Author: Matthew Stewart

Review: The New Philistines

A review of The New Philistines: How Identity Politics Disfigure the Arts by Sohrab Ahmari. Biteback Publishing (2016), 144 pages.   “Today’s art world isn’t even contemptuous of old standards — it is wholly indifferent to them,” writes Sohrab Ahmari in this timely polemic, in which he writes passionately in defence of humane art and the critical standards once thought to be of supreme importance and permanence: “sincerity, formal rigour and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendent.” Editorialist for the Wall Street Journal, contributor to Commentary magazine, author and editor of works analyzing the Arab Spring and its aftermath, and a recent convert to Catholicism, Ahmari makes his own position clear. His book is aimed at readers who want to engage with art but find too little of it that speaks to them. He is not concerned with winning over the art world insider or academic expert, but rather wishes to aid the confused and disgruntled arts lover. Ahmari was raised in Iran while the “cultural revolution” busied itself purging the academy and cultural …

Infantilizing Students Post-Election

How to explain the babying of students increasingly practiced by college administrators, student-life staff and faculty? Last fall, dozens of institutions publicly “reached out” to comfort students after the surprise election of Donald Trump. At Berkeley, for example, The American Cultures Center posted the following notice: The election results have elicited anxiety, fear, and grieving for some of our community members. As we proceed with the rest of this week and semester, it is crucial to acknowledge the trauma that is felt on campus. For this reason, we want to make you aware of some post-election teaching resources and several healing spaces that have been made available. The attention these letters, Tweets and web postings lavish on student emotions is remarkable, as is their distressingly slight engagement with civics and their outright disregard of political history. The fact that Trump ran an ugly campaign and has gotten off to a blunder-riddled start to his presidency is irrelevant to the troubling meanings to be gathered from these letters. At the most extreme one finds authorities assuring students …