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Monday, May 16, 2011

The lessons of the Tony Kushner affair

Alex Joffe does a nice job of summarizing the lessons we should derive from the Tony Kushner affair.
At least three lessons may be learned from this affair. The first is that for the New York cultural elite, which may be caricatured in this case as an interlocking directorate of playwright, pundits, and professors, the presumption of impunity is absolute. Academia, in particular, has a "sacred mission," to be defined solely by the faculty and under no circumstances to be questioned. That the faculties themselves tend to be monolithic in their political and ideological orientation may help to explain their wild overreaction in the present instance and others like it. Delusions of infallibility combined with well-deserved insecurity and profound authoritarianism make for a potent brew.

Then there is the key role played by the media, and preeminently by the Times, which no longer bothers to make even a pretense of dividing news from opinion, or opinion from insult, misrepresentation, and naked advocacy. On certain subjects, anyone getting the "news" from such a source might as well be reading leaflets handed out by the crank on the street corner. Only through a constant process of reading and tacking among multiple sources can one establish even the basic facts of who said what to whom.

But by far the most important lesson is the degree to which the state of Israel has indeed become the third rail of American cultural and intellectual politics. An individual wishing to be considered respectable by the interlocking directorate and its ancillary institutions and adjuncts is permitted only an extremely narrow slice of views on the Jewish state: the spectrum ranges from, roughly, seeing the country as basically legitimate but uniquely flawed to seeing it as wholly illegitimate and irretrievable. To wander from these parameters is to court the dreaded epithet of "right-wing," and to question the playwrights and professors who hold such views, or even to decline to honor them, puts one decisively beyond the pale.

In the end, the Kushner brouhaha also shows exactly who is responsible for placing the Israel "question" at the forefront of the American agenda. The answer is not evangelical Christians, or AIPAC, or "neoconservatives." It is the academic and cultural Left, along with its bedfellows on the isolationist Right, for whom the demonization of Israel is the cause of the day. There is cause for gratitude that, outside those precincts, the Kushner affair seems to have had no resonance whatsoever. There is cause for profound anxiety that the demonization has proceeded so far and infected so many in positions of power and influence.

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At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think of it this way. Academicians have issues because they have never truly lived in any world but school. They are absolute in their authority because their entire world is to bully young adults. They group together like any clique and cannot handle descent. Think 12 year old mean girls in middle school.The problem is that those in society who consider themselves intelligent plays into this crap.In fact they line up to be a part of this intellectual farce.


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