Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Plains Pops: Stuff Written Better By Someone Else Edition

Conor Friedersdorf on Rush Limbaugh
What Limbaugh said is odious, irresponsible, offensive -- but what are you going to do? The man has long since proved that he has no shame. I've corresponded with people who've been persuaded, by past posts I've written, to stop listening to his show, but they're an unrepresentative few. Are a miniscule number of converts enough to justify talking about his oeuvre?
Perhaps not, unless there is a larger point to be made than the old news that he says indefensible things. In that spirit, I'd like to conclude this post by remarking on Limbaugh's corrupting influence. We've witnessed more than enough controversies like this, where no one is willing to defend the talk radio host's words, to know his public character and effect on political discourse. We're not talking about a couple slip ups for which he's apologized and should be forgiven. The man willfully traffics in odious commentary and has for years and years.
Shame on him, but that isn't where it ends. George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush ought to be embarrassed that they invited Limbaugh to the White House.  The Claremont Institute, whose work I often respect, ought to be mortified that they sullied their Statesmanship Award by bestowing it upon Limbaugh. Shame on National Review for celebrating one of conservatism's most controversial figures in a symposium that didn't even acknowledge his many critics on the right. In it Heather Higgins remarked on "Rush's long track record of accurate predictions and analyses," Kathryn Jean Lopez commented on his "graciousness and humility," Mary Matalin said "he epitomizes what we all aspire to be, both as citizens and individuals," Andrew McCarthy claims his message is "always" delivered with "optimism, civility, and good humor," and Jay Nordlinger asserted that "he is almost the antithesis of the modern American, in that he doesn't whine." Every last claim is too absurd to satire, let alone defend.
Shame on The Heritage Foundation for sponsoring Limbaugh's radio show, and on the Media Research Center and Human Events for honoring Limbaugh's excellence ... and the list goes on, including the millions of people who support his radio show because they agree with Limbaugh's ideology, even though they'd be outraged if a liberal trafficked in similarly poisonous rhetoric.

Many conservatives complain, with good reason, when they're caricatured as racially insensitive purveyors of white anxiety politics who traffic in absurd, paranoid attacks on their political opponents. Yet many of the most prominent brands in the conservative movement elevate a man guilty of those exact things as a "statesman" whose civility and humility ought to inspire us! In doing so, they've created a monster, one who knows that so long as his ratings stay high, he can say literally anything and be feted as an intellectual and moral role model. So the outrages arrive at predictable intervals. And Americans hear about them and think badly of the right. Movement conservatives, if you seek integrity in American life, if you seek civility, if you seek converts, tear down this man's lies! He hasn't any integrity or self respect left to lose. But you do. 
Mark T. Mitchell on American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism does not lend itself either to humility or gratitude. If, rather than an exceptional nation, America is a nation greatly and mysteriously blessed by God—and this despite her many imperfections, which for the Christian is a necessary admission—then Americans should be moved to a profound sense of gratitude. There is a world of difference between the person who with a brash swagger asserts that America is the greatest nation on earth and the patriot who lovingly cares for his particular place while uttering a prayer of thanksgiving for the manifold blessings he and his children enjoy. One fails to admit responsibility or to tread lightly and therefore invariably behaves poorly while remaining blind to the fact. The other recognizes that gratitude is inseparable from responsibility, for a gift rightly received must be tended with intelligence and care.
Perhaps it’s time to seek out (or carve out) another strand in our American tradition, a strand that acknowledges the many good things we have inherited and soberly embrace the responsibility to steward these things well. A more modest republic would, in light of our history, be an exceptional accomplishment.
Joe Fassler on the reasons zombies and superheroes are now part of "highbrow literature":
1. Our day-to-day lives are becoming more science-fictional.

Every day, newspapers—sorry, handheld tablets—produce more headlines from the frontiers of modern science. A government-backed initiative has built protein-eating war-bots that could conceivably power themselves off human flesh. A renowned paleontologist is trying to reverse-evolve chickens into dinosaurs. And the world of personal computing makes leaps forward with every passing month. Dick Tracy's two-way video wristwatch—unfathomable in the 1950s—is now no further away than somebody's iPhone.

Of course, with these advances come anxieties about Faustian bargains and Pandora's boxes. "It's always been the case that the greatest horror stories are tapping into cultural anxieties of the time," Benjamin Percy told me, by phone. "Take a look at [Mary Shelley's] Frankenstein and the Industrial Revolution. Or [Bram Stoker's] Dracula and Victorian prudishness. Or Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Red Scare. And if you look at what's been on bookshelves since 9/11, there's been an abundance of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives. All of them have to do with our fear of disease, our fear of environmental devastation, our fear of nuclear annihilation. Maybe because the end of the world has never seemed so possible."

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