Monday, March 14, 2005

FUN WITH RETARDS. When I saw the first installment of Jonah Goldberg vs. Some Guy, I was perplexed, but by Jonah Goldberg vs. Some Guy II (Extended Remix), I was tickled, because I had hit upon the appropriate visualization of the colloquy: Goldberg in a dark room, wrestling feverishly and at length with a large rubber doll.

No one knows how Goldberg and the doll came into contact with one another -- perhaps Derbyshire had been using it to explain buggery to Kathryn J. Lopez, and left it in Goldberg's office as a gag. But it is clear that upon contact with the doll Goldberg panicked, and now flails so violently that he cannot tell that his assailant is of rubber and cloth, and poses no threat to him. To make matters worse, whenever it starts to dawn on Goldberg that his opponent is not really reciprocating the struggle in any meaningful way, the poor man inadvertently touches a button on the doll's head, causing a tiny speaker there to emit phrases like "that's not conservative" and "we'll be watching." Goldberg, his terror renewed, resumes flailing.

Actually the whole Corner is pretty hilarious this morning. We also have Rick Brookhiser harshing on Lucas and Spielberg, an obvious provocation in this nest of nerds. Brookhiser gets a little too into it, of course, and falls into that sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God mode to which culturecons are prone ("Junk on stilts... It was excrement you would not put in the compost..."). He argues that Lucas' and Spielberg's creations have been detriments to our culture, and uses the lofty examples of Keats and Shelley to, if not support, then sanctify his thinking ("Keats's and Shelley's imaginations did not match their talents or their intellects," sniff), and -- get ready for the punchline! -- ends by asking, "Thought experiment: post-Lucas, post-Spielberg: Could Lawrence of Arabia be made today?" Lawrence of fucking Arabia! Keats and Shelley aren't quite up to snuff -- now David Lean, he was a giant! In the immortal words of Edmond O'Brien, Jesus wept!

Some of the hilarity comes by proxy. One of the madder Cornerites, Stanley "Save the White Race Through Financial Ruin" Kurtz, sends us off to visit Harvey Mansfield, who is on about manliness and Teddy Roosevelt. Mansfield's man-thing starts with the assignment of political gender roles common among conservative testosteronologists like Mansfield: liberals have been "delivered... to the feminists," while conservatives "sneakily enjoy" TR's "political incorrectness." (What does Mansfield mean by that, I wonder -- perhaps TR's white supremacism? If so they have good reason to enjoy it "sneakily.") Also, "conservatives keep their admiration [for TR] under wraps because they fear the reaction of women should they celebrate his manliness." I guess those creatures we imagined to be female conservatives actually belong to some sort of Ladies' Auxiliary.

Having established his butch bonafides, Mansfield dives into the TR legacy, and what he comes up with does not bear close reading, but do get a load of this excerpt:
Reason is disdained by pragmatism as being prompted by the tender wish that things will somehow fit together on their own. Progress under pragmatism requires an addition of will-power, of manly assertiveness, to reason so that reason, in the form of science, does not construct a boring, peaceable civilization that appeals only to mollycoddles and fails to meet the ambition of humans who want dignity more than peace. The trouble is that the manliness needed to express confidence depends on doubt of reason, yet reason is the source of our confidence in better things to come. When you add manliness to reason so as to make reason more capable, you also subtract from the capability of reason. The danger to progress is that manliness, instead of endorsing reason, will get the better of reason.
I think I saw an early draft of this leaning in a corner of the Second Avenue F-train stop, along with some rags and other personal effects. Then, as now, it seemed a cry for help. Still, the image of a white-coated Professor Mansfield in his lab, painstakingly measuring out the appropriate amounts of Reason and Manliness to give his creature LIFE!, is at least as amusing as the others.

The whole world's a circus, Mike, if you know how to look at it.

No comments:

Post a Comment