David Thompson
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June 15, 2015

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rjmadden

cultural critic Lee Siegel

Who in their right mind gets into mortgage-size debt to be a 'cultural critic'?

David

Who in their right mind gets into mortgage-size debt to be a ‘cultural critic’?

Yes, it’s a peculiar conceit. I shouldn’t imagine there are vast numbers of people who pay their mortgages and household bills with the proceeds from cultural criticism. It isn’t something that leaps out as a viable career and sound investment. As a way to earn a living, it strikes me as no more likely than being a world-renowned rock star or international supermodel. I’m not even sure why someone would assume, and assume so expensively, that cultural criticism is a thing one needs several degrees to do. I mean, in a small and unglamorous way, it’s what we do here, isn’t it?

Henry

I'm sure we touched on Rachel Dolezal here but a cursory search on my part bore no fruit. Briefly this lady is "Professor of Africana studies" and "Spokane president of the NAACP" - that's the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - and pretended to be black*. She's of Czech-German heritage.

That's sort of funny. But one thing I like to bring to people's attention is when such figures fake hate-crimes. It's early days yet, so take it with a proverbial pinch of salt, but I'll be keeping an eye on this story.

Because Ms Dolezal also reported, amongst other things, some hate mail directed at the NAACP that, it turns out..

was never sent through the regular mail and, according to postal employees, could only have been placed in the organization's post office box by someone with a key

A common trajectory would be a retraction of sorts from Ms Dolezal, followed by her not losing her job or position in the NAACP, and nobody batting an eyelid.

* I understand she ticked not just "White" and "Black", but also "Native American" as her ethnic group on job application forms.

David

could only have been placed in the organization’s post office box by someone with a key

But if victimhood is a credential, a sign of radical authenticity, and if no-one is actually victimising you, what’s a girl to do? And a fabricated “hate crime” is just as useful.

Also, this:

I’ll just leave that there, shall I?

sackcloth and ashes

'Also, this'.

Sideshow Bob?

David

Sideshow Bob?

The Ms Dolezal saga does, I think, capture the flavour of identity politics and its inevitable role-play. In that she, like so many others, is pretending to be a cartoon approximation of a given identity group, in this case a black woman.

rjmadden

I mean, in a small and unglamorous way, it’s what we do here, isn’t it?

Don't be modest. :-)

David

Don’t be modest. :-)

Heh. I’m not often accused of that. But the notion of cultural criticism as a necessarily, or even ideally, academic activity, one requiring multiple degrees from a statusful university, seems rather antiquated and silly. Precious in the pejorative sense. In many respects, academia has become antithetical to certain lines of enquiry and certain types of evidence. As noted by Roger Kimball, above.

Bluntnose

I mean, in a small and unglamorous way, it’s what we do here, isn’t it?

Quite. If you really wanted some tertiary training for cultural commentary, surely a degree in history would serve you better.

Lancastrain Oik

Mephiticrievance.

Neologism, or spelling mistale? Either way, I quite like it.

David

The spam filter is getting ideas above its station. If anyone has trouble with comments not appearing, email me and I’ll sacrifice a puppy.

JuliaM

"In her book, Tina Nash describes how she tried bravely to get on with life after being blinded. After she finished the book, she found a new boyfriend. He has just been sent to prison for assaulting her. "

I don't know whether I want to cry, laugh or scream...

sackcloth and ashes

'The Ms Dolezal saga does, I think, capture the flavour of identity politics and its inevitable role-play. In that she, like so many others, is pretending to be a cartoon approximation of a given identity group, in this case a black woman'.

There is that question of what do you do if (for whatever reason) you are profoundly unsatisfied with what you are.

Aside from taking the Walter Mitty route, you can make definite changes to your life. Changing religion, or political allegiance, is easy. From the Bolsheviks to the 1968 generation to the Islamists now, poor little rich (or comfortably middle class) boys and girls have turned towards the red or green flag. Ex-Trotskyists have become neo-cons, and various creatures have made excursions from the far-left to the far-right without any problems at all.

As for class, traditionally education and self-improvement were seen as the way out of the mine or the mill for the aspirant worker. The armed forces (the Army in particular) has always provided a home and a way out for anyone who doesn't want to spend a life on the dole in a rust-belt. Conversely, guilty-minded toffs have had a tendency to reinvent themselves so that they can be prolier-than-thou (e.g. the late 'Tony' Benn).

It used to be that you could never change your gender or your race, but you can now do the former if (say) you are a man who wants to be a woman. But if you're white, and you want to be black, you cannot change that at all. And any effort to do so lends you to ridicule.

It must be a sad existence. You're alienated from your family and your old friends because of your pathological issues, while the 'oppressed' and supposedly morally superior group you want to join will always regard you as a face.

I think the only comparison here is with the likes of Miriam Margoyles, Alexei Sayle and a minority of clowns who have eagerly embraced the 'anti-Zionist' cause, not realising (or preferring to ignore) the fact that many of those who join them on the protest marches would happily exterminate them along with the less 'repentant' Jews.

David

Jonah Goldberg on the left’s politicising of culture:

Only someone who lives in the lifestyle bubble of MSNBC liberalism would ask a character for children [i.e., Miss Piggy] whether she was pro-choice or not.

He’s not making it up.

Goldberg’s article on Battlestar Galactica, linked in the piece and here, is also worth a squint.

R. Sherman

Re: Dalrymple

So, we discover Ms. Nash's mother was a fuck-up; Ms. Nash is a fuck-up. Any wagers on where her children end up? And how many generations of fuck-ups are we to endure before the State's wisdom, treasure and supervision yield tangible benefits to society as a whole? Weren't we promised 50 or 60 years ago that the "War on Poverty" would eliminate such behaviors and consign memoirs like Ms. Nash's to the dusty shelves of the history section in our local libraries?

David

Franklin Einspruch on the art media’s fawning over “mattress girl” Emma Sulkowicz:

Her piece, entitled “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” was named by Jerry Saltz of New York Magazine one of the best art shows of 2014. That’s not the sort of thing we usually think of as a show, but never mind. “This work is pure radical vulnerability,” he gushed. Ben Davis of Artnet wrote that it was “almost certainly already one of the most important artworks of the year,” and furthermore praised its “thoughtfully composed symbolism.” Roberta Smith wrote for the New York Times, “it seems certain that the piece has set a very high standard for any future work she’ll do as an artist and will also earn her a niche in the history of intensely personal yet aggressively political performance art.”

Because slandering a fellow student in the most appalling way possible – and being given course credit for doing so – makes her terribly radical, and brave, and non-conformist.

wtp

The Ms Dolezal saga does, I think, capture the flavour of identity politics and its inevitable role-play. In that she, like so many others, is pretending to be a cartoon approximation of a given identity group, in this case a black woman.

While it is amusing and enlightening to see a white woman pretending to be a cartoon approximation of a given identity, it is depressing to watch so many in the black community pretending to be a cartoon approximation of black America itself. This being reproduced millions of times across the country on a daily basis. The phony conceit of "authenticity" that one can see played out in many of the #AskRachel tweets that Dicentra linked on a previous thread.

Dom

Does Lee Siegel know that he will not receive social security payments when he retires? And when that happens, will he claim it is unfair?

David

it is depressing to watch so many in the black community pretending to be a cartoon approximation of black America itself.

Absolutely. If you watch the reality show Cops, you’ll see this every week. It’s quite strange, watching people whose uniform affectations suggest they’re aspiring downwards to an unflattering parody. A cartoon version of negro-ness that’s actively encouraged by so-called educators.

Spiny Norman

wtp,

... it is depressing to watch so many in the black community pretending to be a cartoon approximation of black America itself.

I can only marvel at how "authenticity" has become "talk like an idiot and act like a buffoon", seemingly "proving" the ugliest racial stereotypes. Did this behavior start off as mocking the white racists' caricatures, but the practitioners have completely lost sight of it, and have really become that stupid?

David

Regarding identity politics, Jeff Goldstein has some thoughts:

An obvious problem with the grievance aspect of identity politics is that the grievance needs to be perpetually maintained in order to justify the identity aspect of the politics. And in an era of academic specialisation wherein just about every individual identity group has its own set of researchers and theoretical champions — as well as a widely accepted generic narrative of grievance — the observation that continued relevance (which translates into political power) is contingent upon the nursing and care of the grievance is something that too often goes unexamined by a society that, at base, really does wish to understand and fix the problems and frustrations expressed by individual identity groups.

A long read, but worth it.

The original Mr. X

In re: the Rachel Dolezal affair, we're always being told that gender is "just a social construct", and that therefore if somebody chooses to identity as a certain gender we should accept that, no questions asked. We're also told that race is just a social construct. Therefore...

PiperPaul

"The Ms Dolezal saga does, I think, capture the flavour of identity politics and its inevitable role-play"

My apologies if I've posted this Hofferism here before:

"The followers of a mass movement see themselves on the march with drums beating and colors flying. They are participators in a soul-stirring drama played to a vast audience--generations gone and generations yet to come. They are made to feel they are not their real selves but actors playing a role, and their doing a "performance", rather than as the real thing."
The True Believer
Eric Hoffer
1951

David

I can only marvel at how “authenticity” has become “talk like an idiot and act like a buffoon”

David Starkey made a not dissimilar point in the wake of the 2011 London riots. His comments regarding a “particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture” enraged much of the left and led to his now-famous exchange with Laurie Penny.

mojo

Cultural criticism? Is that what we're doing?

Kind of a fancy tag for "dissing the idiots and mountebanks that infest society", isn't it?

Oh well. Maybe I need a Harvard degree to understand the nuance. Being a mere engineer and all.

mojo

BTW: David Starkey's "Monarchy" is absolutely the best historical examination of the English manner of government's development I've ever seen.

Nikw211

Related to Williamson's piece on Siegel, Ursula K. Le Guin is nervous for the state of American literature on account of the fact that writers are being threatened by "Corporate Fatwa".

Apparently.

    Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice art. Developing written material in order to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profits and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship […]

    Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed charging public libraries for an eBook 6 or 7 times more than they charge customers … letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, who tell us what to publish and what to write …

    The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in Capitalism. It's power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.

I'd offer the link to the video, but honestly it takes her like half a f****g hour to spit out what she's trying to say. It is on YouTube though.

neal

http://fan.tcm.com/video/duck-amuck-1953
Erasing characters on celluoid is an art. That stuff has nitro built in.

Very flammable.

And when the erasers get going, they last forever.

Darleen

The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art.

oh lord

Whenever anyone trots out that line it is because, well, they don't want to actually work for an audience. So messy and uncomfortable to actually have to deal with those people and what they may actually enjoy buying.

I Am Artist! You will worship me with your money!

Failing that, it must be up to Government to sustain the Artist and teach those little people what is in their best interests.

I'm sad to see Le Guin yearning for a return to time where Artists didn't have to work for an audience, just had to secure a rich patron. Just this time, it needs to be The State.

I didn't realize what a misanthtope she was.

David

The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art.

I posted this in the comments a few days ago. Alex Tabarrok tries to shoehorn basic economics into the mind of Ursula K Le Guin:

Does anyone doubt that it is easier to buy a niche book today than it ever has been in the entire history of the world? Indeed, does anyone doubt that it is easier to buy an Ursula K Le Guin book today than it ever has been in the entire history of the world?

Presumably it’s a comfort to blame “Capitalism” for the changing appetites of the public.

the wolf

Only someone who lives in the lifestyle bubble of MSNBC liberalism would ask a character for children [i.e., Miss Piggy] whether she was pro-choice or not.

Wait til they find out how offensive Miss Piggy is to Muslims.

I sneeze in threes

Do you think Rachel Dolezal was a fan of The Jerk?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANph32LoXR4

dicentra

"British Novelist to American Grads: There’s Nothing Virtuous about Being Offended"

Ian McEwan, is who.

Notice where the applause lines are NOT. Also consider that those students probably don't get most of his historical references -- Salman Rushdie for example -- and think that the purpose of free speech is to be nice to each other.

Poor sots: when they realize how incredibly ill-served they've been by their teachers, they're going to be hella angry.

ac1

Someone remind "artistes" that wages are the profit for using their time.

WTP

Yes, Squeeze. I forgot about that one. But I have been awaiting the appearance of Lou Reed. Though I suppose it's a bit too strong, as this was the best version I could find after a short search. I recall a live version being much better.

I wanna be black, be like Martin Luther King
Get myself shot in the spring
Lead a whole generation too
And f**k up the Jews
...
I don't wanna be a f****d up middle class college student anymore...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4ehoomjQjfI

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

So the crazy and the silly are our cultural betters, huh, and we need to give them all of our attention and money?

Which one of these clowns is the Nekkid Emperor? Let's get this over with!

abacab

"The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. "

So you have no need of money then?

Good, glad to have that sorted out.

Hal

So the crazy and the silly are our cultural betters, huh, and we need to give them all of our attention and money?

Oh, no, not betters, and why bother with any attention at all? Genuine musicians and mathematicians and writers just command the attention without demanding, because they just are genuine musicians and mathematicians and writers.

Which one of these clowns is the Nekkid Emperor?

One?

abacab

Further to last: is grubbing for taxpayers' lucre not also bowing to the "profit motive"? Or is it sufficiently progressive and thus different, because shut up?

David

More on the lofty Mr Siegel from Patterico

Here’s the thing: there is indeed a problem with the price of higher education. One of the main problems is that the price results from a bubble caused in no small part by government subsidies. To economists, this is no surprise. When you subsidise something, the price goes up. But leftist writers think the cause is actually the solution, leading to unintentionally humorous headlines like this recent deck headline from the Atlantic: “Despite spiralling tuition, government subsidies for higher education are — contrary to popular belief — at an all-time high.” One is reminded of the famous New York Times headline: “Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates.” The amusing “Despite Predictable Result, The Cause of That Result Exists” headline is fun to mock, of course — but the stupefying ignorance revealed by these sorts of headlines isn’t funny.

And so we get leftist students protesting about tuition fees while simultaneously demanding an even more bloated diversity bureaucracy.

AC1

"When you subsidise something, the price goes up."

But more importantly quality declines.

Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

Hal, we need a parade of our Nekkid Emperors.

Shudder.

Hal

Lesseeeee . . . adding pictures. Hadn't thought of that before, but yes, it's doable.

MissAnthropy

So, do you suppose Rachel Dolezal consummated her transracialism with triumphant use of the word "nigger"? I bet she could not wait until the day she was able to use the word for herself.

I'm reminded of the TV show Seinfeld, when Jerry begins to suspect his dentist converted to Judaism solely for the right to tell jokes about Jews.

David

Speaking of Ms Dolezal and her strange little brain:

Dolezal was interviewed for a Spokane, Washington podcast in which the former NAACP chapter president bemoans, and wants to boycott, the movie Exodus because Christian Bale is, in the words of host Taylor Weech, a “white European” playing a “north African” part. So to summarise, the white woman who pretended she was black wanted to boycott a movie where a white man played the role of an African. She made this observation while in the guise of her black character to the same radio host to whom she later told made-up tales about her pretend black father.

Some psychodramas are just too perfect.

Henry

So a male student at Amherst College goes back to bed with a female, falls asleep rather early - as you do. While he sleeps she performs oral sex on him.

Nearly 2 years later she decides to accuse him of sexual assault. Unfortunately Amherst College had exactly the sort of guilty-until-proven-innocent hearing standards that Laurie Penny and her mates would like to see for male on female sexual assault cases. They expelled the male student, apparently because he couldn't prove his innocence 2 years after the event.

Good job his clever lawyer found texts that show the students innocence, eh? Well it didn't help - Amherst College refused to open the case.

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