There is nothing so reminiscent of Communist-era censorship culture as the coercive, patronizing ideological commentaries with which cultural officials of the Law and Justice party have in the last few years been responding to books, plays, and films related to the Holocaust. Among their crude moves to establish ideological control at home and flout opinion in the West is a recently passed an amended law criminalizing claims that the Poles were complicit in or jointly responsible for the Nazis’ persecutions of Polish Jews.
Like many in the ruling coalition, the Culture Minister Miri Regev is openly against the establishment of a Palestinian state and has proposed annexing parts of the West Bank. She curries favor well with voters, in part because she fuses her political agenda with her promise to upend the monopoly that Israel’s Ashkenazi elite has had on the country’s cultural establishment. While Regev’s tenure may not represent a permanent, more coercive and censorious change in how the arts are funded in Israel, she embodies the sea-change in Israeli society, from a country that downplayed its inequities and declining democratic norms, to one that flaunts them.
Once Cambridge Analytica and SCL had won contracts with the State Department and were pitching to the Pentagon, the whistleblower Christopher Wylie became alarmed that this illegally-obtained data had ended up at the heart of government, along with the contractors who might abuse it. This apparently bizarre intersection of research on topics like love and kindness with defense and intelligence interests is not, in fact, particularly unusual. It is typical of the kind of dual-use research that has shaped the field of social psychology in the US since World War II.
The Kinsey Institute’s new director Sue Carter was an unusual choice. Although she is the first biologist to head up the institute since Kinsey himself, her career has focused on rodents. Perhaps tellingly, Carter’s research on vole monogamy has been cited by pro-abstinence and anti-pornography organizations to justify their positions. According to the Kinsey Institute’s website, over the three years that Carter has been the director, only about 40 percent of the publications coming out of the Kinsey institute have been related to human sexuality, compared to about 88 percent under the last two directors.
It is imperative to ask why and how this obscure Canadian academic, who insists that gender and class hierarchies are ordained by nature and validated by science, has suddenly come to be hailed as the West’s most influential public intellectual. Peterson rails against “softness,” arguing that men have been “pushed too hard to feminize,” like other hyper-masculinist thinkers before him who saw compassion as a vice and urged insecure men to harden their hearts against the weak (women and minorities) on the grounds that the latter were biologically and culturally inferior. Peterson’s ageless insights are, in fact, a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations.
Fifty-five years ago, The New York Review published its first issue. To celebrate the magazine’s emerald anniversary, in 2018 we will be going through the archives year by year, featuring some of the notable, important, and sometimes forgotten pieces that appeared in its pages. That first issue included a short note, addressed To the Reader: “The hope of the editors,” they wrote, “is to suggest, however imperfectly, some of the qualities which a responsible literary journal should have and to discover whether there is, in America, not only the need for such a review but the demand for one.”
The appeal of Nancy to the art comic crowd might seem counter-intuitive, but while Nancy was never particularly clever, it was always cleverly constructed. In fact, the accomplishment of Nancy, with its refined, reduced lines and preoccupation with plungers and faucets, might primarily be a matter of form. The beauty of cartooning may be difficult to appreciate, especially for those who have not been versed in cartooning for years. By dissecting this gag strip so systematically, How to Read Nancy is important for people working in the form, and also for the cartooning medium as a whole to be understood and recognized as the unique art form that it is.
Writing for White Russian émigrés in the 1920s and 1930s, Ivan Ilyin provided a metaphysical and moral justification for political totalitarianism, which he expressed in practical outlines for a fascist state. But his ideas have now been revived and celebrated by Putin: because Ilyin found ways to present the failure of the rule of law as Russian virtue, Russian kleptocrats use his ideas to portray economic inequality as national innocence. And by transforming international politics into a discussion of “spiritual threats,” Ilyin’s works have helped Russian elites to portray the Ukraine, Europe, and the United States as existential dangers to Russia.
At this St. Patrick’s Day, one could be fooled into thinking that the Irish-American community is as robust as ever. But changes to US immigration rules have largely closed the door to new entries, leading inexorably to a “graying” of Irish America. I didn’t realize when I came here in the late 1990s that thanks to multiple failed attempts at immigration reform, the conveyor belt of Irish immigration would more or less stop with my generation. What that means for Irish-American identity in general, and the New York Irish in particular, is becoming a pressing issue.
Attention is a limited resource: to pay attention to one thing requires us to withdraw it from others. But in today’s pervasive digital culture, technologies are transforming our patterns of attention, pursuing “those slivers of our unharvested awareness,” as Tim Wu puts it. Digital technology has thus provided consumer capitalism with its most powerful tools yet. Given current political anxieties about social mobility and inequality, how do we foster this most crucial and basic skill: sustaining attention?