Thursday, February 09, 2006

Anne Applebaum, Take 2

The fair and balanced right-wing blogosphere continues to run with the Anne Applebaum snafu in the Washington Post. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is the respected Austin Bay who gives Applebaum credit for her history of generally good foreign policy pieces. As reluctant daily readers of the Post, we'll actually agree. But Bay gets to the root of a deeper problem here, one we've explored in many ways here at HazZzmat:
Anne Applebaum is confused, so what does a confused American liberal do? Blame American conservatives. Hey, read the DailyKos and you’ll conclude Bush is the enemy, not Al Qaeda.
He then provides some context for this observation:
Let me praise her first. Applebaum has clearly visited a few of those highly-politicized “art” (or so-called art) exhibitions. Her column of Wednesday, February 8 takes an effective swipe at the “hypocrisy of the cultural left.” She scalds several major newspapers that published Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ but have failed to publish the Danish cartoons. Her conclusion, which I endorse:

The moral: While we are nervous about gratuitously offending believers in distant, underdeveloped countries, we don’t mind gratuitously offending believers at home.
But now the pivot, bold emphasis ours:
Let me explain her meta-game. She writes for a liberal paper with a liberal agenda. She knows the cultural left is packed with hypocrites and poseurs, but to make that point while keeping her “I’m a good liberal” credentials in order, she has to go after conservatives.

Fair enough– conservatives deserve to be blasted on a slew of issues. However, the subject she chooses — so-called “right wing” treatment of Newsweek’s phony Koran-flushing story–isn’t one of them.

Applebaum still doesn’t understand what Newsweek did and how Newsweek’s fakery is categorically different from Denmark’s editorial cartoons. I will agree that political Islamist’s and secular tyrants provoked riots using Newsweek’s story and the Danish cartoons, but those folks aren’t the “right-wing blogosphere.”
Bay cites approvingly the Power Line semi-fisk we cited earlier today, and concludes with a decent capitalist commercial that wraps this up neatly:
My Creators Syndicate column on The Cartoon War anticipated this line of guff, though not from Ms. Applebaum. I honestly expected better. (My column first appeared February 8 at StrategyPage– the same day as Applebaum's It will run in the Washington Times on February 10, I suspect.)
The Washington Times, BTW, is America's newspaper, not the Washington Post.

We have long decried not only the nihilism and smug elitism of the left. We have always done our best to expose the situation under which this occurs, a sort of "dhimmitude" in the world of literature and the arts. People who write can "deviate" from the party line but will not be treated equally, will never be nominated for Pulitzer Prizes or MacArthur "genius" grants, will not get their books reviewed in the major media, or will receive, at best, hit-job reviews from predictable leftists. Except for the notable few, like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, etc., who slipped below the radar when no one was looking, virtually no one who does not follow the party line in lockstep will have a very significant writerly career, whether as a journalist, critic, pundit, novelist, etc.

And that's what Bay is driving at in his post. Applebaum seems, in general, to have the discernment and talent to function objectively. But lest she be thrown out of the liberal pond to flop around, gasping for oxygen, on the parched shore with the bulk of conservative writers and artists (there are a few), she hews to the line and puts in the obligatory conservative-bashing where it isn't even called for and is entirely out of context.

The writerly life today is like a snotty high school clique. The rich, elite kids control the club. You don't get in until and unless they say so. And most of the time, they never will, since they know it all and are better than anyone else. This has killed, among other things, the writerly arts in this country, for it has created a generation of sheep posing as cutting-edge writers. Searching for objective truth is their alleged passion, although they can never find it on the right. But one must keep firmly in mind that all they're really trying to do is make sure they stay in the club so the rich, beautiful people will look at them once in awhile. The elites are careful to keep them in line by dispensing the occasional little prize to the ones who suck up the best. Deviation leads to permanent ejection from the feast and weeping and gnashing of teeth outside this heavily-gated community.

Unfortunately, as Bay has pointed out, desire for approval and conformity in this case undermined what could actually have been a very fine column by Applebaum. One can try to achieve excellence in writing, or one can write in such a way as to fit in. We now know where Anne Applebaum's tendencies lie. And the Gramscian left claims yet another victim in its War on Truth.

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