Thursday, November 21, 2002

"You're the worst kind of snob. You're an intellecutal snob." Katherine Hepburn to Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story.

The Philadelphia Story is my favorite movie ever. It has my three favorite actors--Hepburn, Stewart, and Cary Grant--it's funny, and the main character is named Tracey. What's not to love? My favorite scene in the movie is the one the above line comes from: Jimmy Stewart is the cynical journalist out to expose the foibles of the rich, and who finds himself increasingly attracted to his subject, much to his dismay. When he accuses Hepburn of the "crimes of the rich," she turns the tables with a spot-on analysis that forces Stewart to see that snobbery and disdain are not just the domains of the wealthy. The idea of the intellectual snob has stuck with me over the years, and Hepburn's line has rung increasingly true with me as I've travelled through the ranks of academia and self-proclaimed cultural elites.

Intellectual snobbery is the only real weapon left to those whose ideas are morally indefensible and intellectually bankrupt. When academicians, journalists, and politicians find their views met with scepticism or rejected outright, they tend to respond by wrapping their mantle of "greater understanding" around themselves and hastening to point out that their opponents simply don't have "the entire picture," or "a full understanding of the issues involved." Sometimes, they get a little carried away and go straight into the vicious invective category--like the movie review of Harry Potter that sums up the film by calling George W Bush a retarded monkey. That statement is indicative of a mental disconnect that I cannot begin to fathom--did someone forget his lithium?--but it's also an example of intellectual snobbery at its finest (if by "finest" you mean "most amazingly ridiculous").

Which brings me to the latest example of intellectual snobbery masquerading as thoughtful analysis--Daschle's idea that

"What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen," Mr. Daschle said. "They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and — on our families and on us in a way that's very disconcerting."

"If entertainment becomes so much a part of politics," he said, "and if that entertainment drives an emotional movement in this country among some people who don't know the difference between entertainment and politics and who are then so energized to go out and hurt somebody, that troubles me about where politics in America is going."

You don't even have to read between the lines to see that Daschle has managed to salve his own ego by clinging to the belief that he simply doesn't have a chance to be the voice of reason in a land of mouth-breathing inbreds who "selected" a retarded monkey as president and who can't distinguish between reality and fantasy. To which I must reply, "Shut up, you fatuous pissant." Here's what you should be doing--analyzing reality. But it's much easier just to cling to the idea that no one else gets it and everybody who isn't a Democrat is just stupid and heavily armed and irrational and EEEEEEEK! Run away, for the Limbaugh barbarians are at the gates and they want to EAT MY CHILDREN!!!!! WITH RELISH AND ONION!!!!

The only bright side to all of this is that, like Katherine Heburn's character in the movie, Americans aren't fooled by this crap. I just hope that the snobs in question possess the presence of mind that Jimmy Stewart did, to understand their own foibles and relax their prejudices. Only, I don't want the debate to end like it did in the film, with a kiss. The idea of a big wet smooch from Daschle makes me feel the need to go gargle.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

WHY is it ALWAYS the English Professors?

For unparallelled stupidity, knee-jerk uber-liberal spew and all around myopic boorishness, you can always count on the English Department. Couple of examples:

Via Campus Nonsense, a story about a visit by Dinesh D'Sousa: The reaction of one faculty member, however, was intolerable. English professor Kari Winter spent an entire class period 'discussing' Dinesh D'Souza and the College Republicans. She distributed a flyer that pulled quotes out of context and prefaced them with labels such as 'White Supremacy = Meritocracy.' Affixed to a wall, this flyer constituted borderline slander; distributed to a class, it was far worse. As if this was not enough, Dr. Winter accused the College Republicans of harboring 'racist tendencies.'

This professor is no stranger to controversy. Last semester, she interrupted a private conversation between a professor and a student to express her wish that the political science faculty 'stop training Nazis.' To toss this repulsive epithet at one of UVM's finest departments is to insult each and every faculty member and student. Likewise, to hurl accusations of racism at a student organization, particularly one that has striven to further rational discourse on campus this semester, is disgusting
. Well said, UVM student. This prof is a grotesque parody of Orwellian excess, except without the funny.

And from a report on a war roundtable held at Duke: (UNC-CH professor of English Rashmi) Varma discussed the exploitation of Iraqi women and children by the Western world. She stressed that the living conditions of these individuals are used by the United States to dehumanize Iraq and other Islamic countries in order to justify unilateral actions against those nations.

"The United States fights in the name of human rights, but not those of the Iraqis, because they are viewed as inhuman," Varma said
. This is willful ignorance, plain and simple. We may be guilty of dehumanizing Saddam Hussein, but I have a sneaking suspicion that his actions against his own people play a pretty big role in our perception of him as an inhuman monster. Children's prisons, anyone?

There are more, but I can't be bothered to document them all--just check out campus newspapers and you'll notice that whenever there's some cockeyed protest or PC controversy there's usually an english professor spearheading the stupidity or shooting off his/her mouth in predictably irresponsible ways. Why? Literature used to be associated with culture; now it's the bedfellow of spurious "cultural criticism." English departments were the first and most eager to embrace all the anti-reader response lit/crit theories, but it appears that they did so uncritically, and now they've internalized post-colonial, deconstructionist, marxist, feminist theory to the point that they approach every aspect of their lives from a theoretical perspective. I know I'm generalizing, but I'm amazed at and disappointed in a discipline that has stopped focusing on the universally human aspects of storytelling and has balkanized and politicized everything to the point that reading it in a classroom context isn't mentally stimulating or even fun anymore.

When you stop looking at a story for the pleasure or revelation it provides and start looking for the "angle" you can play to get published or get an A, then you're doing the literature and the author and yourself a disservice. And when you begin BELIEVING all the theorists and acting as though the only evil on earth is people who don't think exactly as you do, even when you're confronted with evidence to the contrary, then I submit you are no longer intellectually curious or rigorous enough to be in a position to mold young minds. Literature is important and enduring--I only hope that modern lit. theory proves itself the opposite.

Monday, November 18, 2002

If Only I Were In Charge

Bumper stickers would be banned. I do not care who you voted for. I do not care what radio station you listen to, what bands you like, or what sci-fi convention you attended to get that dumbassed "do not meddle in the affairs of dragons" bumpersticker. You are merely a ship (or in this case, a car) passing me in the night. And no offense, but I really cannot be bothered to give a rat's ass about you or your life. So stop trying to suck me into your head via tiny rectangular soundbites of stupidity, particularly when said soundbites make my head explode and I have no recourse for my rage.

This morning I was stuck in traffic behind a 40 year old Toyota that seemed intent on violating every emissions standard EVER. Pasted to the back of this charming vehicle was a red bumper sticker with a heart motif and white writing which read, "Better a bleeding heart than none at all." Because I have a toddler in my car during morning drive time, I was unable to reply appropriately. However, my toddler can't read--and come to think of it, I have my doubts about the owner of the aforementioned maxim, but since this is about making me feel better, I shall vent anyway:

Listen to me, you tin-headed little shit. You are not my moral superior because you ooze emotion over every single example of unfairness on the planet. In fact, you are the opposite, because you obviously lack the judgement necessary to make the tough decisions which will result in material aid to the disadvantaged. I'm sure it makes you feel fabulous to wail, moan and gnash your teeth about environmental injustice while you drive the Pollution-mobile, but I don't see your ass biking to work every morning to spare us your greenhouse gases--the very ones that are now filling my vehicle. The fact that you have bought into the idea that empathy is an either/or enterprise doesn't fill me with optimism about your reasoning skills, either. Either a bleeding heart or none at all, eh? Ummm, no, you freaking moron. The application of logic to emotionally charged issues isn't easy, but it is necessary, and a little more effective than that glib slogan on sticky paper that appears to be holding your vehicle together. You suck.

And don't even start with the free speech crap. It's not free speech, it's guerilla speech. You feel perfectly safe in putting any ill-considered idea on the back of your car, secure in the knowledge that you will never be taken to task for your ideas while simultaneously inflicting them on a helpless audience. I cannot pass you in a traffic jam. I cannot change the channel on your bumper. My only escape from your stupidity is by staring into the sun, which isn't even up yet. You do not have the right to force me to listen to you, and yet you are.

Perhaps if you were required to put your phone number on all the bumper stickers you display, you would think twice about broadcasting your idiocies to the world.