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May 2016

Nicholas Kristoff on the Liberal Blind Spot

I'm really glad to hear this from a liberal. I've been saying for years (as you know if you read this blog regularly), that liberals in general are now engaged in the grossest sort of bigotry toward conservatives, and I often think I ought to Just Get Over It, since it doesn't seem likely to change. But it still drives me crazy, because they still congratulate themselves on their open-mindedness, and just don't see the contradiction. Kristof says:

As I see it, we are hypocritical: We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

It’s rare for a column to inspire widespread agreement, but that one led to a consensus: Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.

And that reminds me: one old-time liberal for whom I have great regard is Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. Somehow or other a few days ago I ran across this very interesting commentary on his life and work in The New Atlantis. Yes, The Twilight Zone was preachy, but in a more healthy and thoughtful way than most current liberal preaching.

Oh, and speaking of that: last night I watched a sci-fi film called Elysium, which is about as heavy-handed in its political preaching as you can get. The premise is that in the year 2154 rich evil white people have abandoned the earth that they've plundered and almost destroyed, moving to an enormous space station where they live in comfort and pleasure. The earth is left to noble brown people who live in desperate poverty and are trying to get to the space station, Elysium.

To say that it's an anti-anti-illegal-immigration message film doesn't really do justice to its heavy-handedness. Apart from that, it's a fairly dumb action movie. Usually I can get interested in that sort of thing at least to the extent of wanting to find out what happens, but either I've become jaded or this one was especially dumb. Looking online for reviews afterward, I was surprised to find that it got positive notices from respectable reviewers like Roger Ebert. Anyway, I dis-recommend it. Maybe the only very remarkable thing about it is its stereotyping of white people as evil, really really evil. As I was saying....


Evil White Person played by Jodie Foster plans evil deed.

Amusingly, though, the hero is still a white guy, maybe only because Matt Damon's presence probably guarantees a certain level of ticket sales.

"Dogmas" or "dogmata"?

Which would you use as the plural of "dogma" when writing in a fairly formal context? The first strikes my ear as slightly off, the second as a little pedantic and even maybe pompous to some ears. By "fairly formal context" I mean something meant for the literate general reader, less formal than the academic but more so than correspondence or a blog post.

Corpus Christi

Many years ago I read a statement by Padre Pio that said something along the lines of "It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun and the moon than without the Holy Eucharist." I thought that was hyperbole in the service of a point. But in the past year or two I've begun to think it may be true, not about the physical planet on which we live, but about the human world. This is a variation on the oft-made observation that a post-Christian society is a much sicker thing than a pre-Christian one. The entry of Christ into the world has changed it forever, re-oriented the world around him, even the world that is indifferent to him, and extending by spiritual influence to those parts of it that have never known him. The withdrawal of that presence now might have the effect of destroying essential supports in a large and complex structure.

52 Movies: Week 21 - Molokai


This 1999 Belgian movie about St. Damien of Molokai has some big names in the cast: Peter O'Toole, Leo McKern, Derek Jacobi, Kate Ceberano, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Neill and of course, Faramir (aka David Wenham).


I haven't seen the movie in a while, so I just looked at the trailer.


That alone has the power to bring me to tears, although maybe it wouldn't if I hadn't already seen the movie.

The music by Wim Mertens is lovely. The director was Paul Cox and I think his work on this was very good. This movie is a truly great story and a wonderful piece of art, I think.

A brief interview of David Wenham gives a few interesting details.

I first saw this with a group of friends in Canberra, in 1999 or maybe 2000. It's one of my favourite movies. I love the relationship that is portrayed between Bishop Maigret (McKern) and St. Damien. The conflict between Father Leonor Fouesnel (Jacobi) and St. Damien is all too plausible. No good thing in this life can be done, it seems, without a great deal of conflict and strife!

It would take a fool to come here at all.
—Rudolph Meyer (Kristofferson)

After his first night on the Island, St. Damien is shown giving the old run-down Church a quick cleanup and he begins Mass, with a few of the lepers in attendance.

He then rescues a couple of young women from “the Madhouse” where the people get drunk and so on, saying to them that the building will be turned into a dormitory for the sick and elderly. One of the women says, “Let us live while we can! Nobody cares.” St. Damien replies, “Yes, well I care. And God cares. And this is not the way to live.”


There were so many very moving scenes in this, not least of which was the scene of St. Damien making his confession across the water to the bishop. Wenham did such a great job in this movie, it always felt to me as though I were really seeing St. Damien himself, and that's why I think it's so powerful. But really, everything about it is wonderful, including the writing. There is so much suffering portrayed and yet so much love and beauty.

Quotable quotes:

Rudolph Meyer: From now on, only God can help you.
Father Damien: Yes, I often count on him.

Rudolph Meyer: Oh, Damien, look at all this I've brought you. More than I ever got out of the government.
Father Damien: I have a bishop with a conscience.

Rudolph Meyer: I'm a good Lutheran, I've got no faith in bishops. What are you doing?
Father Damien: I am making a windbreak. We have winds in Belgium too.

Rudolph Meyer: They picked the worst hole in Hawaii. Because of that valley you never see the sun rise and you never see it set. If they were putting away murderers they couldn't have thought of a better place.

Rudolph Meyer: You're a good man, Damien. But you had better learn to bend. Like those trees. The ones that don't bend break. 


Father Damien: [fixing William's hut] There. That should be more comfortable.
William Williamson: All this work for a Protestant? You might go to hell.
Father Damien: I would rather that you took the sacraments, but I don't like you sleeping like this within my sight.
William Williamson: I suppose it would be easier for you if I just died?
Father Damien: Oh, you can't die until I convert you.
William Williamson: Do you honestly believe only Catholics go to heaven?
Father Damien: I'm not absolutely certain, but I know that Catholics *can* go to heaven.


If only there were more works of art like this, and more people like St. Damien! 


I don't really know what else to say, except to borrow from Peter Hitchens, watching this movie will almost certainly make us better people.

—Louise is an Australian homeschooling mother of six, currently living in Texas.

Can't Wait To Watch This One

I'm trying to watch all the Bergman films that I haven't previously seen and that are available on Netflix. Since I've seen most of the well-known ones, this includes some early and obscure ones. Here's the description of Thirst from the Netflix envelope:

Unhappily married couple Rut and Bertil take a train trip across war-torn Germany--a landscape reminiscent of their disintegrating relationship.... Between bouts of bickering, each reminisces about past lovers: Viola, whose affairs with a psychologist and a lesbian dancer lead to tragedy, and Raoul, whose liaison with Rut ends with an abortion.


What Is Actually Happening, May 23, 2016

The bizarre frenzy to grant access to women's bathrooms to men who say they are really women continues. These two graphics, posted by liberals on Facebook, demonstrate the two-pronged attack. First there is the insistence that the whole matter is really not very significant, and is only made to seem so by hysterical conservative "transphobic" blah blah bigoted blah blah intolerant etc etc.


Of course that has nothing to do with the present controversy; no one is raising an outcry against the possibility of passing a transvestite on the street. But no doubt any rhetorical tactic that will make your enemies seem ridiculous is helpful.

On the other hand, there's the assertion that this is a moral crusade not just similar but identical to the struggles against slavery and racial segregation, resistance to which must be crushed.


That is the chief law enforcement officer of a government which possesses an almost inconceivable amount of armed might and an effectively unlimited budget for lawyers, not to mention a certain amount of power to decide what the law is. She promises to put all that power to work making sure that people like Yvette Cormier, who was expelled from a Planet Fitness gym for complaining about a man using the women's locker room, are shunted to the powerless margins of society. Presumably there's nothing Lynch can do in that particular case, but she will certainly  use her power where she can, as indicated by the promulgation of an Obama administration demand, described as a "guideline," that all schools that receive federal money fall in with the bathroom crusade. (I haven't attempted to track down the source of the Lynch quote, by the way. I'm assuming it's accurate. It's certainly plausible.)

This has the potential to become a very serious confrontation, because the federal government now has its hooks deeply into education at every level. It has, for instance, the potential to shut down any Catholic colleges that might offer resistance (probably not many), when and if the "guideline" becomes an actual regulation, because most of those schools could not function without federal loans and other financial aid available to their students.

In one sense those who say the whole matter is trivial are right. As with the insistence that the Little Sisters of the Poor provide contraception for their employees, such problems as in fact exist could reasonably be handled without federal intervention. But there is a principle at stake, and it's very clear that Obama and Co. intend that it should prevail. The principle is that the state is the ultimate moral authority. 

As a commenter at Neo-neocon said, "If they–the Obama Admin–can prevail on this issue, which is widely opposed, and has no perceivable merit, where can they be stopped?"

52 Movies: Week 20 - Michael Clayton

I recently rewatched this 2007 film when I was in the mood one night for some sort of mystery or thriller and didn’t have anything new at hand. I don’t have the internet at home, and it was a bit late for a library or video store run. Looking through my small DVD collection, I grabbed this, knowing that it had been several years since I last watched it. I was not disappointed. Although I remembered most of the plot (perhaps because I did), many of the nuances of acting, direction and cinematography were more noticeable to me, and I came away from it with great admiration. Here was not just a quality thriller, but a very good film in its own right.

The plot chronicles the workings of a legal case involving a class action suit against a large Monsanto-like company called U-North for covering up the fact that one of its widely-used herbicides is carcinogenic. Attorney Michael Clayton (George Clooney) gets pulled into the intrigue due to the apparent mental breakdown of his friend and colleague Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who is lead counsel for the firm defending U-North. Clayton is a “fixer,” a lawyer called upon by the firm to make their clients’ legal problems disappear (in a powerful scene near the beginning he’s called to the house of a wealthy client who’s been involved in a hit-and-run accident). He’s brought in to “look after” his colleague, but U-North becomes wary of Edens because of his seeming instability and puts its own general counsel, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), on the case as well. Things escalate from there and Clayton soon discovers that there’s much more to the case than meets the eye.

This sounds, of course, like it could be the plot of any one of a number of thrillers of this sort, and plot-wise, that’s probably true. What makes Michael Clayton special is the execution. What’s immediately apparent is the seriousness of the approach. The viewer soon realizes that he’s not in standard thriller territory, even in the opening credits, as they feature a disjointed voiceover by someone you discover not long afterwards is Edens.

There is also the matter of the title. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his review, the fact that the film is named after the main character indicates that this is his story – the story of a man, as opposed to the standard plot-driven sort of thriller in which characters are often interchangeable.

Finally, both the script and directorial style lend to the movie’s dramatic feel. The writing is smart and realistic, and both the direction and camera-work, while exhibiting a certain amount of modern “stylishness,” are ultimately rather traditional. None of this should be taken to mean that the movie screams “Take me seriously!” or is in any sense either preachy or morose, however. Michael Clayton is neither a message movie nor an existential downer.

All of this is certainly praiseworthy, for debut director and long-time screenwriter Tony Gilroy especially. The movie both looks and feels great. But what really carries the film over into excellence is the cast. The performances here are uniformly outstanding, demonstrated by the fact that all three lead actors received Oscar nominations.

Clooney is perfect as Clayton, who’s a bundle of contradictions – tough but inwardly insecure, seemingly in control but secretly at the mercy of bad decisions. His speech, his face, even his body language all show a man who, having to portray strength outwardly due to the nature of his job, is the victim of inner turmoil. I haven’t seen all of Clooney’s movies, but of the ones I have seen, I’d say without reservation that this is his best dramatic performance, and he very much deserved the Oscar nomination.

The great British actor Tom Wilkinson is equally excellent as Edens, the bipolar lead attorney who’s a genius, but highly unstable when off his meds. The role requires Wilkinson to go back and forth between prideful condescension and manic moral crusaderism, and he pulls this off with great aplomb.

Finally, Tilda Swinton’s performance as Karen Crowder is simply genius, evinced by her winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and just about every other equivalent award that year. It’s obvious from her opening scene that she is trying and just barely succeeding to hold everything together in her lonely personal life, while having constantly to put on her best front as the legal face of U-North. Some of the scenes in which she’s alone in her apartment preparing for “work” are positively chilling. The secondary cast members are all quite good as well, with special mention going to Sidney Pollack as the head of Clayton’s legal firm.


Director Gilroy and team have in Michael Clayton put together what is the best legal thriller of recent years, and possibly one of the best ever. What makes the film so good is that this is achieved not by flash and manufactured tension, but by intelligence, quality and humanity.

(The film is rated R for language, which includes a couple crude sexually explicit references. Thankfully, the latter are few.)

—Rob Grano has a degree in religious studies which he's put to good use working on the insurance side of the healthcare industry for the past 20 years.  He's published a number of book and music reviews, mostly in the small press, and sometimes has even gotten paid for it. He lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pa.

I'm sorry, but these remarks from Pope Francis just sound silly and/or naive to me: 

“It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam," he said. "However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest."

Maybe in full context this and similar things quoted in the piece smack less of the "Co-exist" bumper sticker. Possible appearances to the contrary, I don't like feeling that an ordinary layman needs to school the Pope on a few elementary distinctions.

Update: The full interview is much better than the one quote above would indicate. I would still argue with his emphases and wish that he had made some other points, but it's more solid and less naive than that one quotation. As usual he is not well served by journalists.

Anybody want to recommend a Dante translation?

I've read the Inferno twice over the years, but not gone any further. I decided I really needed to read the rest of the Commedia and have been slowly making my way through this prose-with-facing-original translation by John D. Sinclair, which I had picked up at some used book sale a long time ago. The prose is good, and the commentaries are excellent. Nearing the end of the Purgatorio, in the commentary on Canto 29, I encountered the following pages.


So now I'm looking for another translation and am entertaining recommendations. I don't believe poetry can truly be translated, so my expectations are low (obviously, or I wouldn't have been reading a prose translation). Really, I'm just as interested in the notes and commentaries as the translation itself. I liked Dorothy Sayers's Inferno for that reason, although her actual translation has a poor reputation. I think the other Inferno I read was John Ciardi's, and I didn't care much for the verse. 

52 Movies: Week 18 - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I saw this movie in uptown New York when it first came out in 1969, with my mother and a friend of hers. For weeks before I went to see it, our shop girls had been doing impersonations of Newman and Redford’s funniest lines in the movie. Even so, it did not disappoint, and afterwards we went out to the Russian Tea Room, and had blinis and beet soup. Many of my favourite movies are associated with good memories, and this is one of them.

When I first saw it, even despite the nonstop imitation of its gags by our shop-girl, Susan Reiner, I didn’t realize it was a comedy. I must have seen it again since, in the 1970s, but I don’t remember. I watched in early in March with the intention of writing about it. It was the day before my cat died, and I saw it as a slow, joking waltz toward death. I couldn’t write the next week because I got ill. I’m glad that I left it two months and then watched it again, because it really is a ‘comedy Western.’ Sundance and Butch Cassidy are joking about moving to Australia to rob banks moments before their death, and there is no deep sense of impending doom in the movie. I could be wrong but I don’t think its one of those late 1960s / early 1970s movies about the death of the old West, with civilization penning in the heroic outlaws. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is that kind of movie, epitomized by the Dylan song about the sheriff and outlaw. At least today, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid seems to me to be a comedy of wit, that is, largely a verbal comedy spanning out from the sparring between Redford/Sundance and Butch Cassidy / Newman. It’s a buddy movie, and, given that much of the film consists in Sundance and Butch being chased by lawmen, a road movie. If one may purloin an old word from the sex-n-gender wars, the striking thing about the film is its gaiety, accentuated by its key song, ‘Rain drops keep falling on my head.’

Back in the innocent day, when it was released, cinema audiences gasped when the film transitioned from black and white, at the start, to sudden colour about ten minutes into the film. People laughed at the simple jokes, like Sundance admitting ‘I cannot swim’ moments before having to escape their pursuers by leaping off a cliff into a swirling river. I can remember Susan Reiner imitating Kathleen Ross in the apparent ‘rape’ scene, near the beginning, where Sundance puts a gun on a school teacher and orders her to undress: when she is done stripping, the seeming victim says to her lover, ‘why can’t you just for once get here on time?’ When the trio flee to Bolivia to rob banks there, they themselves are held up by their inability to speak Spanish. All very predictable jokes. But still very clever and witty, on a fourth viewing.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid seems to me to be a brilliant example of the film as a film. The film that knows it’s a film, and makes not pretentions or protestations otherwise. Its utterly ‘unrealistic’ for Sundance and Butch Cassidy to extol in witty repartée at the most dangerous moments of their lives. I doubt if any of the actors in the film are of the ‘Method’ school of performance art. They do not seek to become their roles, or to convince us that they ‘are’ the characters they play. Throughout the movie, one is aware that one is watching a staged drama on horseback. After the 1960s, film finally broke away from its nest in staged drama, and became its own genre, detached from stage performance. Butch Cassidy must be one of the last ‘stagey’ movies.

After writing that paragraph, I checked up Kathleen Ross, Robert Redford and Paul Newman. It seems that Newman did indeed graduate from the famous New York school of Method acting.

Butch Cassidy does not, in my opinion, have a deeper theme. It does not extol the bandits and the outlaws, as did the near contemporary Bonnie and Clyde or the slightly later Pat Garrett. Butch Cassidy is not a film with a great message, and that is quite an achievement for a movie made in 1969. It is still, I think, a greatly entertaining film, one that has not dated in the sense of losing its capacity to induce its audience into its world.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is not ‘about’ something, but of course it would not resonate with audiences if it did not reflect our experience in some way. The experience which it captures and reflects is the universal human experience of feeling trapped, as one’s choices catch up to one. The opportunities for free movement are steadily diminished by the choices one has made in the past. So the pursuit of Butch Cassidy and the Kid reflects the experience of every adult, as he finds that there is in the end no space in which to re-invent one’s self. The sixties out of which this comedy western came was a wonderful period of self re-invention. That’s because it was not a stagnant time, but a time of opportunity. So many outstanding characters of the time invented their past in order to have a different future. In that respect, it was, perhaps, like the Old West. At a significant point in this movie, the Kid and Butch reveal to one another their own, real and mundane names. Closer to the end of the movie, the glamorous star of the Wild West, the Sundance Kid, reveals to his lover and closest friend that he grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is not about some dreary moral message, such as ‘you cannot endlessly re-invent yourself and if you try you will get shot to death by a large section of the Bolivian army.’ But its narrative reflects the universal human experience of finitude.

—Grumpy is a professor of theology in the Midwest.

"The Murray project is dead"

I saw that remark on Facebook not long ago, and it struck me as true. The reference is to John Courtney Murray, S.J. I have not read Murray, but my understanding is that he articulated the idea that American institutions, particularly religious freedom, and Catholicism are fundamentally compatible. He is said to have been influential in Vatican II's declaration on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae. He seems to have been a big influence on First Things magazine and the whole attempt of politically conservative Catholics to influence American politics. The basic idea, as I understand it, was that a common foundation on "truths [held] to be self-evident," amounting to what Catholic theology understands as natural law, was sufficient to allow church and state to co-exist in reasonable harmony.

Well, it's not working out. It seemed to be for a while, but it's collapsing before our eyes. Whether it's intellectually and historically justifiable or not, the grounding of the American constitution in something like natural law--the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" so admired by the Founders--has been discarded by the authorities whose understanding of the Constitution is law. The situation we have now is not of religion and the secular authority coexisting in mutual respect, but of a conflict between two incompatible religions--a loose collection of various forms of Christianity, on the one hand, and materialist progressivism on the other. The latter is also the faith of the secular authority, which is seeking to impose it in every situation where the two come into conflict in the realm of practice.

Set aside the theoretical arguments for a moment, it is, I'm afraid, simply a practical effect of human nature that societies require some sort of commonly-held metaphysic. The rationalism of the 18th century, implicitly including some Christian axioms, left something of a vacuum there, a gentleman's agreement not to press the issue too far, and its more vigorous and militant descendant, having cast off the remaining Christian elements, is now filling the vacuum. 

I've never been able to get enthusiastic about the idea of a Catholic (or any sort of Christian) confessional state, the main reason being that the inevitable corruption that goes along with political power ends up discrediting the Gospel itself. But I'm wondering now if that's the only alternative to a political order in which Christianity is at best marginalized and at worst persecuted. Maybe the modern conception of more or less unlimited religious freedom within a single polity was never realistic. At any rate it seems workable only within certain limits, limits which the Murray project perhaps thought reliable, but which have proved not to be.

Perhaps Archbishop Lefebvre was right all along about Dignitatis Humanae.

52 Movies: Week 18 - Wild Strawberries

(Since there's nothing else on hand for this week, I'm re-posting this, slightly updated, from October 2007.) 

When I decided to re-acquaint myself with the Bergman films I had seen and loved many years ago, and to see those I hadn’t, this was my first step, and as it turned out a very good place to begin. I would recommend it to anyone who’s curious about Bergman but has been put off by what they’ve heard about him, or perhaps, as someone said here a while back, by a bad experience with one of his more difficult or disturbing works.

This film is also a good example of what makes the non-religious Bergman so interesting to some Christians, especially to Catholics. It’s not only that he takes on the big questions and treats them profoundly. It’s that many of the themes of Christian spiritual life work themselves out on an earthly level in the lives of his characters. Wild Strawberries is very similar in that respect to Babette’s Feast, another great film which has no religious intention but is much loved by Catholics because it bears such deep and clear parallels to certain aspects of the faith. It’s not hard to suppose—in fact it’s hard not to suppose—that Bergman’s childhood as the son of a Lutheran clergyman left his mind deeply impressed with Christian ways of thinking even though he rejected the faith. He consistently confirms our belief that the empty place in the human heart is, in fact, as we are so often told, God-shaped.

Wild Strawberries might be described as a story about Purgatory, an earthly and secular rendering of the process we can all expect to undergo after death. It’s a process that frequently begins before death for one who is open to it, a painful process of recognizing how and where one has failed and what one may have lost as a result—a recognition which may itself be the punishment for those failures—and of preparing to accept forgiveness. The film is the account of one day in the life of an elderly physician, Isak Borg, in which both internal and external events come together to confront him with his failures as lover, husband, and father, bringing him a deep and almost unbearable pain (“Is there no mercy?” he begs at one point) followed by the beginnings of reconciliation. And it’s so beautifully done in every way, so rich in its details and their meanings, that anyone who is susceptible to Bergman’s art is likely to find himself wanting to watch it over and over again.

The Criterion Collection (may it be praised) DVD also includes an interview with Bergman. Any Bergman fan who’s acquainted with Wild Strawberries but hasn’t seen this interview should seek this disk out at once. It was done in 1998, when Bergman was 80 and semi-retired. He comes across as a surprisingly unpretentious man, given his achievement and celebrity. Toward the end of the interview he speaks interestingly and movingly about death and faith.

The first comes up in reference to his beloved third wife, whom he married in 1971 and who had died in 1995. His grief is plain; he describes himself, calmly, as “crippled” by her death. And he goes on to say that after having been terribly afraid of death for many years he had, around the time he made The Seventh Seal, at last taken comfort in the idea that it would be a simple extinction. But his wife’s death has disturbed this comfort: that he might never meet her again is “an unbearable thought,” in “violent conflict” with his previously comforting views. Anyone who has his own unbearable thoughts will sympathize.

And when the interviewer asks him if he has perhaps returned to faith in his old age, Bergman dismisses the idea with a laugh, but then begins to reflect: he is “not what you would call religious in any way” but has “a whole lot of ideas about other realities that surround me. I have the feeling sometimes that we’re part of an infinitely larger pattern….You can feel that sometimes.”

Indeed. Or, in the words Bergman gave to Isak Borg some fifty years ago: “In this jumble of events, I seemed to discern an extraordinary logic.”

Here's the Criterion Collection trailer:




Postscript: This Is More Like It

On the occasion of Bergman’s death in July of 2007, I was irritated by a rather stupid (may as well speak plainly) dismissal of his work by John Podhoretz. Some weeks later my late friend Robert sent me a link to this far more perceptive piece by John Simon. Perhaps the Shakespeare comparison reaches too far, but I have no doubt that Simon is far closer to the mark.


"The wages of smug is Trump."

That line comes from a piece in Vox which you may have read already. If not, it's worth the trouble: "The smug style in American liberalism." It's the work of a liberal worried about the fact that liberalism now despises so many of the people it claims to want to help. As the author notes, this is a tendency that's been growing for some time, with the domination of liberalism by feminists and others far more interested in cultural revolution than, say, the economic situation of the working class. That faction pays some degree of lip service to those questions, but what really fires them up are things like abortion and same-sex marriage. The economic complaints seem to be of interest mainly as a club with which to beat conservatives and Republicans.

The rubes noticed that liberal Democrats, distressed by the notion that Indiana would allow bakeries to practice open discrimination against LGBTQ couples, threatened boycotts against the state, mobilizing the considerable economic power that comes with an alliance of New York and Hollywood and Silicon Valley to punish retrograde Gov. Mike Pence, but had no such passion when the same governor of the same state joined 21 others in refusing the Medicaid expansion. No doubt good liberals objected to that move too. But I've yet to see a boycott threat about it.

The piece is fairly long but worth reading in its entirety. There's much in it that I disagree with, beginning of course with a substantial difference in basic political views. But it's good to hear one member of that club telling it what it needs to hear, which is that it's never going to win over people whom it openly despises. 

Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Financial incentive compounded this tendency — there is money, after all, in reassuring the bitter. Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style. It began in humor, and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid. The smug liberal found relief in ridiculing them.

I was glad to hear that criticism of The Daily Show. I haven't seen it very often, so it's possible that I got the wrong impression, but pretty much everything I've ever heard anyone say about it has supported that impression, the positives even more than the negatives. As I couldn't help noticing when Jon Stewart left the show, he was regarded as a brilliant political commentator by his fans, which seemed to include most liberals, notwithstanding the fact that he was in principle just a comedian. But it looked to me like his routine was based on taking some conservative point of view, reducing it to a caricature, and smirking at it.