Friday, April 25, 2008

Liberal Bloggers + Biking to Work = Disaster?

For all their enthusiasm for transportation alternatives, liberal bloggers have certainly made commuting by bicycle sound awful. I've never nearly run over a former senator nor knocked out my leg muscles biking to work; maybe it's a DC thing?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Concerned Citizens Against Discarnate Commentary

Housemate Dara would like to endorse pie:
As someone whose two main fields of study are performance and civil society, I find the consensus in this country that the only acceptable public action is speech to be incredibly disturbing. Pieing someone in the face doesn’t meaningfully “prevent” him from speaking, and registers your disapproval (and more specifically, in this case, eagerness to show up a self-styled Man of the World for the buffoon he is) much more effectively than an op-ed in your student paper can. The public sphere is inhabited by public bodies, and the way they behave influences the thoughts we feel able to express, let alone comfortable expressing; to exclude bodily action from acceptable public expression is to resort to a dualism that I hope we’ve moved past by now. Mind and body are products of each other; just because we call them “talking heads” on television doesn’t mean you can only be a public figure from the neck up.

I’ve made this point before (including, ironically, in an op-ed in my student paper), but never for something so obviously harmless and effective as a pie to the face. Action — and especially performance — is a legitimate contribution to public discourse. Get over it.
Another reason why there ought to be real blogging communities, not just virtual ones...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Girl Gone Wilde

I found this quote at the beginning of my research but didn't flag it, so I didn't manage to work it into the final product; I rediscovered it this morning. From the Letters:
The name one gives to one's work, poem or picture, is the last survival of the Greek Chorus.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Agrarianism vs. Urbanism (again)

The trade economy of the city, with its merchants and entrepreneurs, its delegations of labour and responsibility, has always been treated by those who dislike cities as an unnatural practice, a perversion of the "natural" life of an agricultural economy. An "ideal city" would live to the simple, seasonal rhythms of a rural village. But, as Jane Jacobs showed brilliantly in The Economy of Cities (1969), the myth of agricultural primacy has no foundation either in archaeology or economics. Cities do not necessarily grow out of the excess production of their pre-exisitng rural hinterlands...
Jonathan Raban, Soft City

A quick thought about George Schuyler's Black No More (1931)

Amazon's summary of George Schuyler's Black No More (a satire about the discovery of a medical treatment that can turn black skin white) claims the book is about "revealing the poison behind the notion of wanting to be something you're not." This makes it sound as if Schuyler grounds his contempt for the "Black-No-More" procedure on its disregard for the sanctity of individual identity. Really, Schuyler rests his argument much more on loyalty to the black community — not "Be true to yourself!" but "Be true to your school!" To make the story about individual authenticity and self-discovery is to misread liberal ideas about identity into it.

I can understand how the "authenticity" reading would come naturally to someone who understands Black No More within the liberal tradition of African-American political commentary rather than the conservative one, but the liberal tradition is a poor fit for George Schuyler.

Tweed for Weed?

Let no man say that the Ivy League is unwelcoming to conservatives: high school seniors visiting Yale for Bulldog Days were greeted yesterday by a conservative protest of the drug war, Tweed for Weed. The sign on the left, if you can't read it, says "I couldn't protest the drug war on 4/20 because I was in church." All credit to the masterminds.

However, I was discouraged by the number of passers-by who, in spite of the Nisbetian chant "The drug war destroys communities!", assumed libertarianism, and not family values conservatism, was afoot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More on Paul Gottfried's Conservatism in America

Besides "Fear no continental philosophy," the other take-home lesson of Paul Gottfried's new book on American conservatism is that slinging around the word "relativism" with reckless abandon is, at the end of the day, a self-undermining thing for the Right to do:
What had to take place, if the intellectual Right were to make its case, was a debate about conflicting views of the good, both of which included values. But this debate could not be honestly waged if one side claimed to stand on the bedrock of scientific truth while the other foolishly pretended that its opponents were "relativists."
The problem he's pointing out here has two possible solutions: the Left could lose faith in its monopoly on scientific truth, or the Right could stop calling everybody to the left of Allan Bloom a "relativist." (I'm aiming for the second, but that's not necessarily where my money is.)

As a side note, I don't think the Gottfried pullquote fully drives home the fact that calling the other side "relativist" means the Right only has to stand for "values," never mind what those values are. Stand warned, though.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Friedrich Nietzsche is your new penny-farthing.

Dan McCarthy is skeptical that Nietzsche has any place in the Right's pantheon. The Reactionary Epicurean has stepped up to defend Nietzsche's diagnostic accuracy when it comes to the ills of modernity, but is the best we can say for Nietzsche that he failed to be a modernist? Paul Gottfried's Conservatism in America does a good job of debunking the New Right's paranoia about German value relativism — "Did the hippies, whom Bloom considers to be Nietzschean relativists, incite international strife among national cultures because they were ingesting Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil in addition to cannabis?” — but doesn't praise Nietzsche himself so much as he mocks his detractors.

There is, I suppose, the concern that Nietzchean conservatism will be taken to mean "Nietzschean fascism at half-speed," but this suggestive footnote to Alexander Nehamas's Art of Living opens up the possibility of reading Nietzsche as a strange kind of traditionalist:
A very interesting discussion Nietzsche’s view of the contrast between archaic Greece, where people acted as they did simply because to act that way was sanctioned by tradition, and Socrates’ radical requirement that those who followed that tradition also offer reasons for doing so can be found in Randall Havas, Nietzsche’s Genealogy: Nihilism and the Will to Knowledge. Havas’s view is engaging and important, though I am not convinced by his general conclusion that Nietzsche wanted to reestablish a culture with the authority that, according to him, archaic Greece once possessed. My own position, for which I cannot argue here, is that Nietzsche may have had the goal of establishing such a culture in his early years but that in his later works, particularly the great works of the 1880s, he ceased believing that philosophy could have such a direct influence on culture in general. He turned instead to a vastly more individualist project of self-creation, establishing himself as an individual who fashioned a distinctive, perhaps even inimitable mode of life.
The key here is the answer to this question: If we accept Nietzsche's admittedly relativistic claim that truth doesn't matter, the only standard left is [blank]. Most readers of Nietzsche think he would answer "power" (which is where fascism enters the picture); Havas thinks Nietzsche's real answer is "authority."* Nehamas and Havas disagree over whether it's the individual or culture that has the best chance of achieving this compelling aesthetic authority, but there's enough formalism, ritual and trust implicit in both of their readings to make any traditionalist feel at home. (For the place of ritualism in individualistic/anti-communitarian philosophies — it's counterintuitive, I know — see this book, which includes the sentence "Most garden parties involve more ceremony than a Latin mass.")

However, I heartily endorse McCarthy's statement that "cod Nietzscheanism" is "death metal for nerds."

* Havas: "Nietzsche means quite generally to rehabilitate the notions of obedience and authority — to make manifest what he considers to be our moral misundertanding of these notions. Such a rehabilitation is in large part what is at stake in his attack on Socratism. For from the point of view of Socratism, the sort of obedience in question in section 188 is, in fact, mere slavishness. That is to say, from the Socratic standpoint, what Nietzsche calls ‘obedience’ looks like blind, unthinking repetition, and nothing intelligible can be achieved by means of the mere repetition. If one fails to draw that distinction, it is small wonder that one cannot understand how obedience in the first sense can lead to the sort of obedience — or intelligibility — recommended by Nietzsche’s attack on the Socratic demand for reasons.”

The Cosby Doctrine and the Eugene Genovese Effect

Matthew Yglesias suggests (like I been sayin') that if the Right wants to embrace black conservatism's conclusions (self-sufficiency for the black community, benign neglect on the part of whites), it really ought to grant its most important premise, that in spite of all of our best efforts America remains "a fundamentally racist society" in subtle but pervasive ways — exactly the kind of upside-down Eugene Genovese Effect that I can get behind.

L'Affaire Shvarts III: Only a promise of unhappiness

On the question of whether this is good art: maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but there's a difference between art intended to shock the viewer in the hopes that they'll get over their shock for everyone's greater social good ("Yes, I'm a black man, and yes, I'm dressed as an astronaut—this disturbs you, doesn't it?") and art that takes the shock and discomfort of the viewer as its ultimate end. The Shvarts manifesto ("It is a myth that ovaries and a uterus are 'meant' to birth a child") suggests she meant to engage in the former. Oops.

Retaliatory Quote-mongering

Take that, T.R.E.:
True teaching can be a terribly dangerous enterprise. The living Master takes into his hands that inmost of his students, the fragile and incendiary matter of their possibilities. He lays hands on what we conceive of as the soul and roots of being, a seizure of which erotic seduction is the lesser, though metaphoric, version. —George Steiner, Lessons of the Masters

Thursday, April 17, 2008

L'Affaire Shvarts II

I expressed incredulity that pro-choicers could find a reason to be offended by Shvarts's art project, and the obliging Reactionary Epicurean offers three pro-choice points of view that explain why a person might be outraged at Shvarts's abortions but not by others:
It seems to me like there are at least 3, possibly more, coherent "middle-of-the-road pro-choice" positions which can legitimately claim to be freaked out by Ms. Shvarts:

1) Abortion is immoral, period, but restrictions on abortion are not a legitimate function of the government.

2) Abortion is only kinda-sorta immoral, like murdering a dog or a pet canary. Still, an art project composed of beheaded puppy-corpses really isn't all that cool.

3) Abortion is not immoral, but trivializing it is bad for society.

There! Plenty of room for pro-choicers to freak out about Ms. Shvarts.
Fair points all, but none without its own contradictions. On (2): you might be able to get me to concede that some things are within the bounds of morality but still shouldn't be done for fun (i.e. killing your pet canary), but Aliza Shvarts didn't have lots of abortions for recreation; she had lots of abortions for the sake of art. She did have a reason, and not a bad one: either you think what she did is no worse than what goes on at a slaughterhouse every day or you don't, but Aliza Shvarts thinks that's a question you should have to answer. I tend to agree — watching pictures of a pig being slaughtered might turn my stomach, but that revulsion is something I should confront (and, I think, get over) if I'm going to keep eating bacon. Same for pro-choicers and abortion. Art with that end in mind is thoroughly justified.

I'd have to hear more about (3) before I rejected it, but if "trivializing abortion is bad for society" refers to the fact that it encourages sexual license, I'm not sure the argument holds. The problem there is trivializing sex, not trivializing abortion, at least not in the way that Shvarts did. Replace "abortion" with "birth control" in the previous sentence and note that trivializing something that promotes promiscuity is something the Left has already done. Maybe abortion is bad for society in another way, but, again, I'd have to hear more.

Insofar as the first argument could describe an "abortion is murder" pro-lifer, then you're right that such a person has the right to be offended. However, my guess is that people who believe that life begins at conception are too busy being saddened to be scandalized. Even the states' rights advocates among them.

L'Affaire Shvarts

My opinion on the morality of Aliza Shvarts's senior project is exactly what you think it is, but, while she and I aren't friends or even slight acquaintances, in the fall of our freshman year she spent the train ride back from a Blonde Redhead show explaining textual deconstruction to me, so I owe her one for saving me from having to actually read Derrida.

Based on the evidence of her senior project, Aliza Shvarts is not obviously "a bit touched in the head," "the appalling Ms. Shvarts," nor "a deeply, deeply disturbed girl." She simply doesn't believe that inducing a miscarriage is morally wrong. Having taken a class with her and heard her talk about art, I'm willing to say that if the facts of the article point to a Yale senior who is either (1) obsessed with self-promotion or (2) genuinely interested in what happens when you turn your body into an instrument of politics, there's money to be won betting she's the second.

I'm glad that the next most popular response to this story after "Ewww!" has been "This project was broadly offensive — especially to pro-choice advocates who see this as trivializing what is always a very grave decision for a young woman," because pro-choicers who believe that an induced miscarriage is neither No Big Deal nor a Very Big Deal Indeed need to nail down what it means to think of abortion as something of immense emotional but zero moral content. Shvarts has put the pro-choice movement in an awkward position. Good.

In a strange coincidence, the Yale Political Union had already planned to debate abortion next week, so stop by if you want to engage in "some sort of discourse" (Monday at 7:30 pm, SSS 114).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Queer History Goes Medieval . . . and Chaste.

Emily Hale thinks that feminism and conservatism can engage in productive dialogue (h/t Nick), and I hope I'm not the only one who feels the same way about conservatism and queer theory. Even apart from the fact that a family-values trad who doesn't know Stonewall from Stonehenge is like a neocon who doesn't know Shi'a from Sunni, there are things in queer theory that the anti-gay marriage side has every reason to get on board with. From Richard Dellamora's Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism, the story of Amis and Amile:
In the 1877 revision of the chapter ["Aucassin and Nicolette," from Studies in the History of the Renaissance], now called "Two Early French Stories," Pater has added a new element, The Friendship of Amis and Amile. While he describes this work as a thirteenth-century romance, the story exists in one version as early as the late eleventh century, and the version that he uses belongs to the genre of saints' lives. Although John Boswell has observed in Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality that "there is no hint of sexual interest between the knights," he also notes that their love for each other explicitly takes precedence over every other commitment." [...] Friends from childhood, "the two children fell to loving one another so sorely that one would not eat without the other, they lived of one victual, and lay in one bed"; later they embrace and kiss when they meet as adults. Though these contacts are not sexual, they are physical. Body is important in their friendship.
Feminism put a lot of legwork into uncovering the hidden systems of power at the patriarchy's disposal, only to have conservatives of the next generation turn it around on them and suggest that, instead of insisting on equal access to obvious forms of power, feminists get creative about exercising less obvious forms. ("If that boy others you again tomorrow, you just other him right back.") The success of Boswell and Bray at finding homosexuality in medieval Europe is in danger of backfiring on gay marriage advocates in a similar way — if sexual interest between men were something that medieval texts had to be cagey about even hinting at, then we would read the story of Amis and Amile with a nod and a wink. The more success gay historians have in discovering queer texts from medieval times, the more credibility conservatives have in pointing to Amis and Amile's chaste passion as an alternative rather than a coded endorsement.

Come to think of it, I've never seen Peter Johnston and Cassandra in a room together...

Peter Johnston warns the Right against hopping on the Left's "autonomy" bandwagon. Fear no verbs:
. . . liberalism delegitimizes unchosen obligations, thereby problematizing inherited relationships. It then promises to fix the resulting rootlessness by creating a world better suited to autonomy. Once citizens buy this liberal vision, they feel themselves more alienated from nature than before, and the reformation of the world in the terms of that alienation becomes urgent, even necessary. . . The message implicit in Obama’s rhetoric is progress through autonomy. It is powerful and elicits an enthusiastic response. Should the right adopt this message in search of similar enthusiasm, it would thereby abandon conservatism, becoming nothing more than an authoritarian version of the left. It adopts autonomy as the solution to the problem of human alienation, but grants that autonomy to the state rather than to the individual.
I would go a step further and say that ceding ground to the Left's separation of the public and private spheres is a different way of making the same mistake. From Postmodern Urbanism:
Loss of faith in working collectively toward a better world has occasioned a turning inward, a privatism, a retreat facilitated by the television, walkman, VCR, and personal computer. In response to the encroachment of the marketplace into our private domain (spawning a society of consumption), the collective idealistic vision of the modernist project has been replaced by a more personal search featuring an increased defense of the self, a romantic "quest for personality," a cult of the family, and a search for origins and roots. Christine Boyer describes the "inversion of values" which has occurred, valuing the private sphere over the public one.
It's hard to tell whether Ellin is more critical of liberalism or conservatism here (where does The Godfather fit in her analysis?), but the "inversion of values" she's talking about — one in which safety, comfort, authenticity, and autonomy are on top — sounds to be of the Left.

I'd be curious to know whether PJ agrees that zealous protection of the private sphere will necessarily make the private sphere so appealing (it's safe! it's personalized! it's immune from all external obligations!) that it ends up crowding out public sphere-related priorities. Hyping a separate realm for private action sounds like a tactic the Left might use to get the Right to agree to its terms on the priority of the self without realizing they've agreed to them. This isn't to say that privacy is nonsensical. Any number of private matters may fail to be fitting or polite in a given context, and most people today could do with being a little less confessional, but the investment of the category "private" with all kinds of political and ethical content is another matter.

In other YDN columnist news, Michael Pomeranz believes that "aristocratic laziness" is nothing without face-to-face involvement with poorer classes, and Yale is nothing without either. Aristocracy, laziness, and flanerie — must be the Ivy League...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Postmodern Urbanism and Russian roulette

Further proof that lots of ideas can be made better by sticking "postmodern" in front of them: Nan Ellin's Postmodern Urbanism. You can probably expect several posts on it in the next few weeks, but here's one.

When I tried to sell the Yale Political Union's most cassava-loving Leftist on the idea that urban localism can be just as "human scale" as either agrarianism or pre-agrarianism, he made the point that "being a consumer in the city is like playing Russian roulette" in that you have no idea where the things you're buying come from or under what conditions they were produced, so all you can do is pull the trigger and hope no proletarians get hurt. To satisfy his concern, city dwellers would either need to have a closer relationship to the production that allows the city to exist, or we would need some other means of making sure that rural production stays human scale, non-oppressive, etc. (I can't speak for him, but I imagine these "other means" look like leaving it to the market, putting our trust in cultural institutions like churches and families, state intervention, or some combination of the three.)

Nan Ellin picks up on the same problem, quoting David Harvey's Condition of Postmodernity:
Harvey has observed that "it is now possible to experience the world's geography vicariously, as a simulacrum," in a way which conceals "almost perfectly any trace of origin, of the labour processes that produced them, or of the social relations implicated in their production."
Anyone who says that structures should only be built with local materials is taking Harvey's caution too literally, but the idea that architecture can function as a symbolic connection between city/consumption and non-city/production — mitigating the "Russian roulette" problem — is fascinating. Urban and agrarian localisms aren't exactly equivalent, but an alliance between the two is an attractive prospect that depends upon resolving disagreements between the two, of which the Harvey snag is one.

Whither paleoconservatism?

This scattered post on the future of paleoconservatism is not necessarily meant to be taken in the context of the "Paleo Epitaph" flurry (on which Robert Stacy McCain has, I think, the best take), although it might make sense to put it there insofar as more than a few of us are Bright Young Paleos who, while certainly not up to the task of reenergizing the intellectual Right just at the moment (we've got finals!), at least take the task seriously.

If I can quote Paul Gottfried back to himself:
Above all [paleoconservatives] raise issues that the neoconservatives and the Left would both seek to keep closed, for instance, questions about the desirability of political and social equality, the functionality of human rights thinking, and the genetic basis of intelligence. In all these assaults on liberal and neoconservative pieties, paleoconservatives reveal an iconoclastic exuberance rarely found on the postwar intellectual Right. Their spirit is far more Nietzschean than neo-Thomistic, and like Nietzsche they go after democratic idols, driven by disdain for what they believe dehumanizes.
This "iconoclastic exuberance" has eliminated a certain kind of traditionalism from the Yale paleo scene. We have very few let's-pretend-modernity-never-happened Burkeans, and far more paleos who attack with Nietzschean audacity liberal orthodoxies as well as the traditions they love and live by, with the implicit argument that our traditions are better than the Left's because they can stand it.

Stephen Tonsor's 1986 paleo manifesto—the one with the jaw-dropping swipe at neocons: "It is splendid when the town whore gets religion and joins the church. Now and then she makes a good choir director, but when she begins to tell the minister what he ought to say in his Sunday sermons, matters have been carried too far"—quotes Werner Dannhauser:
Too many conservatives have failed to come to terms with Nietzsche's though, dismissing it as an embarrassing attempt to outflank them on the Right. But the challenge he represents will not go away.

Nietzsche went far beyond Burke, who held out hope for a time when atheism might cease to be fashionable. Nietzsche postulated an irreversible loss of naïveté in Western civilization. To put the matter crudely, he argued that the cat of atheism was out of the bag. The meanest capacities could now learn that religion was a myth, and when a myth is exposed for what it is, it can no longer serve to provide a unified horizon.

Too many conservatives whose own belief is weak or nonexistent, who will privately admit that religion is "for the troops," continue to try to teach the catechism to those troops, forgetting that the latter have by now been thoroughly exposed to the Enlightenment and its lessons.
Tonsor, on the other hand, holds Nietzsche at arm's length, describing conservatives as "free of metaphysical anxiety and as happy as clams in a world that bears the unmistakable imprint of God's ordering hand." This doesn't apply to the young paleos I know, who do have metaphysical anxiety and, while they see the imprint of God's ordering hand, wouldn't call it unmistakable. Larison is right that the term "post-paleo right" is inapt inasmuch as the priorities — "constitutionalism, decentralism, immigration restriction and rejection of democratist hegemony" — remain the same, but the tone is more postmodern than pre-modern (or, if you prefer, more rock 'n' roll). All your "decent drapery" without any "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

An illustrative anecdote: The Reactionary Epicurean, back when he was an eager sophomore, confessed to Eve that he didn't really know what postmodernism was and asked her which postmodern thinkers he should read to get an idea. Her first recommendation was John Paul II.

It remains to be seen whether paleos of the Bill Kauffman school will accept as one of their own a brand of localism that loves Jane Jacobs but not Wendell Berry, and I have no idea whether the young conservatives that Yale is training will fit in at all with the trajectory of conservatism outside these ivied walls, but, at the very least, Dan McCarthy's rueful observation that "the youth movement has been overtaken by the career-oriented College Republicans" is not without exceptions. The tail end of the Millenial generation may be more libertarian than ever, but that doesn't mean that all of the intellectual ferment on campuses is happening among the libertarians.

Oscar Wilde, Decadence, Catholicism, Conversion, and me, Elizabeth.

Some people have been asking to see the infamous senior essay, so I've edited out some of the less interesting bits and thrown up a version in an archived post. Also, after weeks of antagonism between the two, I'd like my blog and my senior essay to become friends. "Decadence, Christianity, and Oscar Wilde's Conversion to Catholicism" can be found here. (I'll warn you in advance that some formatting got lost in translation from Word.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why it's bad when "choice" is the Left's only choice left.

While I hate to reinforce the idea that all women's issues are coitus-related, the issues of pornography, abortion, and prostitution keep blurring together in the universe of Yale's political dialogue, and to generally good effect. Here's David of the Flaming Libs in response to this YDN editorial on why feminists should respect the "choice" of prostitution as much as the "choice" of abortion:
[T]he real threat the article poses . . . isn't that it legitimates pornography (which is debatable within feminist thought, though I probably come down on the anti side) but that it appropriates the language by which we defend abortion rights to make anything a woman does with her body (or even anything she does that is tied to her womanhood at all, as in the case of Ms. Spitzer) fall under the same framework of "choice."
He continues:
It's easy for me to deny (and most Libs are probably on board with me here) the author's implied libertarian argument that anything we do without a gun to our heads constitutes free choice, made clear by the comparison to fast food workers. There are gradations of freedom, and both the fast food worker and the prostitute lack it to some extent. We want to ban prostitution but not fast food work because the problems with fast food work (mostly low wages and lack of benefits) could be alleviated through robust living wage laws, provision of universal health care, etc, while those associated with prostitution (selling control of your own body to someone else) are inherent to the profession and thus can't be eliminated.
But, as David realizes, the decision to have an abortion is also related to economic need, which leaves him here:
I believe a woman who economic circumstances force to have an abortion should be able to have that abortion, but that a woman whose economic circumstances force her to engage in porn or prostitution shouldn't be allowed to do so. Perhaps the difference is that porn/prostitution involve selling control of one's body to another person and that I reject the notion that such a contract could be legitimate. But does that make me the mere moralizer that the author of the article attacks? Does anyone have a better answer?
James Poulos might have had, in the context of Spitzer:
...the reason why prostitution is illegal must not be because 'the state' has some kind of 'compelling interest' in people not . . . not what? We can't characterize the interest as compelling—and then describe what compelling even really means—until we plunk prostitution into some more abstract category that accounts for why it's bad. This is the ultra-absurd version of what ought to be the real discussion, which begins from the notion that prostitution in and of itself is bad, that in describing prostitution we automatically describe why it's bad, and therefore don't need any vaguer and broader and more comprehensive set of badness terms against which we can put prostitution and say — aha! there, you see, prostitution threatens liberal values, 'the state' of the sort which we have can't 'be seen to support' such behavior, or 'has an affirmative interest in disincentivizing' such behavior, etc., etc.

"Prostitution should be illegal because it is bad, and bad things should be illegal" — this is the logic of a culture with the confidence to take its own side in an argument.

...since significant numbers of smart people who talk publicly about these things in the media no longer really feel any collective shame when someone turns out to have broken some law for no reason more dire than their enjoyment of sexual pleasure, we can't simply turn the page, step on Spitzer, and move on to the next headline. We have to go through this whole OMG how do we Justify Banning Prostitution?!?! routine, inevitably wracking ourselves with however much [small-l] liberal guilt seems appropriate to reestablish the contradictory standards for public and private life that make liberal democracy such a successful political arrangement. When really the only possible justification for punishing prostitution is because the leaders of authority in a culture, if not large numbers of common people, think that paying for sex is beneath them. Yes, contempt is the cold heart of the law—at least once you get past the legal status of murder. An inconvenient truth when one's culture struggles so hard to convince one that you must not have contempt for anybody.
There are things government ought and ought not to do, but I'm wary of any system of differentiating between the two that depends upon (1) subdividing Moral Badness into smaller categories — i.e. within the state's compelling interest (given the ends the state should have, which are...?) or not, in violation of someone else's rights or not, etc., (2) picking one of those categories as legitimate grounds for government action, and then (3) trying to forget that moral badness was ever part of the equation. There are certainly things the government could do For The Sake Of Most Worthy Virtue that would be bad ideas, but they're bad ideas on the grounds that they wouldn't actually get us any closer to the virtue they're aiming at, not that they're pursuing some species of virtue that is less relevant or less important.

So, is David one of the moralizers of which Molly Green complains? Yes. Should that bother him? Not really. (Does that put him on the Right? I dunno — my guess is no, but you'd have to ask Dara.)

More on the high art/low art distinction

A couple quick hits following up on yesterday's post:

1. TKB says:
I still disagree with your country music thing. I'm obsessive about my music and always look up the lyrics, interpret them, create elaborate scenarios with them, etc. — the vast, vast majority of people don't (even fellow musicians).

Most people are content with knowing most of the words to the chorus, which usually outlines a simple, relatable sentiment ("Hate is a strong word, but I really really really don't like you").

My exposure to country is incredibly limited, but I do like folk music, which is somewhat similar — I do think these genres attach greater significance to lyrics than others — they tell stories, not summaries — but the extent to which the average listener really pays attention? I dno.
I should clarify that the kind of ear for adultery that I think country music gives you doesn't depend on thinking critically about any given set of lyrics. I may only take a vague impression from each song — something as simple as "Adulterous love is the purest kind because it's based on love rather than duty, but that doesn't make it any less bittersweet" ("Borrowed Angel"), "It's a sin and we know it, but man is a slave to the flesh" ("Dark End of the Street"), or "The willingness of adulterous couples to make sacrifices for their love indicates a certain noble stoicism" ("In Some Room Above the Street") — but get enough of these vague impressions and they'll start to coalesce into a feeling for the genre that in practice looks pretty sophisticated. Contact with any given adulterous situation isn't going to trigger one, simplistic reaction planted by a honky-tonk song; it's going to trigger a hundred of them.

2. From Octavio Paz's Labyrinths of Solitude, quoted in Claudio Lomnitz's "Times of Crisis: Historicity, Sacrifice, and the Spectacle of Debacle in Mexico City":
In a world that lacks transcendence, that is closed in on itself, death in Mexico neither gives nor receives; it consumes itself and satisfies only itself. Thus our relationship to death is intimate, more intimate, perhaps, than that of any other nation, but it is devoid of significance and lacking in eroticism. Death in Mexico is sterile, it does not fertilize or engender, the way that the Aztec or the Christian death did.
The argument that a tradition that lacks eroticism will become sterile is interesting, though weirdly literal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Weingarten Subway Gambit

So Gene Weingarten has won a prize for being unhappy that Joshua Bell played the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station and no one paid any attention. I wouldn't have a problem with the piece if it simply criticized indifference to art, but Weingarten seems to want to target indifference to high art:
The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls. [...]

Mortensen doesn't know classical music at all; classic rock is as close as he comes. But there's something about what he's hearing that he really likes. As it happens, he's arrived at the moment that Bell slides into the second section of "Chaconne." ("It's the point," Bell says, "where it moves from a darker, minor key into a major key. There's a religious, exalted feeling to it.") The violinist's bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big. Mortensen doesn't know about major or minor keys: "Whatever it was," he says, "it made me feel at peace." [...]

Myint works for the General Services Administration. He got to the top of the escalator, turned right and headed out a door to the street. A few hours later, he had no memory that there had been a musician anywhere in sight. "Where was he, in relation to me?"

"About four feet away."


There's nothing wrong with Myint's hearing. He had buds in his ear. He was listening to his iPod.

For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.

The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was "Just Like Heaven," by the British rock band The Cure. It's a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It's about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can't express the depth of his feeling for her until she's gone. It's about failing to see the beauty of what's plainly in front of your eyes.
If a thousand people walked by a boombox playing the same beautiful music, that would have been unremarkable. What bothers Weingarten is that people failed to recognize a genius violinist playing "masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone." If people can't find the time to dig Schubert during their commute, that's fine, but everybody should take a minute for a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience. Right?

The problem is that telling the difference between the two requires a certain amount of familiarity with classical violin music. Not necessarily any expertise — I'm not claiming that the difference between good music and great music is only distinguishable to an expert (as seems increasingly to be the case in the visual arts). However, to distinguish Joshua Bell from a gifted amateur requires at the very least that classical music be something you occasionally enjoy. Weingarten has an image in his head of the person he wants to lecture — the sort of commuter whose human desire for aesthetic experience is satisfied by "Just Like Heaven" on his iPod — and he seems to think that Joshua Bell's performance was objectively beautiful in a way that should have transcended any Cure fan's ignorance.

Insofar as the piece isn't about DC residents' philistinism but actually about what kind of music is beautiful rather than simply satisfying, I'm unconvinced. I wouldn't want to claim that all music is beautiful as well as satisfying, but it's a bigger category than just classical.

Party boss TC offered an interesting distinction between high art and low art last week: all music is erotic, but in rock music the erotic element actually looks like sexual desire (those scandalous rhythms!) whereas in classical the sexual element is entirely sublimated. It's an interesting comparison that can take you places, but something I heard someone (Eve, maybe?) say a few months ago trumps it: "Rock and roll is sublimated eros, but so is sex!"

As for intellectual stimulation, even a casual fan of country music has considered the moral ins and outs of adultery in a way that lots of intellectually serious people haven't. Any given country song will be simple, but the genre taken as a whole is not. (I've heard the argument that most listeners are oblivious to the complexity of the "cheatin' song" and that I only notice it because I'm the sort of person who notices it in everything, but I think the amount of self-reference in the genre argues against that.)

Lastly, if Weingarten thinks that classic rock is the closest thing pop music has to classical, he has been misinformed.

Julia Kristeva, Catherine of Siena, and other frightening women

Enough meta-talk about gender roles and why you should believe that they matter; here's a few lines from Julia Kristeva in The Feminine and the Sacred on what to do once you decide that you do, in fact, care about them. The magic happens in the last five words:
Catherine [of Siena]'s confessor, who successfully defended her against her inquisitors, and who persuaded the superior of the Dominicans, as well as the pope, that the thoughts and conduct of that sister were in conformity with Catholic doctrine, apparently allowed himself to be subjugated by the woman. He certainly accompanied her; he helped her to bear and sharpen her superhuman endurance to the extreme; he did not appease her.
To clarify what Kristeva means by that last turn, here's a story about Catherine from a few pages earlier; the Raymond of Capua Kristeva is describing plays the same kind of "mind games":
At age ten, when her mother scolded her for coming home late in the evening ("Cursed be the gossipmongers who say you will not come home!"), Catherine replied, "My mother, if I do not do what you ask of me, I beg you, beat me as much as you like, so that I may be more attentive the next time: that is your right and your duty. But I beg you not to let your tongue curse other people, good or bad, for my own misdeeds, for that does not befit your age and will give me great pain."

Do you hear that power? Catherine does not reject the punishment her mother is preparing to inflict on her: she appropriates it and transcends it. It is not the mother who punishes, but the daughter who corrects the mother and punishes herself. The daughter takes the upper hand, she makes it her duty to transform the mother's displeasure and their separation into a personal moral triumph. She undoubtedly draws great satisfaction from that mind game, by mortifying herself.
Dara once offered two ways of seeing rulebenders: either "you look at the rulebender as a brilliant and visible outlier expressing herself without troublesome ramifications, ultimately reinforcing the norm/ative outside which she stands," or "you recognize that she herself is exercising power, of a type qualitatively different that which seeks to bind her — moving sideways so as to avoid getting pushed down."

When people think of the latter, they usually imagine the "weapons of the weak," peasant resistance, etc. What's interesting about the Catherine/Raymond relationship as it's described here is that the man is the one exercising unconventional forms of power, and it ends up working pretty well, liberating both of them while leaving gender roles intact.

Do you think Fredo knows smoking those things'll kill him?

For those who doubt that the way you smoke a cigarette can be a form of communication: this clip from The Godfather Part II is a good example of someone doing just that. Pay special attention to Fredo's hands, and how the way he holds his cigarette affects the way you see his hands even after he puts it down.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Writing about architecture is like dancing to music.

The Rat looks and laughs at this guide to university architecture. For a more serious take on the subject, William J. Mitchell:
[MIT's Simmons Hall] is not about the comfortable continuity of tradition (specially for those who have been privileged by it), but about transformation and social mobility—not about fitting in, but breaking out. It wants to attract the first-generation migrant kids whose parents have worked long hours to get them into college and on course for a better life, the children of blue-collar families who start with little but make it on sheer merit, the high school misfits who will thrive when they reach the company of others as smart as they are. Appropriately then, it avoids culture-specific motifs and class-bound imagery (except, maybe, for a hint of Corb), and employs an exterior vocabulary of rigorously abstract forms that doesn't even give you much of a clue, from a distance, about the true scale.
To which I say/have said, "Really?"

To be fair, Mitchell softens toward tradition later in the book, when he realizes that the mobility of the modern grab-your-laptops-kids-let's-go classroom isn't anything new, but something very old:
In the class I'm teaching right now—which happens to focus upon radically rethinking the automobile and designing a concept car—my students and I are as peripatetic as Socrates and his companions strolling among the groves.
It's not much of a walk-back, but understanding yourself to be in some kind of continuity with the past, whether it's the Yale Man, the provincial gone Ivy, or Socrates, is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Localism, Technology and Quality Rock 'n' Roll—Pick Two

Several members of the Party of the Right crashed the Liberal Party’s discussion last night (“Will Technology Set Us Free?”), and instead of the Left and Right slugging it out, the paleocons, anarchists, and Marxists had a big neo-Luddite love-in.

Highlights include:
"The cassava plant is the world's most anarchic vegetable."

"Some technology is centralizing, like television, and some technology is decentralizing, like the open-source self-replicating 3-D printer. We'll know in a few years which kind the Internet is."

”But you think we should go back to the Stone Age!"
"When did I ever say that?"
"The other night at Rudy's."
"I'm going to disavow that on the grounds that I was drunk at the time."

"...but technology has given us the two most important material things in my life: coffee and tall buildings."

Not knowing anything about cassava recipes, pre-agricultural societies, or self-replicating printers, I was most interested in a thread that got picked up very briefly about whether technology is responsible for the dismal state of pop music. Setting aside the question of whether synths and turntables have been a net gain or loss, my biggest problem with the music scene as it currently exists is that the idea of a local sound has become obsolete. I'm not sure that Philadelphia soul, Texas garage, or Elephant Six make sense in a world where a band is as likely to be reacting to music being made across the country as to music being made down the block. There are some hold-outs (here's a game: take any record put out by a Boston band and spot the Jonathan Richman), but for the most part localism in rock 'n' roll is a thing of the past, and I think its disappearance is reflected in the blandness of a lot of the new music out there.

John Darnielle has interesting things to say on the subject:
This area certainly has a musical heritage. How aware were you of its past or its current music scene?

Well, it was important to us to live someplace where touring bands stopped, and, of course, I knew about Merge. I didn't actually know jack about just how rich North Carolina musical history is—Doc Watson? String band music like the stuff the Carolina Chocolate Drops play? Are you kidding me?—but have since been pretty amazed at how fertile a place NC has been for, oh, say, three hundred years or thereabouts. I grew up in Southern California, so the whole concept of a local music history is still kinda novel to me.

You recently played a benefit for Durham's music scene, and you played the first Troika Music Festival and the Durham Music Festival the year before that. You don't depend on those gigs for your success. Why play them?

You gotta rep your hood! Durham is an awesome town full of creative people, and, like any creative community, it's forging its own voice! But, at the same time, I feel like too much scene-boosting tends to be the death of a community. It's not like I get the offers and say, "Oh, yes, I gotta do this for Durham!" It's more like, "The Armory? Richard Buckner? Chris Stamey? Yes, please, sign me up."

Incidentally, a lack of local voices has taken its toll on criticism, too. Independent weeklies usually have house critics, but a lot of local papers run syndicated reviews. In North Carolina, for instance, there used to be Godfrey Cheshire for film and Dan Neil for cars; Cheshire went to New York and Neil to LA. Like Suderman, I don't think the problem is that critics are answering the wrong questions ("Should I see this movie?" instead of "What is the cultural value of this movie in milli-Truffauts?"), but I'm not as optimistic that internet-driven diffusion will fix what's wrong, or even help at all. Darnielle's right: you gotta rep your hood.

Update: Moistworks does just that.

An Oakeshott across the bow

A quick response to Will's assertion that "there are compelling, non-braindead arguments for defending tradition qua tradition": Yes, But. Both Will and I seem to be trying to come up with a conservatism that allows us to say "You should do X simply because it is traditional," but Will's vision, while non-braindead (and well-illustrated!), is not quite compelling.

It's a familiar argument: I can't pass any kind of judgment on my tradition without stepping outside of it, which is impossible to do. Given that I derive my standards of judgment from the tradition in which I grew up, to criticize it from within is schizophrenic, and to criticize it from without is, in some meaningful sense, impossible.

The argument makes sense without being true. Trusting in my tradition completely (on the assumption that I can hardly do otherwise and still hope to make sense to myself) silences the nagging doubts that do sometimes break through. Tradition is an ineradicable part of my identity? Sure. Therefore being a whole person rather than a fragmented one means always going with tradition? Not quite.

The way I "believe in" tradition isn't quite like the way I believe in Catholicism, which is a matter of trusting the word of God more than I trust my own judgments. It's more like the way in which I believe that a production of a Sophoclean tragedy is real. This from Raymond Geuss's introduction to The Birth of Tragedy:
One has failed to experience the tragedy if one sees only one's friend and fellow actor up there on the stage parading around in an odd mask. One has also failed if one thinks that it really is Oedipus up there, that the blood dripping down from his eyes is real blood, etc.
I should take my tradition seriously, even to the point of allowing it to alter my own fundamental beliefs in the way that a brush with great art can, but I don't have to convince myself that the Western Canon is objectively better than the alternatives. (It might be objectively better or worse in various ways, and there are productive conversations to be had on that question, although Will is certainly right that those conversations are irrelevant to whether or not English departments in the United States should study it.)

Remember the Heart-Attack Hoyas

Patrick Ewing has made it into the Hall of Fame. Take a minute to revisit the 1982 NCAA championship game in New Orleans, the one in which a Georgetown-UNC clash of the titans (Ewing and Sleepy Floyd vs. James Worthy and freshman Michael Jordan) came down to Fred Brown passing the ball to the wrong team in the last ten seconds (video).

Dude, you just got othered!

Adam has a problem with Ted Everhart's YDN op-ed, and he's not the only one. The basic story is that the International Student Organization is planning a bachelor/ette auction called "Wanna Go on an Exotic Date?", and Everhart took umbrage at the use of the word "exotic." Some of Everhart's points are strained (i.e. putting the word "auction" in scare-quotes), but he doesn't deserve a lot of the flack he's catching:
Alum (unregistered user) said: When I have spent time in non-white countries, I was viewed as "exotic". In some places, they'd never actually seen a white person before. Did I get offended by this? Nope. Exotic is not a bad word. But this article proves any word can be made into a bad word if you try hard enough.
Ted responds:
To those who say they have no problem with being called "exotic," I warn you that it is not comfortable to live day in and day out as "exotic," as "the other." It is not pleasant or dignified to be expected to follow stereotypes (positive or negative). For the person who labels something as "exotic," the encounter with that "exotic" thing is fleeting; whereas those who are so labeled are stuck as "exotic" for life. They are forever on the periphery of normalcy, and this is a form of oppression. Maybe it's fun for some to go to a different country and be "that crazy foreign kid" for a while, but it will get tiring.
He's absolutely right that making the word "exotic" a compliment and not an insult doesn't actually fix the problem. It isn't that thinking of international students as "exotic" will make the Yankees hate them, fear them, or sexually objectify them; it's that "the exotic one" is an exceptionally flat role for someone to play.

However, we can't make international students stop being foreign, and we can't make "foreign" an unnoticeable quality (which is what Ted seems to be recommending), which leaves Yalies with two options: fiddle around with the exotic until it's less constricting, or make damn sure that being exotic doesn't preclude someone from playing other, more flexible roles. An "exotic" date auction undermines the former, but given that the latter is our best bet, I don't particularly mind. The Hottentot Venus it ain't.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TYH says that smoking is cool and blogging is cool? Fantastic!

Nicki already pointed you towards the Yale Herald piece about the Yale blogosphere, but, as a master of virtual self-promotion (apparently), I should throw a link in that direction, too. It seems from the first paragraph that I have been responsible for at least one student not paying attention in seminar. I am very pleased to hear it.

Much more interesting in this week's Herald, though, is this article on smoking. The author proves herself smarter than the av-er-age anti-smoking polemicist when she admits that smoking a cigarette obviously isn't about pleasure but about "sublimity, that shining prong of aesthetic experience which reserves itself for the dark, the flirting-with-death, the dangerous, the disreputable, the nihilistic—in short, all the craggy backwaters of the human condition without which we would surely be less human." However, there's more than one way to be comfortable with death, as Claudio Lomnitz points out in Death and the Idea of Mexico (take special notice of how he talks about the Russians):
The Shinto-Buddhist acceptance of the brevity of life and its sublimation of fearlessness before death, best represented in the figure of the kamikaze, were intimately tied to militarism and to Japan's imperial pretensions. Mexico's nationalization of the proximity to and familiarity with death and the dead diverges from this model because stoicism in Mexico is not inextricably tied to militarism or to a sense of national destiny, and an ironic, jocular connection between the living and the dead is much more developed.

Neither can we argue for a close parallel between Mexico's nationalization of death and Russia's (or Poland's) attempt to corner the international market on suffering. Whereas Russia's sublimation of suffering involves a romantic sense of tragedy, of a collective that is crushed by telluric or heavenly forces beyond its control, Mexico's nationalization of death has a more nihilistic, lighthearted component. It is a modern refurbishment of a medieval theme: death comes to all and makes a mockery of all...

When Mexicans speak of their peculiar connection to death, they generally refer not to the sacrifices of their dead heroes but to a relation of flirtation and seduction with death itself, to a relationship that is full of betrayal and seducation on both sides.
The author of the Herald article seems to think that smoking is motivated by something like the Russian "romantic sense of tragedy," when it's much more like the Mexican model ("an ironic, jocular connection...full of betrayal and seduction on both sides").

Comparing a man to a horse isn't always flattering...

Does The House Next Door bother to read articles before linking to them? This one on 'Best kid performances from Abigail Breslin to Jodie Foster' includes such gems as
4. Josh Hutcherson in “Little Manhattan.”

From the moment he first read for us he completely owned the role. He did the reading of the movie for the studio and it was like watching Brando do ‘Streetcar’...
This is an incredible performance from the horse, but also from Kelly Reno.
Poor Kelly Reno.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Post-Mo'Dernity, Mo' Problems: gender roles & tradition, cont'd

Wednesday, cigarette #1

The Reactionary Epicurean tries to break up a blogfight, but if you've never seen a man try to step between a catfight, it's about what you'd expect:
In the red corner, we have Karras, leading with the "tradition hurts women but that's okay because it does lots of other good stuff"-line. I believe back in the old country we called that "being a collaborator", but nevermind that for now.

Meanwhile, in the blue corner, we have Rittelmeyer sallying forth with her old "tradition isn't cool unless it hurts"-standby. Furthermore, both of them make use of the mildly disturbing "women being oppressed is kinda hot, and don't forget we can be real bitches about it"-meme; which manages to be both creepy and unhelpful at the same time.

Sadly, both of them manage to miss the important point that if traditional gender roles are in danger of destroying "women's ambitions, rights, and very souls," this means that tradition has already failed. The entire point of tradition is that it shapes the ambitions and souls of those who partake in it -- the entire premise of traditional gender roles was that motherhood was a good and virtuous thing for women to do (in fact better and more virtuous than any other possibility). Women didn't need to be crushed or oppressed; they believed in this as much as men did...
First off: for the record, I stand by both of the paraphrases attributed to me, and will defend them against all comers.

Nicola hits back by trying to distinguish between gender roles that alter women's inner lives and those that destroy them (which is, unfortunately, not at all an obvious thing to tell), but she fails to address the most glaring problem with RE's post, which is that it comes about fifty years too late. The idea that tradition is "something I don't think to question" applies to very little except the law gravity. The person reading RE over my shoulder asked, "Is he on drugs or MacIntyre?"

Really, tradition-as-innocence would still be false in a world where telecommunications, women's lib and France had never happened. The way that a person "picks out a catalogue of acceptable gender roles" (a phrase RE takes issue with) is by examining the gender roles she's been given, not just what they are but where they're going. On the one hand this means accepting that your tradition in is motion, which is to say it isn't necessarily the gospel truth. On the other hand, this means reforming gender roles in a way that creates continuity between the weird new thing you're doing and the weird old things other people have done, i.e. female politicians looking at the tradition of female preaching in America, etc.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dinner with Socrates: Me? No.

Tuesday, cigarette #4

If you received a dinner invitation from Socrates, would you accept? Best answer from the 'no' pile:
AND FURTHERMORE, should he once again ask the flute-girls to leave before the symposium even starts, I want the old gas-bag to know that I shall leave with them.

Gin Island: Nice place to vacation, but you wouldn't want to live there...

Tuesday, cigarette #3

A Map on Temperance.

Nick Hornby, your check is in the mail.

Tuesday, cigarette #2

The idea that taste in books can be a relationship-killer is uncontroversial, but the comments on the much-blogged-about article are the most interesting thing about it:
7. I just realized that I have “Fight Club” and “Atlas Shrugged” prominently displayed on my bookshelf, remnants of a jaded youth. It looks like I have some reshuffling to do lest an anarcho-capitalist yuppie high-schooler fall madly in love with me.

96. Admit it, if you’re a Brooklyn brownstoner, seeing anyone reading a Bible in public is a complete deal-breaker.

115. The Beats, especially Jack Kerouac. Not only does he have bad taste but he will justify cheating on you philosophically.

124. Children’s writer E.L. Konigsburg talks in a speech about how to truly know someone, you should ask what children’s books they’ve read. It’s a good idea. When you’re a kid, you don’t know enough to try to impress anyone with what you’re reading.
I like the "more or less" in this one:
66. When Kurt Vonnegut died last year I walked around campus all day with Slaughterhouse-Five (my favorite book) in my back pocket as my little “tribute” to him. A girl in one of my classes who I had a secret crush on noticed that book and then found me on facebook later that day, expressing regret over Kurt’s passing. We got to talking and we’ve been going out more or less ever since.
This person has obviously spent time in the conservative movement:
71. Ayn Rand ruined two relationships of mine.
And a surprise appearance by Oscar Wilde:
47. Only superficial people don’t judge by appearances.
Unfortunately, if a man has a shelf full of books by Wilde you're probably about to encounter a deal-breaker of a different kind...

More on Campus Conservatism as Gnostic Cult

Tuesday, cigarette #1

If Penn students had been able to recognize the "organizer" of a fake Obama rally as a pseudonym pulled from Ayn Rand, they could have avoided being duped.