Thursday, August 09, 2007

THE MONEY SHOT. National Review's Jonah Goldberg's consideration of our nations youth is scent-identifiable bullshit, but some passages beg for a smidgen of research. F'rinstance:
The burgeoning “children’s rights” movement — to which a young Hillary Clinton was connected — saw treating kids as peers to be of a piece with the new egalitarianism. Movies as diverse as Taxi Driver, Bugsy Malone, and Irreconcilable Differences fixated on treating kids like adults in one way or another.
What might Goldberg mean by "children's rights movement"? Knowing the depths of his incuriosity, we might reasonably expect he is working from his own publication's 1992 condemnation of Clinton's alignment with the Children's Defense Fund:
She is a member of five corporate boards and is chairman (currently on leave) of the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund...

But she has also acted consistently to reduce the area of parental authority and to make children direct clients of government agencies. On her principles, the state could decide that parents violate their children's "rights" by keeping them out of public schools, or deny them "equal protection of the laws" when they forbid them to do whatever liberal judges think they should be allowed to do. No doubt other implications would be discovered by ingenious lawyers, to the detriment of the family's independence of the state. It's chillingly . . . Swedish.
Gasp! She endeavored to Swedify our children -- which means nudity! And she fought to keep children in school, and subject to hippie-nudist "equal protection of the laws"! Was there no end to her depravity?

Perhaps sensing the lack of observable connection between Jodie Foster's teen prostitute in Taxi Driver and non-fictional disaffected youths, Goldberg lunges for low-hanging cultural signifiers :
The result? Large numbers of kids raised to be like adults have concluded that they want to stay kids, or at least teens. People my age hate being called “Mr.” or “Mrs.” by kids. Grown women read idiotic magazines, obsess over maintaining a teenager’s body, and follow the exploits of Lindsay Lohan. Grown men have been following professional wrestling and playing video games for 25 years.
All that disrespectfulness and video gaming would be a heavy burden to place on Hillary-forced public education, were it not for the admitted assistance of Goldberg himself. And not only does he admit his own demoralizing distaste for honorifics: he adds,
I’m part of these trends. Not only do I still enjoy "The Simpsons," but I’m addicted to shows like "House" and "Grey’s Anatomy."
Yet instead of cutting his wrists in a bunker, as good taste would demand, Goldberg descends to further depths of culture analysis:
Consider that in the old days, "Marcus Welby" and "Ben Casey" were the ideal: selfless father figures in surgical garb, dispensing not just medical advice but authoritative life counseling. Modern-day "House," by contrast, is about a defiantly drug-addicted doctor who admits week after week that he doesn’t care about his patients, but merely about the personal satisfaction of solving a medical mystery. In "Grey’s Anatomy," horribly wounded patients are wheeled through each episode to serve as metaphors for the relationship problems of the residents. Impaled by a steel rod? That reminds me, my boyfriend hasn’t told me he loves me today! The patients often die, but at least the doctors learn important life lessons about dating.
I, too, mourn the loss of Robert Young's paralytic visage on network TV, but it would never occur to me to blame the insolence of teenagers on Hugh Laurie.

Amazingly, Goldberg skims a more meaningful statistic on his way to the snack bar:
Another result is that the generation taught to share and care beyond all precedent has become the most singularly concerned in history with making a buck. A recent UCLA study found that nearly 75 percent of college freshmen think that it’s important to be rich, compared with 62.5 percent in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.
What Goldberg cannot admit, even to himself, is that the success of the Reagan Administration played a larger role than any TV show in getting Americans of every age to prize material success above all other values, though this result is blazingly evident in the stock market, in the newspaper obsession with box-office grosses, in the rise of financial reporting in mainstream media, and in the increased interest of ordinary Americans in mortgage and interest rates.

If there is any connection between our culture and what some of us consider a lack of respect from the young, Goldberg might have logically begun his investigation with what we might call the money shot. He might have asked youthful entrants to our economy, who cannot easily afford an apartment of their own even with a full-time job, or a decent health-care plan, how that state of affairs affects their interest in making as much money as they can right away, and their feeling toward those of us who were able to rent studios and get our cavities filled without pledging our troth to a corporation right out of school.

But Goldberg's prior conviction that negative developments begin and end with the Clintons and/or network television prevents that line of enquiry. The conservative faith in the free market really is faith, and like other kinds of faith disallows the possibility of negative results.

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