Can't quit Woody Allen: Slate's headstrong Osita Nwanevu is one of the many youngsters in the modern press corps. In our view, this unavoidable attribute tends to show up in his work.
Just how young is Nwanevu? By his own admission, he graduated from Hylton Senior High in 2011. He graduated from the University of Chicago exactly four years later.
By our reckoning, this suggests that he hadn't been born when Woody Allen is alleged to have molested his seven-year-old daughter. That said, nothing stops the cultural impulse we cited last week, the impulse to keep arguing the facts of a case in which the facts will almost surely never be known.
Increasingly, our discourse is built around such pseudo-discussions. In these fiery pseudo-debates, we abandon conventional policy discussion to argue, endlessly, about matters which can never be resolved. Meanwhile, did we mention the fact that Nwanevu is very young? In his ardent new discussion, we think he almost goes out of his way to show how silly this sort of thing can become.
In his piece at Slate, Nwanevu bellows against the New York Times' Bret Stephens, who seems to suspect that Allen didn't commit the crime with which he stands accused.
Like Nwanevu today, like Nicholas Kristof before him, Stephens doesn't actually know if Allen committed this crime. That said, Kristof and Nwanevu suspect or say they believe that he did, and Stephens seems to suspect that he didn't.
None of these people know what's true, nor is it likely they ever will. But they refuse to quit the matter, and they tend to put their thumbs on the scale in support of the suspicion they favor.
How silly can this sort of pseudo-discussion get? In his piece at Slate, Nwanevu correctly notes that Stephens didn't consider all the evidence in his recent column about this matter. Nwanevu is right about that, but that's the way these pseudo-discussions tend to flow.
Nwanevo is right in that observation. But then, he also offers this:
NWANEVU (2/12/18): Stephens’ piece also curiously neglects to consider Allen’s body of work. As David Klion, writing in Jewish Currents, and Ira Madison III, writing at the Daily Beast, have noted recently, relationships between middle-aged men and much younger women feature heavily. Most infamously, in the film Manhattan, a comedy writer, played by a 43-year-old Allen, dates a 17-year-old girl played by Mariel Hemingway, who has claimed she shared her first kiss with Allen at 16 while filming a scene. Stephens additionally makes only a brief passing reference to Allen’s affair with, in his words, “Mia Farrow’s adopted, barely adult daughter, Soon-Yi Previn,” who is now Allen’s wife.Chivalrously, Nwanevu thunders on Hemingway's behalf. Hemingway, who can speak for herself, doesn't thunder about this point, and doesn't seem to think ill of Allen.
These facts, while not constituting definitive proof of Allen’s guilt, would have been important to reckon with seriously given that they’ve lent plausibility to Dylan’s allegation in the minds of many.
That said, note the highlighted point about Allen's body or work. "Relationships between middle-aged men and much younger women feature heavily" in that work, Nwanevu accusingly writes. He fails to note that relationships between middle-aged men and 7-year-olds don't feature there at all.
He goes on to note that facts like these don't constitute definitive proof of Allen's guilt. (He has cited other bit of alleged evidence which Stephens skipped.) Earth to youngster:
Facts like those don't constitute any kind of "proof!" You have no "proof" at all concerning the matter at hand.
Nwanevu is very young. Presumably, this is good for the owners of Slate; it lets them underpay him while filling up lots of space. It might also attract young readers, the kind advertisers love. (On cable, they can't seem to get them young enough, especially the young women.)
That said, we've often thought that the Nwanevu's youth is perhaps understandably on display in his overwrought pieces. Reading his current declamation, we found ourselves thinking of Noble Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, whose speech to the headstrong young Diomedes we'll post, in part, below.
The allegation against Woody Allen dates back twenty-six years. Nwanevu wasn't alive in 1992, at the time of the alleged act.
He doesn't know what actually happened; there's little chance he ever will. But so what? Like Kristof and Stephens before him, he continues to (uselessly) flog his preferred, sometimes silly points.
He wants to argue, often poorly, to no conceivable end. If sacred Homer, on Olympus, were to describe a god of modern journalism, the god the sacred poet described would surely wear orange shows.
What explains this endless, and endlessly pleasing, moral panic? We can't necessarily answer that, but the inability to quit these topics is a marker of the vast imbalance and mental disorder which has let Trumpism win.
One of the very first presentations of an age-old tale: In Book 9 of The Iliad, stallion-breaking Diomedes is threatening to break with mighty Agamemnon, lord of the Argives. This would imperil the Achaeans' chances of sacking towering Troy.
Noble Nestor scrambles to his feet to speak to the headstrong young warrior. He "always gave the best advice," Homer repeatedly says:
THE ILIAD: All the Achaeans shouted their assent,We're using Professor Fagles' translation. (Homer spoke no English.)
stirred by the stallion-breaking Diomedes' challenge.
But Nestor the old driver rose and spoke at once.
“Few can match your power in battle, Diomedes,
and in council you excel all men your age
But you don't press on and reach a useful end.
How young you are—why, you could be my son,
my youngest-born at that, though you urge our kings
with cool clear sense: what you've said is right.
But it's my turn now, Diomedes.
I think I can claim to have some years on you.
So I must speak up and drive the matter home.
And no one will heap contempt on what I say,
not even mighty Agamemnon. Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for the horror of war with his own people.”
Diomedes' critique of Agamemnon is accurate, Noble Nestor says. But his hotheaded youthful instincts lead to no useful end.
Like Kristof and Stephens before him, Nwanevu will never know what actually happened in 1992. Does he understand this? To our seasoned eye and ear, it almost seems that the press corps' ardent hotheads can't get clear on this fact.