Behold, Fake History

Charles Lindbergh, advocate of America First

Behold, Fake History

Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream, Sarah Churchwell, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018, £20, 356 pp., h.b., reviewed by Leslie Jones

According to Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature in the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London, the American dream once denoted the principles of liberty, justice and economic equality, of curbing unbridled capitalism, as in the Progressive Era and the New Deal. It was about idealism v materialism, “about how to stop bad multimillionaires, not how to become one”.[i] These dubious contentions, an implicit criticism of President Trump, recur like a broken record throughout Behold, America. According to Churchwell, a naïve, self-styled social democrat, the concept was subsequently hollowed out and it now means rags to riches, the so-called “Alger ethic’. Needless to say, she fails to explain how liberty can be reconciled with equality without resorting to tyranny.

Historian Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) bears some resemblance to Behold, America, although Churchwell does not cite it in her selected bibliography. But, like Hofstadter, she perceives links between American nativism, isolationism, economic protectionism and racism. She depicts Donald Trump as a latter day W R Hearst or Citizen Kane. Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

High-flyer

 

Sir Edward John Poynter, The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon (detail)

High-flyer

Solomon, an oratorio in three acts, music by George Frideric Handel, text anonymous, orchestra conducted by Christian Curnyn, a collaboration between The Royal Opera and Early Opera Company, Covent Garden 11th October 2018, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Actors should never appear with children or animals. They can upstage you. The countertenor seems to enjoy an analogous advantage over his fellow performers, especially when the singer in question is as technically gifted as Lawrence Zazzo, in the role of King Solomon. With his floral waist coat and his extrovert manner, his imperious demeanour and expressive hands, he commanded the stage like royalty and at times seemed to be enjoying a private joke – “Happy, happy Solomon”, indeed. His stand out performance drew several rounds of spontaneous applause. Soprano Sophie Bevan, who combined the roles of his wife and the first harlot, also excelled. Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Matters, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dante’s Wake

Gustav Doré, Inferno

Dante’s Wake

Ian Thomson, Dante’s Divine Comedy; A Journey Without End, Head of Zeus, £18.99, 2018, reviewed by Stoddard Martin

Age after age has found Dante speaking to and for them. Ours may be another: we shall see. At present it is fashionable to confine socio-political opponents to a notional inferno– ‘Lock her up!’ etc. Public humour, if extant, tends towards the sarcastic and savage; torments and tortures are envisaged by our present-day Guelphs for Ghibellines and vice versa. The banking magnates of 13th century Florence have their loathed contemporary counterparts. Too many of us seem to be of ‘the worst’ who are ‘full of passionate intensity’*.

Ours is an age, in short, full of the incivility apparent in the first, most read, most translated and adapted part of The Divine Comedy. The follow-up question is this: do we have equivalent purgatorios and paradisos to move to? Do the ‘sunny uplands’ of Brexit resemble this? Does an America made ‘great again’? Where are the Virgils and Beatrices guiding our progress? Do we revere epic predecessors? Is there a sublime Ewig weibliche which may zieht uns hinan or at least beyond porny eros towards amor and finally caritas? Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, Cultural Matters, Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Indelible in the Hippocampus

Sigmund Freud

Indelible in the Hippocampus

By Ilana Mercer

One of many cringe-making moments in Christine Blasey Ford’s protracted complaint before the Senate Judiciary Committee—and the country—was an affectation-dripping reference to her hippocampus.

“Indelible in the hippocampus” was the memory of supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her, some 36 years back, asserted Ford in that scratchy, valley-girl voice of hers.

With that, the good “doctor” was making a false appeal to scientific authority. Ford had just planted a falsity in the nation’s collective consciousness. The accuser was demanding that the country believe her and her hippocampus. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Judge not, lest thou be judged

Brett Kavanaugh

Judge not, lest thou be judged

By Ilana Mercer

By the time this column goes to press, Christine Blah-Blah Ford will have appeared before the coven once considered the greatest deliberative body in the world: The United States Senate.

At the time of writing, however—on the eve of a hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee to ascertain the veracity of Blasey Ford’s sexual assault claim against Judge Brett Kavanaugh—I hazard that voter distrust in the Republicans will prove justified.

True to type, Republicans will deliver a disaster to their supporters—to those banking on the confirmation of another conservative to the Supreme Court bench.

To question the two adversaries, the psychology professor versus the Supreme Court nominee, the Republicans chose an unknown, unremarkable quantity—a Phoenix-based prosecutor named Rachel Mitchell. Mitchell heads the Special Victims Division of Maricopa County, which consists of “sex-crimes and family-violence bureaus.” Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Presenting Powell and Pressburger

Still from Peeping Tom

Presenting Powell and Pressburger

 by Stuart Millson

During the 1940s and ‘50s, cinema in this country was revolutionised by the work of two film-makers, the Kent-born Michael Powell, and his friend and colleague, the Hungarian-born émigré and veteran of continental and German cinema, Emeric Pressburger. It might seem, at first sight, as if these two cultural forces were contradictory, but in some of their finest films – A Canterbury Tale, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death – the English vision of Michael Powell was intensified, and made more mysterious, more atmospheric, by Pressburger’s heritage as an “outsider”. It was said that Pressburger never lost his sense of middle-Europe – and even his retirement home in the Suffolk countryside, Shoemaker’s Cottage, was compared to a fairy tale dwelling from a Brothers Grimm story. Yet, just like the Czech writer Karel Capek, he saw the heart of England. Michael Powell’s cinematography lifted the films which they made together to the level of art, but it was Emeric’s screenplays and stories, with their riddles and unexpected twists and outcomes, which gave each production its stamp of uniqueness. Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Matters, QR Home | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

On the Road

Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton, in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

On the Road                                                                           

by Bill Hartley

Last Saturday, a friend and I went to the Pop Up theatre at the Leeds Playhouse to see a revival of Jim Cartwright’s play Road, which originally appeared in 1986. We sat down amidst a largely middle class audience: the working classes evidently have better things to do on a Saturday night in Leeds than to see themselves depicted on stage. For about two hours, we were treated to an unceasing festival of misery as the able and energetic cast went through a series of vignettes depicting despairing, hopeless, pathetic people, too drunk to even have sex.

We should have read the reviews first. Use of phrases such as ‘a simmering undercurrent of rage’ is a giveaway. More of the same followed: this ‘searing play’ about the misery inflicted by the brutal Thatcher regime is as ‘relevant in today’s austerity Britain as it was thirty years ago’. My friend and I, who were both around at the time that Cartwright’s play was first aired, shared a sense of bewilderment and a stiff gin during the interval. Neither of us remembered things the way that Cartwright did. Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Matters, Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Business Itching to Import Cheap Labor

Ilana Mercer

U.S. Business Itching to Import Cheap Labor

By Ilana Mercer

Adroitly, President Trump has optimized outcomes for the American Worker. His is a labor market like no other.

Long overdue in the U.S., a labor market should be one in which firms compete for workers, rather than workers competing for jobs.

“For the first time since data began to be collected in 2000, there are more job openings than there are unemployed workers.” By the Economist’s telling (July 12th, 2018), “Fully 5.8 million more Americans are in work than in December of 2015.”

Best of all, workers are happier than they’ve been for a long time. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The English Civil War, part 2

Oliver Cromwell, by Robert Walker

The English Civil War, part 2

By Mark Wegierski

All the aforementioned religious, dynastic, political, social, economic and ethnic tensions flared into armed conflict in the English Civil War. The term “English” is, however, misleading: although the primary focus of operations was England proper (as well as Wales and Cornwall), Scotland was also critical and Cromwell, of course, extended fighting to Ireland in the aftermath of the Civil War itself. The personalities of the two main protagonists were very different. Charles I was “a mild and placid King”, genuinely concerned about the shedding of brotherly blood, with a somewhat quixotic aspect, and a strong streak of pessimism. (Even in his time, the Stuarts were often considered an ill-starred or unlucky dynasty.) This made him a poor politician and military leader. He went to his execution believing that the revulsion it would cause would result in the almost-instantaneous restoration of the monarchy in the person of his son, Charles II. Cromwell, by contrast, was generally able to see to the essence of the matter, utterly convinced of his rightness, never wavering and ruthless in political struggle. He understood the need for a well-drilled, professional force to win the war, and formed the New Model Army as his personal instrument. The heroic but impetuous Cavaliers were no match for its iron drill and discipline. There has been some debate about the character of the New Model Army: were they really “true believers”, fanatically-enthused Puritans, or rather well-drilled and disciplined professional mercenaries, assured of more regular pay than any other force in the war? Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bob Woodward’s Yellow Journalism

Still from Citizen Kane

Bob Woodward’s Yellow Journalism 

By Ilana Mercer

It takes no time at all. You listen to Bob Woodward’s halting speech. You read his lumpen prose, and you get right away what undergirds his Trump-phobic tome, Fear: Trump in the White House.

Naively, the president expected to fulfill his revolutionary campaign promises to the American voters, an assumption that threw Woodward and the D.C. elites for a loop.

If past is prologue, voters don’t—and should not—get their way. After all, the views of Trump voters on American power are polar opposites from those held by the permanent state.

What does “Boobus Americanus” know? Nothing! Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment