Violence according to pop culture

Part of Victor Davis Hanson’s thoughts about the Batman killings:

When Alien, Predator, or Terminator slice up or rip apart dozens, life just goes on. Bodies fly all over the screen and we are onto the next scene. Wondering about who actually was the 11th poor soul who had his heart ripped out by the Terminator is far less interesting than watching the latter utter some banality. The same is true of everything from Die Hard to 300—lots of real-life, graphic killing, but almost no pause and bewilderment over the staggering loss of life or the consequences of Target 12 or Victim G leaving life at 12 or 56. Killing is so easy not just because of robotic arms, RPGs, and computer simulations, but also because there are almost no emotional consequences from the carnage—a fact easily appreciated by the viewer, the more so if young or unhinged or both. The killer usually smiles or at least shows no emotion; the victims are reduced to “them,” anonymous souls who serve as mere numbers in a body count. Will Kane’s victims, in contrast, were known—evil, but still not anonymous and not mere sets for the sheriff’s gunplay.

For the diseased mind that is saturated with such modern imagery, there is fascination aplenty with the drama of killing, but no commensurate lesson gleaned from its sheer horror—at least in human terms of the devastation that such carnage does to humans, both nearby and in the larger community. In the awful mind of the rampage killer, he always must be the center of attention in the manner of his homicidal fantasy counterpart, his victims of no more account than are those decapitated, dismembered, or shot apart by Freddy Krueger or Arnold Schwarzenegger. How odd that we rush to the emergency room for a cut finger in the kitchen—stitches, tetanus shot, pain killer, bandages, a doctor’s reassurance—only to matter-of-factly watch horrific wounds on television that night with no thought that a .38 slug to the shoulder entails something more than our split forefinger.

And there is a further wrinkle to these hyper-realistic cinematic rampages. The killer, be he an evil “Joker,” the horrific Alien, or a hit man in a mafia movie, has a certain edgy personality, even a sick sort of intriguing persona—at least in the sense that his evil is sometimes “cool” in a way that his plodding victims, who simply got in his way, are not. In the abstract, we sympathize with the good, who became his targets; but in the concrete, the film focuses more often on the killer’s emotions, his language, his swagger.

The Joker spits, he puns, he acts disengaged and “cool,” while his victims scream and panic; we want to know why he acts so, and are supposed to be fixated on his strange clothes, face, and patois, never on the series of Joe Blows that are incinerated by him. Is it any wonder we know all about the orange hair of the suspected killer, but very little about the hair colors of any of the poor victims?

via Works and Days » The Demons of the Modern Rampage Killer.

Elton John credits Bush and conservatives for battling AIDS

Elton John gives credit to George W. Bush and to conservatives for their efforts in slowing the AIDS epidemic in Africa:

“We’ve seen George W. Bush and conservative American politicians pledge tens of billions to save the lives of Africans with HIV. Think of all the love. Think of where we’d be without it, nowhere, that’s where. We’d be nowhere at all,” John said at the International AIDS conference in Washington on Monday.

“Thanks to all this compassion, thanks to all this love, more than 8 million people are on treatment. Thanks to people who have chosen to care and to act, we can see an end to this epidemic on the horizon.”

via Elton John praises George W. Bush and ‘conservative politicians’ [VIDEO] | The Daily Caller.

Bush-haters on the left, will you at least give him credit for this?

Egopapism

Francis Beckwith discusses the indignation in some circles about catechists in the Roman Catholic Church being required to, you know, agree with the doctrines that they are supposed to be teaching.  In doing so, he employs a useful new word:  egopapism.  I define this as the belief that you yourself are your own infallible religious authority.

 

Mainline liberal Protestants look for a new name

It isn’t just [some] Southern Baptists–or [some] Missouri Synod Lutherans–who are looking for a new name.  So are mainline liberal Protestants.   From Amy Frykholm:

In a recent interview with the Century, historian David Hollinger talks about his preference for the phrase “ecumenical Protestants” to describe non-evangelical mid-20th-century American Protestants, instead of the more frequently used terms “liberal” and “mainline.”

“Ecumenical” refers to a specific, vital and largely defining impulse within the groups I am describing. It also provides a more specific and appropriate contrast to evangelical. The term evangelical comes into currency in the mid-century to refer to a combination of fundamentalists and Holiness, Pentecostals and others; ecumenical refers to the consolidation of the ecumenical point of view in the big conferences of 1942 and 1945.

I appreciated this shift in vocabulary because I have long disliked both the terms “liberal” and “mainline” to refer to whatever-kind-of-Protestant it is that I am.

“Mainline” emerged as a label in the early part of the twentieth-century to distinguish a certain kind of Protestant from a fundamentalist. Some have speculated that the name comes from the Philadelphia Main Line, a suburban rail line that passed by one denominational church after another. But its two parts, “main” and “line” are both utterly unhelpful in describing the people, theology, social commitments or religious identities contained under that category today.

If anything, so-called mainline Protestants are less “main” and less “line” than they’ve ever been.

“Liberal” likewise is useless. At our particular moment, it is primarily a political term. While it can apply to theology and abstractly to philosophy, that isn’t its main rhetorical purpose now, and it lumps people from a broad spectrum under a term that is awkward and uncomfortable for most of them. Many people in this category would not consider themselves “liberal” in theology, but they might in politics. Or they might be liberal in theology, but decidedly not so in politics. Or they might claim neither or both, or have no idea why it matters.

But “ecumenical” has its problems too. For one thing, is ecumenism still the defining impulse of the group of Christians in questions? What’s more, the word may no longer helpfully distinguish us from evangelicals, who are a whole lot more ecumenical than they used to be.

It isn’t that we must have a term that everyone can agree on, one that suits us all perfectly. But it would be nice to have something, as Hollinger says, that “refers to a specific, vital and largely defining impulse.” We know—at least I think we do—who we are talking about. Why can’t we put a name to it or to ourselves? Is it because of an identity crisis? An awkward transition toward a less central cultural role?

Evangelicals are just as “ecumenical” in the sense of accepting different churches as these other guys.  And isn’t defining today’s churches by their attendance at a conference in 1945 rather retrograde?  I’m not sure what’s wrong with “liberal” as a descriptor for those denominations that aren’t constrained by Biblical authority, that think the beliefs of the church should change to conform to the dominant culture, or, rather, the dominant cultural and intellectual elite.  While it’s true that many people who are conservative theologically are liberal politically, I’m not aware of anyone who is liberal theologically who isn’t also liberal politically.  But help these folks out.  What is a good name for them?  What is their “identity” today?

Penn State’s punishment

The NCAA did not kill off completely Penn State’s football program, as was widely expected, but the sanctions for the child sexual abuse scandal and its coverup were pretty harsh:

NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement Monday morning that the program would be hit with a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. He called the case “unprecedented.”

In addition, the school will be forced to cut 10 scholarships for this season and 20 scholarships for the following four years.

The move essentially bumps Penn State down to the scholarship levels of schools at the lower Football Championship Subdivision.

The school will be forced to vacate all wins from 1998-2011, a total of 112 victories, and serve five years of probation.

The loss of victories means Joe Paterno is no longer college football’s winningest coach. He was fired in November during the scandal after 409 wins at the school.

Because of the length of the punishment, all current Penn State players and incoming freshman will be free to transfer to another school without penalty.

Is this an example of completely justified outrage taking the place of justice?  Normally, guilty individuals are punished, and surely those who knew about Coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex with little boys and did nothing about it need to be called to account.  But the Penn State players, students, and alumni didn’t know what was going on.  Why are they being punished?  Or is there corporate guilt, in which every member of an institution has a share in its transgressions?

If part of the problem in the cover up was the cultural climate of football uber alles, the corporate guilt would extend far beyond Penn State, to big time football universities as a whole and to the NCAA itself.

Also, is the NCAA acting beyond its jurisdiction?  Penn State did not violate any of the rules that the NCAA is supposed to enforce (such as recruiting violations, paying players, and the like).   Isn’t child abuse a matter for the criminal justice system and civil courts to take care of, rather than a sports organization?

And what kind of punishment is it to forfeit 13 years worth of games that have already been played?  It isn’t as if an ineligible player contributed to illicit victories that might otherwise be losses if it were not for the infraction.  How does that punishment have to do with the crime?

Don’t get me wrong:  I am repulsed by what happened at Penn State and want it addressed in the strongest possible way.  I just don’t understand the  NCAA action.  What would be better?

Poverty rate is highest in 50 years

New data shows that the poverty rate has climbed to the highest levels since the 1960s:

The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net. . . .

The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965. . . .

Even after strong economic growth in the 1990s, poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, launched in 1964, that created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs. . . .

The analysts’ estimates suggest that some 47 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 6, were poor last year. An increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 15.2 percent would tie the 1983 rate, the highest since 1965. The highest level on record was 22.4 percent in 1959, when the government began calculating poverty figures. . . .

Analysts also believe that the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the poverty level, will remain near its peak level of 6.7 percent. . . .

The 2010 poverty level was $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for an individual, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income, before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership, as well as noncash aid such as food stamps and tax credits, which were expanded substantially under President Barack Obama’s stimulus package.

An additional 9 million people in 2010 would have been counted above the poverty line if food stamps and tax credits were taken into account.

So, by these definitions, out of every six Americans you see on the streets, one will be poor.  One in twelve (if I’m figuring that right) will be really poor.


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