory for Clinton.” Do they? Did they even then, way back in July 2015?  I don’t think so. In fact, I have a box of cigars riding on my contention that she will not be the nominee. (And don’t forget the matches, Eric!)

It would be cruel to compare Hillary circa 2008 with the bedraggled harridan of today. As Continetti  observes, today’s Hillary is “worse. Much worse. She is more removed from everyday life, more aloof, more entitled, more prone to verbal gaffes, more vulnerable on questions of ethics and integrity. She is out of practice, out of shape, out of alignment. She vacillates between aggression and apology, she panders, she is clumsy, she is besieged.”

And those are just sidelights. The “fundamentals,” to invoke Pfeiffer’s term, are what should be goading the Clinton contingent to break out the rubber sheets and all-night nappies.  In 2008, as Continetti observes, the “fundamentals” were these: “In the midst of financial collapse and unpopular war a savvy group of political operatives guided a talented candidate to victory as the first African-American president.” How about today, on the run-up to the 2016 election?

In the midst of bipartisan outrage at the political establishment and an overwhelming desire for a change in the direction of the country, an increasingly unpopular candidate surrounded by yes-men and back-stabbers is hounded not only by an ongoing government investigation but by growing perceptions that she cannot be trusted and does not care about people. Don’t worry, though—after 30 years in public life, she’s finally going to show us her heart.

Does anyone, anyone, dispute this?  It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for the “dead-broke” Queen of Chappaqua. Emphasis, I need hardly add, on the adverb. Indeed, as Charles Lipson observed at RealClearPolitics, Hillary’s electoral troubles are the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  Forget about the rubber sheets: it’s the orange suit she needs to worry about. And it won’t have been designed by Oscar de la Renta.

Hillary Clinton, Reactionary

Hillary’s Air Gap Problem 

Monica Crowley Is Right: Obama Is Helping Torpedo Hillary 

Posted at 7:34 am on September 13th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

Scenes From an Election

9 November 2016: It’s a brave new world in the United States. How silly the punters must feel. Back in the summer of 2015, a competing cacophony of certitudes told the world that Hillary was finished, that Hillary was inevitable, that a wave of populist sentiment would sweep Donald Trump into the White House, or Bernie Sanders, or even Joe Biden. There were those who thought that Hillary’s reckless disregard of the law would land her in jail, others who said it didn’t matter that she broke the law, if she did, because … the static was loud and distracting.

But who could have predicted what actually happened? Did anyone – anyone – foresee Hillary’s bold action in divorcing Bill when his escapades on Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita Express suddenly went from yesterday’s news to the front page of every paper and internet outlet? It didn’t help that her poll numbers tanked throughout the autumn: in just a few months, from August to November, she went from being the frontrunner to scraping the bottom of the barrel, registering barely above Lincoln Chafee in the RealClearPolitics national average.

Hillary’s divorce was a shock, but it was nothing compared to what happened next.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would actually join forces and convince the American people to elect them as co-presidents. Looking back, of course, it all makes sense. Hindsight is like that. You can see patterns and foreshadowings in retrospect that yesterday’s conventional wisdom obscured. Now it seems obvious that Donald Trump and Hillary should have found each other. Both were suffering in the polls. The revelation that Hillary had emailed the details of Ambassador Chris Stevens’s movements in Benghazi from her personal gmail account, which had been hacked by the jihadists in Libya, was too much even for James Carville, whose exposé on the Huffington Post did serious damage to Hillary’s credibility.

And Trump: after his meteoric rise last summer, Trump’s numbers crashed after he proposed creating a national covert police force to carry out his prime directive to deport more than eleven million illegal aliens and their families. Actually, to be more precise, his numbers crashed after David Brooks wrote a column for the New York Times pointing out that the German translation for the new police force Trump proposed is Geheime Staatspolizei, “Gestapo” for short.

It was about this time, in February 2015, that the union between Hillary and Donald Trump began to take shape. Neither would cede pride of place to the other — both had their hearts set on being president — so it was only gradually that the idea of proposing themselves as co-presidents, somewhat along the lines of the two consuls in the Roman Republic, crystallized.

I very much doubt that they would have been able to pull it off (a cynic might say, “to put it over”) if it hadn’t been for the big grassroots response to the immigration crisis. Some clever publisher had brought out a new edition of Jean Raspail’s classic dystopian novel, The Camp of the Saints, which shows in excruciating detail what happens when untrammeled immigration from the Third World is allowed to proceed unchecked. The book became a bestseller: more, it sparked a nationwide movement — already underway in Europe — to reconsider national borders, national sovereignties, and the whole progressive agenda of multiculturalism. In the United States, it quickly came to a head when the country as a whole decided to secede from California, maintaining the port city of San Diego as the sole bit of U.S. territory in the Golden State.

Posted at 7:03 am on September 8th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

Thoughts on the Art World, Rubbish, and Naiveté

Some years ago, I had occasion to reflect on what seemed at the time a preposterous piece of art-world nonsense in London. “The most delicious news to emerge from the art world this year,” I wrote, “came in October, courtesy of the BBC.”

Under the gratifying headline “Cleaner Dumps Hirst Installation,” the world read that  “A cleaner at a London gallery cleared away an installation by artist Damien Hirst having mistaken it for rubbish. Emmanuel Asare came across a pile of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays and cleared them away at the Eyestorm Gallery on Wednesday morning.”

I went on to express the hope that Mr. Asare be immediately given a large raise. “Someone who can make mistakes like that,” I noted,  “is an immensely useful chap to have about.” I also daydreamed about this paragon of the cleaning industry being taken on by some large metropolitan paper, The Dialy Telegraph, for example, since he clearly demonstrated sounder aesthetic judgment than most of the fellows calling themselves art critics.

Alas, Mr. Asare’s good work was soon undone. Damien Hirst reportedly found the episode “hysterically funny.” And why not? The gallery owners—spurred, possibly, by the “six-figure-sum” that the work was expected to fetch—instantly set about putting his opus back together. Thank goodness they had “records of how it had looked.” Imagine the loss to world culture otherwise! Actually, I suspect that the task of reconstruction was not all that arduous. This is not Humpty Dumpty we are talking about. No, Mr. Hirst lays different sorts of eggs. The BBC report carried a photograph of the work. (The original? Or the reconstruction? Perhaps we will never know.) It looked exactly like what it was: a tray of “beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays.” That description cannot be improved upon. Picture it in your mind’s eye. Then pause to recall the phrase “six-figure-sum”: that means at least £100,000—$150,000, more or less. For a tray of “beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays.” I for one do not blame Mr. Hirst for finding the whole thing “hysterically funny.” Doubtless his banker did, too.

A “spokesperson” for the gallery suggested that Mr. Asare’s salutary sense of order might have “a positive outcome, by encouraging ‘debate about what is art and what isn’t, which is always healthy.’” Here is my second suggestion: that an immediate moratorium be called on the “debate about what is art and what isn’t.” Far from being healthy, it is one of the great intellectual debilities of our day. It isn’t a debate, it is a dead end. When critics catch the what-is-art-and-what-isn’t bug, you know they are utterly bored by art. When artists catch that bug, you can see clearly why the critics are bored.

Posted at 11:29 am on September 6th, 2015 by Roger Kimball

Most amusing comment of the day award!

Congratulations to “WayneSmithAustralia“!

Mr Smith wins the Most Amusing Comment of the Day award for this bijou in response to my post about Elon Musk yesterday:

You are a traitor to humanity scumbag. How much did the fossil fuel industry pay you for that mindless crap you just wrote dinosaur? Go drink a bucket of crude oil you worthless trash. You are the minority now you turd.
Could Demosthenes or Cicero have been more eloquent in their denunciations?  We await the jury’s verdict!
Posted at 7:42 pm on August 31st, 2015 by Roger Kimball