Friday, July 20, 2007

Subtle salvo

“Make no mistake, the culture wars have changed — in a profound way. Subtlety, for today’s college-aged crowd, is the name of the game. Culturally conservative messages are becoming more prevalent in pop culture from sources that aren’t even necessarily conservative.

“Ross Douthat wrote in his review of the objectively raunchy ‘Knocked Up,’ ‘[T]his is exactly the sort of social conservatism we need: not a jeremiad against cultural rot or a gooey ode to idealized family values, but a clear-eyed, hopeful, and hilarious celebration of doing the right thing.’ …

“Movies like ‘Knocked Up’ make subtle, anti-abortion statements in an accessible way, without alienating viewers. …

“Many young people refuse to be simply told what to do. But they are actively interested in being convinced of what to do. Rote pronouncements never change the world overnight, nor are they a winning strategy. That some cultural warriors have shifted their tactics to reflect this new reality does not reflect a ‘truce.’ It’s simply a new, more powerful salvo.”

Michael O’Brien, writing on “Sex & the Single College Student,” Wednesday at

Rhetorical fear

“[One] reason for morally neutral language about terrorism is fear that emotional, insulting language might make terrorists angrier and more dangerous. An old anecdote about former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir figures on the other side. Once, at an Israeli Cabinet meeting, someone reportedly warned that the action contemplated would anger the Palestinians. Shamir supposedly replied, ‘Are they going to hate us more?’ — implying that enemies of Israel had already hit their max in that department, freeing Israel from such consequentialist calculations. …

“We should not minimize the thirst for respect among terrorists and their potential sympathizers. When we treat terrorists only as tactical foes, as though we’re too jaded for moral talk, we raise the self-respect of terrorists and their appeal to young people.”

Carlin Romano, writing on “If We Don’t Call Them Names, the Terrorists Win,” in the July 20 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education


“If you’re looking for an emblematic example of how bewitched we readers have become by Harry Potter, and how eagerly we anticipate this weekend’s release of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,’ the final volume in J.K. Rowling’s series, look no further than my wife and me. In preparation for P-Day, we are sending our toddler away to stay with her grandmother for the week, so that we may undistractedly devour the two hardcover copies of ‘Deathly Hallows’ we plan to purchase. … We are ridding our house of children in order to read a children’s book.

“There will be time enough to talk about whether our passion for Potter — and that of the millions of grown men and women who will line up at bookstores this weekend, sans children, to make the first dent in Scholastic’s reported 12 million first printing — is a sign of the infantilization of American pop culture, or of the triumph of the nerds, or of the death of serious literature.”

Dan Kois, writing on “How Will the Harry Potter Series End?” Wednesday in

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