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The Pope heeds the media’s warning

by James Bowman

Posted: Oct 06, 2015 02:39 PM

Kim Davis, via


The mighty media scandal machine has another triumph to celebrate as the Vatican, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times, has effectively acknowledged guilt in the meeting last week between the pope and Kim Davis by disavowing any support for Ms. Davis’s quixotic refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky. It was the papal nuncio in Washington who arranged the meeting, the Vatican spokesman now says. It was just one of many with lots of different people “due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.” In other words, as the Times put it: “On Friday, the Vatican appeared to be distancing itself from Ms. Davis’s camp.”

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Bard News

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 30, 2015 02:18 PM

Professor John McWhorter, via


He’s at it again. The Wall Street Journal at the weekend ran another piece by Professor John McWhorter of Columbia heralding the increasingly common theatrical practice of translating the plays of Shakespeare into simpler, more contemporary language in order to facilitate comprehension. Or at least what audiences wishing to be spared the trouble of understanding what Shakespeare actually wrote believe is comprehension. It is Dr. McWhorter’s purpose to flatter that belief and to reassure those who want Shakespeare without difficulty, Shakespeare pre-digested for easy swallowing, that they are quite right to do so.

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Authentic trumps rude

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 21, 2015 10:27 AM

Donald Trump's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame via


The invitation list to the White House for the welcoming ceremony ostensibly in honor of the Pope’s visit to America this week is yet another example, if one were needed, of the breakdown of civility in America. Or rather, it was not so much the invitations to avowed opponents of the Church’s doctrine and teachings as the assumption on President Obama’s part that neither he nor his party would pay any political price for such rudeness to a guest and a respected figure in an even more respected office who is also a foreign head of state. One must suppose him right in this assumption, too, in the absence of any reproof to his bad manners from anyone not already numbered among the President’s political enemies. The Vatican itself, though unofficially and anonymously expressing a certain chagrin at the Pope’s treatment, has not so far shown any disposition to lodge an official protest.

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On Remembering . . . and forgetting

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 11, 2015 11:46 AM

Photo: Oliver Douliery/Getty Images via

Or else what? It’s hard to believe that President Obama has never heard these words or felt the cold, hard grip of fear upon the heart that they induce in normal people when their bluff is called by a bigger, stronger, meaner adversary whom they have had the temerity or foolishness to challenge or reprove. Or else what? What are you going to do about it? Put up or shut up. Most of us—at least most of us who have had normal childhoods involving run-ins with playground bullies—recognize in those words a challenge that cannot be ducked without a devastating sense of shame at our own cowardice. It’s the kind of shame that can only be wiped away by fighting back, even at the risk of losing the fight, since the shame of losing, though bad enough, is not so bad as that shame.

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Fairness for the fair sex

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 27, 2015 04:27 PM

Times Square, October 1919

In a typically lumbering and awkward attempt at irony, Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post writes that “A new terror imperils New York, threatening to destroy all that it—nay, America—holds dear.” You could tell by the old-fashioned language in “nay” and the “holds dear” that she was being ironic. That’s good, because things that are non-ironically but putatively destructive of all we hold dear are rather a drug on the journalistic market these days, and one wouldn’t want to be blundering into yet another one of them by reading any further. But the relatively trivial matter which she wishes to trivialize further by her ridicule is the appearance in Times Square of bare breasted but usually body-painted women calling themselves desnudas who pose with tourists for tips. Some people don’t like this and are urging, not without result, the impeccably liberal powers that be in New York to do something about it.

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A party without heroes

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 19, 2015 09:50 AM

President and Mrs. Truman at a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

According to The New York Times, “State by State, [the] Democratic Party Is Erasing Ties to Jefferson and Jackson.” I’d have thought that “ties” were things to be “cut” rather than “erased,” but it turns out that “erased” in the once-favored etymological sense of “rooted up” is what the headline writer meant.

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Clay’s “Immortal Utterance” revisited

by James Bowman

Posted: Jul 09, 2015 01:05 PM

Jim Webb via

When I was a youngster, all school children knew the story of Henry Clay’s having said, “I had rather be right than president.” At least they knew the quotation, even if they didn’t always know the context of “the Great Compromiser’s” paradoxical refusal to budge from his own middle-of-the-road position on slavery, the principal matter of controversy of the day—as a result of which refusal he was attacked by his fellow Whigs and lost whatever chance he may have had at the presidency. It was a rather thrilling moment in our history and one which we may even hope to live long enough to see repeated by Donald Trump.

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Your chance to vote for Wonderland

by James Bowman

Posted: Jul 02, 2015 02:45 PM

Hilllary Clinton/ Courtesy of Manuel Balce Ceneta (AP)

Hillary Clinton came to Northern Virginia, where I live, the other day and addressed what The Washington Post described as “a crowd of several thousand Democrats” at George Mason University. “Several,” as we learned a few lines further down, meant two—although the Patriot Center where she spoke can hold ten. Thousands, that is. This is not a traditional meaning of the word “several,” but then the article’s author, Rachel Weiner, was obviously getting into the spirit of the occasion, which was decidedly anti-traditional.

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Arising out of tragedy, a new theory of everything

by James Bowman

Posted: Jun 26, 2015 10:13 AM

Le Chevalier de Bayard

In physics, so they tell me, the great white intellectual whale which has so far eluded even the brightest minds is what they call the “unified field theory” which would account for discrete descriptions of physical phenomena—such as general relativity and quantum theory—relations between which remain largely undiscovered. If there are laws of ratiocination analogous to those of physics, one of them must be that this urge to intellectual simplification and unification is a constant of human thought. It’s a theory, anyway. It occurred to me on reading an article in The Washington Post, which I took to be a progressive attempt to develop a sort of unified field theory of those demon -isms:  sexism and racism — with colonialism thrown in for good measure.

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Singing the middle-class blues

by James Bowman

Posted: Jun 17, 2015 02:58 PM

Hillary Clinton on Roosevelt Island

One sympathizes, naturally, with the incomprehension of Ella Whelan of Spiked Online when she writes of Hillary Clinton’s Roosevelt Island speech as follows:

She claimed she would be running ‘for all Americans’ and presented herself as having come from a history of hardship. Apparently, Clinton’s late mother, Dorothy Rodham, had a relatively tough start in life. . . Yet, in the context of the Great Depression, Clinton’s mother’s tale is not that startling. And, unlike a great many people of that period, Dorothy Rodham’s life turned out all right. In fact, Clinton’s own bid to join the oppressed club seems a bit of a stretch as, in her own words, her mother and father worked to ‘provide [her family] with a middle-class life’. Why then is Clinton so hell-bent on presenting her past as a misery memoir?

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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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