Recent links of note:
“What are we allowed to say?”
David Bromwich, London Review of Books
“If you accept that we should aim to achieve a combination of openness and robust civility, the question becomes: how?” This little question, which has come up in struggles over speech on college campuses and in numerous commentaries on the presidential election, is also the fulcrum of David Bromwich’s recent essay in the London Review of Books. As Bromwich points out, the West had long maintained a stable enough balance between its commitments to free speech and common decency, but the compromise collapsed when “multiculturalism” created a new and often exaggerated standard for acceptable speech. Like most essays that take aim at complicated questions, this one addresses a range of relevant topics (Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the Charlie Hebdo murders, for example) without ever settling on one definite answer to apply to all situations. But Bromwich doesn’t quite shrink from taking a side either. His essay leaves readers with a warning of the future that awaits if the gray cloud of “civility” continues to grow unchecked, covering over the stark light of critical speech.
“Marx and Freud: The Creatures of Prometheus”
Daniel Johnson, Standpoint
What ethereal alchemy allows the work of certain thinkers to endure, if not the credibility of their ideas? The editor of Standpoint Daniel Johnson takes on the question with regard to the twin “titans” of modern thought, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, in his latest review on his magazine’s pages. Johnson describes how both men adopted the manner and self-assuredness of biblical prophets in proclaiming their theories (despite their avowed atheism), winning over devoted audiences with illusory promises of eternal satisfaction. Although the review is anchored in Johnson’s take on two newly released biographies, the depth of Johnson’s comparison between the men goes much deeper than his mere reaction to these recent reflections. It’s worth noting that Johnson is far from the first to assess Marx and Freud as a pair: Roger Kimball opined on the reemergence of the twosome in Sexual Revolution thinking in a 1997 essay in The New Criterion.
“In 2016, What Would Bill Buckley Do?”
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review
In times as disorienting as the current presidential election, it’s natural to look to principled men of the past to discern what positions they might have staked out. Bill Buckley, first in the parade of modern conservative saints, has already been resurrected by countless opinion writers who cite his damning critique of Donald Trump in 2000 as support for their own standoff with the Republican candidate. In a recent post, however, Kevin D. Williamson of Buckley’s own National Review comes out in opposition to all those who claim to know the mind of the old master—a humble stance on Williamson’s part, given his own strong opinions about the campaign. Williamson notes that those who knew Buckley better than he are confident that the man could never be reduced to a template, applied predictably to each issue and circumstance. Of course, that thought hasn’t stopped the spunky denizens of NR’s comments section from taking their best shot at bringing the late luminary down to their level.
From our pages:
“A Beauty in the Baltics”
On the musicians of the Baltic states, and a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet in Tallin.