October 26, 2007

"They didn't have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky."

What's what's wrong with these kids today. Peggy Noonan looks at Scott Thomas Beauchamp and sees a whole twisted generation.

35 comments:

Ron said...

The Cliff Notes are too long? If only we had Cliff Notes of Cliff Notes! "Russian guy gets depressed and writes about that and God."

Paul Zrimsek said...

How is it that these Symbols of Their Generation always seem to be people who got famous by doing something wildly atypical?

Do I overwrite? Do I sound like an idiot?

Surely the most ill-considered question since Boy George sang "Do you really want to hurt me?"

rhhardin said...

They didn't have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky.

Not a Derrida critic in a thousand has read Derrida.

Whose reading practices are not those of deconstructionists in academia, but who can spare the effort to find out these days?

Angry letter from a baffled Quine reprinted by a bemused Derrida.

Derrida speaking on Religion , listen till about 25 minutes in, and see if his description of what prayer is, seems correct to you. You can see how Quine would be mad about it.

Derrida on terrorism , disposing of every argument on the left, in spite of being a leftist, with the right description.

Derrida on the Library Staff , modest analysis of procedures.

bill said...

Dostoyevsky haiku:

"Young Raskolnikov
murdered the landlady and
felt bad about it."

Cedarford said...

They didn't have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky."
What's what's wrong with these kids today. Peggy Noonan looks at Scott Thomas Beauchamp and sees a whole twisted generation.


With consideration of Peggy Noonan's otherwise fine pundit talents, she is fairly clueless on how little a lower enlisted soldiers worldview is shaped by exposure to Pushkin,Dostoevsky, Yukio Mishima, Derrida.

Or us officer types in the Gulf War who had the same interests as Enlisted, who on average were 3 years younger, with 11.7 vs 16.9 years of education, at the junior level. Except instead of Louis L'Amour and Gor fantasy novels the enlisted flocked to, we had "recommended reading lists" on Hitti on Arabs, the Chinese, Iran geopolitics..back in the early 90s.

NO Dostoevsky outside "Crime and Punishment". Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was on the lists, but was tedious and whatever continuing education that demanded was all in the Cliff Notes.

And no Derrida, no Herbert Marcuse, Mailer, no Franz Fanon shit, no Michael Foucault back in 1990.

Completely off the military's radar screen, as we completed our obligated "diversity" reading of "Invisible Man" and Malcomb X's "Autobiography with ghost writer".

Taking a course on anti-missile radar tactics, or 3D battlespace enfilades from the bullet to the ChiCom "computer war" was our focus, along with leadership - not forcing us into Critical Studies into Foucault's homosexuality.
******

With Scott Thomas Beauchamp, Muchael Yon reported that Beauchamp was given a choice by his CO to leave like a Lefty - or to chose to stay with his comrades, face the same duty as his buddies faced. And Beauchamp has apparantly chosen to be a man, do what he signed up for, and face being in harm's way in Iraq.

The military allows 2nd chances.

Beauchamp appeared to understand that he has a higher risk of dying in Iraq...but staying and doing duty for the comrades he belittled...beats slinking away.

For that reason, MIchael Yon, covering the Unit Beauchamp was in, elected not to interview "Scott" because Yon judged Beauchamp's reclaimation project would be harmed by jounalist scrutiny.

Henry said...

Noonan's lead in is interesting:

I'll jump here, or lurch I suppose, to something I am concerned about that I think I am observing accurately.

Funny. She knows she's about to sound like a cranky old fart, so she's asking us to give her the benefit of the doubt.

I roll my eyes. Those crusty old newsmen of yore had their share of posers and fabulists.

Yet I can understand where Noonan gets her apprehensions. At it's core, the graduate school I attended was a pretty nihilistic place (if also a lot of fun).

But I don't think deconstructionism (or post modernism) turned Franklin Foer into a gullible ass-covering fool. People come that way naturally.

David said...

Cedarford...I don't think someone has to read Derrida or whoever to be influenced by the activities of academics. There is a transmission chain: academics influence journalists, who in turn influence celebrities, who influence the general population.

There was an old Royal Navy saying: "Today's quarterdeck roast is tomorrow's lower-deck stew," implying that what is discussed among the officers today will be discussed among the enlisted sailors (probably in distorted form) tomorrow.

Related: see my post on The Dictatorship of Theory.

MadisonMan said...

Who is this they that isn't reading Dostoevsky in College?

Ms. Noonan throws out sentences. They sound good, but there is no corroborating evidence.

ricpic said...

All Noonan is saying is that the super privileged super spoiled are gonna get it wrong because they can't even comprehend the world outside their gated community. And she's right.

J said...

"They didn't have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky"

Which was almost certainly more interesting.

Tim said...

Ricpic nails it:

"I'm not sure it's always good to grow up surrounded by stability, immersed in affluence, and having had it drummed into you that you are entitled to be a member of the next leadership class. To have this background in the modern era is to come from a ghetto, the luckiest ghetto in the world, a golden ghetto beyond whose walls it can be hard to see. There's much to be said for suffering, for being on the outside or the bottom, for having to have fought yourself up and through. It can leave you grounded. It can give you real knowledge not only of the world and of other men but of yourself. In some ways it can leave you less cynical. (Not everything comes down to money.) And in some ways it leaves you just cynical enough."

This, obviously, explains much about contemporary America. And if you think she's speaking in just Left/Right terms, you don't get it.

Freder Frederson said...

You would think that considering how bent out of shape right wing pundits get when they discover journalists being deceptive or lying, they might show a little concern about the lies and deception of the administration.

But then again they are all too happy, Ann included, to spread lies and half-truths when it serves their own purposes (e.g., the recent "12 year old on SCHIP has rich parents who have granite counter tops and a $400,000 home).

Gedaliya said...

I yearn for the day when "journalists" were reporters who got their start as copy boys on the city desk. I grew up in a three newspaper town (Detroit), and I doubt whether any of their reporters ever saw the inside of a college classroom. Their education came from the police blotter, the city council meeting, and the smoke-filled room.

I think a good case can be made that the decline in newspaper readership began precisely on the day when "journalist" replaced "newspaperman" in the common parlance and when reporting became a profession instead of a job.

Beth said...

Gedaliya: "I yearn for the day when "journalists" were reporters who got their start as copy boys on the city desk."

Gedaliya, I share that sentiment. When I worked on the copy desk at our local paper in the late 1980s, I saw that transition happening, from the men and women who'd learned from the ground up, working every beat in the city they'd grown up in, to the MAs in journalism from Ivy League schools being hired right after graduation and being given top assigments, which of course they turned into mush. They didn't know the business, and they didn't know the city, and they resented every editorial intervention into their work.

You mention the other factor in the decline of quality, the merging of two or more major dailies into one. No competition makes for no achievement.

Richard Dolan said...

Henry: "But I don't think deconstructionism (or post modernism) turned Franklin Foer into a gullible ass-covering fool. People come that way naturally."

I think that's right, except for "naturally." Foer was a man with an agenda, and welcomed convenient fabulism posing as factual reporting because it validated and advanced that agenda. Like Henry, I'd be a little slow to accept Noonan's larger thesis that kids growing up in more comfortable circumstances, and having the benefit of a fancy education, are more apt to suffer from the problem of being always certain but only occasionally right. Conventional wisdom, stereotypes, cliches, worn out habits of thought, mental laziness, a refusal to look and see -- in short, all the many ways people force the complexities and contradictions in the world around them into comfortable pigeon holes that don't really fit -- aren't restricted to upper middle class Gen X kids and have absolutely nothing to do with "deconstruction." Here as elsewhere Peggy displays a bit of the same blindness she purports to decry -- it pops up every time she waxes sentimental about firemen, cops, blue collar types in general, whom she regards as purer, more heroic and manly, living closer to the simpler and morally centered life she often extolls. The truth is that those virtues -- indeed, any virtues -- aren't a function of one's occupation or economic success; and education, even at a fancy college, is not the problem here.

It's worth noting, too, that while Noonan's immediate target was the TNR's willingness to use Beauchamp's fiction to advance its political agenda against the Iraq War and the Bushies in general, her point applies with much greater force to lots of stuff getting attention in blog-land. That the TNR has been so badly damaged by this episode is a back-handed testament to the reality that readers expect (and normally get) more respectful treatment of the facts from journals like TNR. I don't think Peggy's metaphor of a golden ghetto explains the problem at the TNR. Instead, that strikes me more as a strange and self-destructive tale about Foer's cowardice in facing his and his editors' obvious failures combined with blind arrogance in believing that no one will notice if they just pretend long enough that everything was just fine.

Gedaliya said...

You mention the other factor in the decline of quality, the merging of two or more major dailies into one. No competition makes for no achievement.

Absolutely true. The competition between the Free Press (morning) and the News (afternoon) was fierce (the Times folded in the early '60s). In our house we took both papers, my mother preferring the more liberal Free Press, my father the more conservative News. I loved reading both papers, although I was not allowed to read the News until after my father finished it upon his return from work. I remember to this day the sense the grievance I felt about having to wait, but he was a stickler for having the paper in the proper order when he picked it up and blew a gasket if he found someone had read it before he did.

Now those two papers are simply ghastly...unreadable. Their death, and the death of most of the great regional newspapers in the United States is a real blow to our public discourse and culture. It is one of the great disappointments of my life that I lived to see the death of the American newspaper.

I am in India right now (soon to return to the US), and one thing that makes this place so interesting is that it has an amazingly robust newspaper culture. Here in Hyderabad, a city of about 6 million, there are at least four major English daily papers, two or more in the local Telugu language, and a few more in both Urdu and Hindi. It is a delight to go to the corner store and have a pick of so many fine newspapers, with much local news with LOTS of police blotter stuff, stories about corrupt politicians and business men....political commentary from across the spectrum, and countless human interest stories and features. What a contrast it is to the USA Today crapola that in our nation does nothing more than pollute the public discourse.

rcocean said...

Actually PN isn't talking about "kids today" she's discussing today's leadership class, age 30-40; that grew up in a "Golden Ghetto" and have little life experience.

The implication is that editors who know real life US marines/soldiers would have rejected STB's drama queen crap. Or as Noonan says about Morrow's boys:

They found out who, what, where, when, why. And they would have looked at the half-baked, overcooked junior Hemingway of Scott Thomas Beauchamp and said, "That sounds like a buncha hooey."

Freder Frederson said...

The implication is that editors who know real life US marines/soldiers would have rejected STB's drama queen crap. Or as Noonan says about Morrow's boys:

Too bad Noonan didn't say the same thing when Cheney said "there is no doubt Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear programs" or Wolfowitz claimed Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the aftermath of the invasion.

Talk about fabulists!

Freder Frederson said...

What a contrast it is to the USA Today crapola that in our nation does nothing more than pollute the public discourse.

True, with pieces of crap papers like the WSJ and "journalists" and pundits like Noonan, Malkin, Rush, and Drudge, a good chunk of the country now believes that waterboarding isn't torture.

Who would have believed such nonsense just seven or eight short years ago?

Palladian said...

Freder is the USA Today of commenters.

No, more like the Village Voice, without all the interesting porn ads.

Freder Frederson said...

No, more like the Village Voice, without all the interesting porn ads.

Yep, here on the blog of Ms. Ann Althouse (who insists that she is the voice of mainstream moderate America) declaring that waterboarding is torture (or insisting that the whole government adopt the interrogation tactics of the military) puts one out in far left field with the Village Voice.

You people are precious.

Palladian said...

Well, precious, I didn't realize we were discussing TORTURE!. I thought we were talking about Peggy Noonan and newspapers. Which might qualify as a kind of torture...

Anyway, I have some watercress to waterboard... I mean, rinse.

Freder Frederson said...

Well, precious, I didn't realize we were discussing TORTURE!. I thought we were talking about Peggy Noonan and newspapers. Which might qualify as a kind of torture...

We were talking about fabulists and the lack of credulity among journalists. Peggy Noonan seems to think that it is a disease of the left, apparently because they didn't have it tough enough, like she (or Ronald Reagan) did when she was growing up.

Back in the good old days when Peggy was growing up she had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before she went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day at the WSJ, and pay the owner for permission to come to work, and when she got home, her Dad would kill her and dance about on her grave singing "Hallelujah."

But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya'.

I was just pointing out that in spite of her underpriveleged childhood, she accepts without question all the bullshit the administration feeds her. So the problem is not one solely of the left nor is caused by what she claims.

Freder Frederson said...

Of course I should have put much of my last comment in quotes as it was part of a Monty Python sketch--for those of you who didn't immediately recognize it.

Palladian said...

"I was just pointing out that in spite of her underpriveleged childhood, she accepts without question all the bullshit the administration feeds her."

We're all eating some sort of bullshit, aren't we, precious? The difference is that some of us don't choose to constantly regurgitate it onto other people's pleasant conversations.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Freder gives humorless harpyism a bad name.

Revenant said...

Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" was the only book I ever tossed aside in favor of reading the Cliff's Notes. It would have made a great short story if it wasn't a thousand pages long.

Palladian said...

Try reading "Being and Nothingness" no story, bad ideas and still 1000 pages long.

Trooper York said...

On the other hand, Slave Girls of Gor, 398 pages of pure bliss, and they never discuss climate change despite the title.

John Stodder said...

Too bad Noonan didn't say the same thing when Cheney said "there is no doubt Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear programs" or Wolfowitz claimed Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the aftermath of the invasion.

Let me try to understand you. Because Cheney made a statement based on bad intel (but the only intel he had), and because Wolfowitz was looking at the Iraq war through rose-colored glasses, Peggy Noonan does not have the right to complain that the New Republic has a credulous fool for an editor; one who has staked his reputation on an assertion of the truthfulness of what are now shown to be flat-out lies. She has no right to say Foer's lack of real-world experience caused him to be so credulous? Is that what you mean?

So what follows from that? Franklin Foer should be permitted to continue publishing flat-out lies and Peggy Noonan can't object to it until she agrees with you about Cheney and Wolfowitz?

There's a term for this kind of argument: "Ad hominum." You're arguing against Peggy Noonan as a person because she's not of your political stripe, while refusing to engage her arguments on this point. But in doing so, your own position becomes open to ridicule.

Ad hominum arguments are always invalid. To oppose an opinion only because the opinion is expressed by a Republican, or a member of a certain group, or funded by XYZ, or expressed an opinion you don't like about another subject, is a logical fallacy. The validity of her points is not affected by whether or not she agreed with Cheney or Wolfowitz.

When I read ad hominem such as Freder's here, my first instinct is to assume the person who resorted to it lacks a real opposing argument and is trying to distract me. When you analyze it, it always turns out that the user of ad hominem tactics has less than nothing, and is in fact a completely, hopelessly muddled thinker. Hopefully that's not the case with Frederson.

Let's cut to the chase, Frederson. Do you think Franklin Foer's reign as editor of the New Republic is praiseworthy? If so, given the facts, why do you think so? If not, does Noonan's argument that Foer bought into what should have been obvious lies because he lacks the kind of real-world experience journalists of a previous generation has validity?

P.S. I think there is some ad hominem around the edges of Noonan's piece, too. I don't think her reference to deconstruction is particularly persuasive. The theories of deconstructionism might be fallacious, but I don't think it's fair to associate them with a lying writer or a dumb editor. Maybe her point was that Foer's time in college was wasted because he studied silly theories and didn't read Dostoevsky, but she doesn't know that, and even if she did, it's irrelevant. The old-style editors Noonan compares Foer to might have skipped Dostoevsky too.

Trooper York said...

Peggy Day stole my poor heart away
By golly, what more can I say
Love to spend the night with Peggy Day.

Peggy might makes my future look so bright
Man, that girl is ought of sight
Love to spend the day with Peggy night.

Well, you know that even before I learned her name
You know I loved her just the same
And I tell them all, wherever I may go
Just so they'll know, that she's my little lady
And I love her so.

Peggy Day stole my poor heart away
Turned my skies to blue from gray
Love to spend the night with Peggy Day.

(Bob Dylan)

Ernst Blofeld said...

I'm reminded of the dialog from the sublime "Metropolitan":

Audrey Rouget: What Jane Austen novels have you read?

Tom Townsend: None. I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it's all just made up by the author.

Peter Palladas said...

In my day you weren't allowed out the door until you'd read all the major novels.

You weren't, of course, allowed to say a single word about any of them until you had committed some terrible act of personal, political or sexual betrayal and then found repentance and salvation through the redemptive love of a woman.

You could, mind you, carry an umbrella but only if it was clear that you understood its symbolic significance to the actions of both Dmitri and Alyosha.

AlphaLiberal said...

This issue is beyond rational debate. But there's a lot fishy about the attacks on TNR (a mag I, and other liberals, don't much care for).

For example, why has the military refused to provide public documents to TNR but they will to Drudge and other right wingers?

But, this is just a hoot. A quote from Orwell capturing the whole "Hate Beauchamp" thing:
A Party member…is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party. The discontents produced by his bare, unsatisfying life are deliberately turned outwards and dissipated by such devices as the Two Minutes Hate, and the speculations which might possibly induce a sceptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline…called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

AlphaLiberal said...

Here are more facts on the attitudes toward abuse by American troops (a product of lousy leadership), as well as the continued politicization of the American military under Bush.

"Actually, the study found that at least 10% of U.S. forces reported that they had personally, and without cause, mistreated "noncombatants" (not detainees) through physical violence or damage to personal property."

'...nearly one in five said that all noncombatants "should be treated as insurgents." '

Who is living in a fantasy land now?