- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

‘Pseudo-sage’

“If ever a single person was living proof that intelligence is a meaningless quality without modest common sense, it was Susan Sontag, who died last week. The reverential tone of the obituaries served to confirm that self-proclaimed intellectuals, no matter how deluded or preposterous, exert a strange, intimidating power over non-intellectuals. …

“[W]retched, credulous, self-hating American academia wanted to fawn on an intellectual whom popular culture could celebrate, and it chose Sontag and her vapid aphorisms. ‘The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own’; or: ‘What pornography is really about, ultimately, isn’t sex but death’; or: ‘Sanity is a cosy lie.’ …

“One has to have a certain academic status before one’s pseudo-sage declarations come to be exalted as ‘sayings.’”

Kevin Myers, writing on “I wish I had kicked Susan Sontag,” Sunday in the London Telegraph

TV nation

“A man recently threatened to sue his cable company. Why? ‘I believe that the reason I smoke and drink every day and my wife is overweight is because we watched TV every day for the last four years,’ he claimed. These assertions regarding the ill effects of TV seem so obviously true that few even question them. …

“Curmudgeonly cultural critic Neil Postman piled on in his 1986 book ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ … claiming that ‘a great media-metaphor shift (from typography to television) has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense.’

“Despite the hectoring from bureaucrats and intellectuals, the nation continued to tune in. … By 2001, according to the Census Bureau, 98.2 percent of American households owned at least one of the 248 million TVs in the country, for an average of 2.4 per home. American adults watch about 4.6 hours of television per day, or 1,669 hours per year.”

Ronald Bailey, writing on “We All Know That TV Is Bad For Us,” Dec. 29 in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Modern maniacs

“My favorite 20th-century writer of fiction, Walker Percy, poured on the criticism in his next-to-last novel, ‘The Second Coming’ (1980). He complained that the contemporary Christian is ‘nominal, lukewarm, hypocritical, sinful, or, if fervent, generally offensive and fanatical. But he is not crazy.’ The unbeliever is, because of the ‘fatuity, blandness, incoherence, fakery, and fatheadedness of his unbelief. He is in fact an insane person.’ …

“Hit television shows like ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Desperate Housewives,’ as well as Tom Wolfe’s fine novel ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons,’ display the desperate desire for love that some sadly reduce to a desperate search for sex — as if momentary excitement can substitute for years of contentment. …

“What’s more striking is how the desperate search for horizontal love, person to person, is not matched by what should be an even more desperate search for vertical love, person and God. Here’s Walker Percy again: ‘I am surrounded by two classes of maniacs. The first are the believers, who think they know the reason why we find ourselves in this ludicrous predicament yet act for all the world as if they don’t. The second are the unbelievers, who don’t know the reason and don’t care if they don’t.’”

Marvin Olasky, writing on “Wanting both,” in the Saturday issue of World

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