Sunday, December 09, 2018

Journalism at its best is art stripped of its label.  A.J. Liebling, on  the irregulars, French, Muslim, Jewish,  and anyone else, fighting in North Africa in 1945.

…in a hospital tent at the clearing station I came across a man with a French flag wrapped around his waist; the medics discovered it when they cut his shirt away. He was a hard-looking, blondish chap with a mouthful of gold teeth and a face adorned by a cross-shaped knife scar—the croix de vachewith which procurers sometimes mark business rivals. An interesting collection of obscene tattooing showed on the parts of him that the flag did not cover. Outwardly he was not a sentimental type. 
"Where are you from?" I asked him. 
"Belleville," he said. Belleville is a part of Paris not distinguished for its elegance. 
"What did you do in civilian life?" I inquired. 
That made him grin. "I lived on my income," he said. 
"Why did you choose the Corps Franc?" 
"Because I understood," he said. [i]            

You can sense that writing has devolved into the labeling of facts by a professional. Worldliness in America is street-smarts, so Liebling is still an observer of the street, engaged with whatever comes his way, including a career criminal who knows that fascism is beyond the pale. There are bits that read like Michael Herr’s Dispatches, on Vietnam twenty years later. Liebling wrote for the New Yorker; Herr wrote for Esquire; he ended up writing for Francis Ford Coppola and Kubrick; reportage turned into romanticism. The famous passage quoting the photographer Tim Page after Page had been approached by a publisher to write a book, “whose purpose would be to once and for all ‘take the glamour out of war.’”

“Take the glamour out of war! I mean how the bloody hell can you do that? Go take the glamour out of a Huey, go take the glamour out of a Sheridan … Can you take the glamour out of a Cobra, or getting stoned on China Beach? It’s like taking the glamour out of an M-79, taking the glamour out of Flynn … you can’t take the glamour out of that. It’s like trying to take the glamour out of sex, trying to take the glamour out of the Rolling Stones.” [ii]

At about the same time as Dispatches came out, Phillip Knightley published The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker from the Crimea to Vietnam. I’ve always remembered one sentence from the dust-jacket of my parents’ copy, and the reviewer for the CIA noted it as well. 
Before going into any further detail it should be noted that Knightley’s competence on the subject of both war correspondents and the horrors or war is qualified by the dust-jacket statement that “He has never heard a shot fired in anger, and hopes he never will.” [iii]
Worldly observation split into sensibilities too close and too far. But both books are important. Knightley was an Australian writing in England, following a model the New Yorker writers copied. Tom Wolfe credited Liebling with the beginnings of his style.[iv], but Liebling wasn’t a fop. “New Journalism” was a way to turn writing for a deadline into a self-consciously American art, adding a label to what could have more simply been a conscious effort to write well. Whatever will last of it will outlast the name, or already has.  And it seems to go unnoticed that the bitterest attack on Wolfe came not from straight journalists but Dwight MacDonald, defending The New Yorker, (which he wrote for while famously calling it “midcult”). It’s a war between fathers and sons. But it would be unfair to MacDonald to say it was only the narcissism of minor differences; for all his indulgences MacDonald was a serious critic. But as the author of an early, and brilliant,  attack on what’s now called “data culture” , The Triumph of the Fact, in 1957,  he might have done better only 8 years later than simply call out “a bastard form, having it both ways, exploiting the factual authority of journalism and the atmospheric license of fiction”.[v] All of this documents the struggle for the individual and community, for communication, in the world of rising instrumentalism and atomization. The best of the writers of new journalism were writers who wrote for money, not journalists who wanted to be writers and to call what they wrote art. 
Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel—only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence, and it affects not only his own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for him, drink with him, love him, depend on him for their own welfare and stability. A Sinatra with a cold can, in a small way, send vibrations through the entertainment industry and beyond as surely as a President of the United States, suddenly sick, can shake the national economy.[vi]
Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.[vii]
There’s no line in mimetic form between focus on self or object. The distinction between art and illustration is the perception in the audience that the world common to craftsman and audience is given or allowed a weight and depth outside the craftsman’s imagination, but not so much as to render craft superfluous.  Journalism is illustration by name and trade, but good journalists are writers within its limitations. Leibling wrote about others, trying to do justice to them and to  himself. Gay Talese writing about Sinatra is giving himself and his readers the opportunity to indulge their shared sense of superiority towards the object of their jealousy and worship.  Joan Didion in her first published piece begins with herself. Reading it you can spend a lot of time talking about nothing but cadence, phrasing and timing, style not as stylishness but as inseparable from what my mother disparaged rightfully as “content”. It’s bright clear, cold stuff. It belongs with Pinter. With Talese and Wolfe the style comes and goes with the suit; with Didion it’s in her bones. But again, Herr and Wolfe and Talese all wrote for Esquire. “On Self-Respect” was published in Vogue. The question is not high, low and middle, except for the obvious and forgotten sense that it’s all the bourgeoisie talking to itself, about itself and its relations to the world. 

[i]A.J. Liebling. “A Quest for Mollie”,  The New Yorker, May-26th-June 2nd, 1945, reprinted in  Just Enough LIebling, North Point Press, 2005
[ii]Michael Herr, Dispatches, Vintage Reprint Edition, 1991
[iv]  Allen Berra, “Not Quite Enough A.J Liebling”,Salon, September 23, 2004
[v]  Dwight MacDonald, “Parajournalism, or Tom Wolfe & His Magic Writing Machine”, New York Review of Books,  August 26th1965
[vi]Gay Talese, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, EsquireApril 1966, 
in The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits and Encounters, Bloomsbury 2003
[vii]Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”, Vogue, June 1961, in Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1990 

Monday, November 26, 2018

New tag for de Maistre

I'd found a reference I'd forgotten about, from years ago. Very useful now.

Monday, November 19, 2018

You can't get there from here

The Letter and the Spirit: A Unified Theory of Originalism
Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 107, No. 1, 2018
56 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2017 Last revised: 17 Nov 2018
Randy E. Barnett
Georgetown University Law Center
Evan D. Bernick
Georgetown University Law Center
Date Written: November 17, 2018

The concept of constitutional construction is of central importance to originalist theory but is both underdeveloped and controversial among originalists....
It just doesn't stop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

repeat, from 2009
This was covered here
It’s called post-humanism, or pre-humanism redux.
What Salmon is referring to is the boy at Starbucks with a coffee bean tattooed on his forearm, a member of the "Barista tribe." 
As I wrote on his page:
It’s the public proclamation of loyalty to a subculture; documenting the need to belong; atomization and the rise of pathologically over-determined imagined communities etc.
 etc. etc. It’s the sociality of baroque individualism.

We now have food geeks as well as science geeks, all with the moral philosophy of Asperger’s patients: so fixated on their mania for [tube amps/Pouilly-Fuissé/Ducati two-stroke engines] that you’d be a fool not to hire them for your [high-end audio store/restaurant/Soho motorcycle salon]. Why be a well rounded adult when you can be an eternal [pre]adolescent and expert, and a happy cog and servant?
"If the anthropocentric civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a 'Middle Ages in reverse'... "
Panofsky (1955)

"They enjoy their anomie as long as they can claim that it's vicarious."
Or they mourn the losses their own logic brought about.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ford and Kavanaugh's wife are cut from the same cloth. There's a film script in there.

Friday, September 28, 2018

It was more proof feminism is dead.
Whether you believed her or not, whether she was assaulted or not, whether she was unambiguously offered the chance to testify in California or Washington or Timbuktu, Christine Blasey Ford made one thing painfully clear in her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and that was her genuine, almost desperate desire to please. 
It was heartbreaking to watch — as heartbreaking, in its way, as her testimony itself.
She wanted to be liked. The Democrats want to be liked. Republicans want to win.

Ford and Kavanaugh, Democrats and Republicans: couples, abusers and victims, all of them with money to spare.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Three pages (approximate match to the US edition) from Todd's Who is Charlie?

"Individualist egalitarianism" opposing "cooperation and mutual aid". He's so much more sophisticated than Anglo-American pedants. He seems not to like Bourdieu much; that's always a plus.

He sees the ambiguities of communication of which intellectualism is merely a rarified example, a rarified form of social life.  He's a "continental" thinker.

repeats: Egalitarianism as an idea, individualism as a fact.

etc.  etc.

"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours."

Why bother opening the door for anyone? Why bother with courtesy?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Divided consciousness"

"Irony is the glory of slaves."  Milosz

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
But bragging is a common vice, and a more specific, and also more decisive, flaw in Eichmann's character was his almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow's point of view. Nowhere was this flaw more conspicuous than in his account of the Vienna episode. He and his men and the Jews' were all "pulling together," and whenever there were any difficulties the Jewish functionaries would come running to him "to unburden their hearts," to tell him "all their grief and sorrow," and to ask for his help.
A repeat

File under Trolley Problems. A soldier explains what Oxbridge philosophers can't. It's a sign of how far we've fallen that it has to be explained at all.
A thousand years ago when I was about to begin my military career, a wise old retired Marine colonel, a veteran of the carnage at Tarawa, gave me some advice. Paraphrased here, he said
So you want to be a career soldier? Good for you. But remember that the longer you stay in uniform, the less you will really understand about the country you protect. Democracy is the antithesis of the military life; it’s chaotic, dishonest, disorganized, and at the same time glorious, exhilarating and free — which you are not.

After a while, if you stay in, you’ll be tempted to say, “Look, you civilians, we’ve got a better way. We’re better organized. We’re patriotic, and we know what it is to sacrifice. Be like us.” And you’ll be dead wrong, son. If you’re a career soldier, you may defend democracy, but you won’t understand it or be part of it. What’s more, you’ll always be a stranger to your own society. That’s the sacrifice you’ll be making.
"A military in service to a democracy is an authoritarian order in service to a free one: every soldier is simultaneously both a soldier and a citizen." A living breathing contradiction in terms. Before we negotiate with others we negotiate with ourselves.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Kieran Healy
I wonder when potential interviewees are going to start picking up on the fact that Chotiner's column is called "Interrogation" and that he's really very good at it.
The same response from Amia Srinivasan, an earnest, hip, young Oxbridge philosopher.
@IChotiner's interview with Ian Buruma on the NYRB's publication of Jian Ghomeshi's mea culpa is so deeply telling
Interrogation: Why Did the New York Review of Books Publish That Jian Ghomeshi Essay?
We Asked the Editor.

This on the same day The Economist had a polite sit-down with Steve Bannon. The New Yorker was forced to cancel; The Economist stood on principle, principles identical to the principles that govern academia.

repeats: Healy, and his wife

That's why I called it The Discovery of Experience.

On twitter I tried to connect people responding to Bannon to people talking about Buruma and Ghomeshi.  It didn't work. I added my usual points, except I used the word phenomenology.

Isaac Chotiner interrogated Ian Buruma as Marie Henein interrogated the victims of Jian Ghomeshi.
It's a messy business and it needs to be. As I said a few times, if Bannon were questioned as he needs to be he'd walk off the stage. And since people were paying money for the privilege of sitting in the audience that wasn't going to happen. But that's not the reason they used. They take themselves far too seriously to be so honest.
The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures.
Lawyers are craftspeople; craft is empiricism: watching, responding, pushing, digging, even into the minds of others against their will. Interrogation is not a dialogue. Dialogue is for elites; democracy is adversarial. "Lawyers, not judges, are the rule of law."

A new tag for Henein and her client.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures.
Academic freedom predates free speech. Although Prussia gave constitutional protection to Lehrfreiheit in 1850 (“science and its teaching shall be free”), academic freedom generally does not enjoy legal protection outside of contractual guarantees; rather, it rests on the authority and ability of a community of competent scholars to police their own discourse and on the willingness of universities to affirm this authority and ability.
[I'd forgotten the first reply to Rauchway was Aaron Swartz. ]

Bernd Hüppauf explains why I have more sympathy for dilettantes than pedants. I'm sure he's a good German, a right-thinking Zionist. But Ronell is pathetic.

repeats: Nussbaum and Butler
The erstwhile liberal philosopher and Zionist Martha Nussbaum famously launched an attack on erstwhile radical philosopher Judith Butler; Butler now is in the position of defending the liberalism that Nussbaum claims to represent. There's nothing radical to her argument; it's a basic defense of civil and legal rights. 

Gessen links to Leiter. She'd referred to "a conservative philosophy blog" but removed the word after he complained. He'd added an introduction to the post replying to her, linking to his posts tagged "The Hermeneutics of Suspicion". As always the one thing beyond suspicion is himself. As I said in comments elsewhere to people who should know, or know better: he's opposed to freedom of speech, except when he's not; the only reason to have women on the Supreme Court is "fairness" since there's no epistemological advantage; theology is a Wissenschaft, but Derrida's a fraud.  "Calling yourself a leftist because you've read Marx is like calling yourself a feminist because you're read The Second Sex." A good line.

it's just turning into a series of notes

and again: The Masha Gessen piece in the New Yorker. wow.
It even has Kris Kraus to remind me again how much the art world high seriousness of the 80's was all really just Woody Allen. I realized that, or saw it for the first time in 1990, watching a film by Yvonne Rainer. I expected something much different, something tough, maybe like what I saw later with Chantal Akerman -when I finally saw the Jeanne Dielman-  and Claire Denis. But in this country now we get I Love Dick on Amazon.

The Euros never succeed in lying to themselves so much. I really don't mind European indulgence; there's an honesty to it.  American sincerity, the Puritan streak, makes for anger, and a kind of inarticulate, non-verbal, physical power: Trio A and post minimalism. But when intellectualism takes over it becomes pedantry. It all fits.

None of this is about US culture as a whole, only about the stuff that proudly wears an air of high seriousness. Puritanism affects everything. American artists read literary theory. American novelists don't.

updated, a mishmash

Leiter on Ronell again (see previous)

There are more important things going on, but it's still...
Prof. Ronell has issued a statement denying all of the plaintiff's allegations. I am not sure this statement helps her case. First, the statement acknowledges that at the very same time that the plaintiff was sending affectionate-sounding e-mails to Prof. Ronell he was describing her to others as a "monster." That would seem to support the plaintiff's account that he felt pressured into behaving as Ronell wanted him to behave. 
a "monster"
  • Mon Avital, beloved and special one... I don’t know how I would have survived without you. You are the best, my joy, my miracle. Sending you infinite love, kisses and devotion, your – n.” (6/29/13);
  • “Thank you most darlingst. On this rainy day I too hold you and thank you for everything”. (12/6/2014);
  • “Sweet Beloved, I was so happy to see you tonight, and spend time together. It was so magical and important, crucial on [sic] so many ways. Our shared intimacy was a glorious cadence to our time in Berlin. Thank you for these moments of togetherness and utter and pure love!...Infinitely, - n” (1/17/2015);
  • My beloved Avital, Just sending you infinite kisses and love. Thank you for your being my most precious blessing. Loving, your – n. (3/16/2013);
  • “Beloved...Missing you and loving you ! – n” (2/4/2015);
  • “Baby. It was so wonderful seeing you today. You looked wonderful...I miss you
  • terribly and await seeing you already...”(2/13/2015);
  • “Honig most, dearest one...Sending love and misses. Je t’embrasse”.
  • (03/19/2015); and
  • “Dearest, I have not heard from you all through this oriental trip...Please drop me a line to let me know you are well, I have been worried about you...hugs, n”. (7/29/2015). [Written after Reitman received his doctoral decree].
As a matter of law, if women are easily swayed by dashing hucksters or sleazy sycophants, then so are men. If women are weak and fragile, so are men. Life is more complex. As usual, Leiter is incapable of separating the two.
I have no particular sympathy for Ronell. It's a soap opera. At worst they deserve each other.
And now Asia Argento.
But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.

That claim and the subsequent arrangement for payments are laid out in documents between lawyers for Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennett, a former child actor who once played her son in a movie.

The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. Three people familiar with the case said the documents were authentic.
She fucked a 17 year old and he blackmailed her. If Weinstein merely had a thing for teenagers I wouldn't have said much, but he's much more than that.

Law is a blunt instrument.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, of whom I have only had positive feelings up to now, has produced an opinion for the Ethicist column for the New York Times that it is “a good thing” when citizens report violations of immigration law to the US authorities. He produces this opinion in the context of a question about “green-card marriage” entered into merely in order to gain an immigration advantage, so it is unclear how far he relies on the specific features of the case he describes to generate a more general moral conclusion, but I, for one, find his reasons highly problematic.

...Kwame Anthony Appiah has just blocked me on twitter. My only interaction with him ever was writing this post disagreeing with him. (I had a long term plan to get him to unveil some memorial in Bristol to his grandfather Stafford Cripps and to give a talk – I guess I can forget that). What a remarkable reaction.
I can mock Bertram -and again recently on the same subject- and still have more contempt for Appiah, who considers himself a cosmopolitan while having no idea what it means to be one.

Back to Jian Ghomeshi and Marie Henein. The post above fairly or not puts Reitman in the role of Ghomeshi. Women and other groups play at a handicap. The question is the relation of that handicap to law. If you follow the link above and link through to the first post on Ghomeshi and more importantly his lawyer, you'll see Leiter and Wissenschaft, again, as in the first post linked above on Ronell.

Repeating something I wrote elsewhere, responding to Jeremy Waldron:
Loyalty holds society together; we don't want everyone snitching on their neighbors; we need police to be our pedants. But police become loyal to each other: cops hate Serpico. 9/11/01 I watched thoughtless people acting on reflex drive into Manhattan to dig in the rubble.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

N+1 Revolutionary Posters
An interview with the designers behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign
The democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory in this week’s Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district has rightly provoked enthusiastic commentary and analysis.... 
Her campaign also marks a major step forward for graphic design in American politics. Rather than the tired repetition of white letters on blue backgrounds, white letters on red backgrounds, and American flag iconography, energetic diagonals cut across Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign materials in an unexpected yellow and purple.
Unlike the hipster fantacists and intellectuals Ocasio-Cortez might admit without being pressed that she's just a social democrat. She comes from the working class. She's lived class relations the suburbanites have the luxury to will away.
I had hopes. But she's the candidate for hipsters. An idiot, out of her depth.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Qhouirunnisaa, via fycam on Twitter

Programmatic liberals will try to say there's no conflict; programmatic conservatives will say the obvious; neither will be able to to come to terms with it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Part of the problem here, as more than one reader has pointed out, is that since Ronell & co. don't have an actual Wissenschaft, cults of personality take the place of substantive skills and knowledge,...
Where to begin?