Libertarian History/Philosophy

National Greatness Conservatives, Bearded in Their Den

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Some nifty metaphor-crafting from Will Wilkinson re: the difference between "national greatness" conservative types and classical liberals:

I sometimes think that liberal individualism is something like the intellectual and moral equivalent of the best modernist design — spare, elegant, functional — but hard to grasp or truly appreciate without a cultivated sense of style, without a little discerning maturity. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire. Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they've really got it all figured out.

Wilkinson in reason.

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  1. …den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire.

    Uhh, when did these things become undesirable?

    Cosmo!

  2. Hey, I’ve got a fireplace, a couple of trophy mounts, and swords in my den.

    Fortunately, I don’t have wood panelling, the carpet is tasteful, and I don’t smoke cigars indoors, so I guess I’m only half-vulgar.

  3. Will sounds like a high school goth dork putting down the jocks and nerds for not understanding the really subtle things in life.

    That’s not to say that he’s wrong in this case, but he really does sound like a whiner.

  4. “Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they’ve really got it all figured out.”

    What an elitist way of thinking. by comparing tastes with philosophical views, he’s saying that one view makes a person intellectually superior the same way one’s taste makes a person culturally superior.
    did i read it wrong?

  5. If you can sit next to a roaring fire smoking a fat cigar and not think you’ve got it all figured out, something’s probably wrong with you.

  6. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire.

    That makes me think of the wealthy Jeff Lebowski. Which is an entirely appropriate analogy, come to think of it.

  7. Are you okay with me submitting this to the Wall Street Journal for use in their “Metaphor Alert” column?

  8. So NGCs are like “bears”? Someone ask Andrew Sullivan if this is correct or not.

  9. “Vulgar” in the sense used means of “common people.” So when you say “what an elitist way of thinking” you aren’t really signaling anything the author didn’t make abundantly clear. Then you say that one’s “taste” doesn’t make one culturally superior. Taste is really a critical judgment or discernment, not the sensation you get on your tongue, and much more than mere personal preference. Since culture is “enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training” if have to agree with the author.

    Yes, people who care about culture are generally more knowledgeable and more cultured than people who don’t care about it. It isn’t a surprise that they are culturally elite. What is surprising is that so many make an argument that inferiority is actually superiority because we’re Americans.

  10. Can I have a spare elegant functional design with the mounted swords, animal heads and giant roaring fire? That’d be great, thanks.

    Seriously, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve read lately and speaks more to Will’s aesthetic tastes and prejudices than anything else.

  11. Lamar,
    that’s a little too subjective for me. In a broader sense, if someone prefers a cabin over a loft, can you infer that the person in the loft is more cultured? More intellectual? Trendiness is no measurement of how much someone cares about culture. And yes, taste is merely personal preference. (unless of course you read WAY too much into it)

  12. I don’t understand why “national greatness conservatism” whatever that is, is somehow anathema to free markets and the individual. Isn’t that what “national greatness” is all about? The whole American is myth is that of the rugged individualist and the freedom of the frontier. There is a whole section of American greatness that says “we don’t need to government to fix things”. Maybe he missed that. I guess if by “national greatness conservatism” he means World War II style war socialism, what he is saying might make some sense. Otherwise, it is just pseudo intellectual bullshit.

    Further, modernist architecture is generally unusable and completely about the star architect who designed it and not about things that this clown would claim to value, like the desires and needs of individuals. Modern architecture was always about making a point rather than satisfying the needs and tastes of the masses. That does sound very libertarian to me. If you are going to make some high brow analogy and look down your nose at everyone who disagrees with you, you at least ought to know what the hell you are talking about.

    Some nifty metaphor-crafting? Yeah if you are 15 and attending a meeting of the poly sci club maybe.

  13. Then you say that one’s “taste” doesn’t make one culturally superior. Taste is really a critical judgment or discernment, not the sensation you get on your tongue, and much more than mere personal preference.

    Bzzzt! You fail! Taste is nothing more than mere personal preference. Critical judgment is entirely separate from taste. I can make a distinction that item A, let’s say a painting, is in many aspects a significant work of cultural and aethestic value. Yet, I can make that admission and still put a Star Wars poster on my wall as opposed to a Monet print. I like the Star Wars poster more, cultural and aesthetic value be damned. My taste is in now way inferior to yours, you just like different things and that doesn’t make you a better person, or even more culturally educated.

  14. Hate to be one of those discerning pricks, but I think John was referring to contemporary architecture in his post. “Modernist architecture” is a movement that eliminates ornamentation and focuses on practical use.

  15. …said John as he sploshed his Christian Brothers brandy onto his real (old & smelly) bearskin rug and lit his Dutch Master.

  16. Ornament is crime, Lamar?

  17. “Yes, people who care about culture are generally more knowledgeable and more cultured than people who don’t care about it. It isn’t a surprise that they are culturally elite. ”

    Of course our cultured elite don’t seem to know shit these days. When was the last time anyone produced a great piece of classical music? Schoenberg? That was a century ago. The only classical composers who actually wrote music in the last century that people actually wanted to listen to were Copeland and Bernstein and both of them were totally looked down upon by our “cultural elite” as being too popular.

    Our cultural elite tell us that Warhol and piss Christ are somehow the equal of Titian and Vermeer and that Toni Morrison is a better writer than Tolstoy.

    Fuck the cultural elite Lamar. They have totally failed in the last century. You can keep the entire pile of steaming shit they have called art over the last 50 years. I will continue to be a philistine and read my Tolstoy, Shakespeare and any number of other dead white men.

  18. …said John as cracked open the Readers Digest edition of the classics and while thinking about tonight’s beef wellington.

  19. Highnumber,

    First, I wouldn’t be drinking brandy, I would be drinking Cognac or maybe a good bordeau. Second, there is nothing wrong with a bear skin rug. Third, saying I would smoke a Dutch Master is really hitting below the belt.

  20. You can’t stress modernist architecture’s focus on practical use more than the lack of ornament. There is not focus on practical use, though practicality is sometimes a byproduct. the stripped down look is supposed to be artsy the same as in Minimalism.
    In other words, it’s intended to make people feel like they have discerning maturity over a guy you likes wood paneled dens.

  21. True taste is the ability to discern between utter shit that is pronounced by “elites” to be the latest and best, and really excellent stuff that is pronounced by “elites” to be the latest and best.

    However, I do enjoy a slugfest between posers and cretins. Is that tasteful?

  22. Actually, I think his point goes slightly deeper than that.

    The two different sorts of “taste” described here aren’t simply matters of taste. The cartoon he’s drawing of “national greatness conservatism”, at least, carries a whole lot of psychological and ideological content along with it that go way beyond mere aesthetic taste.

    The person who chooses “a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire” is betraying a lot more than a mere aesthetic preference by doing so. There’s a whole lot of self-identification going on there. You’re basically saying, “I sit around and daydream that I’m TR! While I sit in this den, I am full of a feeling not unlike the smug satisfaction of a Kiplingesque Brit imperial lording it over a subcontinent of ‘coloreds’ – except for the fact that I haven’t actually conquered anybody personally! I think I have accomplished something because I killed an animal – with a gun! Yay me!” Possessions tell a lot about the possessor, in many instances – and this particular instance is almost as revealing of assholedom as buying a Hummer.

    Basically the guy in that den is Karl Rove jerking himself off about how his political enemies are “effete” – even though he’s a fat pasty white weakling piece of shit.

  23. Since culture is “enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training” I have to agree with the author.

    Only in the elitist sense that such people talk about “The Culture,” meaning their own or the one they emulate.

    “Culture” also describes the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of any racial, religious, or social group. Rednecks drinking beer and bowling have just as much of a culture as NYC tofu-eaters, and just as much right to be proud of it.

  24. “Hate to be one of those discerning pricks, but I think John was referring to contemporary architecture in his post. “Modernist architecture” is a movement that eliminates ornamentation and focuses on practical use.”

    Allegedly but that is not the way it worked out. Modernist architecture made soulless spaces that people hated and didn’t want to use. They may have claimed “practicality” but it was really about the architect and a certain elite enforcing its taste on everyone else.

    It is a terrible analogy on so many levels. The market is supposed to be ornate and full of creative destructions. It is government that is soulless and bare. The market gives you 15 different types of buildings fitting 15 different types of tastes. Government gives you the big monolithic skyscraper / pyramid as a monument to the good intentions of our betters who built it.

  25. …said John as he set the DVR for Friends reruns and renewed his subscription to People.

  26. Will should have made the metaphor between a luxury car and a 90’s model Honda with rimz. Or between the latest cosmo coctail and malt liqueur.
    but then he’d be a racist, i think.

  27. And I also have a lifetime subscription to Barely Legal Highnumber. We get it. It was funny like once but not like five times.

  28. LarryA,

    I don’t mean to rock your world, but urban dwelling tofu eaters also bowl and drink beer.

    Sometimes they also go see the symphony, sometimes a ballgame.

  29. And I also have a lifetime subscription to Barely Legal Highnumber.

    A likely story! Prove it by posting your password.

  30. T,

    If you want to put up the Star Wars poster “cultural and aesthetic value be damned,” you go on with your bad self.

    But if were to select it over the Monet because you think it has superior cultural and aesthetic value, THEN you are demonstrating inferior taste.

    John is so screwed up he’s managed to convince himself that reading Tolstoy is a populist tweak of cultural elites.

  31. …said John as he wrote his letter to National Review and googled “Britney + ‘no panties'”

  32. John Williams and Danny Elfman are both fantastic composers, but they don’t get called such by cultural elites because of the medium in which they have chosen to create their fortunes. Doesn’t make them less than they are, it just means the deciders of cultural grandeur refuse to recognize their musical talents as greatness when compared to Mozart and Tchaikovsky. The irony is that Mozart and Tchaikovsky created their music to generate as much money as possible. They did so to entertain in ways that would generate the money. If movies existed then, and made the most money they would have done soundtracks.

    Williams and Elfman are no different, and perhaps they enjoy their work, but shame on them for not being born when to be brilliant was to be recognized only by a wealthy few. They’re not cool because they hit the big time? Bullshit.

  33. If you’re not into neo-plasticism, you’re little people.

  34. “John is so screwed up he’s managed to convince himself that reading Tolstoy is a populist tweak of cultural elites.”

    You don’t understand Joe. I have no problem with pop culture. There is nothing wrong with Star Wars or Dune or LOTR or any of that. Pop art is in great shape. Some of the best pop art in history has been done over the last 100 years. It is high art that is dying. Three hundred years from now, people will still probably be watching Star Wars and listening to the Beatles, they will not however be listening to a Suite for 18 Insturments or reading Harold Pinter.

  35. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire.

    Actually, that sounds exactly like a local, late, lamented barbecue joint. Minus the carpet, which would just have gotten BBQ sauce on it, anyway.

  36. “In a broader sense, if someone prefers a cabin over a loft, can you infer that the person in the loft is more cultured?”

    No. In fact, the “trendy” person is likely to be deluding themselves into thinking they are culturally superior and spending lots of money doing it. High ceilings does not an elite make.

    “Ornament is crime”

    I’m a fan of art deco (Chrysler Building) though it can get out of hand. I was merely pointing out that “modernist” architecture has a meaning that is not apparent, and that people who want to talk about the architecture that is current should say “contemporary” to avoid confusion.

    The pop art of Andy Warhol is based on popular mass culture, which is, by definition, vulgar. Warhol made art vulgar, and hence an anti-elitist statement (that seems to be your argument, John). I agree that there will not likely be another Brothers Karamazov. Of course, I will be linking to this thread every time we argue about whether copyright laws make art better or worse.

    Pinette: I think you are stretching it to say that modernism is about some sprockets-style uber-artiness. The vast majority of architects actually have to build buildings for people, not sit around with their monkeys or building crazy Guggenheims.

    John, really, no argument about the quality of artistic output. Honestly, we agree there.

  37. Williams and Elfman are great. So were Berstein and Copeland. But the cultural establishment never gave them the credit they deserved and instead heaped on people who wrote esoteric unlistenable crap. It is all of alledged “uncultured” who listen to Williams and think it is great. Thus my problem with the cultural elite.

  38. But if were to select it over the Monet because you think it has superior cultural and aesthetic value, THEN you are demonstrating inferior taste.

    Oh, dear, joe has convinced himself that there is a real, non-subjective distinction between high and low art, when really all art is about attracting sex partners.

  39. Lamar,

    We might get another Brothers’ Karamazov. You never know. But I think if we ever do, it will be wildly popular and passed over for every book award that year in favor of the latest polemib about a young girl’s stuggle with her lesbian mother over her fight to end global warming. I think there still are great artists out there, I just wonder if we know how to recognize them anymore.

  40. …said John as he put on the soundtrack to Home Alone 2 and read the Time-Life history of oil painting.

  41. “a cultivated sense of style” is code for “jew”

  42. Lamar,
    I’m assuming you are referring to the vast majority of architects that build/built modernist buildings. I’m talking about the style, not the individual projects that most embodied that style. The lack of ornament was a tribute to minimalism and was more about art than it was about function.

  43. there is nothing wrong with a bear skin rug.

    Umm, I’ve got one of those, too. With the head and claws and everything.

  44. Movie scores suck, and so do the composers who most resemble movie scores [Copeland in everything he didn’t steal from Shakers, Rachmaninoff in just about his entire oeuvre, Wagner].

    Movie scoring is musical mime. I know Wagner spewed a lot of mumbo-jumbo that supposedly made musical mime OK, but not with me.

    I do not like mimes.

  45. I listened to a lot of Oingo boingo and was a danny elfman fan long before i realized he did all those soundtracks.

  46. “The lack of ornament was a tribute to minimalism and was more about art than it was about function.”

    No. “Form follows function” is a product of that architectural style. I think you have a negative view of artsy-fartsy types, and you are projecting that disdain upon a type of architecture that also rejected artsy-fartsy types.

  47. Anyone seen Idiocracy? We are headed full speed in that direction.

  48. I go back to my original point that I don’t know what the hell this guy means by “national greatness conservatism”. If his bitch is about Iraq, which it always is, fine. But a commitment to free markets has nothing to do with that. Lots of people who have no use for free markets or individual freedom object to interventionism and lots of people who do believe in the market don’t object to interventionism.

    Is this guy saying that he doesn’t believe in anything beyond “the market” and has no attachment to country he grew up in beyond happening to live here? If you don’t embrace national greatness, what do you embrace, national suckiness? Why can’t you be a libertarian and embrace national greatness? Ron Paul certainly seems to. He embraces patriotism and US sovereignty and the need to keep the US separate and distinct from a North American Union and so forth. I disagree with Ron Paul but I would never question his patriotism or his commitment to making this country great. Does that make him a “national greatness conservative”? If it doesn’t, just what the hell does the term mean other than anyone who disagrees with this clown? The whole thing is just a bunch of crap.

  49. Fluffy, the parking lot after school. You. Me. My fist. Your face.

  50. I fucking hate art metaphors, because I’m not enough of an asshole to tell people what they should or should not like.

  51. As this classical liberal sits here reading this post in his Modernist house, I can’t help thinking Wilkinson has a point.

  52. Lamar,
    You are probably right. It was semantics anyway but my understanding of the style was probably out of line with the actual definition.(i just got back from the wikipedia page)
    back to the real point, a preference for modernist architecture in no way suggests a person is culturally OR intellectually superior.
    btw, i live smack in the middle of downtown, i never miss a second saturday, and i haven’t eaten meat in almost 2 years. I’m still anti-elitist.

  53. I do not like mimes.

    Fluffy has the most taste of anyone posting on this thread. I salute you, sir.

  54. John – so long as people age past 30 or so, there will be an audience for classical music. I think the vast majority of the decline has already happened. I don’t see an upswing in audience size, but I also don’t think it will disappear, either.

    And here’s a newer piece, by one of my favorites: Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Perpetuum Mobile. (Or as most people know it, “the theme song from that PBS show”.

  55. The last sentence of Wilkinson’s post is the kicker.

    If you declaim the importance of virtue loudly enough, you don’t have to actually think.

  56. I should clarify: I’m not here to dictate that a certain style is better than another, or say that cultural elites are better or worse people than others who have other priorities.

  57. Anyone else tired of having Phillip Glass rammed down your throat by teh cultural elite? I know I am.

  58. Baked,

    I agree with you about classical music. I think as people get older their tolerence for more complex and challenging music goes up. It certainly did for me. I just don’t think they will be listening to much that was written in the 20th Century and what they do listen to will be stuff like Gershwin, Copeland and Williams not the cutting edge stuff.

  59. Trust me on this: cultural elites have mass produced entertainment company bullshit shoved up their asses way more than working fellas have soho art galleries shoved up theirs.

  60. “Trust me on this: cultural elites have mass produced entertainment company bullshit shoved up their asses way more than working fellas have soho art galleries shoved up theirs.”

    Can’t argue with that. That just makes me sad. Time was when high art was actually relevent to more than just the elite. Not so anymore. The more self loathing and bizare it gets, the less and less it matters. I have not beef with pop culture, but it would be nice if there were more alternatives to it and so much of our elite cultural establishment didn’t waste so much time on so much garbage.

  61. lamar,
    in recognizing the very existence of a cultural elite, and using terms such as “excellence of taste”, you have basically said that the elite are superior, and are the only ones who care about culture. My disagreement is that those who are not considered elite have just as much culture, it’s just a different culture.

  62. John –

    That is not what is meant by “national greatness conservatism”.

    The term means “conservatism minus any freedoms, market or otherwise, that you have to surrender in order to enable John McCain to feel proud while watching a torchlight parade out of Leni Riefenstahl”. It could also mean, “If you will promise not to care while we tax you, spy on you, and torture people in secret, in exchange you can put on a pith helmet and smoke a big curly pipe and talk to veterans about how they fought the fuzzy-wuzzies.”

  63. Fluffy,
    I’m totally miming a response to you write now.
    If you could see it, you’d agree that I’m brilliant.

  64. “My disagreement is that those who are not considered elite have just as much culture, it’s just a different culture.”

    I would argue that at least in the last 50 years they often have a better culture.

  65. In my view, the advancement of culture requires an overt act, not merely existing and occasionally making a decision of personal preference. How advanced would culture be if it consisted of nothing more than “get the blue couch because it goes with the bear skin”?

    You wouldn’t say the same thing about business elites, would you? Just because X’s company is worth $10 billion and Y can’t balance his checkbook doesn’t mean that both aren’t equal in business? Or that Private Pyle and Colin Powell are both equal in military matters? Or that Lance Armstrong and Horatio Sanz are both sporting elites? What is it about refinement and culture that makes people think they can do nothing and still be as knowledgeable as people who live for that stuff?

  66. Anyone else tired of having Phillip Glass rammed down your throat by teh cultural elite? I know I am.

    Taktix? – that’s horrible. Do they at least let you spit?

  67. this thread makes me feel like writing a short, twelve-tone piece in the theme of “people not getting it”. it would be written for english horn + vibraphone, with someone reading john’s posts into a leslie speaker.

  68. Lamar,
    in business and sports you have a measuring stick. A specific unit inherent in the topic that tells you somebody is better than somebody else because they scored higher.
    The whole point is that cultural differences are not measured in like units, thus one is not greater than another.
    and your first paragraph makes no sense to me.

  69. I sometimes think that liberal individualism is something like the intellectual and moral equivalent of…

    National Greatness Conservatism is like

    These aren’t metaphors, they’re similes (and weak ones at that). Similes say thing A is like thing B, whereas metaphors say thing A simply is thing B, or just insert thing B in the place where thing A is obviously intended to go.

  70. What is it about refinement and culture that makes people think they can do nothing and still be as knowledgeable as people who live for that stuff?

    Here’s a question related to people “living for that stuff”: do you see a difference in advancement of culture between a guy who can tell you what every sentence of The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man means as opposed to a guy who can tell you what every scene of The City on the Edge of Forever means?

    Other than the fact that they’re both full of shit, of course.

  71. I think we are defining the word ‘culture’ completely differently.
    the question is, is it a fair analogy to say that one political ideology is better than another in the same way that one decorating style is better than another. All things even, it wouldn’t be that bad, but his metaphor is set up with a bias towards one viewpoint and one set of tastes. THAT’S what I have a problem with.

  72. No, John, I get your point. Using “Tolstoy and Shakespeare” to make is was a mistake, as they are held up by this mysterious cultural elite as among the highest literary achievements, when you claimed they were not.

  73. Very true , Pinette. If culture were measured in sales, Velvet Elvis wall hangings would probably outrank Van Gogh.

  74. That is not what is meant by “national greatness conservatism”.

    The term means “conservatism minus any freedoms, market or otherwise, that you have to surrender in order to enable John McCain to feel proud while watching a torchlight parade out of Leni Riefenstahl”. It could also mean, “If you will promise not to care while we tax you, spy on you, and torture people in secret, in exchange you can put on a pith helmet and smoke a big curly pipe and talk to veterans about how they fought the fuzzy-wuzzies.”

    That is interesting because what you describe is pretty much exactly what you will get under a Hillary Clinton presidency. Is she now a “national greatness conservative”?

    These are really hard issues. It is comforting to think that the threat of terrorism is just something George Bush dreamed up to listen to your phone calls, but sadly it is not true. There is a pretty good chance that our enemies are going to get lucky and pull off a dirty bomb or a biological attack in the next few years. These are really hard issues. First, you can’t even judge what the probability of that is unless you know what the government knows. Second, even if you did have the clearances to do that, it is still just a guess. You can’t burn the constitution to stop it. On the other hand if it ever does happen, people will fucking panic and there won’t be any more rights in this country. People will not risk their lives for their privacy. The challenge is how do you protect the country from a real threat and also keep the rule of law. It is not that easy. The laws are very antiquated and technology, especially communications technology has totally surpassed the laws. The problem is that you need to know who the threat is to get the warrant to listen to the guy’s phone calls but without listening, you don’t know who the threat is and you can’t get the warrant.

    Piss ants like this loser have never been in any position of responsibility in their lives. They sit around write bullshit like this and never engage the issue or how hard actually meeting these threats are. I think everyone who works at CATO and Reason ought to take a sabbatical and go actually work for the FBI or DHS or ICE for a couple of years and then come back and pontificate about how wonderful they are and how they have all of the answers.

  75. Oh, dear, joe has convinced himself that there is a real, non-subjective distinction between high and low art

    No, just that the distinction is culturally, not individually, determined. You can say that you, personally, like Star Wars posters better, and that’s fine. But if you claim that they have more more culturally meaningful, you would be demonstrating a lack of understanding of our culture.

  76. a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire

    I would have a den like that if I weren’t married.

  77. Pinette: What about military? Politics? other areas?

    Nice try on the “measuring stick” trick. I’m pretty sure John Madden isn’t going to suit up for this year’s Super Bowl, but I would consider his opinion greater than somebody who doesn’t care about football. There are many who haven’t won a superbowl that will be 1000000x more learned in the sport than those who don’t care, even if they never suited up a day in their lives.

    You’re the one who hates elites that tell you that your stellar opinion of Bob Ross really doesn’t have much artistic merit. I’m merely commenting that I’d rather respect the opinion of somebody who dedicates their lives to art over your non-giving-a-shit-about-art opinion.

    Maybe I’ll be wrong a few times, but I’ll probably be right more often than not. To sum up: Giving a shit about X and/or dedicating your life to it makes you more qualified than sitting around on your ass not thinking about X except when it comes up in H&R.

  78. John,

    “National Greatness Conservatism” was a term, with a specific meaning, that was made up by Bill Kristol and others at the Weekly Standard back in the late-1990s. I think they put out a special issue dedicated to explaining exactly what it is and how it applied to different areas of policy.

    At its core is the idea of a Great National Endevor, like World War 2 or stealing North America from the Indians. What’s interesting is that they thought we needed a Great National Project long before they seized on the War on Terror, and spent years actively casting about to find one.

    You should read that issue, John. Go back to the source material. It might be useful, in that it would allow you to see how the things you believe about the threat of terrorism have largely been determined for you by people who decided, before they were even worried about terrorism, that they were going to seize on an issue in order to conscript you for their agenda.

  79. “Giving a shit about X and/or dedicating your life to it makes you more qualified than sitting around on your ass not thinking about X except when it comes up in H&R.”

    Most of the time yes, but just because you give a shit doesn’t mean you are right. How many times have works of art been panned initially by those who care so much and know so much, only to be embraced by the masses and later vindicated?

  80. “Most of the time yes,”

    That’s all I meant, no more, no less. I am always open to hear exceptions to the rule and believe most decision making and judgment should be ad hoc.

  81. I love Shakespeare. I took a Shakespeare class in college and barely passed. A friend of mine took the same class at the same time and aced it. But the course was about it’s meaning according to the teacher who was by my account fucking whacko. We never addressed the poetry, the mastery of language, the time frame it was written, the mores and censorship, the humor that makes it interesting to anyone that likes good theater.

    It was all about note taking and what she thought it meant. She boiled four 5 act plays down into symbols. Most disappointing class ever. She was a cultural elitist because she only cared about making sure we knew it was difficult to comprehend for regular people and that she had figured it out. Her opinion vs 30 student opinions. Rank ’em.

  82. “It might be useful, in that it would allow you to see how the things you believe about the threat of terrorism have largely been determined for you by people who decided, before they were even worried about terrorism, that they were going to seize on an issue in order to conscript you for their agenda.”

    Wow and they even got those pesky Arabs to cooperate by attacking us and Europe. Shut up Joe. As far as I am concerning, in this era surviving is enough of a project for the country. Just making sure no one kills us is hard enough. I don’t think wanting to defend the country is exactly being conscripted for an agenda. Shockingly Joe, people actually can have reasonable disagreements with you without being a toady or a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. Its too bad you don’t and won’t ever get that.

  83. Your problem isn’t with your professors elite knowledge of Shakespeare, it was with her choice of how to run her class.

  84. Fine, don’t take my word for, it, John.

    Look it up yourself. The Weekly Standard’s archives are probably on line, even.

    They laid out their desire for a Great National Project, described how it would be used, and then did everything they said they were going to do, with terrorim as the theme, after 9/11.

    Believe me, don’t believe me, do what you usually do and put your feelings ahead of knowing what you’re talking about, I don’t care.

    You were confused about the meaning of National Greatness Conservatism, I answered your question. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

    Shockingly Joe, people actually can have reasonable disagreements with you without being a toady or a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. Usually when you disagree with me, as here, it’s because you are a propaganda victim.

    Look it up, don’t look it up, doesn’t make any difference to me.

  85. Lamar,
    my problem is not that i think i know more about art than the elites. all you are saying is that people who know more about a topic are better at judging it. I agree.
    My argument is that knowing a lot about wine is not superior to knowing a lot about beer. whether or not wine is better than beer is subjective.
    i think you have twisted the argument to be about something it is not.

  86. It was her thinking she knew what it meant, yet without examining those intricacies could she possibly let anyone else know what it meant. I honestly think she didn’t know dick about Shakespeare, at least the four plays we covered, and thought she did. That’s the whole point. This class had discussion in it and many students raised many good questions and offer good opinions of their own and she’d shoot everything down and move on. Even the best note takers who did well had blank stares on their faces. She was making it a point to be confusing because, I believe, she wanted to make it sound like she was an expert without letting anyone else in on the secret. That is why she was a cultural elitist. The worst kind, not willing to let others share in her wisdom, or faking it.

  87. Why don’t you just google the term, John?

  88. Just making sure no one kills us is hard enough.

    irony is dead, john killed it.

  89. It’s been ten years and I still resent the bitch. Not because I didn’t do well in the class, but because she almost ruined Shakespeare for me, and probably did for a dozen other students in the class.

  90. “My argument is that knowing a lot about wine is not superior to knowing a lot about beer.”

    Would you say that being an expert in physics is superior to being an expert in scrapbooking?

  91. That is interesting because what you describe is pretty much exactly what you will get under a Hillary Clinton presidency. Is she now a “national greatness conservative”?

    It’s nice to see that you’ve noticed that.

    Your sort of Republican has morphed into nothing more than a Kennedy/Johnson Democrat, so it’s not surprising that it would be hard to find a dime’s worth of difference between them and Hillary Clinton.

    “We need a crusade, because our lives are empty.”

    And don’t get mad at Joe just because you apparently never heard of an extremely common expression. It’s like never hearing the term “Reagan Republican” or “latte liberal” or “soccer mom”. Come on, John. The “national greatness conservatives” make no bones about the fact that they stand for empire, for big government, and for the subordination of the individual to a national crusade for the sake of the emotional satisfactions of authoritarianism.

  92. “Would you say that being an expert in physics is superior to being an expert in scrapbooking?”

    If you’re trying to build a bridge, yes. If you’re trying to organize your family pictures in a pleasant fashion, no.

  93. No, i wouldn’t, depending on the meaning of the word superior. it certainly takes superior intelligence, but that’s not always what superior means.
    “To sum up: Giving a shit about X and/or dedicating your life to it makes you more qualified than sitting around on your ass not thinking about X except when it comes up in H&R.”

    More qualified on the subject of X, not more qualified.

  94. “If you’re trying to build a bridge, yes. If you’re trying to organize your family pictures in a pleasant fashion, no.”

    Right, but building a bridge has to be done a certain way, planning a scrapbook is judge personal preference, right? @8)-

  95. Nobody is saying that experts in Y are more qualified on any subject other than Y. It is people’s own insecurities that infer such a short coming.

  96. Would you say that being an expert in physics is superior to be an expert in literature?

    See how stupid this starts to become?

  97. By the way, to all Reason editors and staff:

    Ads with sound = Fail.

  98. 80+ comments, including ones alluding to wilkerson’s high-school-style nerdy elitism, and nobody mentioned howley? impressive, guys.

  99. so what you are saying is that the elites really are objectively superior because their life’s ambitions take more education and are more finite and less subjective?

  100. 80+ comments, including ones alluding to wilkerson’s high-school-style nerdy elitism, and nobody mentioned howley? impressive, guys.

    That’s cause no one want to admit that they’re being harsh to Wilkinson because Kerry’s off the market…

  101. “See how stupid this starts to become?”

    That’s why I only limit it to the same subject. Every level of abstraction makes the so-called elite less elite.

    I am saying that elites are generally superior in the areas which they study and to which they dedicate their lives. Individual cases vary. However, the epithet “elite” to which I originally objected relies on a generality that elites arrogantly believe themselves superior in knowledge when one cannot, by definition, be superior in areas with a subjective component.

    Fluffy: Amen.

  102. Lamar,
    in that case, i agree with you.
    my original use of the term elitist was meant to say that Wilkinson was suggesting that his political views are superior in the same way his decorating tastes are superior, which to me is elitist.

  103. If you’re trying to build a bridge, yes. If you’re trying to organize your family pictures in a pleasant fashion, no.

    I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I can do both.

  104. I guess that’s the inherent problem with metaphors is that they invariably join two different worlds.

  105. 80+ comments, including ones alluding to wilkerson’s high-school-style nerdy elitism, and nobody mentioned howley? impressive, guys.

    Wilkerson’s nerdiness is completely independent of Kerry. The mod glasses alone demand a coup de gr?ce.

  106. John, have you never heard the phrase “national greatness conservatism” before? You’re sounding an awful lot like someone sitting in a wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire, lighting a fat cigar, and thinking you’ve really got it all figured out.

  107. I recall a story about a black man with a black cat living in a black neighborhood. This particular gentlemen had an interstate running through his front yard and he thinks he’s “got it so good.”

  108. Similes say thing A is like thing B, whereas metaphors say thing A simply is thing B, or just insert thing B in the place where thing A is obviously intended to go.

    Are you stoned? Metaphor=the use to describe somebody or something of a word or phrase that is not meant literally but by means of a vivid comparison expresses something about him, her, or it, e.g. saying that somebody is a snake.” That’s the direct-from-the-dictionary definition. An even better one from Google is “Metaphors are comparisons that show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way.” Go back to English class.

  109. Shem –

    Since the text uses the word “like”, that makes it a simile.

    A metaphor cannot use the word “like”, for the reason the other poster posted.

    http://knowgramming.com/metaphors/metaphor_and_simile_difference.htm

  110. Common parlance: Metaphor = metaphor + simile.

    English class: Metaphor = metaphor and not simile.

    Clear?

  111. “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.” ~ Ben Franklin

    That is interesting because what you describe is pretty much exactly what you will get under a Hillary Clinton presidency. Is she now a “national greatness conservative”?

    John,

    That’s the point and you’re a dumbass. You live in this wonderful world of “Just Because.” You support the idea of state sanctioned torture. You support the idea of the federal government writing its own warrants. You wouldn’t support it if Hillary Clinton was pursuing it. You support it JUST BECAUSE George Bush is doing it. It’s not because you’re informed, it’s because you’re impressionable. You don’t have principles, you have party affiliation.

    The Federal Government had the ability to prevent 9-11. All of this quelling of intelligent discussion in the name of security is just stupidity and it’s historically backward.

    Google The Stamp Act and read about where the American Revolution came from.

  112. Fluffy-Nowhere did I say that what was used in the article was a metaphor. My outrage was focused on Mr. Potter’s mistaken impression that a metaphor and a direct comparison are one and the same thing.

  113. Brian,

    Perhaps any remnant paleo faction of

  114. Brian,

    Perhaps any remnant paleo faction of REASON‘s staff could start a “Cosmotarian Watch” column to highlight crap like Wilkinson’s above toolishness. I bet it would be more popular than Brickbats!

    fixed now

  115. I like this image a lot more than the freedom train idea posted to H&R recently.

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