Reviewing Daniel Schreiber’s Susan Sontag: A Biography, Carl Rollyson attributes the late critic and novelist’s decades-long prominence to “the time-tested American trick of self reinvention” – and he doesn’t mean that entirely as a compliment:
When the argument of Against Interpretation that art is a matter of form, not content—that conveying messages is not the purpose of art, but that art in itself is the message—got stale and became a staple of too many critics, Sontag switched sides. In “Fascinating Fascism,” she declared that the content of Leni Riefenstahl’s films and photographs is irretrievably fascist and cannot be countermanded by considerations of form and style. At every stage of her career, Sontag performed a similar volte face, saying, for example, that communism is fascism with a human face—although earlier she had shouted “Viva Fidel!” The capper on this career-long repudiation of her own ideas came when she said she never really believed what she wrote in Against Interpretation.
One commonly proposed solution to the organ shortage derives from behavioral economic “nudge” principles. Rather than requiring Americans to complete paperwork in order to opt-in to donation at death, the country could shift to the European model of presuming that donation at death was acceptable. But Tom Mone, chief executive of OneLegacy, the nation’s largest organ and tissue recovery organization, points out that “The recovery rate for deceased donors in the United States is actually better than that of European nations with presumed consent laws. The United States rigorously follows individual donor registrations whereas presumed consent countries actually defer to family objections.”
In any event, because less than 1% of deceased individuals are medically eligible to donate organs, and 75% of this group in the United States in fact does so, there simply isn’t enough “there there” to remedy the shortage with improved recovery from deceased donors.
He interviews Sally Satel, who advocates for compensating living donors:
I am nerdy, but not a nerd. Let me explain. I am nerdy because I have a Joker bobble heads on my desk, I have Final Fantasy VI on my phone and a Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man keychain. But I’m also an attorney, a theater major, a lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a Dish Subscriber. I am nerdy because I am fluent in Batman and love video games. But I am not a nerd, because if you are not interested in those things, I am capable (nay, enjoy) discussing other things. Current events, dramas, poetry, even baseball. In short, I am more than the things I love.
Loving nerdy things does not make one a nerd. A nerd is a person who can only view life through the things they are obsessed over. It doesn’t matter how they got there, what matters is their inability to see their own tunnel-vision. Therefore, yes, there are sports nerds, political junkie nerds, historical accuracy nerds. They’re everywhere, and they want what they want on their own terms. Alas. Here’s a guy who said it better – Robert Ebert on Revenge of the Nerds II:
These aren’t nerds. They’re a bunch of interesting guys, and that’s the problem with “Revenge of the Nerds II.” The movie doesn’t have the nerve to be about real nerds. It hedges its bets. A nerd is not a nerd because he understands computers and wears a plastic pen protector in his shirt pocket. A nerd is a nerd because he brings a special lack of elegance to life. An absence of style. An inability to notice the feelings of other people. A nerd is a nerd from the inside out, which is something the nerds who made this movie will never understand.
Holy shit. As problematic as the actual content of what this reader wrote is, I find it absolutely spot on as an explanation for why I drifted away from all those stereotypical subcultural things that nerds are into: comic books, video games, sci-fi/fantasy, etc. Loved them as a shy and awkward kid. Learned how to deal with others, be sociable, talk to girls, and get laid when I was about 16. And it wasn’t like I didn’t still enjoy those things. No, it was that it seemed everyone else who enjoyed them was, as your reader writes, in some various stage of arrested development, and pretty insufferable to be around (e.g. “because we’re smarter than the idiots who wouldn’t let us in”). This was two decades ago: I kind of wish the mainstreaming of the things I like had happened back then, because then I could have continued to enjoy them without having to deal with the basement dwellers.
Several, less churlish readers sound off:
Hi Chris, Andrew, and team! I’ve been reading the Dish on and off for more than 10 years, and this is the first topic I’ve ever felt inspired to write in about. Forgive me if this is long, but I feel that a lot of people have been led astray by Gamergate.
For late-breaking Dish coverage of the first confirmed case of Ebola in New York, follow the updates compiled by Bodenner below. For continued coverage of Gamergate, here’s some perspective from Christina Hoff Sommers:
God, I love Christina. More on why I find myself increasingly on the side of the much-despised gamers tomorrow.
Reports imply that because Zehaf-Bibeau was Muslim, jihad is the likely motivation for his attack. But at this stage, without any actual evidence, it makes no more sense to come to that conclusion than it would to assume that he was motivated by Quebecois separatism, just because he was from Quebec. At this point, our focus on the Ottawa shooter’s religion says more about our own fears than it does about anything to do with Islamist terrorism.
A Canadian reader spat out his coffee:
Taub repeatedly refers to him as an (alleged) Muslim even though Canada’s Globe and Mail confirmed his conversion with his Imam, his best friend, his mother and the RCMP within 5 hours of the shooting. Then she implies that there is no real reason to believe in a connection between Islam and the attack even though Canada’s parliament just voted to attack ISIS and two other soldiers were run down by a separate Islamic extremist last week
But the best part, the part that makes this one of the worst articles of the year coming from a credible news source, is when she writes the following about the 1979 shooting at Quebec’s national assembly: “If we applied the same logic to people from Quebec that we apply to Muslims, then today we would see media reports suggesting that their shared Quebecois heritage likely explains this attack.”
Actually, if we applied the same logic to Muslims that we applied to people from Quebec, our prime minister would invoke the War Powers Act, immediately declare martial law in the affected province and round up and arrest any and all suspected sympathizers with the attackers.
Look: it may well turn out Zehaf-Bibeau was mentally ill and Islam got into his muddled head. But he was already on a list as a possible flight risk to ISIS. And the reflexive denial of the salience of a warped version of Islam in countless recent shootings strikes me as pure p.c. posturing. Along with Ezra’s recent capitulation to the “affirmative consent” machine – a few hangings of a few men will suffice for them all to get the message! – the dreary Vox tropes against “Islamophobia” depress the hell out of me. For a saner review of the facts, check out our post here.
Today was Palin day on the Dish! Feels like old times. My response to the right’s jerking knee in defense of the indefensible is here; my fisking of Bristol’s latest self-serving victimology is here. Our Face of the Day was the Canadian Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms – don’t miss the video of him getting a standing ovation entering the House of Commons here. It gave me a lump in my throat. And then some.
Plus: our book club discussion of Sam Harris’ negation of the “self” is here (and your collective mind never disappoints) and an exploration of the changing face of nerdom is here (ditto).
Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 26 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here. Dish t-shirts are for sale here, including the new “Know Dope” shirts, which are detailed here.
See you in the morning.
(Photo from a Dish reader at Oktoberfest in Stuttgart)
After a two-hour meeting between Hong Kong officials and protest leaders made no real progress toward resolving the standoff, the demonstrations continued yesterday, including some 200 protesters marching to the home of the territory’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Many are reportedly outraged over comments Leung made to the foreign press on Monday insisting that open elections were unacceptable because they could give the poor too much of a voice:
In an interview with a small group of journalists from American and European news media organizations, [Leung's] first with foreign media since the city erupted in demonstrations, he acknowledged that many of the protesters are angry over the lack of social mobility and affordable housing in the city. But he argued that containing populist pressures was an important reason for resisting the protesters’ demands for fully open elections. Instead, he backed Beijing’s position that all candidates to succeed him as chief executive, the top post in the city, must be screened by a “broadly representative” nominating committee appointed by Beijing. That screening, he said, would insulate candidates from popular pressure to create a welfare state, and would allow the city government to follow more business-friendly policies to address economic inequality instead.
Beinart ties this in with the debate over voter ID laws and early voting in the US, arguing that “Leung’s views about the proper relationship between democracy and economic policy represent a more extreme version of the views supported by many in today’s GOP”:
Concluding a series of conversations with philosophers of religion – many of which we’ve featuredonthe Dish – Gary Gutting conducts a self-interview, posing and answering the question:
G.G.: How can you be an agnostic and still claim to be a Catholic?
g.g.: Because, despite my agnosticism, I still think it’s worth pursuing the question of whether God exists, and for me the Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition has great value in that pursuit.
G.G.: Still, I don’t see how you can find a place in a church that claims to be the custodian of a divine revelation, when you don’t believe in that revelation.
g.g.: The fundamental revelation is the moral ideal expressed in the biblical account of Christ’s life.
Pew finds that men and women experience different sorts of online harassment:
Jake Swearingen sees how “men, on the whole, report higher rates of less severe types of harassment (with the exception of physical threats), while women are more likely to be the focus of the two most frightening forms of it: sexual harassment and stalking.” Elise Hu connects the Pew survey to Gamergate:
The Pew research supports the notion that women are less welcome in the world of online gaming. Survey respondents, who were both men and women, were asked about a series of online platforms — social networks and online commenting forums, for example — and whether they thought those platforms were more welcoming to women, equally welcome to both sexes or more welcoming toward men. The findings show that while most online environments are viewed as equally welcoming, gaming is not. “The starkest results were for online gaming,” the researchers write, where 44 percent of respondents said the platform was more welcoming to men.
Pew asked respondents to elaborate on their experiences with harassment, and the resulting collection of anonymous accounts speaks to the difficulty of arriving at a shared definition of what “harassment” even is.