Comfortably Smug


Somewhere between the Kardashians and the Franzens of the world lie the rest of us. "Call it upper middle brow," says William Deresiewicz:

It is post- rather than pre-ironic, its sentimentality hidden by a veil of cool. It is edgy, clever, knowing, stylish, and formally inventive. It is Jonathan Lethem, Wes Anderson, Lost in TranslationGirls, Stewart/Colbert, The New YorkerThis American Life and the whole empire of quirk, and the films that should have won the Oscars (the films you’re not sure whether to call films or movies). The upper middle brow possesses excellence, intelligence, and integrity. It is genuinely good work (as well as being most of what I read or look at myself).

The problem is it always lets us off the hook. Like Midcult, it is ultimately designed to flatter its audience, approving our feelings and reinforcing our prejudices. It stays within the bounds of what we already believe, affirms the enlightened opinions we absorb every day in the quality media, the educated bromides we trade on Facebook. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, doesn’t seek to disturb—the definition of a true avant-garde—our fundamental view of ourselves, or society, or the world. (Think, by contrast, of some truly disruptive works: The WireBlood Meridian, almost anything by J. M. Coetzee.)

Alan Jacobs ponders the piece:

Religion, Race And Double Standards

Below are all the posts regarding Andrew’s examination of the Mormon church’s troubled history with race and how it relates to Mitt Romney’s shape-shifting character. Tue Oct 23, 2012 – 8:30pm: Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had never attended Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago and had decided to attend services, and proselytize for, … Continue reading Religion, Race And Double Standards

Day Three Reax: Can Obamacare Survive Without The Mandate?

Some highlights from today's oral arguments: Allahpundit thinks Sotomayor's argument in favor of severability, heard at the end of the video above, has some merit: The argument for having the Court kill the whole thing is more pragmatic than legal, I think — no one wants to see insurers go out of business because Congress … Continue reading Day Three Reax: Can Obamacare Survive Without The Mandate?

Criminalize Crime, Not Hate, Ctd

Last Friday, a jury found Dharun Ravi guilty of, among other charges, "bias intimidation" against Tyler Clementi because of his sexual orientation. R.M. at DiA is troubled:

For many this will be seen as a victory against homophobia and cyberbullying. But others will see it as overkill by prosecutors bent on avenging the death of Mr Clementi. Despite holding nothing but contempt for Mr Ravi, I tend towards the latter interpretation. Society's harsh moral judgment of Mr Ravi could not be adequately reflected in the law, nor could the law properly account for Mr Clementi's suicide. So prosecutors piled bias intimidation charges on top of the more appropriate spying and tampering ones, essentially doubling the possible sentence, in an effort to express the public's disdain for the defendant and somehow balance Mr Ravi's callous acts with Mr Clementi's tragic death.

I find it repellent as well. This was a bigoted online hazing followed by a judicial witch-hunt. Jacob Sullum explains how tenuous the hate crime charges really were:

Under New Jersey's law, bigotry is not even necessary.

The Journalists’ Candidate

Ryan Lizza lists "electoral outcomes journalists are secretly rooting for." A Huntsman upset in New Hampshire is among them: [T]he press loves Huntsman. Jacob Weisberg wrote an excellent and mostly positive profile for Vogue. Joe Klein says Huntsman "refuses to pander to the know-nothing zealots who’ve overrun his party" and has "proposed the most thoughtful roster of policy initiatives of … Continue reading The Journalists’ Candidate

What About Kids In Restaurants?


by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

Although I like dogs, I have never owned one. I'll say this though: for almost every letter from the anti-dog people, especially that first reader, replace the word "dog" with the "child" and you'll have my position. Exactly. And I'll bet a lot of your readers feel the exact the same way.

Another demonstrates:

So, the third letter here had me thinking that I know lots of people who don't like kids say nearly the same things about dogs. Let's change the appropriate words…