Media

Virginia Postrel on Oprah's All-American "Binge Dreaming"

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Great insights into Oprah Winfrey's impact and influence on the past-quarter century by former Reason chief Virginia Postrel:

Compared to the vicious negativity of Spy [another cultural force with roots in the 1980s], Winfrey's relentless optimism—her affirmation that every person and every situation can be redeemed—is refreshing. But you don't have to be a snarky cynic to recognize its limits. Should we really find Elie Wiesel's bleak "Night" an uplifting read? Treat Auschwitz as a learning experience? Seriously?

Oprah-ism doesn't foster nuance or critical thinking. Yet even at its most philosophically ridiculous, it does manifest a singular, and characteristically American, virtue: It moves forward. The past, it affirms, is over and cannot be changed. What matters now is what happens next.

And so, having proved herself a realist after all, the binge dreamer moves on.

Whole thing here. This is Virginia's first col at the new Bloomberg.com View section, which itself is an interesting entry into news and opinion commentary. And check out Virginia's main blogging site, Deep Glamour ("at the intersection of imagination and desire").

NEXT: Friday Funnies

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  1. Why shouldn’t we learn from Auschwitz?

    1. Indeed, it’s the Holiday Weekend?. People standing in line. Hungry, crying children. The aroma of burning meat. It’s a teachable moment.

    2. Good point. For all the yammering about ‘German Engineering’ regarding cars, that whole Final Solution thing was pretty loaded down with labor intensive inefficiency. Cue everyone going all emo about it, and denouncing me as a terrible person for pointing this out. Blah blah blah. Killing/Gassing undesirables was a fools errand that tied down too many resources that could have been directed towards defeating the Russians.

      1. Wind Rider, you’re assuming that the main goal of the Nazis was making Germany a superpower. While they did want Germany to rule the World, this goal was secondary to their plans to take over Germany and rule it with an iron fist. Killing the Jews furthered that goal by rousing up the populace so that the Germans would hand over power to the Nazis. A major lesson from Auschwitz is that if you elect an anti-Semite, you’ll probably suffer at his hands even if you aren’t Jewish.

        1. A major lesson from Auschwitz is that if you elect an anti-Semite, you’ll probably suffer at his hands even if you aren’t Jewish.

          Uh, why exactly? Not that I support electing anti-Semites or anything, but I don’t see that particular lesson coming from Auschwitz.

          1. As ever, the Iron Laws provide guidance.

            Me today, you tomorrow.

      2. Check out the program of the National-Socialists (Nazi) German Worker’s Party at the Jewish Virtual Library. It shows that colonizing the World was just a small part of the Nazis’ goals. Some noteworthy points are:

        10. It must be the first duty of every Citizen to carry out intellectual or physical work. Individual activity must not be harmful to the public interest and must be pursued within the framework of the community and for the general good.

        11. The abolition of all income obtained without labor or effort.

        13. We demand the nationalization of all enterprises (already) converted into corporations (trusts).

        16. We demand the creation and maintenance of a sound middle class; the immediate communalization of the large department stores, which are to be leased at low rates to small tradesmen. We demand the most careful consideration for the owners of small businesses in orders placed by national, state, or community authorities.

        17. We demand land reform in accordance with our national needs and a law for expropriation without compensation of land for public purposes. Abolition of ground rent and prevention of all speculation in land.

        19. We demand the replacement of Roman Law, which serves a materialistic World Order, by German Law.

        23. We demand laws to fight against deliberate political lies and their dissemination by the press. In order to make it possible to create a German press, we demand:

        a) all editors and editorial employees of newspapers appearing in the German language must be German by race;

        b) non-German newspapers require express permission from the State for their publication. They may not be printed in the German language;

        c) any financial participation in a German newspaper or influence on such a paper is to be forbidden by law to non-Germans and the penalty for any breach of this law will be the closing of the newspaper in question, as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-Germans involved.

        Newspapers which violate the public interest are to be banned. We demand laws against trends in art and literature which have a destructive effect on our national life, and the suppression of performances that offend against the above requirements.

        25. To carry out all the above we demand: the creation of a strong central authority in the Reich. Unquestioned authority by the political central Parliament over the entire Reich and over its organizations in general. The establishment of trade and professional organizations to enforce the Reich basic laws in the individual states.

    3. How offensive is it if I suggest a concentration camp video game? Where you’re an inmate who gets loose with a gun. . .and goes Biblical on the Nazi guards?

        1. That was in the bunker, right? No bunker here. Just concentration camp. Maybe with tunnels?

  2. Lighten up.

  3. You get an oven!
    And you get an oven!
    And you get an oven!

    1. lol

  4. Spy pioneered the snobby, snarky cynicism that many writers under 50 still equate with sophistication.

    Or, “found as funny as hell.”

    1. I’m all for optimism, but is unthinking optimism good? Isn’t that, coincidentally, the bill of goods sold by this president?

      1. Exactly. That kind of happy crap – not rational optimism, but smoke-blowing – deserves sarcasm and snark. I will agree that SPY went after nearly everything, but there are a lot of things in this society that need bullshit called upon them. I respect Postrel, but we are not richer for its demise.

  5. I really hate this woman.

    1. Postrel or Oprah?

      1. Oprah.

  6. Fantastically successful people can not imagine failure, although it is the hallmark of the lives of the vast majority. Likewise, unsuccessful people can not imagine success. Sure, everything looks golden and full of potential for redemption at worst for Oprah. How could it look otherwise. Success breeds more success. Likewise, failure breeds more failure. None of this applies to a certain class of people who are insulted from failure, no matter how inept or stupid they may be.

    1. “Fantastically successful people can not imagine failure”

      It’s more accurate to say they choose not to imagine failure, or at least not to dwell on it, as unsuccessful people do. Metaphorically, everyone gets kicked in the teeth from time to time. Everyone. Assume the fetal position, or come up with a bloody smile — how you react makes all the difference.

      “Success breeds more success. Likewise, failure breeds more failure.”

      Absolutely, and between the two lies the turning point. Selling the promise of a turning point has made Oprah fantastically wealthy. That wasn’t entirely a con-game.

      Yikes, did I just defend Oprah?

  7. There is nothing redeeming or praiseworthy about this awful, awful woman. If anything, she is actually a real-life caricature of the left’s idea of capitalism: the woman who became insanely wealthy by selling opiate to the masses — opiate in the form of junk science, junk health, junk relationship advise, junk literature, etc.

    The only thing I have to say about her is that she’s a bug in the system, not a feature. Or at least I hope so.

  8. You’d think someone like Virginia Postrel would know that Elie Wiesel is a complete and utter fraud.

  9. Franklin Harris (commenting above) is spot on. An odious woman (who’s low point may have been painting a positive portrait of a Palestinian suicide bomber). Capitalism made her rich. She responded by endorsing every statist scheme, punitive tax, and regulatory monstrosity she could. Her optimism is the optimism of those who believe that the CORRECT all-powerful state can make us whole again. Good riddance.

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