Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ROCK THE CASBAH. Peter Suderman applauds an Iranian antiestablishment rocker -- as do I! (Also I disapprove of shitting on a burning flag, except if it's done tastefully as part of a cutting-edge "reimagining" of Dialogues of the Carmelites or something! There, that'll put an end to those posts!)

Then Suderman goes for the big picture. First there is the expected moment of gibberish:
Where's Williamsburg's sneering hipster outrage when you need it?
Oh, Peter. Williamsburg is played out, man! Greenpoint is where it's happening!

But wait:
Not surprisingly, I tend to think that Islamic totalitarianism—the kind that seeks nukes, denies the Holocaust, and bans indie rock (among other things)—is one of the central challenges the world faces in coming years. I often suspect, however, that a large part of the solution will simply be the passage of time, as the younger generation grows into power and, unwilling to give up Western rock music or cell phone flirting, rejects a lot of the extremism we see now. I suppose it's almost the opposite view of D'Souza, in that I tend to think that Western culture and technology, whatever problems they definitely have, will ultimately be a civilizing, moderating influence on Islam, at least in the next generation.
Ah, we are not so different, you and I. Now can you tell your colleagues to stop praying for war with Iran? I'd much prefer to win the Iranians over with booty calls and The Decemberists.

While my good friend Pete and I wait for our decadent culture to reverse centuries of religious mania (he in Iran, me in America -- just like Stalin and Gus Hall!), some of the brethren are more excited by the dream of using American comic-book movies to excite our citizens into jihad. Victor Davis Hanson diagnoses a "liberal furor over 300" -- and implies that the film's critics would have preferred success for Oliver Stone's Alexander, a film that was fulsomely panned by just about everyone on the planet (including me). Hanson then dissects the merits of 300 as if it were a CIA leaflet dropped from helicopters to sway a populace, citing its relevance to contemporary events and his own classicist daydreams. You would never imagine, reading his analysis, that 300 is an action movie consumed with popcorn and soft drinks by citizens with disposable income and a desire for well-ordered thrills.

Some people will never figure out that American culture does its work in the world not as a propaganda for America's policies, but as food for the world's appetites. You may argue that it is junk food, but it is undeniably tasty, and it comes in a multitude of flavors to suit a multitude of tastes. Soviet teenagers certainly spent more of their black-market kopeks on bootlegs of Exile on Main Street than on The Wealth of Nations. Like George Clinton said, free your ass and your mind will follow.

Still, give Hanson credit for stirring the Ole Perfesser to drop one of his more amusing culture bombs:
Part of it is that the movie industry -- or at least the critic section thereof -- is stuck in the 1970s, when moral ambiguity and angst used to be groundbreaking and novel. Now they're overdone, predictable and boring.
Moral ambiguity and angst haven't been novel since Doctor Faustus, if they were then, though the Perfesser is right to intuit that some of us (though not the lords of the "movie industry," surely) prefer the age of The Godfather and McCabe & Mrs. Miller to the age of The Hills Have Eyes 2. But that is a matter of taste, not a problem of politics.

UPDATE. Premiere critic Glenn Kenney is also on the case, and better. I didn't know before I read Kenney's post that Hanson actually contributed to (and presumably profited from) a piece of 300 ancillary marketing -- because Hanson didn't mention it. Well, when you're intellectually corrupt, I guess the other kinds of corruption just naturally follow along.

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