Tom Moody, Double Buckyball (detail of work in process), 2004, mixed media, approx. 60 x 40 inches.
Silicon Valley is not an entirely new phenomenon. What’s new is the rise of a sterile nerdiness as a dominant personality. It’s almost an eschatology: the world is a giant program that we’re optimizing, and we’ll make ourselves obsolete as part of that—the grand project of the singularity. You did hear some fairly nutty thoughts from Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, people like that. But this sort of stuff has a knife-edge nerdiness to it that’s new, and it’s distinguished not so much by what it thinks of itself as by its success in imposing its pattern on everyone else.
Among the hacks who staff our factories of conventional wisdom, evidence abounds that we are living in a golden age of political comedy. The New York Times nominates Jon Stewart, beloved host of Comedy Central’sDaily Show, as the “most trusted man in America.” His protégé, Stephen Colbert, enjoys the sort of slavish media coverage reserved for philanthropic rock stars. Bill Maher does double duty as HBO’s resident provocateur and a regular on the cable news circuit. The Onion, once a satirical broadsheet published by starving college students, is now a mini-empire with its own news channel. Stewart and Colbert, in particular, have assumed the role of secular saints whose nightly shtick restores sanity to a world gone mad.
But their sanctification is not evidence of a world gone mad so much as an audience gone to lard morally, ignorant of the comic impulse’s more radical virtues. Over the past decade, political humor has proliferated not as a daring form of social commentary, but a reliable profit source. Our high-tech jesters serve as smirking adjuncts to the dysfunctional institutions of modern media and politics, from which all their routines derive. Their net effect is almost entirely therapeutic: they congratulate viewers for their fine habits of thought and feeling while remaining careful never to question the corrupt precepts of the status quo too vigorously.
Our lazy embrace of Stewart and Colbert is a testament to our own impoverished comic standards. We have come to accept coy mockery as genuine subversion and snarky mimesis as originality. It would be more accurate to describe our golden age of political comedy as the peak output of a lucrative corporate plantation whose chief export is a cheap and powerful opiate for progressive angst and rage.
Martine Franck, Children’s Library Built by the Atelier de Montrouge, Clamart, France, 1965
Increasingly there are conflicts over families trying to “opt out” of various legal structures, especially public school education. Examples of opting-out conflicts include a father seeking to exempt his son from health education classes; a mother seeking to exempt her daughter from mandatory education about the perils of female sexuality; and a vegetarian student wishing to opt out of in-class frog dissection. The Article shows that, perhaps paradoxically, the right to direct the upbringing of children was more robust before it was constitutionalized by the Supreme Court in Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925). In fact, the position of U.S. courts on opting-out conflicts has shifted dramatically over the twentieth century. In the early twentieth century, parents mostly prevailed in such conflicts. Today, the state typically prevails. Contemporary conflicts often involve public-school management of health, sexuality, and liberal development of students through surveys, nudges, and mandatory readings. When these techniques infringe on familial liberty, lawmakers lack conceptual tools to respond. A new understanding of familial liberty is needed.
This Article offers that understanding. The approach here is based on the idea of family laws. Family laws are legal systems that families create or adopt to govern their day-to-day lives. These rules exist independently of state laws, and can be religious, such as Amish or Buddhist family laws, or secular, such as feminist or vegetarian family laws. The Article identifies three basic characteristics of family laws: They are (1) general and articulable; (2) grounded in religion, ethics, or morality; and (3) perceived as binding by members of a particular family. The Article argues that, with some limiting principles, law-making families should possess a liberty to opt out of programs and policies that conflict with a family law. Through an examination of three different types of family laws — religious, feminist, and vegetarian — the Article demonstrates how the proposed approach would empower existing lawmaking families. Almost a century has passed since the Supreme Court declared the liberty of parents to educate their children in Meyer v. Nebraska. It is time to breathe new life into this moribund liberty by empowering the Lawmaking Family.
Gideon, The disparity in the criminal justice system isn't wealth, it's what we're willing to stand up for, A Public Defender (March 31, 2014) ›
Maybe we suffer from the affliction of having the courage of our convictions but only if they don’t require us to stand next to those we find morally repugnant.
Maybe these stories expose more than just inadequacies in the system; they expose our inherent biases and the convenient nature of our beliefs.
What is it about young girls that’s so incendiary? That could make ‘Jailbait’ for a time the second most popular search on Reddit, that would ever put the words ‘12-year-old’ and ‘slut’ together? This BS – this dehumanizing crap – can’t just be chalked up to the inherent budding attractiveness of youth and freshness. This goes way, way beyond that particular can of worms. I think it has a whole lot to do with just how deeply engrained the hatred of women is in our culture.
It’s not a coincidence that it’s right around the age of 12 that a girl begins to come to an understanding of her potential for power. Not just her sexual power. But her intellectual and physical mettle as well. She’s still very much a child – a child in need of support and protection – but early adolescence is the beginning of a girl coming into her own as an independent person. With a brain and a body she’s going to control. How terrifying that is for the hateful, misogynistic jerks of the world. (And I’m not letting sabotaging, self-hating females off the hook here for their bullying and divisiveness either; they’re a huge part of the problem too.) They pick on girls because it’s easier than dealing with adult women; that’s how weak they are.
Ryan Jacobs, Juggalos and the Criminalization of Style, Pacific Standard: The Science of Society (January 10, 2014) ›
Members of the Insane Clown Posse and their fans have sued the FBI and DOJ for classifying them as a “hybrid gang.” The struggle represents nothing less than a war on style.
We live in the emerging mainstream moment of the sociology of taste. Think back to the first time you heard someone casually talk of “cultural capital” at a party, usually someone else’s inglorious pursuit or accrual of it; or when you first listened to someone praise “the subversion of the dominant in a cultural field,” or use the wordsstrategize, negotiate, positioning, or leveraging in a discussion of a much admired “cultural producer’s” career. (For it was always careers, never single works, that were being considered.) You might have thought that you were listening to Wall Street bankers detailing mergers and acquisitions, but these were English majors! Then there appeared those charticles at the back of New York magazine, weekly guides to the rise and fall of tastes, which derived directly from Bourdieu’s maps of the field of power. Few things are less contested today than the idea that art mostly expresses class and status hierarchies, and only secondarily might have snippets of aesthetic value.
This spread of sociological thinking has led to sociological living — ways of thinking and seeing that are constructed in order to carry out, yet somehow escape, the relentless demystification sociology requires. Seeing art as a product, mere stuff, rather than a work, has become a sign of a good liberal (as opposed to bad elitist) state of mind. This is why you must support upper-middlebrow Terrence Malick one day, and the next spuriously shock everyone with a loud defense of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Too often, being on the left tasks you with a vigilant daily quest to avoid being tagged with snobbery. In sociological living, we place value on those works or groups that seem most likely to force a reevaluation of an exclusive or oppressive order, or an order felt to be oppressive simply because exclusive. And yet despite this perpetual reevaluation of all values, the underlying social order seems unchanged; the sense of it all being a game not only persists, but hardens.
The initial demystifying shock of the sociology of culture in the academy partly accounts for its popularity. Thanks to the dead ends of certain kinds of European hermeneutics — the realization that repeated analyses of Balzac novellas might not shake the foundations of the subject, let alone those of capitalism — it became more promising to ask why certain classes of people might be interested (and other classes not interested) in Balzac at all. No more appeals to the inexplicable nature of genius. Seen from the longue durée of social change, individual authors or works were less important than collectives or status groups, cities or systems. Like latter-day Northrop Fryes, armed with data, the critic-sociologists converted writers back into “literature” as a system, and from there into refractions of codes, institutions, and classes.