Sunday, December 21, 2008

CULTURE WAR PORNOCOPIA! Christmas comes early at National Review, with a series of stories on what we might can cultural matters. The themes are largely familiar. Mark Goldblatt is outraged that some kids still wear Che shirts. He informs whomever among them may be within reach of his voice that Guevara killed people and didn't show any contrition or discrimination about it. Sensing perhaps that he is not breaking new ground, Goldblatt throws in a challenge. "Why does an obsessive Nazi-hunter like Simon Wiesenthal get positive press," he asks, "while an obssessive Communist-hunter like Joe McCarthy is vilified?" Maybe because Wiesenthal hunted actual Nazis, while McCarthy was happy to tar citizens ranging from Owen Lattimore to Adlai Stevenson. But, as Goldblatt's subject might agree, when the cause is just contrition and discrimination must go by the board.

Dear, dotty Jay Nordlinger contributes one of his rambling columns about nothing much. He thinks reporters are not hard enough on Obama; hears that "During the campaign, you were a hateful, racist monster if you spoke Barack Obama’s middle name. But now it’s cool," referring maybe to an old Facebook stunt; denounces the free-market malfeasance of George Bush, which he thinks the liberal media is trying to cover up ("You sometimes have to wonder whether reporters are ignorant or malicious or what"); and reports that some people have, for reasons unknown, a low opinion of conservative thinkers. Also, some grammar notes.

Jonah Goldberg offers some Caroline Kennedy gotchas: how is this "Cinderella" more qualified than Sarah Palin for high office? He might have noticed that support for Kennedy is hardly universal among liberals, or even among New York State voters, but that would have deprived him of the chance to refer to the "self-indulgence of elite liberalism" as "bowel-stewing," an adjective Goldberg was born to invent. Predictably, he actually injures his case in referring to Palin as "designed by God for a Hallmark movie of the week" and rising "by dint of her dedication and almost naive fearlessness" -- an unconscious avowal that, as most American voters quickly grasped, Palin's nomination was an exercise in rightwing wish-fulfillment and that she was desperately out of her depth on a national ticket. He also offers some lovely examples of the baroque Goldbergian style ("There were valid criticisms to make. But that is quite a different thing than saying all of the criticism was valid"), as well as a breathtaking lack of awareness that, as one of American conservatism's most famous legacy pledges, he hardly has room to talk.

The jewel of the bunch, though, is Mona Charen's article on pornography, festively titled "'Tis the Season for Porn," which made me hope for a moment it would be a holiday shopper's guide. Charen begins by announcing her own martyrdom, predicting "I will be called names for writing this column," confidently stating that such taunts come from porn's "fanatical devotees," which suggests that more casual users will find nothing risible in her linkage of Zack and Miri Make a Porno to hardcore S&M websites. Her scientific explanation is that "pornography use breeds tolerance and the need for more intensity to get the desired result," which may be read as a convincing argument for increased participation in fetish sex to obviate the need for pornography. Alas, Charen goes another way, holding up Hugh Hefner as a poster boy for the Wages of Skin:
Hugh Hefner, the godfather of mainstream porn, apparently does not have normal sex with his many girlfriends. Despite the presence of up to seven comely young women in his bed at a time, he uses porn for sexual satisfaction. Think about that.
Maybe it owes to my constant, desensitizing exposure to culture-warnography, but I don't consider consider Hef an object of pity. Of course, I'm not as inclined as Charen is to believe a story clearly invented and spread by him to sell more copies of Playboy. As censors in any age could tell you, prudes are porn's best advance men.

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