July 20th, 2023
The Paranoid Style in American Politics

Oppenheimer’s life story is relevant to our current political predicaments. Oppenheimer was destroyed by a political movement characterized by rank know-nothing, anti-intellectual, xenophobic demagogues. The witch-hunters of that season are the direct ancestors of our current political actors of a certain paranoid style. I’m thinking of Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel, who tried to subpoena Oppenheimer in 1954, only to be warned that this could interfere with the impending security hearing against Oppenheimer. Yes, that Roy Cohn, who taught former President Donald Trump his brash, wholly deranged style of politics. Just recall the former president’s fact-challenged comments on the pandemic or climate change. This is a worldview proudly scornful of science.

August 7th, 2022
In the wake of the overwhelming Kansas vote in favor of abortion rights, expect the next urgent item of legislative business in the statehouse to be…

… shuttering the University of Kansas. Inspired by their leader Viktor Orban’s shuttering of one of Europe’s best universities because it was educating Hungarians, Kansas Republicans will argue that as the epicenter of independent thought in the state, KU must shoulder significant blame for the recent landslide electoral victory for individual rights.

“Something has to happen here,” said Republican legislator Patrice O’Neill. “We have footage of zygotes screaming in agony, and you’re never going to be exposed to that at KU.”

“We know that support for abortion rights correlates closely with level of education,” commented representative Mike Walsh, “and it’s a no-brainer – haha – that tertiary schooling is the core of the problem here.”

“We’d be killing two birds with one stone,” added another legislator, Marnie McCoy. “KU’s curriculum is a toxic stew of gender studies and devil worship. It’s time to pull the plug.”

March 2nd, 2022
But read the whole thing.

[I]f we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time

Democrats have gone to extraordinary lengths to discredit Putin. Why? There really is such a thing as a Zeitgeist or spirit of the times [and Putin embodies it for Russia]…

[W]e say the Russians don’t believe in democracy. But as the great journalist and historian Walter Laqueur put it, “Most Russians have come to believe that democracy is what happened in their country between 1990 and 2000, and they do not want any more of it.”…

So why are people thinking about Putin as much as they do? Because he has become a symbol of national self-determination.

Christopher Caldwell


UPDATE: Comrades! If you really want a bellyful of this sort of thing, there’s a whole new journal full of Caldwell and his fellow travelers. Name: THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY: A USER’S MANUAL.

February 5th, 2020
“A worthwhile university or college is quite simply one..

… in which the student is brought into personal contact with, is made vulnerable to, the aura and the threat of the first-class. In the most direct sense, this is a matter of proximity, of sight and hearing. The institution, particularly in the humanities, should not be too large. The scholar, the significant teacher ought to be readily visible. We cross his or her daily path. The consequence, as in the Periclean polis, in medieval Bologna, or nineteenth-century Tubingen, is one of implosive and cumulative contamination. The whole is energized beyond its eminent parts…

What could, by the lights of the utilitarian or hedonistic commonwealth, be more irrational, more against the grain of common sense, than to devote one’s existence to, say, the conservation and classification of archaic Chinese bronzes, or to the solution of Fermat’s last theorem…

In the critical mass of a successful academic community, the orbits of individual obsessions will cross and re-cross. Once he has collided with them, the student will forget neither their luminosity nor their menace to complacency…”


George Steiner (1929-2020), from Errata.

January 30th, 2020
‘Roger respected other cultures a great deal more than most progressives of my acquaintance do. He learned Arabic in order to read the Quran, and he admired the tradition-transcending contributions of the great medieval Islamic philosophers. He made careful, in-depth studies of Hindu and other Eastern traditions of faith precisely in search of the wisdom he regarded them as possessing.’

Appraisals of the late philosopher Roger Scruton keep appearing. Some people dismiss him as a reactionary; others, like Robert George, see things differently.

June 24th, 2019
‘“She’s a real intellectual,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute, who has worked with Warren and her team on their anti-trust tech proposals.’

The kiss of death for longtime UD favorite, Elizabeth Warren. It’s going to be close to impossible for her to dig herself out of the “she’s an intellectual” hole.

September 13th, 2018
‘In About Chinese Women (1974), Kristeva, for her part, carried this uniquely French “pro-Chinese” mania to unprecedented heights. She disqualified all Western criticism of postrevolutionary China as suffused with illicit cultural bias. And she rationalized the traditional Chinese custom of “foot binding” — ignoring its debilitating and disfiguring consequences for millions of Chinese women — as a legitimate local cultural practice, comparable to ritual circumcision in Judaism. In fact, when perceived in the right light, Kristeva continued, foot binding constituted an emblem of Chinese female empowerment.’

Was Julia Kristeva a spy for the Bulgarian communists?

Who cares. This is what we should care about – that a serious intellectual, in an early version of similar defenses today of the burqa, was capable of writing that forced female foot-binding in China was, you know, fine for them, and even empowering.

Reflecting on [the radical journal] Tel Quel’s delusional infatuation with Cultural Revolutionary China, the French-American essayist Guy Sorman faults them for having succumbed to the temptations of a “boundless amoralism”: an “amoralism” that is inseparable from a distinctively French tradition of “revolutionary romanticism.” He continues: “What links the French intelligentsia to tyrants such as Stalin, Mao, Castro has very little to do with the quest for liberty, justice, and democracy. Such values were dismissed as suitable for dopes and stooges. … Our intelligentsia adored revolutionary violence and the aesthetics of violence. Was it not this spectacle of revolution that attracted Sartre, Barthes, and company?”

Anyone who has read Richard Rorty’s shattering attacks on radical theorists knows what happened next for Kristeva. Richard Wolin writes:

Kristeva … responded to her [earlier] political excesses by renouncing politics in toto — including feminism — as inherently totalitarian: as a sphere that perpetually sacrifices individuals to the injustices and repressions of the “collective superego.” As she explained in a 1989 interview: “We must try not to propose global models. I think that we, then, risk making politics into a sort of religion. … Of the political there is already too much.” Instead of striving for political solutions, Kristeva recommended that everyone who could afford it should enter into psychoanalysis — her new field of professional expertise.

Rorty spent his life preaching against radically transformative “global models” and in favor of pragmatic incremental change within particular countries. Even with the catastrophe of Bulgaria and other revolutionary states in front of her, Kristeva opted to go global — until she didn’t. Until in a kind of reverse-thrust globalism – one of absolute withdrawal rather than absolute embrace – she took her toys and went home.

August 6th, 2018
Active Research

In the late 1980s, crusading against pornography was a top priority for evangelicals. Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.

Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.

November 1st, 2017
First its literary editor; and now its publisher.

Hereafter known as The Lewd Republic.

October 28th, 2017
Stats, Wieseltier

As for [Leon] Wieseltier, the longtime New Republic literary editor who lost funding for a magazine startup, he “simply did not consider women to be public intellectuals,” wrote Clio Chang in Splinter.

He harassed women, according to credible accusations, but he rarely published them or chose for review books written by women: “The lowest points were in 2012 — when there were only nine female reviewers compared to 79 male reviewers — and in 2013, when Wieseltier’s section published four reviews written by women.”

October 26th, 2017
Sing …

… it.

I am the very model of a modern major predator
I squeeze the tits of everyone from copy girl to editor
When I attack I’m confident that no one else will credit her
And if they do then I consult a first-rate lawsuit settler

From Weseltier to Ramadan we’re very ecumenical
In public we are sober, wise, and rather homiletical
But privately we turn out to be somewhat less ascetical
For we must not forget that we have penises and testicles

I’m very good at hiding out behind a piece of shrubbery
Then jumping out and treating you to genitalia rub-ery
And now that my behavior is a matter of discovery
I’m getting very penitent and sorrowful and blubbery.

October 25th, 2017
“What matters to me is that one identifies one’s genuine obsessions, one’s genuine commitments, one’s genuine appetites, one pursues them seriously and far.”

Leon Wieseltier stayed true to his obsessions, even up to his mid-sixties.

Then they caught up with him.


His partner uses the withdrawal method.

July 3rd, 2017
Breaking News Out of Baylor University:

In honor of its last generation of leaders, Baylor has announced that it has changed both its mascot (a bear) and its motto (Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana).

New mascot is here.

New motto: Magnae Parvum Nuces Cerebrum (Big Nuts Small Brain)


UD thanks Dame Eleanor Hull for correcting her Latin.

May 30th, 2017
Going Postal

A judge has granted an alleged pill mill operator’s request to travel to the University of Richmond’s law library to fine tune his claim that federal courts have no jurisdiction over him because in 1874 the United States joined the Universal Postal Union.

On May 22, he filed a document with the court titled “Response to the Indictment” that says in part: “I do not accept this jurisdiction According to the treaties in which the United States Corporation signed when joining the Universal Postal Union this court is violating International Law. You are hereby compelled to cease and desist on any further action.”

He wrote that he [is an], “American National privately residing in a private domicile outside of Federal District in a non-military private estate located outside of a federal District not subject to the jurisdiction of the ‘United States.’ ”

There’s plenty of intriguing precedent for this sort of thing; and, speaking as an English professor, UD is impressed that the man has clearly read his Thomas Pynchon.

March 24th, 2017
Compare McGill’s hysteria over…

this (hysteria here) to Harvard’s reaction to this.

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