Monday, February 4, 2008

Brown and Root of All Evil

The top story on the cover of the January/February Brown Alumni Magazine is an account by David Klinghoffer (a National Review editor — not unlike one of our speakers at Lolita Bar this coming Wednesday, remember) of how Brown turned him into a conservative — fulla revelations like him being adopted and born of Gentiles, being a Marxist freshman year, and being wracked by an unrequited crush on an Orthodox Jewish student pseudonymously called Tamara in the article (but perhaps some of my Brown alum readers know who she was — Klinghoffer graduated just as I arrived in 1987). It all leads to him becoming an intelligent design adherent as an adult and an ideologue whose new book explicitly (and many might say irresponsibly) argues — quite literally, even in its title — that God (or G-d or whoever) commands you to be a political conservative.

He fully admits that attending an energetic prayer session with Tamara had a big impact on him, which to me is about the same, philosophically, as admitting that going to a really good concert with one of your fellow African-Americans finally made you embrace your tribe and thus become a Democratic activist — except that we have put lots of mental energy into treating these two different sorts of experiences as “opposite.” It’s all identity politics driven by emotion, though — and if Klinghoffer were Christian and told a similar story, it’d just be identity politics for the majority instead of for the minority. So, he is still an identity-politics-focused Brown student in the end and says he’d happily send his own kids there — even if his reactionary tale is one with which I, as a non-leftist Brown alum, should greatly sympathize.

But I wasn’t interested in just picking between rival tribes while at Brown. How about a politics that sets individuals free from the lunkheads of all stripes, political and mystical, who surround them — instead of preaching “solidarity” and whatnot, which is nothing more than the fancy modern version of saying, “You no can leave tribe, Ogok! We strong together! Strong!! We smash you good, loner!”

Klinghoffer mentions at one point being taken with the claim of one rabbi, oddly similar to reincarnation stories, that all Jewish souls were present at and then scattered from Mt. Sinai, sometimes landing in newborn Gentile bodies but struggling during life to find their way “back” to God — about the creepiest take on in-group/out-group religiosity I’ve heard since finding out that the Mormons retroactively baptize us all as Mormons after we die (thus their obsession with genealogies, in case you were wondering — one day, all the dead will officially be “converts” to Mormonism).

Like the manifestly emotionally-unstable Whittaker Chambers, Klinghoffer probably could have used more “alone time” between revoking his communist tribal membership and adopting his conservative/religious tribal membership. Sanity shines through the cracks between tribes like sun through clouds.

A few other quick, minor complaints about this issue while I’m at it:

•Two pages on Brown historian Ted Widmer without mentioning that he was in the hilarious faux-eighteenth-century rock band the Upper Crust, the Ensemble who gave to us such aff-kicking and resplendent Melodies as “Let Them Eat Rock” and “High-Falutin’.”

•A Randy “Ethicist” Cohen speech about plagiarism’s good points recounted without mentioning how the nation’s least responsible ethics columnist (whose answer to every dilemma is essentially just: become a Democrat) was nicely put in his place a few years ago in a critical article by Brown alum Jacob Levy.

•A completely uncritical, glowing profile of the villainous Brown alum Laura Stanley, head of New York City’s Trans Fat Help Center, a smiling and upbeat collaborator in the unscientific and totalitarian NYC ban on a type of fat barely different from any other fat, as ACSH often notes.

•But perhaps worst of all: Two pages about Brown alums Doug Liman and Simon Kinberg’s work on the sci-fi thriller Jumper without mentioning that Kinberg co-wrote the third X-Men movie, which of course was perhaps the ultimate expression of Brown’s ethos of tolerance and diversity.


Michael Bates said...

all Jewish souls were present at and then scattered from Mt. Sinai, sometimes landing in newborn Gentile bodies

Jewish Body Thetans?

Xine said...

Haven’t read the issue yet, so don’t know if it brings together two strains above by mentioning in the Simon Kinberg article that he wrote *Mr and Mrs Smith*, a blatant rip-off (where are you, Ethicist?) of both *Prizzi’s Honor* and *War of the Roses* (hmmm—someone had a Kathleen Turner fetish in the 80s).

Todd Seavey said...

They did mention _Mr. and Mrs. Smith_, which I liked in spite of it being derivative and dopey — and while we’re on the subject of Angelina Jolie fightin’, I will also say that goofy though the first _Tomb Raider_ was, I think the opening scene of her fighting the practice robot was the coolest robot fight yet seen on screen.

The movie goes downhill from there, though you do get to see Angelina in lots of interesting outfits. It would help if there were a director’s cut that cut out all the dialogue.

Todd Seavey said...

Speaking of derivative, _Mr. and Mrs. Smith_ included a song by the shamelessly Pogues-like band Flogging Molly — but I’m OK with that, too (especially another of their songs, “Every Dog Has Its Day”).

David Whitney said...

Todd, please don’t use the word “whatnot.”

Todd Seavey said...


Jacob T. Levy said...

“the third X-Men movie, which of course was perhaps the ultimate expression of Brown’s ethos of tolerance and diversity.”

Of all the nasty things you’ve said about Brown in your day, surely linking it to the craptacular X3 is among the nastiest!


I’ve long since accepted that, despite my devastating and correct criticisms, Cohen will continue to be famous, gainfully employed, widely read, and a draw on the lecture circuit.