Ransom Notes 2
Dallas Shipp writes in to ask: “You once wrote that whenever a talking head on television referred to a storm or a shooting as a ‘tragedy,’ their misuse of the word amounted to nihilism. Could you elaborate and explain your point?
TJF: I don’t recall using the word “nihilism,” but I have frequently argued against the trivializing of the word tragedy by applying it to accident victims and people who have suffered in a disaster. The trivialization works in two directions. First, it reduces to the word tragedy to meaning something like “terrible misfortune” or “incomprehensible suffering.” It is a parallel to the generally nonsensical “senseless violence.” A tragedy is, in fact, a dramatic form in which, classically, morally serious people suffer for their arrogance. It is a means of making sense of the world, not of attributing everything to blind chance and random accident. Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, while a great man, brought on his downfall by his own actions, similarly Sophocles’ Oedipus and Euripides’ Hippolytus and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Suppose Bill Clinton were a good man and a brave ruler whose arrogant behavior toward women brought him down. That would be a tragedy. The real story of Clinton is more like a farcical satyr play.
On the other hand, by constantly referring to various disasters, catastrophes, school-shootings, and celebrities dying of their own excesses as “tragedies.” news commentators are repudiating the whole notion that one can distinguish between an innocent person swept up in a hurricane and a career drinker who gets killed in a drunken accident he caused.
A friend asked me today why National Review types are repudiating Trump and declaring him to be anything but a conservative, while Marco Rubio is being lauded as an exemplary conservative. Some radiohead named Koolidge—I think I heard the name right—read an NR editorial praising Rubio to the skies, denying that there is any real distance between himself and Cruz. Why are they doing this?
TJF: In the first place, it has been decades since anyone at NR had the slightest idea of what the word conservative used to mean. To them, a conservative politician believes in open competition, big business, free trade, open borders, and human rights—more or less the ideology of Robespierre. They hate Trump because he is everything they are not: independent, successful, proud to the point of arrogance, and not at all afraid to speak his mind. Their knickers are so in a twist they are turning into hangman’s knots.
Why Rubio? I am not interested in neoconservative social pathology enough to dig to deeply. Part of it has to do with Rubio’s ethnic background; part of it is the bleeding-heart sentimentalism that oozes from his puppy-dog eyes, but much of it, surely, can be put down to his blind obedience to Israel and his attempt to solve the immigration crisis by legalizing the illegals.
My wife asked me today why it took so long for the press to admit that the robbers and rapists in Cologne were Islamic migrants.
TJF: That one is too easy, as easy as the other question put to me recently: Why did Obama, in announcing his unconstitutional gun restrictions, mention the fact that controlling guns would not have stopped the shootings in San Bernardino, but excluding Muslims would have.