Regions of Mind

Self-assured but self-questioning.

U.S. regionalism,
foreign policy,
politics, life.

Geitner Simmons is an editorial writer with the Omaha World-Herald.
This weblog expresses his personal views only.
He is also
a Midwesterner,
a Southerner,
a husband, a father, a son. And always
a student.

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Sunday, June 30
Electing a King
Support from the Club of Growth, a staunchly conservative free-market group, has made a difference in the Republican contest for Iowa’s 5th U.S. House District, which covers 32 counties in the rural, western end of the state. On Saturday, GOP delegates elected state Sen. Steve King, who championed his right-wing bona fides to hold off three conservative challengers as well as State House Speaker Brent Siegrist, a moderate.

Republicans enjoy a large advantage in voter registration in the recently created House district, so King has a considerable edge.

If you’re looking for astute analysis on Iowa politics, check out David Hogberg’s blog, Cornfield Commentary. Dave is on vacation but has been taking occasional breaks from his California respite to post new items.

Alienated and incoherent
The current issue of The National Interest offers loads to ponder. I'm going to address several articles in a set of posts here. (A note about links to The National Interest: It posts only excerpts from its articles.)

Paul Hollander has an article titled “The Resilience of the Adversary Culture,” in which he examines the anti-Americanism of left-liberal academics and activists. Of particular interest:

  • “Living near a campus generally inclines one to overestimate the adversary culture’s influence, whereas distance from such a setting tempts one to write it off as inconsequential.”
  • Russell Jacoby’s comment about alienation captures what is distinctive about the adversarial disposition: ‘Alienation once referred to social relations and labor, signifying an objective condition. Later it turned into an irritation or annoyance. I am alienated, someone will announce, meaning, I am unhappy or uncomfortable.' "
  • To sum up the left-liberal intelligentsia’s casual resort to opaque, jargon-stuffed language, Hollander deploys a wonderful term coined by Jacoby: “postcoherent thinkers.” Writes Hollander: “As Orwell observed, only intellectuals are capable of believing certain kinds of nonsense.”
  • Russell Means, the Indian activist/actor, is quoted as saying that the United States tramples individual liberties in the fashion (to quote Means) of what went on “behind the so-called Iron Curtain.” Means decries “the ongoing deprivation of individual liberties and violations of the U.S. Constitution ... the government lost all constitutional responsibility and has become an outlaw.” Very interesting, considering that Means is running this year as an independent candidate for governor of New Mexico.
  • “Some Americans, it seems, have always been alienated; we should not lose sight of that fact that many of the earliest American forebears came here from the Old World precisely because they were alienated there. A keen receptivity to the real or perceived injustices of American society thus has a long tradition ... Strong beliefs in the perfectibility of human beings and institutions have for centuries been an essential attribute of the American view of the world, as has an indefatigable optimism regarding the solubility of all social, political and personal problems. The social critical temper of the adversary culture has always fed on the high expectations that American social and historical conditions have generated and nurtured, and such expectations remain in place today.”

  • On the latter point, it’s true that Americans traditionally have displayed optimism about the nation‘s future. It’s a big stretch, though, to think that the founders themselves were spurred by grand visions about human perfectibility. On the contrary, informed by abundant examples from Western history, they were realists more than idealists and tended to voice a sober recognition of the limits of human character. And one of the hallmarks of political wisdom is the recognition that many problems are less soluble than merely manageable -- and often, that’s being optimistic.

    Screen distortion
    The same issue of The National Interest includes a piece by radio talk-show host/movie critic Michael Medved, titled “That’s Entertainment? Hollywood’s Contribution to Anti-Americanism Abroad.” Medved notes that:

  • "George Gerber, a leading analyst of media violence at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded after 30 years of research that characters on network television fall victim to acts of violence at least 50 times more frequently than citizens of the real America." (Emphasis by Medved.)
  • "Analysis by Robert and Linda Lichter at the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, DC reveals that on television, depictions of sex outside of marriage are nine to 14 times more common than dramatizations of marital sex."
  • " ... the portion of all movie income derived from foreign distribution rose from 30 percent in 1980 to more than 50 percent in 2000. James G. Robinson, influential chairman of Morgan Creek Productions, was right to have predicted to the Los Angeles Times in March 1992: 'All of the real growth in the coming years will be overseas.' " (Medved argues that Hollywood’s growing focus on the international market “has served to further detach today’s producers from any sense of patriotic or parochial identification.”)

  • Medved is persuasive on several points, although the shallowness of the entertainment biz, like that of the fashion industry, is always an easy target. Which reminds me of a wonderful vignette that Martin Devon recently included at Patio Pundit about a proud-to-be-ignorant comment from an aspiring LA actress.

    Just as “Mein Kampf” told us about Hitler’s mindset ...
    A review in The National Interest praises the analyses of Islamic radicalism in books by Gilles Kepel and Roland Jacquard. Writes reviewer Martin Kramer: “The terrorism experts, whom the professors hold in such low esteem ... actually have a better track record than any combination of academic Arabists. ... The reason is that they took Islamists at their word.” Indeed.

    A world of their own
    Nikolas Gvosdev, in the final National Interest essay, describes a fascinating long-time call to create a separate Eurasian identity in Central Asia.

    In the early 1920s, Gvosdev writes, a group of Russian emigre intellectuals called for “an Exodus to the East.” Those writers, Gvosdev says

    had in mind lands between the Vistula and the Amur that to them were neither Europe nor Asia, but a distinct “Ocean-Continent” they called Eurasia. Genghis Khan, the unifier of the steppes, was their hero; Peter the Great, the man who tried to “open a window onto Europe,” they despised.

    That reminds me a bit of the Southern Agrarians, a group of Depression-era intellectuals who decried the encroachment of modernity in the American South and held up rural traditionalism as a cultural ideal.

    The president of Kazkhstan, the Gvosdev essay notes, has named a university in the country’s new capital after Lev Gumilev, a historian and geographer “who propounded the notion of Eurasia as a shared cultural and environmental space uniting Turk and Slav, Orthodox and Muslim.”