Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Klavan on Beowulf

As I've often noted, Hollywood leftists aren't comfortable depicting heroism and evil, two concepts that just aren't morally "nuanced" enough for their self-hating, perversely countercultural worldview.

Conservative novelist/screenwriter Andrew Klavan muses here on how Hollywood has dismantled the heroic, epic nature and message of one of our culture's most heroic, epic works, Beowulf, and how "entirely it subverts and corrupts the vision of the original":
The poem’s Grendel is a primal force of evil spawned by sinful human nature itself and now perennially at war with the creation. The guilt is not sexual and personal but general in terms of mankind’s instinct toward fraternal violence.
That general guilt gives Beowulf ’s heroism its context. It tells us that evil is woven into human nature, but that individual men may choose to stand against it. The film Beowulf descends into moral equivalence and relativism as Beowulf, in his turn, is seduced by Grendel’s mother, a slinky CGI version of the likewise slinky Angelina Jolie. “I know that, underneath your glamour, you’re as much a monster as my son, Grendel,” she tells him. Which is blithering nonsense. In the poem, she’s the monster and he’s the guy who’s got to kill her so that men may live in peace. That may not be nuanced or urbane or pseudo-deep, but it’s actually more honest, more like life as it is lived. The evils of this sad world are not always susceptible to analysis or negotiation. Some monsters are really monsters and just have to be taken down. That’s why poets write—or used to write— epics honoring the warriors who do the job.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Wages of Appeasement: An Interview with the Author

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who famously returned from a Berlin conference with Hitler and announced appeasement in our time, may be history’s poster boy for political impotence and naïveté. But in the new book, The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama’s America, Bruce S. Thornton notes that the temptation to placate an enemy seeking one’s destruction is “as old as conflict itself.”

The book assesses three notable examples of societies’ futile, disastrous responses to the aggression of determined enemies: the Greek city-states threatened by the shrewd Philip II of Macedon, England confronted by Hitler, and now the West’s clash of civilizations with “a renascent Islamic jihad and its most powerful state sponsor, Iran.” Its message couldn’t be more timely and vital.

Front Page contributor Bruce Thornton is a professor of classics and humanities at California State University in Fresno. A National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, he’s the author of Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide, Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization, six other books, and numerous essays on Western culture.

Mark Tapson: Dr. Thornton, what was the inspiration for a book about appeasement? What prompted you to see timeless similarities in the different historical settings of ancient Greece, pre-WWII Europe, and America under Obama?

Bruce Thornton: The idea arose out of many conversations I've had with [fellow historian] Victor Hanson about the value of historical comparisons for illuminating our own times. I think we've been particularly struck by President Obama's foreign policy philosophy, which in some cases eerily mimics the naive idealism not just of Jimmy Carter but of someone like Neville Chamberlain.

These three instances are interesting to compare because they are all constitutional governments faced with autocratic and illiberal aggressors. Thus appeasement is not just a consequence of this or that particular leader's weakness, but also reflects the weaknesses of democratic governments, particularly in foreign policy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hollywood and Holy War

De Palma
“We should never lose sight of the fact that, no matter how entertaining a picture may be or how much money it may make, it can do our country a great deal of harm if it plays into the hands of our enemies.” – Samuel Goldwyn, Hollywood producer

In 2006, five American soldiers raped and murdered a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdered other members of her family. The participants were convicted by U.S. civilian or military courts and sentenced to up to 110 years each; the ringleader, Steven Dale Green, is serving life without possibility of parole.

This horrific crime, rather than any of the countless selfless and heroic incidents performed by the U.S. military in our current wars, served as inspiration for filmmaker Brian De Palma’s 2007 barely-fictionalized movie version called Redacted. De Palma may have been the director of such popular fare as Scarface and Mission:Impossible, but American audiences showed exactly how they felt about this vile denigration of our warriors: Redacted scraped in a career-killing box office pittance of $25,000 on opening weekend.

But don’t underestimate the film’s impact abroad. John Rosenthal at Pajamas Media reports confirmation that the Muslim shooter who killed two American soldiers and wounded a third at the Frankfurt Airport earlier this month in an act of terrorism was inspired by YouTube clips from Redacted. They were presented as actual footage – along with Arabic music, text, and voiceover – in a propaganda video posted under the title “American Soldiers Rape our Sisters! Awake Oh Ummah.” (The ummah is the worldwide Muslim community.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Onward Christian Warriors

In “Religiously Battling for Pacifism” in The American Spectator, Front Page contributor Mark Tooley writes about “a rising tide of absolutist pacifism at least among U.S. Protestant and Evangelical elites,” which is pressing Christians to refuse to serve in the military and even in law enforcement. Tooley quotes evangelical Bible scholar Ben Witherington: “In short, for the Christian, there are plenty of things worth dying for and giving your life for, but nothing worth killing for, for life is of sacred worth, and we are called to save it, even from itself.”

So much for “Onward Christian Soldiers,” a martial hymn that I hear anecdotally has all but vanished from church services. When it comes to confronting aggressors, rather than “marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before,” the Christian community seems to be embracing the same turn-the-other-cheek martyrdom that once led to them being shredded by lions in the Roman arena.

Actually, it’s still resulting in Christians being decimated. In a different article, “Thriving Christianity,” Mark Tooley cites alarming figures in a recent report by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research: “270 new Christian martyrs every day in the world over the last 10 years, reaching 1 million during 2000-2010, and compared to 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900. Presumably, radical Islam can be faulted for most current-day Christian victims.” Presumably, not to mention the non-Christian and even Muslim victims.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The LA Times Announces the Triumph of Conservative Hollywood!

Patrick Goldstein, the Minister of Hollywood Disinformation at the L.A. Times, is obsessed with convincing you that leftist dominance of Hollywood is a whiny conservative myth. Big Hollywood’s indefatigable John Nolte, among others, has taken down Goldstein in numerous columns on this topic, but like an ideological Terminator, Goldstein keeps coming back.

But this time he ratcheted things up a few notches. His first column immediately following the most recent Oscars telecast was not just another pooh-poohing of the liberal bias stereotype, but an assertion that the Oscars actually proves the reverse.

Witness his eyebrow-raising title: “‘The King's Speech’: The Triumph of Hollywood Conservative Values.” Wow. Not only is conservative griping about Hollywood unjustified, but we have in fact triumphed. Culture war over, people. In your face, Matt Damon! Don’t let the screen door hit you on your way out, Sean Penn!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Plumbing the Depths of the Left's Psychosis

Showdown with Evil: Our Struggle Against Tyranny and Terror
By Jamie Glazov
(Mantua Books, 255 pages, $18.00)

North Africa and the Middle East are undergoing upheavals that will forever alter the face of global politics. Europe is wrestling for its life with a swelling population of young radicals seeking the Islamization of the West. And America’s culture war is on the brink of becoming civil war as the far Left brazenly presses its advantage under the presidency of one of its own. These are tumultuous, unsettling times, and a recent book lays the groundwork for coming to grips with them.

In 2009  Jamie Glazov, managing editor of David Horowitz's Front Page website, released his first book United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror, an incisive, devastating examination of the psychosis behind the Left’s deification of totalitarian ideologies.

Glazov’s timely followup effort is Showdown with Evil: Our Struggle Against Tyranny and Terror, from Mantua Books. Mantua is a Canadian press that describes itself as publishing works “relating to the struggle of the West to preserve its freedoms in the face of Islamo-Fascism,” books that “go beyond the headlines to explore the underlying values and ideologies that explain current politics and culture wars.”

Showdown with Evil is the perfect embodiment of that mission statement. It is a relentlessly enlightening, entertaining, and engaging collection of twenty-nine interviews conducted over the course of the last several years by Glazov for Front Page. As former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle states in his foreword, this is “an illuminating and important commentary on the largest issues facing America and the West,” particularly the “Islamist agenda that has replaced communism as the principal threat to western values and civilization.”

Singing for Dictators: When is a Private Performance Unethical?

In 2007, singer Nelly Furtado collected a cool $1 million for crooning at a private function for family members of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Last week, with the lunatic Gaddafi making daily headlines for brutally repressing his own people and with Obama finally condemning him, Furtado no doubt felt it best to publicly distance herself from the Libyan megalomaniac, and she donated the whopping fee to charity.

In the immediate wake of Furtado’s self-imposed penance, megastar Beyoncé announced that she too has washed her hands of the $1 million she earned while strutting her bootylicious stuff for the Gaddafis at a 2009 party in St. Barts. Her publicist claims that the singer quietly donated the money over a year ago for earthquake relief in Haiti, after learning of the Gaddafis’ involvement. I take her at her word, but considering the timing of the announcement, it’s tempting to wonder if Beyoncé isn’t simply hastily covering her tracks to avoid embarrassment.

In any case, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie and apparently more artists also performed for Gaddafi and/or his sons in recent years, but have not yet offered to divest themselves of the massive fees they received (although Carey now has announced that she “feels horrible and embarrassed” and plans to donate royalties from an upcoming song). Some in the entertainment biz are saying they shouldn’t even have to; Randy Phillips, the CEO of AEG Live, says giving up the tainted megabucks from the Gaddafi gigs sends the wrong message: it would be “as if they were admitting to doing something wrong.”