May 24, 2017

The blatant stupidies of Ross Douthat on literary classics

It’s been a long, long time since I wrote a column about the blatant stupidities of Ross Douthat.

But, after pointing out last week that he doesn’t actually seem to understand the 25th Amendment, I guess it’s time for another.

Per his take on Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which I had seen David Rieff Tweet, I have to wonder how well — or how poorly — he understands classics of literature that he cites, which of course has an impact on how credible his understanding of Atwood is.

He claims “1984” is about socialism. Well, no. I had Tweeted it was about communism, thinking instead of “Animal Farm.” Orwell’s “1984” is actually about neither. It’s about authoritarian government in general.  The governmental villian is, yes, called “English Socialism.” But, at the time of its publication in 1949, Attlee’s Labour Party had been in power four years. Orwell, per his own Wiki page, supported democratic socialism. (And, if you know much about Orwell, you don’t have to go to his Wiki page to know that.)

Old Rosty made that claim in saying that socialists need to read the book for disconfirmation.
In this sense, conservative Christians should approach “The Handmaid’s Tale” as something more than just a hate-read for the same reason that socialists should read “1984” or even “Atlas Shrugged” and techno-optimists “Fahrenheit 451” or “Brave New World.”
Ahh, but just as “1984” isn’t about socialism, the other two aren’t about “techno-optimism.”

Rosty does note that all are dystopian, but with neither of these is the dystopianism about failed techno-optimism. Rather, like “1984,” “Fahrenheit 451” is about censorship and thought control. It’s also, like “1984,” about the effects of mass media.

“Brave New World” also isn’t about technology per se. It’s about the use of technological manipulation by the world of big business. It also somewhat parallels “Fahrenheit 451” in its fear of mass media, and a larger commodification of life in general.

That said, here’s where Rosty goes wrong with Atwood:
But precisely because of the ways that Atwood’s novel plumbed and surfaced the specific anxieties of 1985, her story is necessarily time-bound and context-dependent and in certain ways more outdated than prophetic. 
Really? The Religious Right would still like to outlaw all abortion, among other things.

Rosty even claims:
The second contrast lies in the fizzling of the post-1970s religious revival, the defeat of the religious right on practically every issue save abortion and the waning of the religious case for female domesticity.
See above. First, the Religious Right has only been defeated on a full ban of abortion. It continues to chip away at the margins with as much success as failure. As for female domesticity, erm, old Rosty hasn’t listened to Mike Pence, has he?

He is right about some things, like surrogate mothers. However, claiming that feminism has “acquiesced” to this is wrong on several counts. First, there is no unified church of feminism to “acquiesce.” Second, some class-based feminists have expressed concerns about this.

He also ignores that the Hulu media production isn’t quite the same as the book.

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