October 6, 2006

Monologues dialogues.

David Brooks's column yesterday began this way (TimesSelect link):
This is a tale of two predators. The first is a congressman who befriended teenage pages. He sent them cajoling instant messages asking them to describe their sexual habits, so he could get his jollies.

The second is a secretary, who invited a 13-year-old girl from her neighborhood into her car and kissed her. Then she invited the girl up to her apartment, gave her some vodka, took off her underwear and gave her a satin teddy to wear.

Then she had sex with the girl, which was interrupted when the girl’s mother called. Then she made the girl masturbate in front of her and taught her some new techniques.

The first predator, of course, is Mark Foley, the Florida congressman. The second predator is a character in Eve Ensler’s play, “The Vagina Monologues."

Foley is now universally reviled. But the Ensler play, which depicts the secretary’s affair with the 13-year-old as a glorious awakening, is revered. In the original version of the play, the under-age girl declares, “I say, if it was a rape, it was a good rape, then, a rape that turned my [vagina] into a kind of heaven.” When I saw Ensler perform the play several years ago in New York, everyone roared in approval. Ensler has since changed the girl’s age to 16 — the age of Foley’s pages — and audiences still embrace the play and that scene at colleges and in theaters around the world.
Today, we get the letters to the editor. Gotta defend the iconic monologues, you know. The first letter says Brooks "misses a key point, and that is power":
Mark Foley, a congressman, had a certain amount of power, and many of the pages were responding to that power. Most were afraid to offend him or to break off communication because Mr. Foley might become an important ally in a future career.

In my mind, this is more a story of abuse of power and covering up that abuse of power by the Republican Party.
But power is always the problem when an adult goes after a child!

The second letter makes the big art/life distinction. "The Vagina Monologues" is a play:
Does David Brooks mean to suggest that it is not the job of the theater to provoke us, to be equivocal, to reflect our best and worst selves, then leave it to us to choose good behavior when we exit the lobby?

If so, then Mr. Brooks is asking for the ostensible rectitude of propaganda.
But "The Vagina Monologues" is presented as propaganda, isn't it? Brooks made a point of the audience's approval. And consider the extreme enthusiasm for producing this play, which is out of all proportion to its artistic value.

The third letter notes Brooks's omission of the "simple point" that what Mark Foley did was "real" and "The Vagina Monologues" is "make-believe." But, again, the enthusiasm for "The Vagina Monologues" is very real.

IN THE COMMENTS: Some blogger's minions come by en masse to call me (and Brooks) idiots for not knowing the difference between real life and fiction (rather dimly redoing the NYT's letters that I'm writing about in this post). Palladian says something really smart:
No one's pointed out that the Foley's instant messages are, in one way, exactly analogous to a monologue-style play in that they were written words; dramatized sexual conduct rather than physical acts. This is not a defense of Foley, merely an observation that Brook's analogy (yes, he was making an analogy!) is not as far off as the suddenly fundamentalist, literalist "liberals" are suggesting.

And a couple comments later, on seeing a sexist insult hurled at me by one of the liberal blogger's minions:
Wow, not only do we have "liberals" on a moral crusade against a gay man, and asserting that art is meaningless, but now they're making sexist insults toward a woman with whom they disagree.

Have I fallen into some weird alternate dimension? What the hell?

ADDED: This post is getting a lot of attention, and I feel bad that you can't read Brooks's whole column. I wish the NYT would have some way to release a TimesSelect piece for general viewing once there's a big blog discussion going on. It seems unfair to Brooks that everyone can read the letters (and blogs) criticizing him, but they can't see exactly what he said. I'm not going to reprint any more than I already did, but let me summarize what he says.

Brooks wonders why the sexual predator in the play makes people cheer when Mark Foley brings hoots of disgust. Noting first that female predators tend not to scare us, he observes that in the play, we are seeing things from the minor's point of view and that she presents herself as breaking free from social conventions and finding personal fulfilment doing something that society tries to suppress. She's the feisty rebel who evinces the "moral code" of "expressive individualism."

The news about Mark Foley is told in terms of a more old-fashioned moral code that defines people by their social roles. (We certainly don't hear the teenager's point of view.) This code categorically rejects adults in sexual relationships with youngsters. In this way of thinking, there is never a rebel to cheer on. Our reaction is to feel ever more strongly committed to preserving the moral order. Since the real significance of the Foley story is as a reminder of the grave threat to the conventional moral order, Brooks thinks, the way for a party to benefit from the scandal is to present itself as the champion of the moral order.

Now, what's my reaction to that? First, I don't think people (or parties) have to adopt one or the other of these "codes." Like many from my generation, I am very strongly dedicated to the ethic of individual expression. That does not, however, in any way make it hard for me to acknowledge the absolute rule against adults doing anything sexual with children. I think you can flatly reject what Foley did and still believe in the value of individuals finding their own way around conventional morality and making their own rules about what is good. Obviously, social conservatives are the big champions of the moral order, but that doesn't mean that to oppose what Foley did requires you to become an all-out social conservative. A responsible, freely expressive individual recognizes the need for some rules.

But I do think there is a danger that liberals are getting so jazzed up about making political progress over Foley's folly that they carelessly present themselves as champions of the moral order, something they really don't want to do in the long run. They surely ought to pillory the social conservatives whenever they get caught violating their own moral code. Pointing out hypocrisy is usually an excellent move. But they should be careful not to stumble into hypocrisy of their own by overdoing the sanctimony about sexual morality and making it seem as though they are the social conservatives. Ugh! I'd like to end up with less social conservatism through this episode, not more.

164 comments:

Dave said...

Brooks' argument is an odd one. Surely there is a difference between drama and real life?

Doug said...

Actually, I think Brook's argument is that the audience found this kind of behavior acceptable enough to applaud it, so they obviously don't have a problem with the idea of an older person having sex with a younger person. If it was worthy of acceptance in a drama, then what if it were actually based upon a real life occurance? What if a conservative southern audience attended a showing of the mini-series "Roots" and expressed glee when slaves were being whipped? I highly doubt the left would be saying it is just a drama.

Doyle said...

Thanks for clearing this up Ann. I, too, was under the impression this was a really stupid column even for Brooks.

John-o said...

dave-

I don't subscribe to TimesSelect so I can't read the entire article but going from what the good professor has posted I don't think the argument is particularly odd.

There is clearly a difference between drama and real life. If there were not, people would be trying to prosecute Eve Ensler or the producers and actresses of the VM for the pederasty depicted in the noted scene.

What I believe Mr. Brooks is saying in his column and Professor Althouse said in her post is this: for a person to laud Ensler's depiction of child rape as "liberating" (or even to not be repulsed by it) while, at the same time, being disgusted by the current scandal, shows a serious mental/moral disconnect.

I believe the argument is that one cannot hide behind the VM's being "only" a play when one applauds everything in the play and what it represents. If one can believe an adult's sexual adventurism with a thirteen year old girl can be a source of awakening for that girl, surely one cannot think it appalling that an older or similarly-aged boy engaged in cyber sex with an adult.

David said...

What Brooks conveniently glosses over is the imputed importance of, in this case, stealing the innocence of a child. That is what Foley did and that is the point of the VM play.

It further blurs the already obscure line between right and wrong. For the far left liberals keeping this type of behavior in front of the public gives the perversion a patina of acceptability with no thought to the consequences the "awakening" will have on the child.

John-o said...

doug--I like your Roots analogy.

John-o said...

david,

I don't understand your point. Like I mentioned to dave I don't have TimesSelect so I can't read the entire column but I think Brooks was merely pointing out the disconnect of the left lionizing Ensler's work and acting horrified at the current situation. I don't think he was trying to legitimize either Ensler or anything that has happened in the House. Are you suggesting otherwise?

George said...

Ah. Eve Ensler. Playwright. Poet. Author. Artist.

Here is a taste of her poetry. The title is "Fire His Ass."

http://worldcantwait.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1915&Itemid=228

On colleges and artsty zones, her body-part play is well known. It is shamelessly shown in Bayonne and even in parts unknown to hollers and groans, and even perhaps to craggy Sylvester Stallone, but did you know that she, no crone, is also the author of the book "Vagina Warriors"?

http://www.amazon.com/Vagina-Warriors-Eve-Ensler/dp/B000FILKW4/sr=8-7/qid=1160142953/ref=sr_1_7/104-3515653-4919163?ie=UTF8&s=books

You can't make this stuff up.

Vagina Warriors?

Blow your trombones! Spray your colognes! The poet Eve Ensler has no funny bone.

Just a pubic bone, unfortunately.

Doyle said...

for a person to laud Ensler's depiction of child rape as "liberating" (or even to not be repulsed by it) while, at the same time, being disgusted by the current scandal, shows a serious mental/moral disconnect.

The difference between them is that in one case the "victim" is an actress, who is performing voluntarily, and in the other the victims are real kids being preyed upon by a Congressman.

The inability to distinguish between art depicting evil and actual evil must be crippling for you.

MadisonMan said...

Not having seen the play, I'll ask: Did the secretary's boss know about the child enticement, and did he or she look the other way? And was that person applauded and defended?

My favorite comment on modern poetry was in Pearls Before Swine. Rat is at an open mic, saying he hates his neighbor and wants to bash him in the head, bash him in the head, bash him in the head. He wins a poetry contest, at which point he says that he thought he was at a City Council meeting. In the last panel he tells Pig "That's when they took away my trophy"

dklittl said...

Doug,

You take an extreme example of Roots which was more of a docu-drama than a drama because of its basis on actual events, but what about a more middle ground film like Michael Douglas's "Falling Down" a film that was very popular at the time. It's basically a movie about a white-collar worker going "postal" on society yet audiences loved him. Filmakers and audiences love the notion of anti-hero's like Patrick Bateman, Jay Gatsby and Hanibal Lecter who do deplorable acts, but for a dramatic purpose. I think Brooks is off the mark on this one.

stephenb said...

Most were afraid to offend him or to break off communication because Mr. Foley might become an important ally in a future career.

I heard one of these kids on the news the other day. He was saying that he (the kid) was doing what any "politically savvy" (he actually said politically savvy) young person would do. He was looking out for his future career interests.

This child was not "afraid to offend him or break off communication" because he thought Foley would come and cut him up in the middle of the night. He wasn't afraid because he thought Foley would sick the IRS on his parents. He was afraid for his future career interests. This kid didn't mind measuring his penis for Mr. Foley if it meant he might get a good job on the hill.

I'm not acquitting Foley. He certainly abused his power and should be taken to task. But this kid also prostituted himself. He sold his innocence (had he innocence to begin with?) for future career prospects.

These politicians...they start early these days.

Freeman Hunt said...

The difference between them is that in one case the "victim" is an actress, who is performing voluntarily, and in the other the victims are real kids being preyed upon by a Congressman.

So if you went to a screening of "Lolita" and everyone "roared with approval" when the young girl was exploited, you would find that to be a normal reaction to the drama onscreen?

Aside: I wonder if there is any correlation between those who like "The Vagina Monologues" and those who like "The Hours."

John said...

Let's get real here folks - it's the POLITICS stupid!

The reason Mark Foley is being attacked here is because he's a Republican in an election year where the Democrats are hoping to overtake the House. He has made himself an easy target - a hypocrate.

If he were an openly gay Democrat in the village helping young boys understand their sexuality - like the secretary in Ensler's play - he'd be applauded.

It isn't about the pages, it's about the seat in the House.

As for me - man or woman, real or fiction, gay or straight - stay away from kids!

Goesh said...

Outstanding Roots analogy...

Meade said...

In the original version of the play, the under-age girl [later, as an adult, reflects], “I say, if it was a rape, it was a good rape[...]”

from wikikpedia: This section has been excised from recent performances. Warnings have been issued by the copyright holder that using the line "It was good rape" could lead to legal action.

hmm... I wonder why.

and the perversion of true feminism continues...

Sloanasaurus said...

I worked on Capitol Hill from 1992-1993 as a LA in the House. During that time I had the chance to meet Gerry Studds. We used to chuckle in our office every time Gerry made a speech or used his gavel from his committee chair. It was then that I learned about Gerry Studds and the disgust of the Democratic Party. Everyone knows by now that Gerry had gay sex with a 17 year old Page in the 1970s. No prosecutable crime was committed, however, because the age of consent in DC is only 16.

When the event was discovered, the Democrats were inclined to do nothing. However, cajoling by House Republicans led to a “censure” vote. During the vote, Studds turned his back on the house, and roars of cheers and a standing ovation arose from the Democratic side of the chamber. Studds continued to serve another 14 years. He was supported as a Committee Chairman (Fisheries) 5 times by many of the Democratic leadership today including Nancy Pelosi. The Democratic morals were solidified in 1990 when they couldn’t even muster a vote to censure Barney Frank (the only reprimanded him) after Frank had paid a prostitute for gay sex and later was found to be running a gay prostitution business out of his apartment.

Today with the Mark Foley affair, who has been cited for sending emails and IMs to pages, not having gay sex with them) we have House Republicans immediately moving to expel Foley before he resigned and now the Speaker has taken responsibility .

Compare and contrast these two events and you will find one of the major differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats are the party of cheering for predatory gay sex with minor pages. Republicans are the party of holding guilty members responsible and perhaps holding members responsible for inaction.

Who should be leading us in 2007? The choice is obvious.

Doyle said...

As for me - man or woman, real or fiction, gay or straight - stay away from kids!

Hear, hear.

[Although enforcement on the fictional types will be tricky]

MadisonMan said...

stephenb: Your posts called to mind Archie Simonson here in Madison, as the woman who replaced him in the late '70s is retiring.

Judge Simonson also blamed the victim.

Doyle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vnjagvet said...

Blaming the victim? Not really. Just trying to figure out whether there is a "victim".

Remember, Madison man, this 18 year old had left the House Page Program when he spent nearly an hour chatting on the internet with Foley.

"Victim" or "willing participant"?

I believe these facts are possible of a more than one reasonable interpretation.

PatCA said...

I always wonder when people defend abysmal art with the excuse that "provocation" somehow justifies it. Artists were at least honest when in the past all they wanted to do was shock the middle class, but now it's considered education--or re-education, more accurately.

'Provoke' us to what, justifying predatory sex as an awakening? Isn't that NAMBLA's slogan?

stephenb said...

Madison: I'm not blaming the victim. The victim is the American public. Here we've got Foley abusing his power. And we've got this kid accepting Foley's abuse of power in the hopes that he might one day have that power. If you ask me they're both predators. If this kid accepts this sort of thing from Foley, what might he expect his underlings to accept when he's in Foley's position?

John-o said...

Spiffy ad hominem, doyle, but you only restate dave's point that I tried to rebut rather than offering a counterargument.

dklittl--you make an interesting point, though I think it misses the mark. Lots of people liked Falling Down because they could identify with the guy's frustrations and enjoyed watching him doing the things they'd joked about wanting to do but never would or could because of the obvious illegality/immorality of it. A lot of entertainment is like that.

I don't think that is analogous to the VM, though, because nobody holds it up as a transcendent work that out to somehow change society. Not so the VM--just look at the way it's paraded as a feminist manifesto of sorts. You won't find anything remotely like that for Falling Down or films like it.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I guess I've been avoiding The Turner Diaries for nothing.

Pogo said...

Brooks is right. Foley's act has no real moral meaning at all for the Democrats. It is indeed true that if it were one of their own, he would not have resigned (as we know from identical past events by Studds, Frank, & McGreevey).

As I see it, the Democratic leadership has no rudder other than power. They have no moral basis, no principles, no standards ...except The Party. Whatever they say this week might be changed next week, and each position loudly asserted, and disagreement prohibited.

They are a true Soviet culture.

gj said...

Brooks' entire argument is a straw-man. The truth is that audiences (liberal or otherwise) did not approve of the behavior shown in that sketch of the Vagina Monologues. They strongly disapproved of it. That it why it was changed very early in the history of the play. The age of the girl was increased to the age of consent, and the line about "good rape" was taken out completely.

There is no liberal hypocrisy there. Liberals did not approve of that behavior. Eve Ensler was roundly critized by people who otherwise liked the play.

Brooks' work, as usual, is shoddy. But hey, if you have an excuse to criticize liberals, who cares if your arguments hold water. They just have to sound good to your dittohead audience.

Sloanasaurus said...

If you ask me they're both predators. If this kid accepts this sort of thing from Foley, what might he expect his underlings to accept when he's in Foley's position?

This is why the kid is now denying that the messages were a prank - the kid is now in some jeopary of his own crime, that is some sort of fraud or a civil suit by Foley. I would advise the kid to say nothing and deny all allegations until he has been questioned and released by the FBI.

However, the prank story is really the only story that makes logical sense - and the kid's page friends are standing by their claim that it was a prank. How the IM's got in the hands of the Democrats is another story to be told....

We will find out soon enough.

I wonder if the kid has a claim against ABC news for smearing him as a victim. After all, it sounds like ABC news never bothered to contact him.

Doyle said...

This is why the kid is now denying that the messages were a prank - the kid is now in some jeopary of his own crime, that is some sort of fraud or a civil suit by Foley.

There are multiple kids, and I for one hope Foley sues each and every one of them, the naughty little beasts!

Why did they have to give such great IM?

MadisonMan said...

Who should be leading us in 2007? The choice is obvious.

None of the above?

Seriously, the problem with Foley is that it enables people to choose who governs for the wrong reason. You should choose on how Iraq will be won, or if you think Lock 'em up and throw away the key! is a good strategy to fight terrorism. Or if you think fiscal policies should be spend all the money we have and then some, or be more moderate in spending. Or if you think the Government should be in your bedroom, Doctor's office, and library or not. Or if you think torture is a sound way to extract reliable information from someone. Whether or not some Representative is sending crerpy email to underage pages with the knowledge of his Leaders is, in the long run, not very relevant.

Sloanasaurus said...

Doctor's office, and library or not.

Library? Please. The Library is part of the govermnent.

The great thing about your post is that it proves we live in a country with a conservative majority. Otherwise, why would you try to frame all your issues as if they were conservative choices?

The real truth is that liberals want government run health care. They want to withdraw from Iraq. And they want a world government.

The real truth is that left would prefer equality over freedom. That is not America, that is the fantasy of Karl Marx.

Pogo said...

Is Foley's action immoral?


The Democrat checklist:
1. What party?
2. Oh, Republican? Great? Well then, definitely immoral.
3. Has someone told the Times?
4. Can we blame more Republicans for it as well? Great!
5. When's the next election? Next year? Oh, then sit on it until October. Hey! The Vagina Monologues is in town!

Doyle said...

The real truth is that left would prefer equality over freedom.

Two words: warrantless wiretapping.

Oh. That's to protect our freedom, isn't it? My mistake.

John-o said...

The editorial take of National Review Online: "Mark Foley has checked himself into rehab for alcoholism. We hope the scotch was older than the boys."

Heh.

Fitz said...

Brooks piece was excellent. The main gist was comparing the 1960’s view of sexual morality (as a journey of self discovery, with moral limits being arbitrary and confining) with traditional Christian sexual-ethic.

The use of terms like “moral-ecology” and “social fabric” in the title is important. This understanding of sexual ethics and the “moral fiber” of a people clearly contrast with the autonomous self as emblematic of the Vagina Monologues.

Brooks is correct to note that the 1960’s style of sexual (non)ethic is in the decline. Scandals like Foley or Clinton emphasis the changing perception of the public as compared with similar incident in the 70’s and 80’s.

What you have, be it through protection of marriage amendments, to heightened concern over child predators, to abstinence only programs in schools, is a slow but steady “making up” hung-over from the sexual revolution.

People are slowly learning through experience that standards of behavior in human sexuality are important. Traditional morality puts burdens on individuals in order to promote an overall moral environment where people can more easily acquire substantive relationship (marriage) and is more conducive to human thriving.

Fitz said...

Correction (that is)

is a slow but steady “waking up” hung-over from the sexual revolution.

Brent said...

Brook's column on this is was one of the best of his career.

The difference between drama and life argument is only used by hypocrites that are outraged when their ox is gored.

I notice that doyle plays the pc card and can't rationally discuss the issue.

doyle's middle initial is "H" for hypocrite.

That's okay, though, he's in good company with his other sisters - he's joined by the same feminist lobby that gave a hypocritical pass to Bill Clinton's catting around.

The Vagina monologues is disgusting, and in the same league as the film 8mm with Nicholas Cage - a piece of prurient filmmaking for jerk-offs.

Doyle probably has 2 copies.

Palladian said...

It's funny how political everyone is with the word "child". I tend to cringe when politicians use the word, because it's become a political blunt instrument, a conversational road block: what, you don't care about the children? What a monster you are!

Last night I was at a family member's apartment and he had the network news on the television. It was an interview with George HW Bush by I think Charles Gibson. At one point, Gibson was talking to him about Iraq and said:

"When you see the situation now, we've lost more than 20 kids just since the beginning of October."

I stopped in my tracks. Kids? Gibson had just deployed the sickening tactic of using the word "kids" in that political way that is intended to infantilize the military and Bush Sr. didn't even notice, or if he did notice, he didn't mention it.

I see the same thing happening with the Foley case. Foley's misdeeds were taking advantage of his subordinates as well as behaving in a generally creepy way, and arrogantly defending laws that he seemed to think did not apply to him. But did he really "steal the innocence" of "children"? We've seen young men between the ages of 16 and 18 be described as "children". Is this accurate or is it a political ploy? Is the definition of "child" that nebulous and conditional?

I don't like the smothering, debate-ending emotionalization of issues. Both parties are guilty of deploying the tactic and just as quickly withdrawing it as it suits them. But it seems to me that we can more accurately discuss issues like Foley or Iraq without resorting to cheap, Oprah-style emotional tactics. Think of the children!

Doug said...

cdklttl, it has been a while since I saw Falling Down, but as I remember it, his behavior escalated to more and more violent, and unprovoked acts, and he was no longer applauded, but was vilified. From what I can tell about the VM, there is no similar morality play, or Come to Jesus moment for the audience.

As for Roots being a docudrama vs drama, there is no doubt that the events that happened in the VM have happened in the past somewhere and it was acts like these which were being celebrated by the author and by some audience members. I have heard women (and men) call into radio stations and describe their underaged sexual encounters with female authority figures in a positive light.

Brooks does highlight hypocracy, though I think it is a lower level hypocracy than other things floating around on the issue. The law and order Repub, at worst breaking the law, or best case, abusing his position of power and trust. Democrats acting as if this is a henious crime, yet they welcomed back Studds whose behaviour was far worse.

stephenb said...

he real truth is that left would prefer equality over freedom. That is not America, that is the fantasy of Karl Marx.

Karl Marx? Try Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America (2 vols. 1835, 1840)

Brent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brent said...

gj,

I made the mistake of going to a VM production a little less than 2 years ago, on a dare with an "enlightened" friend.

The "good rape" line was still in.

Disgusting and infantile. Eve Ensler is Adam Sandler without the talent.

Dan said...

Wait...people give two shits about the Vagina Monologues? What year is this, anyway?


Christ, could Brooks expose his own irrelevance any more?

Fitz said...

Dan

The production continues to be pushed on almost every college campus in America.

Just last year there was a raging controversy over it a Notre Dame.

Where have you been hiding?

Sloanasaurus said...

Two words: warrantless wiretapping.

Oh. That's to protect our freedom, isn't it? My mistake.


Yes. That is correct. It's a balancing act because freedom is not free. The tool to fight a war and protect the country from attack is balanced against the benefit of listening to suspected terrorist communications without hindrance.

Here is a communist analogy - Stalin in 1941 after the USSR was invaded by Hitler, reopened the Orthodox churches and allowed his people to freely worship. Stalin was balancing the benefit of the Church in helping to motivate his people to fight the war - with the Communist ideology of suppressing religious freedom. At the time Stalin needed to win the war so he could continue to impose Communism.

Sometimes we need to restrict various freedoms so that we can maintain our freedoms in general.

Ann Althouse said...

Brent: I'm sorry but I don't want the whole column reprinted here. You can summarize it if you want.

Brent said...

Fitz,

Dan has been hiding in the "sand" with the heads of other Democrats when reality is not what they want . . .

Brent said...

Ann is referring to the posting of the remainder of David Brooks' Times Select column that she posted approx half of in the main body.

salvage said...

Oh.
My.
Gawd.

You cannot be this stupid.

I know you are stupid.

But not this much.

Please, no.

Tell us you're joking, tell us that it's some sort of Swiftian da-daesue jape. Even if it's a lie, please say so.

Ann Althouse said...

Dan: Google "VDay." It's a whole movement -- "until the violence stops." You really haven't been paying attention.

Salvage: I'm inclined to delete your comment, but your failure to communicate makes some kind of argument that I deem useful.

Nitpicker said...

As always, you're a genius, Ann.

And because I liked Pulp Fiction, I believe that people should have their heads shot off in the backs of cars.

And because I liked Kelly's Heroes, I believe that soldiers should loot money instead of fight wars.

And because I liked Silence of the Lambs, I think it's cool when people kill and eat other people.

And because I liked Citizen Kane, I think it's great when rich blowhards take over media organizations and twist content to their liking.

Ad infitum...

You're not too bright, are you, Ann?

Ti-Guy said...

But, again, the enthusiasm for "The Vagina Monologues" is very real.

Right you are, sweetie. That gets you a gold star. Now let mummy back on the computer, 'kay?

but your failure to communicate makes some kind of argument that I deem useful.

God, but she doesn't see the irony?

gj said...

The "good rape" line was still in.

If the "good rape" line was still in, then the producers were violating the production agreement and operating off an old script. Believe me, I've read the production agreements for the Vagina Monologues and know several people who've put on productions.

The premise of this whole thread is a red herring. Why is it that right wingers are so anxious to argue against supposed liberal positions that don't actually exist? I guess it's easy to knock down a straw man than to engage in genuine debate, but it doesn't get us much anywhere as a society.

Gregor Samsa said...

Goodness Ann, you do indeed have the most limber non-partisan mind in the entire whole wide world of the intertubes!

Does your brain cramp up when you force and contort logic in such a manner? Or is it sufficiently limber from all the other non-partisan stretching?

Dave said...

I've happened to speak with a number of theater producers who say essentially the same thing as gj regarding the "good rape" line. Nonetheless, john-o's rebuttal of my comment (first one on this post) is a good one.

Doyle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Nitpicker: You should reread the original post, which you obviously don't understand. Loudly complaining about how stupid other people should only be done when you're sure you got it right. You didn't. But maybe you were sure, but if you were, you're an idiot.

David said...

I'm with gj ... Since when are the 50-odd percent of the population who've been voting Democratic over the past few years synonymous with the audience that thinks the Vagina Monologues is great art?

I'm not sure if it is an issue of ignorance or dishonesty, but the Right has been energetic in trying to convince people that the fringes of liberalism actually represent/reflect its core. I think Ann Coulter reflects badly on conservatism, but I don't assume that all conservatives or Republicans think as toxically as she does.

Ann Althouse said...

(Obviously, one of my antagonists has linked to this post, sending over the minions. Losers!)

Brent said...

Ann,

Congratulations! I do mean that because I agree with you.

Technoraqti shows your thread on this to be lighting up all the lib blogs! It's partially Brooks they're after: he exposed their sacred cow - Sex socially unrestrained! Everyone does it, so everyone, all ages, DO IT!

The looney left has come to the rescue of their pro-"good rape" friends in the comment section.

Goin' to lunch but hope to engage their small minds (all the blood flowed elsewhere)when I return.

The Exalted said...

meh,

how many people have seen the VM? is it really relevant that people cheer a play on? is it really in doubt what happened b/t foley and his pages? what, exactly, is the point of linking a very small selection of people "cheering" on a fictional event and the very real actions of a disgraced congressman? (i use quotes b/c, like the vast, vast majority of people repulsed by foley's actions, i have not seen the VM)

holding up stalin as an example as when some freedoms should be restricted is rather priceless, good show.

also, to the conspiracy theorists in here: drudge is not credible.

now, on to the world government!

salvage said...

So... you were serious... you don't understand the difference between fact and fiction on any scale?

What it must be like to know you in person! I imagine your chums must be very kind hearted.

darth_meister said...

If Mark Foley had been a Democrat:

1) Republican's continued scandalmongering before all the facts are in is judgmental and reprehensible.
2) Republicans are gay bashing
3) Let the proper legal authorities deal with this, Republicans shouldn't erect their kangaroo courts
4) Foley hasn't engaged in any actual sex, therefore he shouldn't be recklessly described as a pedophile or more accurately as a pederast.
5) Foley is innocent until proven guilty. Republican gay bashing has driven an innocent man into rehab.
6) Until Mark Foley is found guilty in a court of law, let the voters in his district judge him come election day. Republicans shouldn't short-circuit the democratic process
7) Republicans only want to talk about cyber-sex, cyber-sex, cyber-sex. Boy, you people are sure hung up.
8) It was wrong for Republican pages to egg Mark Foley on in an alleged "pranking". We need to look at this angle for the next four weeks to get to the bottom of this Republican hatefest.
9) Foley only sent the more salacious IMs when the page in question turned 18. The page was of legal age. Didn't you Republicans learn anything during the Clinton impeachment? Monica was 19 and of legal age which made her fair game for Bill Clinton despite the disparity in power and influence between an intern/page and a person of great power.
10) This is an October Surprise. Should have expected something like this from Republicans for our October surprise in 2000 regarding Bush's DUI.

Ranba Ral said...

...and yet many of the same people who defend Vagina Monologues as 'make believe' will be the first to censor music and videogames because people (especially children) will be taken in and placed in a state where they can't distinguish reality from fiction.

TallDave said...

But the play is totally different, Eve was SPEAKING TRUTH TO PENIS!! Or something.

This whole thing is a manufactured scandal. Foley just had some dirty IMs and never actually touched anyone afaict. You don't think these same 16-year-olds are sending dirty IMs to each other?

I seem to recall a fair amount of applause for Gerry Studds from certain quarters. Double standards everywhere.

Sloanasaurus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
darth_meister said...

And because I liked Pulp Fiction, I believe that people should have their heads shot off in the backs of cars.

So, moron, did you applaud when they did blow their heads off in the back of cars? What's your point if you didn't but still liked the movie? I though people like you were more nuanced than that.

And because I liked Kelly's Heroes, I believe that soldiers should loot money instead of fight wars.

It's one thing to like the entertainment value of a movie, quite another to applaud specific scenes of mutilation and debauchery.

I suppose in Schindler's List you would have applauded where the antagonist picks up his Mausers and blows away a Jewish female in a death camp, eh? Yeah, that was really worth some laughs, right? I liked Schindler's List but applauding that scene would have shown an absolute tone deafness to the message that particular scene was trying to send to the viewer.

In case you still haven't figured it out, this is precisely what Ann is talking about, applauding scenes of absolute debauchery. I don't believe the patrons watching a 13/16 year old girl masturbate on demand were applauding because they believed the scene in Vagina Monologue was condemning the implied pederastism. And I don't even want to know what you would have found so amusing in Silence of the Lamb, maybe you clapped your way through the whole movie! Sheesh.

How about comparing apples with apples next time and at least making some honest attempt at what Anne is trying to communicate.

Brian said...

What self respecting law school would actually employ you Ms. Althouse? To completely set aside the utter absurdity of many of your arguments. Your idea of discourse is to call people who disagree "losers" and "idiots?"

Shouldn't law professors be intellectually secure enough not to resort to those sorts of petty retorts? Your skills of argument and persuasion are seriously lacking.

I'm embarrased for my alma mater. Thankfully, I chose a different school to study law.

tjl said...

"Right you are, sweetie. That gets you a gold star. Now let mummy back on the computer"

Lefties are quick to pounce on PC violations by their opponents, and trot out every indignant epithet they can think of to denounce the right-wing troglodytes. But lefties think they have carte blanche to do the same thing themselves. Just ask Jane Hamsher.

Nitpicker said...

For the record, I don't even buy Brooks' memory. It seems that Republicans are always being told by cab drivers how great Bush is or seeing some nasty liberals applauding kookiness. It's very convenient, no?

On the other hand, it's Ann who says that "the enthusiasm for 'The Vagina Monologues' is very real," and that somehow justifies comparing a fictional act with a real one. If you'll remember, the scene where the person gets his head blown off in the back of a car in Pulp Fiction is played for laughs! And people do laugh. And I saw this movie for the first time in the middle of red-as-hell Kansas.

Does that suggest that Republicans think getting your head blown off is funny, dipshit? Or is it that maybe, just maybe, art is somehow different than the world at large?

John-o said...

gj-

Even in that production agreement, though, the young woman is the same age as the youngest pages in question.

To the number of you who say that supporters of the VM don't necessarily reflect the considered views of the Democratic establishment:

I don't think that's a strong argument. Even if one were to stipulate that the majority of individual Dem voters don't have particularly high regard for the VM, it's very clearly an important thing to the leaders of one of the strongest constituencies of the party (lefty feminists.) While I won't make the leap to say that Pelosi et al. actually hold these views, they certainly haven't called anyone on the carpet about it. Given the prominence of the Vday campaign Professor Althouse mentioned, pleading ignornace isn't an option.

So while there might have been back-room pressure to change the 13 yo to a 16 yo, 16 was enough to not antagonize anyone further. Until now.

Which, of course, doesn't excuse anything Foley did but does generally support Brooks' column.

Duckman GR said...

Okay Ann, the reason people are coming over her is that your arch enemy Captain Atrios has linked to Brooks editorial via alicublog, who in turn links to your discussion. And the reason so many evil libs has posted comments is that we find it rather incomprehensible that Brooks would try to equate, on whatever level, a freaking play, a bunch of made up words to quote a philistine co-worker of mine, to the actual predatory practices of a 50 year old United States of America Congressional Representative talking, and violating his own law about internet communications, to young people in a sexual perverted manner.

And you people here choose to defend Foley by attacking Democrats and Feminists and Liberals, all these oh so powerful people, rather than roundly condemn the pervert and the perverts' enablers, Hastert and Boehner and Reynolds and Shimkus et al, Republicans all.

Good art, bad art, it's still a freaking play, whereas Foley has preyed upon actual real Human Beings, and actually harmed them.

Try to wrap your head around that, Ann and Co.

And you claim you're a liberal, right?

John said...

So... you were serious... you don't understand the difference between fact and fiction on any scale?

Gimme a break!

Do you understand the definition of the word:
hy·poc·ri·sy (h-pkr-s)
n. pl. hy·poc·ri·sies
1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
2. An act or instance of such falseness.

Was it fact or fiction when a past President had his pants around his ankles as an intern serviced him under his desk?

This is POLITICS and your side is more than happy to express outrage for your advantage. Touche.

Palladian said...

Ranba Ral, that's a good point. There are quite a few moral scolds in the Democratic party, such as Tipper Gore with her crusade against musical lyrics and Hillary Clinton's animus toward video games. The basis of their argument seems to be exactly that people (the children!) will see art as a model for bad behavior. So they seek to ban it, or restrict access to it. Only when it politically suits them, however.

"Shouldn't law professors be intellectually secure enough not to resort to those sorts of petty retorts? Your skills of argument and persuasion are seriously lacking.

I'm embarrased for my alma mater. Thankfully, I chose a different school to study law."

You, a LAW PROFESSOR!

Maybe you need a remedial class in what constitutes a idea or statement that merits argument and persuasion. Some damp crotched anonymous blog troll calling you stupid doesn't really engender a point by point logical refutation.

Sloanasaurus said...

also, to the conspiracy theorists in here: drudge is not credible.

If he is not credible why do most people in the political media business constantly check his website.

holding up stalin as an example as when some freedoms should be restricted is rather priceless, good show.

Obviously you are not capable of understanding the analogy... instead you are just a hack.

John said...

And you people here choose to defend Foley by attacking Democrats and Feminists and Liberals, all these oh so powerful people, rather than roundly condemn the pervert and the perverts' enablers, Hastert and Boehner and Reynolds and Shimkus et al, Republicans all.

No one I read here, in this post, are defending Foley. We're pointing out the blatant disregard for consistency by most on the left when it comes to outrage over personal behavior.

For the record, I do not defend Foley for his actions. I find them morally reprehensible and potentially criminal.

However, I don't equate his actions with Republicans et al just as I don't equate Clinton's or Stubb's or Frank's or Jefferson's actions with Democrats et al.

Palladian said...

"Okay Ann, the reason people are coming over her is that your arch enemy Captain Atrios has linked to Brooks editorial via alicublog, who in turn links to your discussion."

Ah, Duncan Black, that font of logical levelheadedness.

"And the reason so many evil libs..."

You guys are not liberals. You're lying. I'm not going to stand back and let you muck up a beautiful term and concept anymore. You're the "away team".

"...to the actual predatory practices of a 50 year old United States of America Congressional Representative talking, and violating his own law about internet communications, to young people in a sexual perverted manner."

I agree with you about the violating his own law part. See my comment above regarding what Foley actually did that was wrong. The rest of your comment sounds like it came from the mouth of Jerry Falwell! I mean, come on, we hear enough garbage about "sexual perverted [sic] manners" from the social conservatives, do we really need to hear so-called "liberals" condemn the rather mild textual exchanges of a gay man to a post-age of consent young man? You're the hypocrites! All your support for social liberty and sexual freedom and gay rights is just so much political smoke. You have no problem playing shameful moralists when it suits you and your pathetic party

"Good art, bad art, it's still a freaking play, whereas Foley has preyed upon actual real Human Beings, and actually harmed them."

Actually harmed them? When they played along, even after they were out of his employ?

Ann Althouse said...

I've certainly seen "Vagina Monologues" -- I saw it in London. I thought it was quite bad artistically. It's effective, for some people, as political incitement. It is very widely produced because of that (and because it's easy to stage and act, since the actors get to sit on stools and look at index cards). The reaction to it is not the same as the reaction to a normal play. In any event, the points made upthread about "Roots" and "Lolita" were crisp.

Palladian: "Some damp crotched anonymous blog troll calling you stupid doesn't really engender a point by point logical refutation."

Thanks. You know, people think they can say anything about me, and then that I have to maintain the sort of decorum used in a classroom. Sorry! If this is a fight without boxing gloves, I get to take my gloves off too. Or maybe I'll just terrify you with sarcasm. I mean, I know all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire. It's quite frighting. I've made grown men cry, and I intend to do it again.

John-o said...

duckman gr-

I think the consternation of some in the thread stems from the fact that people have come to comment but haven't read anything that's been said.

We're not attacking the play (though I'm willing to bet those righties among us who have seen it would agree that it was time terribly wasted.) We're saying that many people now in hysterics about emails and IMs have applauded the same behavior as "liberating" when seen in a left-wing production.

When they saw a young girl used sexually on stage it was avant-garde and transgressively wonderful. When they see emails going back (with the R-FL attached) they see a scandalous lecher who must be purged from the body politic (which we agree on and has happened.)

Gator said...

Brent claims that the VM is disgusting, and most of the posters here seem to be conversant with the play.

My understanding is that the audiences are almost 100 percent female.

Have you seen the play, Brent (and other males, feel free to respond), and if so, why did you go in the first place?

gj said...

Even in that production agreement, though, the young woman is the same age as the youngest pages in question.

John-O, while it's true that the ages are the same, the situations are entirely different. All the discussion of the Foley affair has acknowledged that the pages were above the age of consent. What made his behavior scandalous was the fact that he was in a position of particular authority over the pages he was hitting on. There's no analog to that in the piece from the Vagina Monologues.

Sure, if the Vagina Monologues skit had been about a famous movie star or politician seducing a 16-year, then you could have said they were analogous. But that's not what the VM skit was about. It was about two residents of NYC hooking up, both of them above the age of consent.

-Deb- said...

What Brooks appears to have missed -- and it's surprising for a gay man to have missed it -- is that much of society doesn't see sex between girls or between women as real sex. Change the characters in that scene in a play to a man and a boy, or a man and a girl, and I can assure you that, actors or not, there will not be applause.

Ann Althouse said...

Deb: Brooks does make that point.

Rhyleh said...

Shorter Ann:
Sure, Foley's real life actions may be bad, but he's no worse than a scene in a fictional play that I assume liberals like.

JodyTresidder said...

Have to say, Nitpicker is correct.

Ann, you are surely making a peculiar error.

Audiences exhibit "real" emotions to stage fakery because they don't have any other choice, for a start. They have to "really" clap!

Secondly, the response is a measure of how successful the artistry has been to provoke that response. The effective artist plays with you - sets up expectations, gives you clues, lays it on with a trowel if necessary, shows context, resolves a specific conflict, transports you, foxes your usual perceptions - that's ART.

That's why a scene can be judged as bad when it fails to provoke the intended response. (Hence the catcalls of "she's in the attic!" from the audience when Pia Zadora bombed playing Anne Frank on stage.)

Haven't seen VM. But Pulp Fiction? Sure, I was laughing my socks off at scenes that would have been completely reprehensible in life! The art worked; there was nothing wrong with my moral compass.

The Exalted said...

um, sloan, it appears to me that you utilized the stalin example as an example of a "balancing act." am i wrong, o great intellectual one?

deb, i think you're on to something.

ann, i think, as a professor on a college campus, you greatly overestimate the pop appeal/relevance of the VM.

Joe Baby said...

Love the frequent delight in noting that Foley promoted laws that now might ensnare him -- again, whether knowingly or unknowingly hitting on the hypocrisy theme.

Many of us don't need to know who authored the law or what his sexual preference was. We simply know his behavior was wrong and made him unfit to serve.

Brooks hit upon the great chasm of beliefs re: sexual morality. I'm not surprised at all that Democrats don't want to go there.

Duckman GR said...

No, the issue that many seem to wish to ignore is that David Brooks has equated a play with real life, not used the play as an analogy for real life, but actually equated it.

All the critiquing and analysis of the Vagina Monologues, haven't seen it, doubt I will, and of liberals misses the salient point.
John-o
We're saying that many people now in hysterics about emails and IMs have applauded the same behavior as "liberating" when seen in a left-wing production.

A play is make believe, John-o, it's not real, there is no behavior involved. And I'm pretty sure that The VM is not one that is generally shown to minors, not the choice of the local high school spring production over "Our Town" or what have you, so that it is adults who are viewing the show, but I could be wrong there, but I don't think so.

That's the big differnce between the admitted content scolds like Tipper Gore, and those equating what is shown in The VM to what Mark Foley-R has done. Tipper was going after media targeted at minors, not adults. Get the difference?

John
No one I read here, in this post, are defending Foley. We're pointing out the blatant disregard for consistency by most on the left when it comes to outrage over personal behavior.

Sorry, the defense is implied by the failure to condemn Foley-R, as revealed by trying to find analogies and corollaries and wrong behavior on the left 20, 30 years ago, and excusing the general condemnation of Foley-R and his behavior, and the cover-up of that behavior by the Republican Party Congressional Leadership.

And don't try to blame the pages either, that's worse than reprehensible. And don't try to say that they're all over 18 either, that is not going to fly.

salvage said...

The reaction to it is not the same as the reaction to a normal play.

Yes from what I understand it encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.

It's a remarkable piece of work.

I've made grown men cry, and I intend to do it again.

...

Nah. Too easy.

Daryl Herbert said...

(Obviously, one of my antagonists has linked to this post, sending over the minions. Losers!)

1 All of a sudden
2 Lots of people who have never been here before
3 All say the same exact thing
4 And aren't asking a question or trying to argue, but are repeating some insult

For some reason it's wrong to think people would ever draw moral lessons from fictional works.

If that was the case, why is the left so obsessed with the messages in Hollywood movies? Why is the left so obsessed with inserting their own left-wing messages into movies, and airbrushing any conservative ideas out?

How can anyone, with a straight face, say that the message of the Vagina Monologues does not matter, when the whole point of that play is to send a bunch of messages to the audience?

John said...

duckman: John
No one I read here, in this post, are defending Foley. We're pointing out the blatant disregard for consistency by most on the left when it comes to outrage over personal behavior.

[duckman]
Sorry, the defense is implied by the failure to condemn Foley-R,...


Read the next paragraph after the one you chose to present:

For the record, I do not defend Foley for his actions. I find them morally reprehensible and potentially criminal.

I think that's pretty clear condemnation.

Now to defend the left by claiming the passage of time- "wrong behavior on the left 20, 30 years ago," is equally a failure on your part. There is no statute of limitations on questions of moral behavior. I'll still condemn Foley in 20 years.

Remember, this is all about POLITICS - not behavior. If Foley-R didn't have the "R" behind his name, you would care less about what he did.

Pogo said...

Plays, like most literature, are not meaningless drivel having no connection with "real life". They can and do set a moral tone, prescribe and proscribe behavior, and challenge, modfiy, or support normative social standards.

People who suggest that plays and books are "not real" are either being mendacious or displaying a marked stupidity.

Ti-Guy said...

I know all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire.

Now...that's bad art. I'm surprised the silly bint can even spell those words.

Freeman Hunt said...

A play is make believe, John-o, it's not real, there is no behavior involved.

Context matters. The message the play is conveys matters.

If the play had the scene with the young girl in the context of saying that exploitation of teenagers is wrong, cheering it would be consistent with condemning Foley. However, the play is actually celebratory of the actions in the scene, so cheering it while condemning Foley appears to represent a mental disconnect: In this case predation of teenagers is beautiful, in this other case it is reprehensible.

See the inconsistency?

MadisonMan said...

Nah. Too easy.

It'd be better if you just pulled off your own head. Really.

Palladian said...

No one's pointed out that the Foley's instant messages are, in one way, exactly analogous to a monologue-style play in that they were written words; dramatized sexual conduct rather than physical acts. This is not a defense of Foley, merely an observation that Brook's analogy (yes, he was making an analogy!) is not as far off as the suddenly fundamentalist, literalist "liberals" are suggesting.

The Exalted said...

no, daryl, what i'm saying is, the VM themselves dont matter, at all, to anyone outside of a college campus. and, for that matter, they dont matter the vast, vast majority of people ON a college campus. the same way that ward churchill didnt matter, to anyone at all, outside of his classroom.

but, on a right wing blog, here we sit talking about them. interesting, isn't it.

John said...

Excellent point Pogo:

Plays, like most literature, are not meaningless drivel having no connection with "real life". They can and do set a moral tone, prescribe and proscribe behavior, and challenge, modfiy, or support normative social standards.

I seem to recall a great deal of consternation over a little film call The Passion of the Christ a while back. It seems it brought back memories of Passion plays from an earlier time. Of course plays don't have ANY impact on cultures or societies. Why -- they're just art, or fiction, or ...

Palladian said...

Wow, not only do we have "liberals" on a moral crusade against a gay man, and asserting that art is meaningless, but now they're making sexist insults toward a woman with whom they disagree.

Have I fallen into some weird alternate dimension? What the hell?

JodyTresidder said...

"They can and do set a moral tone, prescribe and proscribe behavior, and challenge, modfiy, or support normative social standards."

Okay, Pogo.

You've given your opinion of one active effect - "modify" - of stage plays on life outside theatrical convention.

Name the play that's specifically and obviously "modified" what you call "normative social standards"?


In other words, please deomstrate the real life effect.

Brent said...

gator,

I stated above that I have seen VM (about 40 comments before yours). I did not expect to agree with most of it, but thought I would give it a chance as an expression of an "artist's" views.

Eve Ensler is not an artist. She is a wannabe, a huckster that was smart enough to capture some things that most women feel, and then assaults the political and moral sensibilities of many with a hyper self-righteousness that ultimately is a turn off.

The woman that I went with, a sister-in-law of opposite political sensibilities, enjoyed parts, but was also disgusted at the scene discussed in this post. By the way, I only noticed 3 other men in the audience.

Afterwards we were seated at dinner next to a table of 6 women that had also just attended. Almost all were enthusiastic about the overall play, but there were numerous negative comments about certain sections, including the underage girl, which, come to think of it was applauded, but not wildly.

I don't see a whole lot of difference with VM and misogynistic rap.

Thought Chris Bridges - Ludacris - was great in the film "Crash". Bought a CD of his, since he's an "artist".

Hated it.

Duckman GR said...

Correct, you did condemn Foley-R, but I wasn't referring to your response to my post, but to many of the other responses prior.

And I'm not defending the left at all, I'm attacking the right for enabling a sexual predator, then trying to cover it up. It's not the -R after his name, it's the fact that the people who have been cramming their greed and hypocrisy and war delusions down the throats of the American People are the ones who are doing this, and coincidentally they happen to be Republicans. It's like Bill Bennetts great morality circling the roulette wheel, or Newt Gingrich and his serial adultery, or Henry Hyde pontificating at the great morale outrage of Bill Clinton, all the while a broken marriage rested in the back of his closet.

And I don't think, but I haven't seen anybody mention it otherwise of late, that Studds-D or Dan Crane-R were predators trolling for pages to bag, but were more along the line of an affair, Lolita style.

The thing is, politics is government, you can't just separate it out from whole, or ignore the other side of the government coin, policy.

So yeah, this is politics. This is an opportunity for people to see what kind of government they have right now, a government totally controlled by the -R's, not the -D's, the -R's, that enables a sexual predator to roam the halls of congress, whose first, their very first thought, was how this will affect the elections.

And then the drudges and limbaughs and liebermans-CFL and Hasterts and Reynolds all point fingers at who to blame, blame the pages, blame the "system," blame the Democrats, blame Bill Clinton, blame The Vagina Monologues, but not the Leadership, rather than deal with the predator, expose the problem, correct the problem, and accept responsibility and step aside for someone better able to watch over their caucus.

That's what acceptoing responsibility means, having a consequence to their failure. What's Denny Hastert's consequence for taking responsibility? Keep his job, keep his seat, no fines, no censure, no nothing. So what does it mean when a republican takes responsibility for something?

Nothing, that's what, absolutely nothing.

Daryl Herbert said...

David Brooks has equated a play with real life, not used the play as an analogy for real life, but actually equated it.

Except that David Brooks explicitly made that distinction:

Foley is now universally reviled. But the Ensler play, which depicts the secretary’s affair with the 13-year-old as a glorious awakening, is revered.

Leftists must be very nuanced. It's possible to go to a political play, cheer for fictional behavior, but not actually think that such behavior would be good in real life?

And you people here choose to defend Foley by attacking Democrats and Feminists and Liberals, all these oh so powerful people, rather than roundly condemn the pervert and the perverts' enablers, Hastert and Boehner and Reynolds and Shimkus et al, Republicans all.

Typical canard from the left. We're not defending Foley, we're defending the other Republicans who are under attack. If the left wanted to (metaphorically) crucify Foley and then move on, we'd have no complaints.

Additionally, they want Hastert's head, they want to win midterm elections all over the country. Why the hell should we sit quietly while they use this scandal to beat us over the head?

If we* counter-attack against left-wing moralizers for their hypocrisy, that's not a defense of Foley. We don't want him back in power. It's entirely obvious what you are doing, you don't fool us for a second.

* by "we" I mean David Brooks, Republicans and right-wingers in general. Just because Ann has put a certain argument on her blog (even if it's because she thinks it is particuarly meritorious), that does not mean she agrees with David Brooks' larger agenda, namely to maximize Republican seats in the House.

Making her out as a heretic or a traitor for daring to agree with David Brooks--on an issue she likely cares about for other reasons, namely her own views about what the feminist movement should be--is silly and you can't make up for lack of intellectual seriousness with shrillness.

Pogo said...

One could take any of Ibsen's plays and effectively argue that social standards were indeed altered by their portrayal of women and relationships.

For example, A Doll's House had the effect described thus: "The reverberations of Nora’s slamming the door as she leaves Torvald continue to the present day."

Have you never read "To Kill A Mockingbird?"

Do you really think Shakespeare had no effect except to cause one to clap and then go out for beer?

That said, I know the philadoxic left will ask for proof in the form of their god Data from a study that shows 'A Doll's House' as the only possible cause of blah blah blah. That is, I know this game, this unmeetable goal, this moving of goalposts. It's bullocks.

If you don't recognize the power of art and literature, then you're just too stupid to discuss things with.

Pogo said...

Above in response to: ""Name the play that's specifically and obviously "modified" what you call "normative social standards"?
In other words, please deomstrate the real life effect.

Duckman GR said...

No, you're defending Foley by attacking anybody and everybody concerned. Not directly, of course, but it's there nonetheless. A defense of ommission lets call it. And why, one asks? Because of his seat in Congress. I don't think there are many that applaud his actual behavior, but boyo, do the -R's like having that seat in Congress, and that's what you're defending. When you should be outraged that this behavior was known, and countenanced by the Leadership.

And really, there isn't a whole lot of nuance in this thing. He presents two scenario's, one real, one made up, then proceeds to analyze their similarities and such. That's pretty direct, don't you think?

John said...

Correct, you did condemn Foley-R, but I wasn't referring to your response to my post, but to many of the other responses prior.

duckman. Thank you for acknowledging my condemnation.

Now I ask you to look objectively at what you suggest. The comments in this thread (in a blog frequented predominantly by center and right-of-center citizens) are "defending" Republicans and a columnist who has the audacity to propose an anology between "real life" and a "fictional play".

You may frequent, or be familiar with blogs that tend to be more left of center. What are their comments like today? We see snippets of those who trolled over. Not very objective (or insightful I might add).

I'm not going to condemn the entire left side of the country based on their comments here. I won't even judge Democrats and the left based on comments on KOS or DU.

Can you do the same?

When all is said and done, we as a country have issues to face. Real issues that mean life and death, success and failure, liberty and freedom. Politicians do little to impact that issues - from either side.

So be carefull what you wish for this upcoming election!

Ann Althouse said...

Has everyone forgotten all the feminist polemic about pornography and other fictional writing? Andrea Dworkin mostly wrote about fictional depictions of sex.

Daryl Herbert said...

What Brooks appears to have missed -- and it's surprising for a gay man to have missed it

David Brooks is gay? What's the evidence for that? Did you confuse him with someone else?

AlaskaJack said...

Didn't the left give us performance art and haven't leftists, in their never ending pursuit of absolute equality, instructed us the everything is art and that we're all artists? So why aren't Foley's escapades with pages an example of high performance art?

Palladian is surely on to something: Foley's art is perfectly suited for a stage production with two actors reading emails and IMs to each other.

All you visiting lefties, stop wasting your time beating up on Ann. Get with it; you're missing out on a great opportunity; we're talkin big time transgressive art here.

WisJoe said...

Andrea Dworkin and her ilk are a significant minority in the feminist "community" (what is it with these "communities" that aren't really communities at all but rather collections of people with a one or two special interests in common?) in my opinion. I prefer Nadine Strossen's take on porn, and she should be considered a feminist, eh?

I also think the Vagina Monologues is just bad theater, but it is a rant and not an attempt to get off, which was Foley's goal I think we can all agree.

Paul Zrimsek said...

There is no truth to the rumor that The Vagina Monologues has been renamed The Memory Hole.

As for its real-life effect: probably similar to the real-life effect of the nuke-Mecca comments on Little Green Footballs. We'd best give them a moral pass as well.

Duckman GR said...

Here's what one of the trolls at the Left Coaster wrote. You tell me about the type of comments you're getting here.

Look, I know right now you think republicans are hard hearted, mean spirited people, but you’ll soon change your mind.

You guys thought we were wasting all that money in Iraq, but as a surprise we were diverting most of it into creating these communes. I’m sure you didn’t think we spend $600 on a toilet seat, did you?

Even Karl Rove, when asked what he could do to reach across the aisle for this program, volunteered to organize the moving teams for the lucky folks who get to live in this exciting new program. He realized that the people left behind might feel bad, so he arranged to move people at night. Talk about sensitive.

Luckily, Bush knew some former business partners who will arrange to sell the participants houses so that they don’t even need to worry about that. Compassionate Conservatism works.

Let’s hope that after you’re settled in, you’ll send a nice “thank you” note.

Posted by jwest at October 6, 2006 02:24 PM


He's trying to be funny of course, only he's not very funny. Anjd I don't mean his stupid threat language. Humor is hard to pull off, and this clown ain't succeeding.

I'm not sure what you're think I'm suggesting, I'm telling you that the republicans are, by their actions, trying to justify Foley and themselves, and it ain't playing. And Brooks is trying to make the action of foley just like some liberal crap pop culture play, trying to say that the Democrats are hypocrites and don't listen to them because they don't condemn this play.

And let's not forget the bigger outrage here, that the House Leadership not only covered up Foley's actions, but allowed it to continue for some time, just for political consideration.

So who's morally worse here, the predator, or those who allowed him to continue to prey on the pages?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Get with it; you're missing out on a great opportunity; we're talkin big time transgressive art here.

It's only art up to the point where they get called on it; then it's a harmless bit of fun that no one ever paid any attention to anyway.

Not so much "transgressive" as "passive-transgressive".

gazzadelsud said...

well I at least got the Monty Python analogy -litotes indeed!

:-)

as for the rest, well Palladian said everything that needed to be saying. This is indeed a weird alternative universe we have stumbled into.

Elizabeth said...

Has everyone forgotten all the feminist polemic about pornography and other fictional writing? Andrea Dworkin mostly wrote about fictional depictions of sex.

I haven't forgotten, but what I remember was how polarizing the anti-porn feminist arguments were for feminism. I am a First Amendment feminist, and that period, which corresponded to my undergrad years, solidified my position.

A few folks here, including Ann, have pointed out the main problem with the Monologues: it's bad writing. It's crap theater. I don't know anyone who cares about writing and performance who have anything good to say about the work. Yes, it has a certain galvanizing effect, but that's not enough to matter.

Duckman GR said...

AlaskaJack, you might want to re-read my posts, I've scarcely mentioned the Hostess here. And you might also notice how I don't make those absolute type statements that make, because that would be as wrong as you are.

I'm trying to explain that it isn't just a political exercise for many, (see, many, not all) lefties, but a question of right or wrong, and it was wholly wrong for the GOP House Leadership to not protect the pages from Foley, certainly not by encouraging him to run for office again like Reynolds did, and that's why they are being condemned. The fact that they are Republicans either explains their failure, or is just an added benefit to beating them over the head with their failure to police the predator in their midst, solely for political and contributory gain.

Because I don't see the Democrats acting the same way. When Bill Clinton was getting smeared for a legal and consensual impropriety, I didn't see Democrats defending him all that much, until the witch hunt became utterly ridiculous. And the thing that many claimed made them the angriest was that he lied to them personallay about the affair. See, it's the cover-up that causes the most damage, and that's what Hastert has done. That's why he needs to resign his leader post, and his seat in Congress, because he's covering up for a sexual predator to protect his position of power.

And that is utterly outrageous. Foley is disgusting, and so is Hastert, both for their behaviors.

knoxgirl said...

Has everyone forgotten all the feminist polemic about pornography and other fictional writing?

When it serves their purpose. Just like using sexist remarks.

After all, if it had been a male -- except Bill Clinton -- seducing the 13 year old, all these fans of the VM would have been outraged. Make it a woman --or Bill Clinton -- and it's suddenly empowering.

JodyTresidder said...

"That said, I know the philadoxic left will ask for proof in the form of their god Data from a study that shows 'A Doll's House' as the only possible cause of blah blah blah. That is, I know this game, this unmeetable goal, this moving of goalposts. It's bullocks. If you don't recognize the power of art and literature, then you're just too stupid to discuss things with."

What an extremely rude reply, Pogo.

Does your truncated (earlier) quote about Ibsen possibly make clear further on that the huge influence of the playwright was on dramatic convention?

I only ask, because I've never seen it claimed he changed social convention, as you seem to do.

Though it's clear an appreciation for literature has done sod all for your own manners.

Ann Althouse said...

"All you visiting lefties, stop wasting your time beating up on Ann. Get with it; you're missing out on a great opportunity; we're talkin big time transgressive art here. "

What are you saying? This whole blog is performance art. It's at its height when there's maximum linkage. Let them beat up on me in a great spreading web of linkage. I want to be a big star in the Theater of the Internet.

Daryl Herbert said...

republicans are, by their actions, trying to justify Foley and themselves (emphasis changed)

That statement right there is very different from saying that Republicans are trying to justify Foley's actions alone.

And it's still wrong. We're not trying to "justify" what Foley did. You can think Foley did something wrong, should resign, and still think the media hysteria is blown out of proportion.

That's a principled position, that's my position, Glenn Reynolds has indicated he's there... it's a common belief on the right. Others on the right think it's not out of proportion, that what Foley did really is that bad. Not just despicable, but on the order of child molestation. I just can't agree with that.

We've taken a principled position (sending dirty IMs is not equal to sodomizing someone; proportionality in sex-related transgressions is something you'd think the left would agree with) and you insist that you should get to caricature us until the election. Nope. Won't go along with that.

republicans are, by their actions, trying to justify Foley and themselves

What "actions"? You mean speech and research? Those count as "actions" now? I'm guessing "by their words" just doesn't sound so weighty.

Cedarford said...

Doug's earlier "Roots" analogy was excellent. How an audience responds is important as a reflector on larger society.

And the dodge "It's just fiction. It's just a play. It isn't well-written....so don't be so silly and take it so seriously!" Is a flagrantly dishonest dodge coming from the same people who clamor for Arts funding as critical to societys growth and understanding - and major focus by universities on "important literature, plays, cinematography"...and so on.

A nice example is "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Not just Stowe's book, but the fact that troups were touring dozens of cities presenting it as a play within a year of publication. It's influence, though fiction and it's general concession to be not the finest example of writing, structure, or characterization in American literature was in testimony of her Civil War peers.

Lincoln on meeting her:

"So you're the little lady that helped start this War?"

One of the best films ever is the controversial "Triumph of the Will" - which Allies justly believed had a tremendous inspirational impact on the German people and has been emulated ever since by film-makers working in all venues, not just organ of the state Agitprop.

Vagina Monologues is clumsy propaganda, lapped up (no pun intended) by feminists and given the PC seal of approval for widespread campus indoctrination.

Brooks is right to question it for the part of it celebrating the tradition of gay pederasty. Just as he would surely question the propriety of Bush, if he learned Bush was watching "Triumph of the Will" repeatedly at the White House and encouraging other Republicans to see it

Revenant said...

This is the sort of thing I was getting at when I pointed out that Democrats were, by and large, just pretending to care about this.

Social conservatives care deeply about adult-teen sex and are pretty uniformly of the opinion that it is horribly immoral. Liberals generally aren't -- adults who boink sexually mature teenagers may be viewed as a bit sleazy, but if the teen was willing and not coerced no big stink gets made about it.

And I'm not saying that to criticize the liberals in question. I happen to agree with them. Teenagers are old enough to make decisions about sex. They might be stupid decisions, but you don't have to be a teenager to regret who you've slept with. :)

I do, however, find it a bit silly that so many Democrats are talking about the inherently coercive power of a Congressman when so few of them had a problem with Clinton -- the most powerful man on Earth at the time -- convincing women to have sex with him. If the freakin' President of the United States can have a non-coercive sex life with his underlings, ANYONE can.

NotSoLibDem said...

This whole discussion is so ridiculous - as is Brook's argument.

Brook's and Althouse's first mistake - before you even try to decipher validity of the fiction v. reality issue - is to equate the behavior some subsegment of the population (and we are talking statistically irrelevant number when you think about the population of the U.S), that is assuming that they even got the facts right on the behavior in the first place (applauded wildly? really? who - how do we know those are liberals?), and then use that as some blanket statement on the morals that they ascribe to 1/2 the population of the U.S. can only be called stupid, sloppy work and bad thinking in the pursuit of partisan hackery.

What percentage of the population has even seen the VM? if its 1% that's 3.2MM people... at an average of 100 seats per production showing that means to reach 1% of the U.S. population 320,000 showings of the play in the U.S since inception....

I don't know anything about how many productions there are out there but it seems like an implausibly high number... but lets assume for a moment that's the number... Of course at any event like this a certain number of viewers arent liberals - I mean Brooks saw it... and there are independents and libertarians and GASP...Republicans that may have gone to productions - so only a subset of that 1% will actually be "liberals" - but lets give Brooks the benefit of the doubt and say its 70% "liberal" - of course we have no clue how many really - but that can hardly be called a representative sampling of the population of liberals, let alone Democrats in the country.

Then of course a certain number of non-liberals may have clapped at the offensive scene (assuming that they have the facts right on that in the first place) - so how to you deal with that - I mean if you are willing to ascribe the behavior of a fraction of 1% of the population to half of the country - then how different is that if its a fraction of a fraction of percent - even if the Republican to Democrat clap factor is 1 to 10 that's statistically the same when you are dealing with shit numbers in a population as big as the U.S.

Its a sham to try and say that VM is representative of liberal views (which is exactly the crap that Brooks is peddling) as if it were some manifesto handed out to Democrats when they fill out their voter registration card. Frankly, if everyone in the country that ever saw the VM were restricted from commenting on the Foley scandal I am pretty sure it wouldn't make one iota of difference regarding the outcry. And as for liberals not outcrying the VMs - I am sorry, I don't remember David Brooks saying boo about the VMs before it became politically expedient...

Brooks is dealing in platitudes and generalizations (no surprise there - if he actually had to use things like facts and data he would have no job) to defend the behavior of a reprehensible individual against the legitimate criticsm by people with which he may not agree politically (e.g., its okay if I criticize Foley but Democrats can't because of this play that I think is a "liberal" play).

Frankly that is reprehensible itself.

Revenant said...

I’m sure you didn’t think we spend $600 on a toilet seat, did you?

It isn't a good sign for a satire when it resorts to stealing lines from "Independence Day".

Badger said...

Obviously, social conservatives are the big champions of the moral order,

To me, a social conservative is as mythical a beast as the Unicorn or Hippocriff. Unless somebody can show me social conservatives behave any better than anyone else, its just a name someone call themself. Wanting others to behave, if you are not, doesn't make you a "social conservative."

And what a dim little world Brooks must live in!

Revenant said...

Wanting others to behave, if you are not, doesn't make you a "social conservative."

A social conservative is a person who *advocates* a certain code of behavior for society, not one who necessarily follows it perfectly. Just as a Christian who cheats on his wife bcomes a sinner, not an atheist, a social conservative who acts like a liberal becomes a hypocrite, not a liberal.

But hypocrisy is irrelevant to discussions of right and wrong, good and evil, and the proper structure of society. That "all men are created equal" remains true, for example, notwithstanding the fact that it was said by a slaveowner.

But in any case, there are plenty of social conservatives who live and act like social conservatives. For example, so far as I'm aware Jesse Helms, Orin Hatch, and (outside of politics) Billy Graham are, to the best of my knowledge, examples of social conservatives who have lived by the code they advocated. My maternal and paternal grandparents also, so far as I've ever been able to tell, lived the social-conservative lifestyle they preached.

And let me tell you, there's nothing more annoying to a young social liberal like my former self than a bunch of older conservatives who flatly refuse to be hypocrites. :)

AlaskaJack said...

Your right Ann. This whole thing is a play within a play.

Brent said...

NotsoLibDem,

Brooks is not making the claim that the VM speaks for ALL Dems,libs, or anyone else.

He IS saying that it is an example of mores that is common among social liberals because of their world-view which includes the general belief that sex is individualized and as long as it is only 2 (or 3 or however many) consenting "persons" - well, we know that's actually still a little too exclusive for some - that there is NO possible negative effect on the larger society. Freedom Baby - that's where the line "if it feels good DO IT!" comes from. That is one side.

The other side believes that sexual behavior and mores DO have an effect on the larger society. In its more extreme sides it includes efforts to criminalize numerous and varied sexual acts and relationships.

The answers are obviously somewhere in the middle, but Brooks is exposing the hypocrisy of many social liberals (Read: the Democratic leadership)that is inherent in feigning moral outrage at a very politically opportune time when the record shows a yawn approach to almost equivalent matters in the past.

By the way, hypocrite comes form the Greek hypokritE meaning literally "actor".

It is the MAIN sin condemned by Christ in the New Testament.

Tim said...

Hmmm, blogging as theater.

Works for me. It's all about distortion.

Fiction often distorts; sex distorts; news media clearly distorts, and few things distort like politics. Blogging about a political sex scandal hyped by a news media with an agenda just might be the apex of distortion.


On with the play!

Pogo said...

JodyTresidder said..."What an extremely rude reply, Pogo."
You're right. It was. I felt your question was rude in tone, and did not warrant an actual reply, much less a polite one. Your subsequent statement suggests that my suspicion (a set-up for the unmeetable demand for 'proof') was probably right.

Does your truncated quote about Ibsen possibly make clear further on that the huge influence of the playwright was on dramatic convention?
No.
Many other examples of literature and the arts changing behavior have been listed. it's simply foolish to claim otherwise. I may have been rude, but it is ponderously difficult, and perhaps pointless, to be civil to the unserious debater.

"I've never seen it claimed he changed social convention, as you seem to do."
You could read more about it. I have. It's old news, really. Really, I cannot believe you're making a serious argument that arts and literature do not affect behavior. Even the silliest of plays, the most banal, have their effect, however muted. 'Arsenic and Old Lace" both demonstrates and reinforces several social conventions. By your line of reasoning, Aesop's fables, the Bible, and tales told around the fire must have no effect either. In short, you're arguing for a nihilism that simply doesn't exist in any form anywhere on earth.

secular humanist said...

Why do conservatives presume that liberals are some monolithic block of intellectual sheep who march in lock-step and never have an independent thought of their own? I am proudly liberal in many ways - pro-choice; an advocate for the separation of religion from government, and an unashamed supporter of many liberal ideas: stem cell research, the teaching of evolution and geoscience in the public schools, the availability of cheap contraceptives, thorough education in the public schools addressing how people get pregnant and how they get STD's, what they can do to prevent those calamities if they are going to have sex, and why people often have sex for the wrong reasons; civil unions for all adult couples, affordible health care for all, living wages for the people who do the really unpleasant work necessary for the rest of us to have comfortable lives (crop picking, toilet cleaning, teaching in inner cities, mining coal, for example). On the other hand, I believe in huge amounts of personal responsibility, public work for public support, prisons that are not comfortable, especially for white collar criminals such as the executives who earned big bucks running criminal corporations (Anderson Consulting, Worldcom and Enron, for example). I believe that there is little justification for most forms of affirmative action, that "gansta" culture helps destroy the future of minority children (and not a few white kids, too). I also believe in the absolute freedom of speech, no matter how offensive, in the public square. (So, for example, I believe Columbia should expell any student who charged the stage the other night.) That said, I also believe that the public should voice its disapproval of speech it finds distateful, whether it be that of the nutcase reverand who believes that God killed the Amish kids to punish the Governor of Pensylvania, or Eve Ensler's vapid monologues. And don't even get me started on what a disaster political correctness and victimology have been for the quality of social and political discourse in our country. So, yes I am a liberal, a secular humanist, an athiest, and an unhyphenated American. Please don't claim you know what I believe and what I think just because you can tag me as a "liberal". In turn, I won't presume that you thought Harriet Myers was a great choice for the supreme court, that covering up for Mark Foley was an appropriate action for Speaker Hastart, or that what is happening in Iraq is clearly a success for the US.

The Duck Goose said...

What are you saying? This whole blog is performance art. It's at its height when there's maximum linkage. Let them beat up on me in a great spreading web of linkage. I want to be a big star in the Theater of the Internet.

You'd retain more dignity in this respect if you'd just put on a fright wig and spray yourself with seltzer.

Palladian said...

"You'd retain more dignity in this respect if you'd just put on a fright wig and spray yourself with seltzer."

How do you know she doesn't? How do you know she isn't blogging while doing that?

LongHairedWeirdo said...

It is continually amazing to me how few people really get the point about sexual assault, harassment, etc..

It's about consent.

In this scene in The Vagina Monologues, is the scene portrayed as consensual?

In fiction, we have this wonderful opportunity to have a narrator who is able to tell such things. In real life, we don't.

And that is why we have age-of-consent laws.

Would it be poisonously wrong for an adult woman to have sex with a 13 year old girl? Yes, because an adult woman can't know that the 13 year old is consenting. Even if she could know the girl consented (magical powers, perhaps?), we couldn't trust that knowledge.

In a play, in a work of fiction, this barrier can be lifted. And thus, we can pretend that we're seeing a situation in which consent is present, and imagine awakening discoveries at a time in our lives when everything seems confusing.

Now, I've never seen The Vagina Monologues, and even if I had, I wouldn't know how a given director decided to play with a particular scene.

Nevertheless, if consent seemed clear, and given, then it's perfectly rational to find such a scene interesting and wonderful *because* we are assured that we're seeing a consensual sex act, not an instance of rape.

Ann Althouse said...

LongHairedWeirdo: You do realize that's how a member of NAMBLA would explain things, don't you? I'm close to deleting your comment because it is encouraging to pedophiles, but I will simply leave my comment warning people about you. What you have said is profoundly misleading to very sick people.

AST said...

I have to wonder how many rock-ribbed Republicans were in those cheering audiences. Conservatives didn't create the moral climate in which this occurred. Most traditional conservatives objected to the sex education that has made teenagers as knowledgeable about sex and a hooker.

As for this being "real," that claim is diminished by the fact that the kid who recorded these IMs was pretending, even if Foley wasn't.

BTW, Thank you, Ann, for posting Brooks' writing here, if only in part. It's an important and powerful point.

Revenant said...

Why do conservatives presume that liberals are some monolithic block of intellectual sheep who march in lock-step and never have an independent thought of their own?

For the same reason that liberals think conservatives do -- because humans are naturally prone to stereotype members of groups they don't belong to, presumably for ease of thinking.

There's also a more Platonic viewpoint, which is that "conservative" and "liberal" are ideals which actual people can match to a greater or lesser extent.

JodyTresidder said...

"Even the silliest of plays, the most banal, have their effect, however muted. 'Arsenic and Old Lace" both demonstrates and reinforces several social conventions"

Pogo,

I couldn't agree more.

But that's NOT what you wrote.

It is precisely because you made a different point that I dared to attempt to question your opinion.

And I precisely picked out the one ACTIVE word you used which appeared to unambiguously support a long mulled over point: that a play can modify social convention.

Writers and critics have chewed over that one for an age.

I do bristle a bit when you fling back at me the insight that much art reinforces and demonstrates/articulates the concerns of society.

Indeed it does. Often it challenges too. But can a play modify behavior?

And, if so, can you show it by example?

Surely even the most ego-swelled agit prop writer who has considered his or her work the last word in shattering conventional thought has wondered whether there is an effect outside art?

Pogo said...

Re"Indeed it does. Often it challenges too. But can a play modify behavior?
And, if so, can you show it by example?"


JodyTresidder,
I have merely repeated the same idea, using different words. "...set a moral tone, prescribe and proscribe behavior, and challenge, modfiy, or support normative social standards", and "demonstrates and reinforces" all describe the same ancient phenomenon, whereby stories in whatever form are used to tell others how to behave.

In contrast, if your theory is right, and stories (such as in play form) cannot modfiy behavior, there would simply be no point to telling them. Entertainment value alone is an insufficent explanation for such an inherent human phenomenon.

Moreover, attempting to answer your question then falls into the fallacious net I expected to be set: the demand for proof of the sort that only exists in chemistry experiments. Wood plus fire equals ash.

Why would catholics bother to show the Passion Play if it could only entertain or 'reinforce', but not modify behavior?

Why would Hitler have asked Leni Riefenstahl to create the films "Victory of Faith" and "Triumph of the Will" unless he thought that -knew that- propganda can modify behavior? The fact that it did modify behavior is inarguable, and should be proof enough for you.

The example of Lincoln's recognition of the impact by Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is also sufficient proof.

As to "even the most ego-swelled agit prop writer ...has wondered whether there is an effect outside art"
Surely, some stories are junk and fail to generate any effect at all. But why would they even wonder that at all, unless they recognized that behavior can be changed by stories, and they have seen it to be so for themselves? Your own statement is also sufficient proof.

Jaafar said...

I wish to comment as a pederast, on something which seems more bizarre to me with each passing day.

I'm an adult male who is attracted to adolescent boys, and I can assure you that every day of my life I see appealing young men, dozens or hundreds of them.

But I never do anything about it, having refused the role of "boy-chaser" very early in my life.

No. My entire experience has been that nothing at all happens, or can be made to happen, until there is a young man who is interested in ME. That is to say, the original spark of interest must come from the boy. When that happens, then friendship and love may become possible.

Often, such boys come from families without fathers, or with deficient fathers. For whatever reason, they are looking for an adult male who will deal with them sympathetically.

On my few ventures into Internet relations, I saw the same thing all over again, in spades. Boys in China, in Singapore, and Papua New Guinea were out looking for an adult male to look after them and mentor them. I didn't have to "chase" anybody at all. In fact, I had to use some care and sympathy to avoid turning into a two-timing SOB and trying to maintain multiple Internet love affairs at the same time.

So what I am here to tell you is this: America has constructed a huge myth that gay boys who have made a connection with gay men are all the victims of sexual predators. In some cases, that may be true: I don't know. My entire experience has been trying to deal responsibly with lonely young gay boys who are desperately seeking an adult friend.

After all, even though we all "hate" Mark Foley, surely we all have the basic intelligence to realize that cybersex (or IM chat) or whatever, can be instantly terminated at any moment. There is not even a need for an excuse, other than "my computer crashed." Nope. These boys had some interest in Foley. Whether it was genuine or faked remains to be seen; right now I suspect it was faked.

salvage said...

People who suggest that plays and books are "not real" are either being mendacious or displaying a marked stupidity.

I'm suggesting that plays are not real.

No quotes are required.

Okay, you know how like in Star Wars it looked like a whole planet was blown up killing millions?

But how the Nazis really did kill millions in World War II?

See?

Different.

One never happened and one did; only a fool would conflate the two.

So VM is a play that explores some darker aspects of human sexualit,y we use fiction to safely investigate and understand these bits of unsavory reality. That exploration does not signify approval or even acceptance, more a quest for understanding and possible enlightenment. Or sometimes it’s just plain entertaining, like the scene in Pulp Fiction where the guy gets his head blown off because of improper gun safety.

Foley is a dirty old man who was simply looking for sexual gratification in the worst sort of way. Where people were encouraged to go look at the play Foley’s antics were kept secret.

One is legal and protected and one is illegal and only protected by NAMBLA and apparently some facets of the GOP. I think that’s a pretty big clue as to the relative reality of the two.

It’s baffling that Ann and her banal brigade can’t grasp this rather obvious fact.

Well perhaps not so baffling.

JodyTresidder said...

Pgo,
Thanks for your courteous reply. Truly.

Oddly enough, I watched very recently the extended Leni Riefenstahl documentary (A Wonderful Horrible Life) about the making of her documentary. I agree entirely that her documentary probably enormously modified opinion - and shaped behavior by reinforcing parts of a political message. (I would additionally argue that the film medium was crucially important as was her creation's non fiction pretentions to showing "the truth". We are certainly not talking about a play here.)

I also think the best/most effective novels can capture the spirit of an age, giving a coherent voice to changing perpections and all that.

But I think writers have struggled with the flip side of your opinion more often than not: why isn't the artist more powerful as a force for change with all his or her superior skills and often self-selected audience?

Why does so much dribble out of our heads after we've shrugged on our coats?

(I will add - because it's Saturday - that my husband happens to think I'm completely wrong on this one. This should make the rest of the weekend fun!)

Jaafar said...

"One is legal and protected and one is illegal and only protected by NAMBLA and apparently some facets of the GOP. I think that’s a pretty big clue as to the relative reality of the two."

I guess that the one which is "legal and protected" applies to recognized creative artists writing absolute sleaze for their audiences.

And the other one which is illegal is protected by NAMBLA and the Republicans?

I mean, how absurd can you get? The Democrats are the party of gay rights! I personally despise NAMBLA for its refusal to state an age of consent, but I have NEVER believed that the Republican party was the party which was going to bring about gay emancipation (male love remains illegal in many states, and the Republicans are not rushing to change this.)

It seems somewhat strange that Foley could (theoretically) get off the hook by claiming that he was only indulging in CREATIVE WRITING :-) Foley is an artist, and must not be censored! He has a happy audience of Congressional pages!

Oh, but excuse me, I forgot. Male love is WRONG, and the sinners must be WHIPPED.

Ti-Guy said...

I have no idea what explains a talent-free solipsistic moron like Ann Althouse who's desperate to find herself fascinating. Anti-depressants?

In any event, she moved from completely irrelevant to lying bitch when she wrote that hideously dishonest op-ed in the NYT regarding the NSA decision.

Todd Bishop said...

This idea- that to celebrate a work of art is to approve of every act depicted in it- is moronic. Brooks is a great liar for advancing it. There's no way in hell he actually believes it.

IT'S ART, dummies. It's not real. The artist does not want you to kill your father and sleep with your mother, go on a righteous killing spree to save the teenage prostitute, or send Clemenza to shotgun your betrayers to death. Jesus. I thought this would've been settled once and for all in 7th grade English class.

James said...

Todd Bishop (and others):
Some works of art are just plain unsubtle. BIRTH OF A NATION, for example, is a film that clearly endorses the KKK and white supremacy. Does anyone really deny that? Others may disagree, but I see TVM as a work of art that clearly falls into this category of unambiguous propaganda. The annual "V-day" celebrations seem to have waned in popularity in recent years, but they clearly treat the play as propaganda rather than as a complex and subtle work. They are generally put on by women's studies departments, not theater departments. If we had white sumpremacist groups making annual showings of BIRTH OF A NATION every year on Martin Luther King Day, and Griffith was still alive and approved of it, could we really say with a straight face, "How do we know the movie is on the Klan's side?"

Pondering American said...

I think this is a great post and I am sadden that the reponses have been so non thinking.

For the record, I am a conservative Republican that am glad that Foley resigned and thought it was proper. I also don't buy all this phoney "its for the children" arguments by the Dems since it appears the motivation is to remove Hastert without waiting for the facts. Facts that seem to be clarifying the situation by the day.

But the post is interesting because my friends art, tv, books, and other things do not live in a vacumm.

My grandparents lives in the day where a 20 year old could mary a 16 year old and no one batted a eye. Now its called rape and you go to prison. Believe it or not we Conservative Republicans know some homosexuals. It is amazing how many of them I have met tell me when they were young had their first gay experience with a older man such as the Foley /page age group. They never felt like they were molested.

It is a interesting debate about sex /age/ and social taboos. Am I endorsing what Foley did. OF course not. The power relationship here is what I am concerned about.

But there is a debate going beneath the surface about these recent age taboos and sex.

Am I advocating that these behavior be tolerated or is right. OF course not. But still it would be nice to discuss why the play and other things are applauded and Foley is labled a Pedophilla freak. Just like every guy I know thinks differently of a 20 year old woman having a fling with a 16 year old.

The Exalted said...

This is the sort of thing I was getting at when I pointed out that Democrats were, by and large, just pretending to care about this.

Social conservatives care deeply about adult-teen sex and are pretty uniformly of the opinion that it is horribly immoral. Liberals generally aren't -- adults who boink sexually mature teenagers may be viewed as a bit sleazy, but if the teen was willing and not coerced no big stink gets made about it.


you're just reprehensible. you made all this up. i am a democrat and i very much care about adult men sexually interacting with teenagers. most people do. surprise -- "liberals" are ordinary people with families and kids, people that do not want sexual deviants IM'ing their kids this dangerous bullshit. you realize that foley went to the page's dorm right? you have the ability to read and you realize that he clearly was talking about meeting with them, right? do you really think that HALF the country does not "really care" about the idea of sexual deviants communicating sexually with their children? you are either an outright idiot or a liar, likely both.

AND -- this whole "the kids were pranking foley" canard is bullshit. not one of these kids has actually been interviewed and said this. not one of these lies actually sources to these kids anonymously. it is simply made up.

not that this will stop any here from repeating it ad nauseuam.

wait -- i havent denounced the VM -- does that mean i'm not allowed to feel outrage over foley's actions?

Todd Bishop said...

"...I see TVM as a work of art that clearly falls into this category of unambiguous propaganda."

You would have to think (or at least be willing to say) that to defend Brooks' argument. That don't make it so.

"The annual "V-day" celebrations seem to have waned in popularity in recent years, but they clearly treat the play as propaganda rather than as a complex and subtle work. They are generally put on by women's studies departments, not theater departments."

So what? The work has meaning for them. They probably like Thelma & Louise, too. That doesn't make them pro-suicide or pro-murder.

"If we had white sumpremacist groups making annual showings of BIRTH OF A NATION every year on Martin Luther King Day, and Griffith was still alive and approved of it, could we really say with a straight face, "How do we know the movie is on the Klan's side?""

Nobody watches BOAN for its ideas anymore. It's generally regarded as a masterpiece, flawed for its primitive political standpoint. It's a classic example of how grown-ups can "applaud" a work of art and not endorse every act (or idea) depicted in it.

Daryl Herbert said...

This idea- that to celebrate a work of art is to approve of every act depicted in it- is moronic. Brooks is a great liar for advancing it. There's no way in hell he actually believes it.

No, every single thing depicted is not automatically endorsed. Yet, neither would an intelligent person deny that some things are endorsed.

Distinguishing between the two, that would require... nuance and intelligence? Those are in short supply on the blogs that send attack dogs here.

So VM is a play that explores some darker aspects of human sexualit,y we use fiction to safely investigate and understand these bits of unsavory reality.

VM is not a thought-provoking, critical work of art. It's a pep rally for "Vagina Warriors."

That's already been established above (see: left-wing commenters deny the significance of the Vagina Monologues within left-wing cultural circles)

And considering Ann has actually seen the thing, and from her remarks, I take it you've got an uphill battle convincing her it's a misunderstood work of art.

-Deb- said...

Oops. You're right, David Brooks is not openly gay -- I was thinking of David Brock, another conservative that surprised no one but other conservatives when he came out.

Oi.

Garage Mahal said...

Oops. You're right, David Brooks is not openly gay -- I was thinking of David Brock, another conservative that surprised no one but other conservatives when he came out.

Who, (Brock) oddly enough, claims Drudge is gay, and has propositioned him. Oh my.

Daryl Herbert said...

Which, oddly enough, is of no relevance to this thread.

And, oddly enough, right-wingers have been aware of credible "Drudge is gay" rumors for years

And, oddly enough, we're not surprised that someone nominally in favor of gay rights would casually throw out names of individuals who would rather not "come out"

tjl said...

"This idea- that to celebrate a work of art is to approve of every act depicted in it- is moronic. Brooks is a great liar for advancing it."

The left has developed this odd little habit of branding any statement they disagree with as a "lie" -- as if it's simply not possible for any honest person to deny any part of their belief system. This tactic also conveniently ducks any need to engage with ideas they find disturbing. Call any unwelcome thought a "lie" and that's the end of it.

No one, Brooks least of all, would argue that "to celebrate a work of art is to approve of every act depicted in it." That's a gross distortion of Brooks' point.

Revenant said...

But how the Nazis really did kill millions in World War II?

Are you sure about that? Because I saw a movie where they did that, and I'm pretty sure you just got done saying that everything in movies is fake. :)

Metablogger said...

I say, if you live by the sword of Victorian morality, you shall die by it also. If the secretary in the V-monologues were instead a politician from a party that enforces strict political correctness on issues of sexual "deviance," gee, I think that would change the story considerably.

The idea that humans are non-sexual until some legally-defined number of trips around the sun, then BING! (or perhaps, SCHWINNGG!) a switch flips and they become fair game for predation is absurd, as anyone who remembers life before the age of consent can confirm. Many, of course, prefer not to remember.

-F.

Revenant said...

do you really think that HALF the country does not "really care" about the idea of sexual deviants communicating sexually with their children?

Liberals aren't half the country. They're more like a quarter to a third of it.

Its cute and all that you're putting on this show of being all outraged about "deviants IMing children" -- I would suggest watching the news occasionally, by the way, since this turns out to have been about adults IMing other adults -- but reality tells a different story. There's no outrage, unless the adult is someone you hate.

Synova said...

metablogger: "If the secretary in the V-monologues were instead a politician from a party that enforces strict political correctness on issues of sexual "deviance," gee, I think that would change the story considerably."

Yes.

Exactly.

And if Foley were, instead, a politician from a party that tolerates sex with pages, there wouldn't be a story at all. He'd get to stay in office and get re-elected.

Isn't that what the whole point of this whole rambling conversation has been?

Republicans condemn Foley. Where's the hypocrisy?

Democrats condemn Foley, yet many of their number previously and openly support "consensual" homosexual sex with 17 year old pages, authority figures who have sex with underlings, and generally promote the exploration of teen's sexuality with adults.

Pointing out *that* hypocrisy is not defending Foley.

But it sure does seem to make people mad.

Edward said...

I’m a very late arrival to this particular thread, but I have a few thoughts to add.

Let met start by saying how extremely juvenile I find the majority of the comments here, particularly compared to the more substantive comments found on many of Althouse’s other threads.

When I say juvenile, I mean that I find comments coming from both ends of the political spectrum and from most points in between to be juvenile. I even see juvenile comments coming from people that I would normally expect more from.

Which brings me to Ann Althouse herself… Now, I don’t want to make too big a deal out of what might just be a casual, throwaway comment on her part, but Ann’s previous claim that “This whole blog is performance art” struck me as quite wrong. Ann encourages substantive policy debates elsewhere on her blog. Why diminish those debates by calling everything done on her blog “performance art”?

Then Ann says, “Let them beat up on me…” If this is truly Ann’s attitude, why does she take the trouble to defend herself in many of her other comments, and why does she thank Palladian so prominently for defending her in this thread? Why, some time ago, did Ann (quite rightly, in my opinion) block access to her blog’s discussion threads to a woman the sole purpose of whose posts was to threaten and defame her?

Ann also says, “I want to be a big star in the Theater of the Internet.” Ann, don’t worry, you’re already something of a star in this domain -- certainly not the biggest of them all, but far bigger than most.

I hope none of you accuse me of over-analyzing this one post from Ann. It may really have just been her attempt at humor, and I’m usually all for jokes and humor. If that’s what her post was, however, it was not an especially brilliant example of humor.

The truth in this debate over the VM is surely somewhere in the middle. The VM is a heavily politicized play in a way that almost no other plays are. Yes, I know that lots of plays make political arguments, but VM has managed to launch and sustain an entire mini-movement on American college campuses. Very, very few plays “succeed” in doing that.

I put the word succeed in quotes, because I’m not at all sure that the political/cultural mini-movement spawned by the VM is really a sign of the play’s success. In fact, even though I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never seen it, the VM is probably just as bad from a literary standpoint as Ann says it is.

Yet at the same time, it’s quite wrong for cultural conservatives to hold up the VM as a glaring example of the Democratic Party’s decadence. The mainstream Democratic Party has no connection – ideological, political, financial or otherwise – to the VM movement.

The really far-out feminist ideology that informs much (but not all) of the work done in campus Women’s Studies Departments does not represent whatsoever the rationale for Democratic support of women’s equality.

The exact same thing can be said about the complete disconnect between the looniness of much (but not all) of the work done in the area of Queer Studies at American universities and the Democratic Party’s support for fair and equal treatment of gay Americans.

When will conservatives wake up and realize that the Democratic Party does not embody the most radical concepts emerging from the humanities and social sciences divisions of American universities?

Metablogger said...

Synova:
Republicans condemn Foley. Where's the hypocrisy?

Democrats condemn Foley, yet many of their number previously and openly support "consensual" homosexual sex with 17 year old pages, authority figures who have sex with underlings, and generally promote the exploration of teen's sexuality with adults.


Republicans issue their condemnations now, when it comes out into the open. But they knew about it a couple of years ago, and remained silent, because Foley had a safe seat and was a boffo fundraiser. And when I say "they," I mean the leadership. They knew.

They knew, and they installed Foley as head of a project to protect exploited kids. Suppose now that the VM story involved the aforementioned politician, who was him-or-herself making sanctimonious noises about underage sex. Now that would have been an icky story.

If the Democrats are as libertine as you suggest, which is far from clear except to those who as Driftglass put it, live in the right-wing fart-rebreathing bell jar, then a Democratic lawmaker engaging in the same behavior as Foley wouldn't even be hypocritical, would it?

Once again,

I say, if you live by the sword of Victorian morality, you shall die by it also.


It's Rethuglicans, not Democrats, who trot out this straitlaced, attack-of-the-vapors, appalled-by-sex posturing as a campaign strategy. And then when they're caught in flagrante, start blaming everyone else in the known universe.

-F.

Fitz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fitz said...

“Yet at the same time, it’s quite wrong for cultural conservatives to hold up the VM as a glaring example of the Democratic Party’s decadence. The mainstream Democratic Party has no connection – ideological, political, financial or otherwise – to the VM movement. “

Of coarse it does, the University Campus is the intellectual and political locus of Leftist in America, it is its brain trust. (financially, professors overwhelmingly give to leftist causes and democratic candidates) The Democratic Party is host to Left/Liberal America policy and preference. (from Judicial Candidates to tax policy)

“The really far-out feminist ideology that informs much (but not all) of the work done in campus Women’s Studies Departments does not represent whatsoever the rationale for Democratic support of women’s equality.”

Depends on what we mean by women's “equality”. What a glaring obfuscation.

“The exact same thing can be said about the complete disconnect between the looniness of much (but not all) of the work done in the area of Queer Studies at American universities and the Democratic Party’s support for fair and equal treatment of gay Americans.”

Depends on what we mean by “fair and equal treatment” of gay Americans. What a glaring obfuscation.

“When will conservatives wake up and realize that the Democratic Party does not embody the most radical concepts emerging from the humanities and social sciences divisions of American universities?”

I disagree. If not, then what party does? Are these people not powerful? Have they no political home?
What a glaring obfuscation.

LongHairedWeirdo said...

Ms. Althouse:
LongHairedWeirdo: You do realize that's how a member of NAMBLA would explain things, don't you? I'm close to deleting your comment because it is encouraging to pedophiles, but I will simply leave my comment warning people about you. What you have said is profoundly misleading to very sick people.

I thought law professors had to be able to read and understand basic logical fallacies. Are you deficient in one skill or the other, or did you simply choose not to engage those skills in this instance?

Your first statement is, spot on, an attempt to use the ad hominem fallacy. Perhaps you can use that in one of your classes; it would make a fine textbook example of the fallacy.

As for the remainder, please, tell me what I said that would be encouraging to pedophiles; was it the part where I said that it would be poisonously wrong for an adult woman to have sex with a 13 year old, even if, through magical powers, she could determine there was consent? Is "poisonously wrong" a phrase of encouragement?

I grant, I said that the barrier could be lifted in fiction. As you are no doubt aware, many things can happen in fiction that can not happen in reality. The comic book hero Superman can do things that are impossible; that's because he's fictional, and those things aren't really happening. Similarly, we can explore impossibilities in the human condition in fiction, which is what I was suggesting was being done in the Vagina Monologues.

The next time you wonder why people are so mean to you, I'm going to laugh... especially if you feel they are taking your words out of context, or deliberately misinterpreting you.

I should point out that I won't laugh if people attack you unjustly, or take your words out of context, or deliberately misinterpret you, because truth matters to me. I will, however, laugh at your wondering why it is happening. You're helping build a world where such behavior is acceptable.