American Culture

The Dead Hand of the Sixties

 

This ties in with Paul’s post today on culture and its political impact.  Jonah Goldberg is usually worth reading at National Review Online, but today he was brilliant:

The bowel-stewing hypocrisy notwithstanding, what’s amazing is how the same dreck is recycled as new, fresh, and courageous. Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution will be 100 years old next year. Its attack on the Founders as greedy white men was wrong then, but at least it was relatively original. Today, college kids regurgitate the same nonsense — and professors applaud their rebelliousness. Except what or whom are they rebelling against? Not the faculty or the administration.

Hackneyed left-wingery is not only treated with respect on campuses (though most mainstream academics aren’t as left-wing as Zinn or Stone), it is repackaged daily by Hollywood and celebrated by the mainstream media.

The self-styled rebels of Occupy Wall Street received overwhelmingly positive coverage in the mainstream media in no small part because the liberal press thinks authentic political expression for young people must be left-wing. The regurgitation of hackneyed ’60s slogans pleasing to the ears of aging, nostalgia-besotted baby boomers elicits squeals of delight. Meanwhile, tea-party protests were greeted as dangerous, odd, and deserving of hostile journalistic scrutiny.

And yet the kitsch of leftism still works its magic. In huge numbers, young people think they’re rebelling when all they’re doing is playing their assigned part and lending energy and, often, votes to a stale, regimented form of statist liberalism that often disappoints and never satisfies. Continue reading

Cultural Multiple Personality Disorder

Michael Potemera muses on the survival of two very different cultural institutions – Playboy and National Review:

I just caught the last couple of minutes of a cable-TV documentary about Playboy magazine, which featured a clip of Hugh Hefner opining about the huge cultural impact the magazine has had in its 50-plus years of existence. And it struck me as an illustration that, even in the realm of culture and ideas, it’s the supply side that makes the greatest difference. Two young men in the mid-1950s had vastly different ideas of what the American audience really wanted and needed, and ventured forth to create magazines that reflected these views. Hugh Hefner, convinced that America was too sexually conservative and really needed to let its hair down, founded Playboy in 1953. Bill Buckley, convinced that America was too politically liberal and needed to restore its older, small-r republican virtues that had been eroded in the Progressive and New Deal eras, founded National Review in 1955.

Now, think about how these ventures must have appeared at the time. Playboy was an outrage to conventional pieties about sexuality. National Review was an outrage to conventional pieties about politics. How much money would you have bet, at the time, that either one would survive for very long? “A dirty magazine? Won’t people be embarrassed to buy it?” “A magazine that’s to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon? Are there that many real fringies out there?” But the supply side takes a chance. And, quite amazingly, both ventures succeeded beyond imagining. Playboy bore fruit in the Sexual Revolution, which may already have reached its high point but shows little sign of receding. And from National Review emerged Reaganism, and conservatism as the broadly dominant system of political thought in recent years.

An extraordinarily prescient person, writing in the mid-1950s, might have predicted one of these triumphs. But anyone who predicted that both of the magazines, simultaneously, would have a massive, culturally transformative impact on our country, would have been dismissed as, at best, an extremely confused thinker.

But the truth is, we are a confusing country. We contain, in Walt Whitman’s sense, multitudes. Even as we prize national unity, we resist homogeneity; even as we embrace populist fads, we remain suspicious of conformism. It makes me wonder: Which two implausible — and apparently mutually contradictory — cultural ventures of our time will end up shaping the American life of the next half century?

Certainly fodder for further thought.  There is a superficial explanation to this seeming contradiction.  In a country that at the time both publications were launched numbered 200 million citizens, and where now north of 300 million live, it’s not unreasonable for disparate publications to attract very large audiences.  If you draw, say, 100,000 subscribers (and I have no idea if this is anywhere close to how many people subscribe to either publication, now or ever), that’s barely more than .o1% of the population.  So it’s easy to see why the same country can pack arena-sized mega Churches on Sunday while also making pornographic sites the biggest profit makers on the Internet.  To put it simply, there are a lot of people, and they’re going to like very different things.

But of course that really is Potomera’s main point.   We are a culture deeply divided, and that division seems to be getting more intense.  While the pron industry is doing quite well, conservative (traditional, Orthodox, whatever adjective you prefer) religious institutions are also faring quite well.  Gay marriage is gaining some traction while at the same time larger and larger families are filling the pews every Sunday.  Admittedly, there is some overlap as some of the commenters observe (not to mention that William F. Buckley wrote articles for Playboy at one time), but by and large we’re talking about – dare I say it? – two Americas.

In the comments section I wrote the following, and it’s hopefully worth repeating here.  One of the things to consider is the standing of both magazines within the movements that they helped launch. Playboy is considered tame nowadays, what, with the explosion of raunchier magazines like Hustler, and even more so with the easy availability of hard core pornography on the Web.

As for National Review, while there has been an explosion of other conservative magazines, institutions, and other media, NR remains one of the most influential journals of conservative opinion. Sure some might think it has gone “soft” in its own right (including yours truly, at least on occasion), but it is still no doubt more influential within its own sphere than Playboy is nowadays.

What that says about our society, and where it is trending, is perhaps more troublesome.

Scouting in a Fractured American Culture

The New York Times runs an article about how the national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to address concerns about shrinking membership as they celebrate 100 years of boy scouting in the US. The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978, with 2.8 million boys currently in the Scouts.

To judge from the commentariat at the Times, you would think this is entirely the result of the BSA remaining firm in their ban of gay scout leaders and statement that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath.” Not to mention saying that boys who refuse to recite the Scout Oath because of its references to God and reverence may simply not have a place in the program. Commenters claiming to be Eagle Scouts line up one after another in the comments to announce that no son of theirs will ever be a member of the Scouts while it remains homophobic and theocratic.

Continue reading

Michael Scott Resigns From Dunder Mifflin

Michael Scott, the head sales manager of Dunder Mifflin is calling it quits at the end of the 2011 television season.

The Office is one of the few shows that I enjoy watching because the comedy and writing are top-notch and just as importantly, it isn’t as depraved as most shows on television.

Viewing The Office is like watching elementary school cliques try to behave as adults.  It’s entertaining and sometimes difficult to watch, especially when the Michael Scott character embarrasses himself to the point that I cringe at the tv set.

Regardless, the show will definitely be different without him if they choose to continue, which I hope they do.

Bye Bye Big XII, Hello Pac-16!

The college football 2010 expansion scramble is on!

The Pac-10 is flexing their muscle for the first time in many years and I’m not talking about winning championships, I’m talking about dinero, mullah, the almighty dollar!

As I have mentioned previously, the Pac-10 will not expand unless it includes Texas or Colorado.  Not Utah or BYU.

Colorado brings in the Denver metropolitan T.V. market and Texas brings in… the entire state of Texas with a nationwide following that is only eclipsed by the University of Notre Shame Dame.

So what has happened since then?

To summarize all the rumors these past three days, the Pac-10 will take Texas, Colorado, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State.

But the Pac-10 needs to hear from those schools, specifically Texas, before the end of 2010 in order to be in a position to negotiate a new television contract for their college football programs.

Wow!

This is beyond what I expected but it certainly is intriguing and prudent.

It’s prudent because Texas wants Texas A&M in ANY scenario available.  The Big-10 didn’t bring Texas A&M to the table in prior rumors and that is why those rumors died down.

How did this all come about?

There were various variables that occurred simultaneously to bring us to this point.

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College Football, Pac 10 Wants Texas and Colorado

The Pac-10 is seeking to expand for the first time in 33 years when they last added my two alma maters, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University (sometimes referred to as Temple Normal Women’s Teacher College).

Speculation has been rampant with initial reports announcing the the University of Utah had accepted and will become the 11th member, but those were quickly shot down (sort of).

Not since the Texas legislature blackmailed both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University into retracting their acceptance into the Pac-10 in 1994 have rumors been so rampant as to possible candidates.

The Pac-10 is the premiere all-sports conference in the country, more importantly, they have the most athletic and superior football programs as well.  No conference comes close with NFL-level talent to that of the Pac-10’s.

Why the expansion?

Continue reading

Thomas The Right Wing Tank Engine

Hattip to the ever vigilant Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.  My kids loved Thomas the Tank Engine videos when they were little back in the nineties.  Memories of those times still brings a smile to my face when I see some Thomas the Tank Engine trinket for sale in a store.  Now I learn that I was not only entertaining them, I was also indoctrinating them in my political views.

A Canadian academic, surprise!, Shauna Wilson, has disclosed the political subtext underlying the Tank Engine stories:

The show’s right-wing politics shows the colourful steam engines punished if they show initiative or oppose change, the researcher found.

She also highlighted the class divide which sees the downtrodden workers in the form of Thomas and his friends at the bottom of the social ladder and the wealthy Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, at the top. Continue reading

The Conservative Bible

This is pretty funny, but at times it makes me cringe.

Nonetheless it is humor so don’t take this seriously at all!

Fiscal Health Care Reform: The Publics Option

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama continue to spend, spend, spend away money we don’t have.  With the public option now firmly established in the current Senate version of the health care bill, Election 2010 comes to mind.

Kick the bums out.

I love democracy.

(Biretta Tip: Glenn Foden of NewsBusters)

You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

Okay, that’s a heckuva long title for a blog post, but it also happens to be almost perfect for the subject of this particular entry at The American Catholic.

On Tuesday, the voters of the state of Maine — surprisingly — rejected same sex marriage (SSM) and reaffirmed that marriage in Maine is between a man and a woman. Naturally, SSM supporters were shocked and outraged (the Catholic Church appears to be the early target), while supporters of traditional marriage were overjoyed with the results; Maine, after all, isn’t exactly in the Bible Belt.

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), was typical of the latter: “Every time Americans vote on marriage, traditional marriage wins.” And she’s right: when it comes to ballot initiatives, SSM is 0-31.

Continue reading

No Islamic Holy Sites Destroyed in 2012 Movie, Fear of Fatwa

Grand Mosque of Mecca

Due to the fear of a death threat in the form of a fatwa from Muslim scholars, movie director Roland Emmerich chose not to shoot any scenes depicting the destruction of Islamic holy sites in his new end-of-the-world film, 2012.  Though Roland Emmerich says this did not stop him when filming scenes depicting the destruction of Christian landmarks such as the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.  He wanted to make sure his views of opposition to “organized religion” were not soft-pedaled in the movie 2012.

Of course, “organized religion” is a euphemism for the apostolic churches of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths.  Hence why you’ll see the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica topple over in the 2012 film and not the Ka’aba inside the Grand Mosque of Mecca collapse.

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Charles Carroll: Our Catholic Founding Father

Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later United States Senator for Maryland. He was also the only Catholic to have signed the The Declaration of Independence. One of the wealthiest men in the colonies, it is reported that — upon fixing his signature,

a member standing near observed, “There go a few millions,” and all admitted that few risked as much, in a material sense, than the wealthy Marylander.

(The Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1737-1832, by Kate Mason Rowland).

A new biography, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Lives of the Founders) (ISI) will be published in February 2010. (Tip of the hat to Carl Olson). The author, Dr. Bradley J. Birzer, was recently interviewed by the Washington Times:

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The Degenerate David Letterman

David Letterman Degenerate

[Updates at the end of this post below]

I enjoyed viewing David Letterman when he first came out.  He was nerdy, goofy, and most importantly funny.  I eventually stopped viewing his show not because he wasn’t funny anymore, but because I was no longer in college and I needed a good nights rest for the real world, ie, a job.  Once in a while I would catch his show and remember fondly my days of cold pizza and late night study sessions.

I was well aware of his politics, but unlike most liberals, conservatives do have a sense of humor, especially at our own expense.  I was able to suspend my politics to enjoy good humor because I loved to laugh.

Sadly Mr. Letterman went too far recently in one of his jokes.  Maybe he has been doing this for awhile, but I haven’t noticed since I no longer watch his show for the reasons I mentioned above.

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If Obama Is Spock We Are Doomed!!!

Spobama

Maureen Dowd wrote a column last month in which she compared, tongue in cheek, Obama to Mr. Spock from Star Trek.  Jeff Greenwald of Salon also sees a resemblance between Chicago’s “gift” to the country and the first officer of the Enterprise.  Bill Whittle of Pajamas Media, takes great joy in informing us in a very entertaining video here why having an intellectual in the mode of Mr. Spock as president is very bad for the nation.

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Overwork in the Age of Multi-tasking

The weekend’s WSJ had an interesting article about work hours — the hours that people think they work, and the hours they actually do.

Over the past two decades of rapid technological deployment and globalization, it has become an article of faith among the professional set that we work sweatshop hours. Sociologist Juliet Schor started the rumor with her 1992 book, “The Overworked American,” which featured horror stories of people checking their watches to know what day it was.

Then God created the BlackBerry and things got worse. In late 2005, Fortune’s Jody Miller claimed that “the 60-hour weeks once thought to be the path to glory are now practically considered part-time.” In late 2006, the Harvard Business Review followed up with an article on “the dangerous allure of the 70-hour workweek,” calling jobs that required such labor the new standard for professionals. The authors featured one “Sudhir,” a financial analyst who claimed to work 90-hour weeks during summertime, his “light” season. He’s got nothing on a young man I met at a party recently who told me he was working 190 hours a week to launch his new company.

It was a curious declaration; I would certainly invest in a start-up that had invented a way to augment the 168 hours that a week actually contains.

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A Taste of Christmas

One of the things I love most about our country is that it is not a state built to give expression to a particular “nationality” in the sense that swept the world like an plague in the 19th and 20th centuries. Our country shares a set of political ideals and cultural touchstones, but it is also a glorious mix of different traditions which we, as a nation of immigrants, have brought with us and continued to develop here.

In honor of which — and because it seemed to me that perhaps we could use a “getting to know each other” thread around here — I take the liberty of cross posting the following from my personal blog:

The feast of the nativity of Our Lord has traditionally been a time for feasting and the gathering of family and friends. And since taste and smell are powerful hooks for memory, many of us have intense connections to various Christmas foods and drinks. The other holiday here in the US which is heavily food-centric is Thanksgiving, yet with a few familial variations, the Thanksgiving food palette is pretty well defined. Christmas food traditions, however, are pretty various.

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What Is Middle Class

When one reads 19th century British literature, one of the constant sources of tension is as to who is “a gentleman”. As used in this context, it was a term that applied not merely to manners and honor, but to economic status. A gentleman was not “in trade”. He did not have “a job”. He might own estates which he oversaw, though if he actively worked them his case became much weaker (“gentleman farmer” was more often a term of dismissal as approbation.) He might be a clergyman or a doctor (but not a surgeon — cutting flesh and sawing bone was not manual for a “gentleman.) He might be a military officer. But generally to be a “gentleman” one was expected to live off one’s investments and devote one’s time to either society or unpaid accomplishments. Many accomplishments in fields ranging from literature to philosophy to economics to science during the time period were the work of “gentlemen” who pursued these fields as “hobbies”.

I don’t think this was necessarily a good or healthy attitude towards work, but it’s interesting to me that in the modern US we have nearly diametrically opposed social/economic prejudices. The idle rich could not be more scorned, and it is the object of everyone to claim membership in the “middle class” and ideally to claim “working class roots” as well.

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