Take the case of the cultural jingoist and editor of The New Yorker David Remnick, who noted in his letter nominating TV critic Emily Nussbaum for a Pulitzer Prize (which she won in 2016), that “television has become the dominant cultural product of our age—it reaches us everywhere, and has replaced movies and books as the thing we talk about with our friends, families and colleagues.” Remnick did not stop there; to emphasize the untrammeled authority of TV, and literature’s ongoing uselessness, he casts it in military terms as a feeble enemy, now defeated. “Those of us who love TV,” he writes, “have won the war.” Unlike literature, “the best scripted shows are regarded as significant art—debated, revered, denounced.” Remnick, the editor of a literary magazine, here side-eyes literature, which, he implies, should no longer be considered a significant art.
This passage, from the very end of a recent essay at The Baffler (“Literature Shrugged: Worse than hatred of literature is indifference,” by Jonathon Sturgeon), should raise your hackles. It should also cause you to wonder how the crypto-Philistine Remnick has a job at The (ever-declining) New Yorker at all… let alone as its Ed in Chief. Imagine the spokesman for the American Dairy Association being a zealously vocal proponent of Coca Cola; one might find it worthy of suspicion. Watching “Mr. Milk” guzzle sticky brown fizz in his Coke hat and Coke jacket and drive off in his Coke-logo-emblazoned Coke mobile, one might wonder if “Milk” were in the best hands. One might fear for Milk.
What is Remnick’s purpose, at The New Yorker, if it isn’t to nurture better-than-middlebrow-lit while keeping the notion of the condition of a classless, well-read urbanity, to aspire to, up to date? The “classlessness” was always a fantasy, of course, but it was a good one. Just like the idea of a robust and widespread American literacy. A Serf can dream, can’t it? Remnick appears to have been put in place to make sure that Serf dreams are more tightly controlled, and innocuous, than ever. Serfs who dream, as passively as possible, in the cage of the mass market of prefab imagery… the stuff we call Television… are the Serfiest Serfs of all: they are sharecroppers on the Hyper-Banal Nowhere of their own Imaginations, no?
I don’t mean to imply that I think destroying Lit is now The New Yorker’s focus. Destroying Lit is merely a byproduct of The New Yorker’s real job, first under Tina Brown, now under Remnick, to blatantly propagandize its well-to-do target demo, a valuable chunk of the Electorate. It was in 2004 that the New Yorker, under Remnick, made the historic move (as far as I can tell) of explicitly supporting a Presidential Candidate. There’s been lots more of that, from The New Yorker, since 2004, of course, plus lots of “Come on, we need to fucking invade Syria now” stuff and much transparent gunk supporting NATO’s stealth-invasion of Ukraine and heaps of post-Pussy Riot, Neo-McCarthyist (pseudo-homophobia-phobic) nonsense of a subtler variety than what one can expect from the mouth of Hillary Clinton in her iron lung (the irony, or its opposite, being that Remnick is fluent in Russian). Remnick will do his bit to destroy Lit and The New Yorker and The National IQ and Free Will itself and move on, probably, to head a Television Network… his reward for a job well done.
2. Another Scene from the WITCH (if witches had dicks) HUNT:
“I studied painting, have exhibited paintings and think Chuck Close is fantastic. Really, you can’t talk about Photorealism without mentioning him and that’s an essential part of painting’s relationship with photography. Big stuff. Yet so far, four women have claimed that Close invited them to his studio, asked them to model nude for him and then used very explicit language – in one encounter saying, ‘your pussy looks delicious’ – making them feel uncomfortable, manipulated, and exploited; it’s time to listen. Do we need another Chuck Close exhibition?” (What do we do with art made by bad people? Text: Chris Hayes)
Are we talking about the quadriplegic Chuck Close who’s been in a wheelchair since 1988? On the other hand…
Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded. “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves. (Numbers 31:7-18 NLT)
So, to recap: Chuck Close used the word “pussy,” and Moses ordered the slaughter of a tribe of female heretics (and the subsequent rape of all surviving virgins there). Does this mean we can finally get rid of the Bible? Maybe it’s worth losing Chuck Close’s work after all.