It is as if the stars in the heavens were faltering in their orbits. One media icon is down; another has been damaged. “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem,” blared the headline in Mother Jones magazine. The Fox News Channel host stands accused of recounting “stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny.”
[Update: According to the Washington Post, yesterday Paramount Pictures, the maker of Team America, pulled that film—a 2004 puppet animation satirizing Kim Jong Il, among other targets—from all theaters. Alamo Drafthouse’s defiant showing of it will apparently not take place.]
Last month, when hackers invaded the personal and medical information of every employee of Sony Pictures, and then threatened to bomb any theater that screened the studio’s new movie, The Interview, the reaction was clueless.
It was a Seth Rogen comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, and the hackers were presumed to be the North Koreans or their proxies. Here was a private American company being punished by sophisticated cyber-attackers from abroad who menaced life and limb. But so what—Rogen and other Hollywood figures like Aaron Sorkin did nothing but complain about the disclosure of their private emails in the massive cyber attack. The entertainment press that covers them (such as the website The Wrap) was similarly preoccupied, hyping the gossipy highlights of those emails.
That this was shaping up as a much bigger event became inescapable yesterday, though.
George Nash, the dean of Herbert Hoover scholars, wrote about our 31st President most recently in the Wall Street Journal, commemorating the centenary of Hoover’s heroic World War I disaster-relief efforts in Europe. Nash described how, in 1914, a young and successful London-based mining engineer made his move “to ‘get in the big game’ of public life.”
Nash’s words capture a do-gooding impulse, but one that is mixed with personal ambition. This interesting alloy should be familiar. It puts Herbert Hoover in a long line of Americans in whom self-improvement and world-improvement seem inextricably tied—a line stretching back in our history, at least to Benjamin Franklin, and forward into our time.
There’s something deliciously impertinent about Dinesh D’Souza. Watch D’Souza here, facing off against Bill Ayers in front of a full auditorium. He opens with a joke about metal detectors, a sly reference to the bombs Ayres set off in the 1960s. A few minutes later, he skewers Ayres for his cushy trust fund background. Attaboy Dinesh, you’ll be saying, in admiration of his guts and his articulate defense of America.
Debating the A-list celebrities of the Left is one thing; offering a conservative message to mainstream America in a movie is another. The filmmaker had better 1) understand America; and 2) be not just pro-American but an artist—or else he turns into a Rightwing version of other entertaining but tendentious filmmakers like, say, Michael Moore.
D’Souza’s new documentary America: Imagine a World Without Her has apparently out-earned Moore’s Capitalism at the box office.
Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) spoke at yesterday’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus press conference about the impasse on Capitol Hill concerning the unaccompanied Central American minors now flooding across the Mexican border. He segued into Spanish at the end of his comments. “Gutierrez reportedly increased his rhetoric when he switched to Spanish,” according to Realclearpolitics, which linked to some back and forth between PBS’ Gwen Ifill and the Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe over whether the Congressman got more intemperate after he switched languages. You be the judge. Here is the tail end of the three-minute Realclear clip. For context, I join him while he is…
In 1935, the Bolsheviks thought up a great way to make friends and influence people. They created a Popular Front and invited anyone who was left-of-center to join. Capitalism was faltering at the time, as was liberal democracy in Continental countries. Quite a few Americans and Europeans responded to the Pop Front outreach by welcoming Soviet Russia into the family of nations, honoring it as the lead power opposing fascism, and even hoping their own troubled societies would move toward the Soviet model.
Americans have always been strivers. Since at least the 19th century we have been eager to file into lecture halls to be talked at by experts. Those obnoxious-seeming TED talks that I’ve tried to avoid are not a new feature of our national life. As others have pointed out, TED’s great-great-granddaddy is the Chautauqua, named for the rural meetings at Lake Chautauqua in New York state, which began in the 1870s and became a nationwide circuit of lectures and instructional assemblies.
Midwesterners are tolerant people. Bicoastal snobbery toward “fly-over country” irks us, sometimes, but chances are we’ll politely let it ride. The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History urges us to get a little gumption.