Culture Briefs

Hail, hail

“If Walter Cronkite’s mom was going to put together a scrapbook of her son’s career … I doubt that it would contain more admiring images of the former CBS newsreader than you’ll find in the Newseum, the new journalism museum that held its boffo grand opening [last month] in Washington, D.C. Cronkite is everywhere in the Newseum. He hovers over it like a guardian angel, or a patron saint. …

Cronkite is a kind of synecdoche for American journalism. His career traces the arc of the news business over the last 70 years, from the grubby, slightly disreputable trade of the early 20th century to the highly serious, obsessively self-regarding profession it has become … .

“A college dropout, plucky but unimaginative, Cronkite knocked around a series of newspaper jobs in the 1930s … . From the 1960s onward, Cronkite was transformed by some mysterious process into a figure larger than a newspaper hack, a spiritual force as imposing and weightless as a dirigible. He was an oracle, a teller of truths, the conscience of a nation, ‘the most trusted man in America.’ ”

Andrew Ferguson, writing on “The Media Builds a Monument to Itself” in the May 5 issue of the Weekly Standard

Racial eternity

“As Clarence Thomas could have told [Barack] Obama, there is no transcending race. At least not under liberalism.

“It cordons off a race-conscious spot in public life which the Jesse Jacksons and Jeremiah Wrights can perpetually occupy, regardless of the lies they tell and fresh injustices such as affirmative action they sanction. Indeed, this whole fracas is likely to furnish the Cornel Wests with new material for paranoid university courses on the subtle racism of 21st-century America for many years to come.

“Where was Obama when Clarence Thomas received ‘lawn jockey’ lampooning for his efforts to seek the purest form of transcending race — his support for a color-blind society … . Obama was sitting in the pews at Wright’s church, listening passively to the same theatrical racist nonsense on display at the National Press Club [April 28].

George Neumayr, writing on “The Dirty Secret of Identity Politics,” on April 30 at the American Spectator site

Modern mores

“Marcel Proust, one of [author Peter] Gay’s ‘four modern masters,’ while talking of the world beyond his bedroom, indeed, outside his [memoir], surveyed ‘the inhuman emptiness of this deconsecrated forest.’ Franz Kafka captures well the sense of God forsakenness with characteristic chirpiness: ‘there is infinite hope, but not for us.’ … [T.S.] Eliot experienced the wasteland of modern civilization, of high culture brought low … .

“Depriving modernism of its lacerating melancholy, [Gay] renders it a countercultural parody of itself — which by the 1960s it was. Modernism, for its constituents, was experienced not simply as liberation, but as crisis. It bespoke something profound: the cultural experience, indeed, the disillusionment of modernity’s promise of autonomy. The emancipation of individual subjectivity … if bereft of social bonds becomes as much a prison as a promise of freedom.”

Tim Black, writing on “Modernism and the Lure of Heresy” in the April issue of the Spiked Review of Books

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