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The New Criterion

The New Criterion is probably more consistently worth reading than any other magazine in English.
- The Times Literary Supplement

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What Celebrities Think

by James Bowman

Posted: May 28, 2015 04:08 PM


George Stephanopoulos via

That George Stephanopoulos happened to have $75,000 in spare change lying around to donate to the Clinton Foundation was ultimately owing to his association with the Clintons in the first place. He was just “giving back” by way of a monetary thank you to the celebrity presidential couple who have, perhaps inadvertently, done so much to make him a celebrity himself. That he is a celebrity is well-attested by the seven-year, $105 million contract he signed with ABC News last year. Such a sum, it is hardly necessary to point out, is not a journalist’s salary. Yet Heather Riley, a spokeswoman for ABC, e-mailed Paul Farhi of The Washington Post to ask: “Did you ask every other journalist that moderated panels for [the Clinton Global Initiative] if they disclosed this to their audiences? Only seems fair if you’re posing that question to us.”

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A profile in reviewing courage

by James Bowman

Posted: Apr 29, 2015 12:09 PM


 

Just over a year ago I wrote of the Twitter-bombing I had received on account of having written that the movie 12 Years a Slave would have been better, and even more effective as propaganda, if it had allowed itself to present an ever-so-slightly more benign portrait of slavery in the antebellum South than the exaggeratedly moralistic one it had in fact presented. A few months later, The Economist got an even more severe bombardment for publishing a review of Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books) which made much the same point—and subsequently made the career and fortune of Mr. Baptist when the review had to be withdrawn (though you can still see it in a segregated “special page” of the website “in the interests of transparency”) with a groveling apology from the editors for having run it in the first place.

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Yet another non-scandal

by James Bowman

Posted: Apr 22, 2015 02:23 PM


 

As a scandalologist of long standing, I am fascinated by the Clintons’ apparent invulnerability to the sorts of claims of wrong-doing that routinely cripple or disqualify other, lesser politicians, at least since Bill’s impeachment back in 1998. To some extent, of course, this is easily explained. For a scandal to be wounding or fatal, it has to be relentlessly pursued by the media to precisely that end, and the media are in no mood to wound or kill the reputation either of Bill or of Hillary. In this month’s New Criterion I ventured to suggest that this was because the media felt guilty about their scandal-enthusiasm during Monicagate, and that Ms. Lewinsky and her blue dress had only been for Bill the non-fatal, homeopathic dose of scandal which gave him immunity to much more serious scandals down the road. Hillary, too, as an unwilling participant in that affair, somehow emerged from it with an immunity of her own.

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Dear old Golden Rule days

by James Bowman

Posted: Mar 23, 2015 03:55 PM


Peter Tait, the Headmaster of Sherborne Preparatory School in England — where, by the way, a preparatory school is one that prepares children to take at age 13  the “Common Entrance” exam into that special class of private schools that can call themselves “public”— wrote an article for The Daily Telegraph the other day insisting that “we should be teaching morals and ethics in our schools.”

 

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Theatre of war

by James Bowman

Posted: Feb 27, 2015 12:34 PM


Ewan Donald as Malcolm in Dunsinane. Photo by Jason Ma.

Is it just me or has the theatrical culture of the English-speaking world gone into a terminal decline? I would think that perception a sign of my advancing age but for the occasional straws in the wind to suggest that I am not entirely alone. Janice Turner in The Times of London, for example, writes that she recently walked out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie Inherent Vice.

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Human nature and celebrity

by James Bowman

Posted: Feb 13, 2015 04:42 PM


Brian Williams and David Carr

It must have been the fifth or sixth time this morning that the “anchors” on my local news-radio station told me that the “wind-chill factor” was sub-zero that poor old Brian Williams came swimming up into my thoughts. Having been born in a part of the country where sub-zero temperatures—the real, not the “wind-chill factor” kind—are pretty normal at this time of year, I have always been a bit impatient with the weather hyperbole so often to be met with in softer southern regions such as Washington, D.C. I understand that it is a convenient conversation-starter and therefore a contributor to social solidarity at an informal level—when you meet someone in the elevator, for example, or walking the steaming dogs. But heard on the radio, and at such length, it makes you think these people are desperate either for something to talk about or to pretend to be my friends.

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The real thing

by James Bowman

Posted: Jan 27, 2015 12:08 AM


 

One thing you may have noticed, as I did, about the media’s coverage of President Obama’s State of the Union Address last week, is how often the President’s grip on reality was called into question. This is nothing new coming from Republicans like Karl Rove, who wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the speech “was disconnected from economic reality.” Likewise, Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary noticed that the speech had "a tone that was [...] divorced from the reality of Obama’s six years in office.” But even the massively pro-Obama media may be beginning to think this or similar views of the matter worth reporting if not wholeheartedly endorsing. Thus Peter Baker in The New York Times wrote that the President “made no reference at all to the midterm elections, offered no concessions about his own leadership and proposed no compromises to accommodate the political reality.”

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The torture report as the ultimate harvest of media bias

by James Bowman

Posted: Dec 12, 2014 04:46 PM


Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty

As Charles Lane points out in today’s Washington Post, the biggest of the many problems that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture revealed about American security services may be the one that hardly anyone is talking about: namely, that security itself has become irrevocably politicized. The CIA, I fear, cannot avoid its share of blame for this, in view of its own history of leaking and briefing against elected authority during the Bush years. But the biggest share of the blame must accrue to the Senate Democrats who have allowed themselves to become captives of the anti-American left. They in turn are egged on by the media, whom the Democrats know they can trust not to moderate their treatment of the report as a scandal by any mention of the partisan nature of the conclusions drawn. Now we know that there is nothing in our public life, not even national security, that can be treated as being above partisanship.

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Manners makyth man

by James Bowman

Posted: Nov 20, 2014 02:06 PM


Sir William Dugdale, Bt.

“Know thyself” — in the words of the ancient Greek maxim that was inscribed outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and once known to all who received the education of a gentleman. It would have been good advice for Matthew Norman, a columnist for London Independent, who apparently did not receive such an education. He writes today with an almost unbelievable smugness and condescension of his own, of the recent death of Sir William Dugdale, an uncle of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, that he typified his class’s remoteness from everyday life and sympathy with ordinary folk.

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Some Thoughts on Veterans’ Day

by James Bowman

Posted: Nov 11, 2014 01:35 PM


 

The unseemly squabble among Navy SEALs and the authorities they once served over how Osama bin Laden was killed and who killed him provides a good example of what happens when a country loses its honor culture. The native or reflexive honor is still there, reinforced by a specialized military honor culture, but the larger social environment no longer retains any sense of what honor means, apart from one’s personal beliefs and values. Without that understanding, even our men of honor — in this case the SEALs — don’t know how to behave. Nor, I scarcely need add, do the journalists who have come forward to criticize Matt Bissonnette, author of No Easy Day and Rob O’Neill, now revealed (though not without further controversy over the claim) as the SEAL whose bullets to the head killed the terrorist leader.

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About ArmaVirumque

 

( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)

 

In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.

 

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