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The New Criterion

Quite simply, the best cultural review in the world
- John O’Sullivan



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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News from Blighty

by James Bowman

Posted: Jun 09, 2015 02:16 PM

Westminster Abbey, Canaletto (1749)

Although I haven’t seen it much reported on this side of the Atlantic, the Church of England has moved on from its most recent fit of progressivism — with the appointment of female bishops — to an apparently serious discussion of whether or not the Church is henceforth to address the author of the Universe with masculine or feminine pronouns and thus, asking (as the headline in The Daily Telegraph put it): “Is God a man or a woman?”

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News roundup

by James Bowman

Posted: Jun 01, 2015 01:06 PM


The Guardian reports on a new study published in Science purporting to show — at least according to The Guardian — that “early men and women were equal.” The article’s author, Hannah Devlin, quotes Mark Dyble, one of the authors of the study, as saying: “There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male- dominated. We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.” As Bethan McKernan of The Independent so elegantly put it: “Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, patriarchy.”

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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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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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September 29, 2015

Friends and Young Friends Event: Book Launch Party with Peter Pettus

October 02, 2015

Friends and Young Friends Event: "The Corruption of our Political Institutions," a symposium

More events >