For months now, newspaper columnists and bloggers have been uncomfortable about one aspect of their favorite : Yes, Obama is sincere, they concede. Deeply, persuasively sincere. But is he tough enough for the big time? Can he be as ruthless as his opponent?
Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, The Banality of Evil, has been beaten into the ground from overuse. And so it should have been. For it’s not evil that’s banal, nor is it the criminals who commit evil acts. It’s the people who don’t understand it.
Beet willed the nascent institution his library and a considerable part of his fortune. In gratitude the founders named the college for this most generous rube. And they saluted him with the institution’s Latin motto. It praises great things in descending (or is it ascending?) order: Deus Libri Porci—
Labor saving devices have been with us since the broom, and every year brings more. You can throw away your bookshelves, for example. Amazon has a device called the Kindle, a convenient, portable device that weighs about 10 ounces, and allows you to download some 90,000 volumes on its screen. And a British publisher has invented a periodical that eliminates journalism. It’s called The Week, and according to Felix Dennis, his magazine is “going to be a huge global brand.”
“The hyena, hermaphroditic, self-eating devourer of the dead, trailer of calving cows, ham-stringer, potential biter-off of your face at night while you slept, sad yowler, camp-follower, stinking, fowl, with jaws that crack the bones the lion leaves, belly dragging, loping away on the brown plain, looking back, mongrel dog-smart in the face… the hyena was a dirty joke.”
Columbia University president Lee Bollinger has been condemned from every quarter. This is unfair. He may be a classic exemplar of academic moral squalor, but as an impressionist he belongs up there with Rich Little. Who else can mimic the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow so well?
In his most recent harangue, Bin Laden dropped a name much favored by USA-bashers here and abroad. The retired M.I.T. Professor Noam Chomsky, he maintained, is “among the most capable of those from your own side.”
The people who now run the British Broadcasting System deserve some sort of deep sea diving award. They never manage to touch bottom. There’s always some new low toward which they plunge, some new shade of yellow they display to the world, some new move to disgrace their heritage of writers like George Orwell and T.S. Eliot who established the BBC’s reputation for honesty and scruple.
Can a man be a giant and a dwarf at the same time? Indeed he can. There can be few sadder exemplars of that paradox than the late Raoul Hilberg, who died this month at the age of 81.A longtime professor at the University of Vermont, Hilberg was famous for his answer, when asked what he did for a living: “I write about dead Jews.”
Like most one-note hysterics Gore Vidal, 81, spends a large part of his days in a snit. His latest hissyfit concerns a play entitled Terre Haute, which recently completed a run in England. It concerns the relationship of a homosexual writer, evidently not unlike Vidal, and a killer evidently not unlike Timothy McVeigh.
In a day of shrinking newspaper readership, the young have difficulty realizing there were once seven major dailies in New York City, each one of them with a unique personality and readership. Yet that was exactly the case.
The story of France today is like a bad French movie, full of posturing, absurd camera angles and over-the-top performances. Few objective viewers doubt whether France will dwindle into total irrelevance. The only question is when.
Anyone whose age or IQ is over forty should know the Russian word “pravda.” In the U.S.S.R. it was defined as “the truth.” Which is why the official state-controlled newspaper went by that title. But savvy Russians knew what that organ really meant: propaganda, lies, deceit, an ability to play the blame game, with the United States always at fault for everything wrong in the world. Plus an inability to face facts—among them Stalin’s famine of the 1930’s, his later economic policies and the subsequent murders of millions that took place on his orders.
Why is fascism so attractive to the left today? It’s one thing for Jimmy Carter to enthuse about totalitarians; he’s always been a fan of dictators like Ortega, Castro, Arafat. In the words of the late, great governor of Texas, Anne Richards, “He cain’t he’p it.”But it’s quite another for the Democratic party’s decent politicians of sense and sensibility to echo the disgraced Nobelist in their love of totalitarianism.
The 18th century aphorist Nicholas De Chamfort had advice for his fellow citizens: “Swallow a toad for breakfast. That way you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.” Lucky man; that was a few centuries before the UN created the Human Rights Council.