ITEM: I was taught at school that Woodrow Wilson was great because he was opposed to war, but then he reluctantly fought it, won it, invented the League of Nations, and at least was better than Coolidge who caused the Depression by not talking very much. Later I learned some other facts about his politics that caused me to shift my opinion, and regard his bony professorial form as something other than the harbinger of technocratic wise-man governance.
A few weeks ago I was listening to a radio interview with Amity Shlaes, who wrote the latest Coolidge bio. Someone called in and asked, with sarcasm you could almost smell like a cloud of AXE body spray, when they were going to get around to mentioning that Coolidge screened “Birth of a Nation” at the White House.
Whereupon it was pointed out that Wilson made it the distinction of being the first movie shown at the White House. The caller retreated, possibly thinking that if Wilson hadn't done it, Coolidge sure the hell would have.
Today, an interview with Joyce Carol Oates about her 4,945th book, which features Wilson:
“The portrait of Woodrow Wilson as a very limited person, a racist, a misogynist, and a Christian conservative with charity for few persons beyond those of his own kind is historically valid. Wilson was exceedingly thin-skinned and prone to feuds, possibly as a byproduct of his excessive self-medicating. He was something of a dictator, though always cloaking his ambition in the loftiest of Christian terms.
It seems clear that Wilson believed himself ordained by God to be president of Princeton, later president of the United States, and later head of the League of Nations. He was squarely in the tradition of our American presidents—like George W. Bush—who seemed to have believed themselves involved in Christian crusades.”
There you go.
ITEM: My friend Hugh Hewitt today spent an hour on video games as the proximate cause of the Sandy Hook shooter, spurred by a New York Post story that says the little bastard was an avid gamer. Hugh said it would be a good thing for a jury to decide. I fear a jury would look at the sales numbers, conclude the companies had lots of money, hear a few hired experts, and conclude that the victim’s families are entitled to some of that money, because the games were violent and one of the 162 million users was violent, and fairness and compassion require redress.
Experts are welcome to opine, to study, to observe and conclude, and experts are entitled to extrapolate from their data a variety of suppositions about people who may be affected but nevertheless don’t behave differently; experts can ask for grants and hook up gamers to electrodes and study which parts of the brain light up.
But. When it comes to making a case that the shootings were A) tied to the user’s use of a certain medium, and B) the creators of the work in that medium should be liable, there are certain things I require:
- Knowledge of at least six videogame titles from various genres, including the plot and the moral universe the game describes-
- Ability to describe the difference between Doom and Dark Forces
- AWDS = WNES: explain. (This is like asking gun-control advocates to know something about the things they profess to understand.)
- The different ethical landscapes of GTA and Bioshock
That will help me understand your arguments, because it suggests a passing familiarity with the medium you want to constrain, punish, restrict, etc. I’m not saying All Games are Good and I’m not justifying the anti-social aspects of some games - although those seem to be in decline. If games can be blamed, movies, books, songs can be blamed, and if they can be blamed, they can be sued; if they can be sued successfully, they can be regulated.
The enthusiasm for regulating one form of expression is rarely confined to that particular example.
ITEM: the 10th anniversary. Next week, perhaps. Ajami's piece in the WSJ seemed right. (No link b/c subscription required.) Right now I’ll go with Zhou En Lai for once, when he was asked about the French Revolution. “Too early to say.”
He was probably thinking of the 1968 revolts, but same concept.
New Mpls, of course. The HQ of the Pillsbury Company, but before that - well , you'll see. Big honking work blog around noon! It's Wednesday, and we are but two days from the pleasures of the weekend. Only two!
This week. Is lasting. Forever.