TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2021
The logic of the Yale grads: Frankly, we've been open and honest about our recent sourcing.
Over the past several years, we've worked from an award-winning premise: "It's all anthropology now."
Putting that another way, nothing is going to halt our failing nation's slide toward the sea. It's all over now but the explaining. What makes us behave in these ways?
To achieve that act of explaining, we've turned to the insights of an array of major anthropologists. In late-night seminars, they've discussed the wiring of our (badly-flawed) human brain, discussing the way that badly-flawed wiring helps explain our species' recent self-defeating behavior.
Are we humans "able to handle the truth?" According to these experts, that pretty much isn't the way we human beings are made.
Over the past dozen years, the inability to handle the truth has become amazingly apparent Over There, in the various towns where The Others live.
They were told—and they believed—that Obama was born in Kenya. They've been told—and they believe—that Biden is in the White House thanks to a giant scam.
This morning, the Washington Post finally takes the advice we've offered for almost twenty years. It does so in Ashley Parker's news report about the latest manufactured false belief—the silly claim that President Biden is planning to rip the double-burgers right out of citizens' mouths.
(In the New York Times, the topic is cited in Paul Krugman's new column. We've said, for years, that it should be treated as front-page news when major figures mislead or misinform millions of people in the manner described.)
Parker's report isn't on the front page, but it's a darn good start. That said, here's the question we promised to raise this week:
Is it possible that the inability to handle the truth has now come for us here in Our Town? In large part because of our public thought leaders, are we now showing a similar inability to handle the truth?
It seems to us that the answer is yes, especially in matters involving gender and race. Here in Our Town, we're no longer handling the truth especially well—nor are we being asked to try.
Many facts are disappeared; other facts are invented.
Irrelevant facts are heavily stressed. Did we mention the fact that many facts are banished, sent away—disappeared?
In the face of these behaviors, we're left with Storyline and novelization—Storyline all the way down. In this morning's New York Times, Bret Stephens predicts that this behavior is going to produce a "coming liberal crack-up."
We can't say that Stephens is wrong. For today, though, let's keep it simple. Let's consider what the Yale grads have said.
The Yale grads to whom we refer are A.O. Scott and Wesley Morris, "chief film critic" and "critic at large" for the New York Times. In this morning's print editions, the gentleman discuss Sunday night's Oscar awards and the attendant telecast.
The ability to handle the truth does involve issues of fact—but it also involves issues of basic logic.
Here in Our Town, are we able to handle logic? As this morning's colloquy starts, Scott is offering these remarks about the way the telecast ended, with Anthony Hopkins receiving this year's Best Actor award:
SCOTT (4/27/21): I’m trying to remember how I felt during most of the show, which was like a long, awkward but not entirely unenjoyable dinner party that I wasn’t sure I’d actually been invited to. But we have to start at the end. The only explanation is that Steven Soderbergh and the other producers of the telecast were, like many of us, confident that [the late] Chadwick Boseman would take best actor, and envisioned a concluding tableau of pride and pathos, combining grief and celebration. Even Joaquin Phoenix’s terse introductions of the best-actor nominees, after Renée Zellweger’s prose paeans to the best-actress contenders, seemed to set up a somber, sublime moment.
What happened was more than just anticlimactic. Hopkins’s award and the best-actress Oscar for Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), while both entirely defensible on the merits, also sent a message. The academy is only willing to go so far in the direction of the new. And apart from the “Nomadland” triumph for best picture (which we’ll get to), this seemed like a pretty standard Oscars, notwithstanding the weird format. The “edgy” movie (“Promising Young Woman”) gets a screenplay consolation prize, actors of color (Daniel Kaluuya, Yuh-Jung Youn) get supporting wins, but for the most part I’m reminded of the lyric to a song that Billie Holiday used to sing. “Them that’s got shall have. Them that’s not shall lose.” I guess that still is news.
Were you able to follow the Yale grad's encounter logic? His encounter went like this:
On the one hand, he says that Hopkins' selection as Best Actor was "entirely defensible on the merits." On the other hand, he says the selection "sent a message"—namely, "the academy is only willing to go so far in the direction of the new."
Everyone knows what he meant. Scott is saying that the academy is only willing to go so far in terms of giving awards to black actors.
"Them's that got shall have," he says, citing Billie Holliday, as he ends his mournful rumination. That's the message he's taken from a selection which, according to his own assessment, was "entirely defensible on the merits."
Does that make any sense? Five actors were nominated for Best Actor. Is it possible that a narrow plurality of Academy voters simply thought that Hopkins' performance was somewhat better than Boseman's?
Apparently, no, it can't mean that—and this is precisely the mandated thinking that Stephens critques in his column. Meanwhile, the other Yale grad chimes in instantly, offering this:
MORRIS (continuing directly): Strangely, sadly, yes. And yet of those five actors, it makes all the sense in world for Anthony Hopkins to have won. He’s titanic in “The Father.” His work there is like a fever dream of disorientation that was also probably in the average voter’s geriatric wheelhouse. Meanwhile, Chadwick Boseman—all of that unbridled zeal in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” came down to a promise that the academy couldn’t keep. And like Adele and Billie Eilish at the Grammys, Anthony Hopkins is left to atone for sins not of his making.
That, of course, becomes the problem with these presumed coronations, whether they’re aimed at Lauren Bacall, Glenn Close or the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. Oscars gonna Oscar. And when it comes to the academy’s enduring award practices, especially with respect to Black people and best acting, I’m not sure anybody can count on enough of 9,000 people to do even the cosmetic reparative work.
"Strangely, sadly, yes," Morris says, affirming a rumination which doesn't quite seem to make sense.
Oddly, he then goes even further in praise of Hopkins' "titanic" performance. Or then again, maybe he doesn't, seeming to say that Hopkins nay have won because of the "geriatric" profile of the Academy's voters.
(In 2012, the median age of the Academy was said to be 62. Almost surely, the median age is lower today, given the Academy's substantial enlistment drives aimed at enrolling younger, more diverse members.)
Morris also seems to say that the voters should have done some "reparative work." Does that mean they should have voted for Boseman even if they thought that Hopkins' titanic performance was better?
Speaking very frankly, there's only one brand of logic on display in that colloquy between the Yale grads. We refer to the logic of fealty to preapproved Storyline.
Everyone knows what the current Storyline is. The boys seem prepared to advance it, even as they seem to say that Hopkins actually deserved this (utterly pointless) prize.
Or something! It's quite hard to tell.
Her in Our Town, we're now constantly challenged by presentation like that. A basic question is involved:
Are we able to handle the truth? Are we prepared to stop and take note of the apparent absence of logic?
On a journalistic basis, the rationale underlying that exchange seems fairly clear:
Nothing we say has to make any sense, and no one is going to notice.
Rather, that's the rationale behind the exchange if we assume that anyone at the New York Times is able to direct himself to basic matters of logic or fact. International experts insist that this may not be the case.
Are we able to handle the truth in Our Town? Or is it nothing but Storyline now, even over here in Our Town?
Go ahead—review that exchange. To us, it makes little real sense.
Each participant came out of Yale, but disconsolate experts are telling us this:
Their brains are wired for Storyline! For that, and for little else!
Tomorrow: The Times discovers the shootings