Monday, September 27, 2004

Sunday Papers

Oh dear. I like James Lileks, I really do¹. Sure, his political writing is too often based on gut reactions to complex topics, and his worldview contains any number of unexamined assumptions. But he's a keen cultural observer, his geek cred is peerless, and best of all, he's funny—sometimes savagely so—and often moving; when he writes about the quiet joys of a quiet life, it resonates. Even in his occasional lapses into cornpone shtickery, the lines hum with honesty.

And then he goes and does something like this.

Oh dear.

Listen: Everybody likes to kick around a straw man, now and then. But this bit about the Times magazine and its imagined readership is fundamentally dishonest, as well as smug and patronizing.

And not a little desperate. There's a faint whiff of sour grapes and flop-sweat here, the mingled pride and anger of a man who has a deep need to believe that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is just as important as the New York Times.

And it is. But by protesting overmuch, James is only hurting his own case. That, for me, encapsulates the paradox that makes it impossible for me to take seriously the majority of conservative cultural critique; Mainstream (i.e., Conservative) values are the bedrock of civilization, imperishable and self-evident in their manifest Rightness—and yet they must be constantly defended against assaults mounted by—whom? By a tiny "élite" routinely described as pathetic, out-of-touch, clueless, and morally-bankrupt.

So where's the threat? He's only a straw man after all, and you made him up yourself; Why does he scare you so?

¹ Boilerplate disclaimer autogenerated by a bloghelper scriptbot. Or at least it should be, given how often I find myself using it or some phrase much like it.

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