Tim Kreider on the specious danger of Western art

The first cover of Charlie Hebdo since last week's attacks reads "all is forgiven."

The first cover of Charlie Hebdo since last week’s attacks reads “all is forgiven.”

Ben al-Fowlkes sent me this excellent essay by Tim Kreider, in which the former political cartoonist notes how much more dangerous art seems to be for Islamists and North Koreans than it is for anyone in the West. That’s good: most of the reason we’re not afraid of art is that our civil society is stable and well-developed, and we’re confident enough in our ideologies that we don’t have to silence anyone who suggests they’re flawed. But part of it, as Kreider points out, is that contemporary Western culture has made art frivolous and anodyne:

“In the mature democracies of the West, there’s no longer any need for purges or fatwas or book-burnings. Why waste bullets shooting artists when you can just not pay them? Why bother banning books when nobody reads anyway, and the national literature is so provincial, insular and narcissistic it poses no troublesome questions?”

Kreider is good at the relieved lament, and he finds in the international outrage at the Charlie Hebdo attacks “a small, irrational twinge of guilt that we’re not doing anything worth shooting us over.”

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Does nihilist Islam fill a vacuum of viable radicalisms?

Kenan Malik, who is too old and well-adjusted to by the child of me and Mose, but man

Kenan Malik, who is too old and well-adjusted to be the child of me and Mose, but man

I’m pretty sure I have search engine de-optimized my blog with that post title, which is probably just as well. There is little Combat! blog today, because I am sick. Given the 38 contact hours of air travel I logged in the last two weeks, I got off light. But my nasal passages are locked in a battle of propulsion against distant orifices working in the other direction, and I pity myself. If only I had some god to comfort me, but I am a modern American. I know that god, flag, tradition, all restrictions on sex and most identified forms of love are bullshit. What I need is a bigger phone. If that doesn’t make me happy, I guess I’ll turn to radical Islam, since Western modernism has essentially no other radical critiques.

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