Barbarians, Wimps, and Idiots
Last night I read an article by Terrence O. Moore in the latest Claremont Review of Books that eptimomizes sloppiness in modern intellectual life. As a liberal, I sometimes court frustration by reading the Claremont Review, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Andrew Sullivan's weblog, and so forth. I appreciate smart people making good arguments, and sometimes bad arguments, even if I disagree with them.
But this article was simply endlessly noisome. The gist of the piece: Modern boys do not know how to grow into"manliness" and instead they fit into two categories -- barbarians or wimps. I wish I could say that the argument, at its essence, is more sophisticated or nuanced or, truthfully, smart than this. Alas it is not. Indeed, Moore engages in the sort of half-baked intellectual generalizations that would be laughable were he not so dead serious about them. The whole thing reads like a caricature, albeit without the wit. He shrouds the essay in trite classical references (someone's been reading his Allan Bloom!) that tend to run toward either the jejune or else merely the pretentious. I am not sure which is worse. He makes gross generalizations the likes of which would make even the sloppiest historian blush, or so I would have thought, except at one time he taught history at Ashland University. Worse yet, he now is a principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colorado. Imagine the delight of his male students when they read the facile generalizations about them that Moore spews out with a combination of pity and disdain. Fortunately, most of them won't read Claremont Review's winter issue, so they won't have to know they are being condescended to so cravenly.
The narrative hook Moore, also a former lieutenant in the US Marine Corps, uses is the old Murphy Brown show, which caused quite a contretemps when Candace Bergen's eponymous character had a child -- gasp -- out of wedlock and Dan Quayle, well, he picked a fight with this single tv mom. Moore wonders where Avery, the fictitious boy who, if he actually existed and were a real person and such, would now be eleven.
I generally like the Claremont Review even when I disagree with it. But this article is almost transcendentally bad. Its generalizations do not hold up to scrutiny. The dichotomy he builds between barbarians and wimps would not strike most high school or college age young men as resembling any form of reality -- having coached high school kids and taught and coached their college elders over the last several years, I did not find it to ring true of a single male student-athlete I've worked with, never mind as a type that works for the bulk of them. It is sloppy. It is demeaning. (And let's not get into how it borders on homophobic.) The barbarian in me wanted to punch him in the jaw. The wimp in me wanted to weep for his profligate irresponsibility. The real person in me is merely riding a wave between pity and disgust and ridicule. Too bad Moore would not be sophisticated enough to see that person. Pity the students at his school. But bless the history students no longer under his tutelage.