NR-Cruise-VDH-095-01.jpg

Blame it on Hanson

An oddity for me about this year’s National Review cruise is that the thing I find myself thinking about most is something that was said last year.

I had heard Victor Davis Hanson on the radio a few times, his sonorous, deliberately paced voice and sparkling erudition causing the mind’s eye to conjure a professor’s unathletic demeanor — slight, brainy, unremarkable.

I would not have guessed that the fellow with the broad forehead, carved features and meaty, workman’s hands, th…

  1. Yeah...ok.

    Another of my poorly worded comments.

    Henry Scanlon

    Yeah…ok.: What is beautiful about affirmative action or pro choice? · 3 minutes ago

    Nothing.  That’s the point. · 26 minutes ago

    To steal from Jay Nordlinger, classical music (no matter how beautiful) will never be popular music.

    Calculus is beautiful but only if you understand algebra.

    (Dang! Now I’m mixing metaphors, I’d better stop.)

  2. Adam Koslin

    We’re not arguing over whether our arguments should be un-beautiful.  In fact, that’s precisely what we’re arguing against.  We lost because we made un-beautiful arguments.  We made arguments that did everything short of defend rape, call the President the “n” word, and call Democrats evil thieves and moochers.  We fed into every negative stereotype; Republicans are religious fanatics.  Republicans are rich white men.  Republicans want women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.  Republicans hate minorities.  Republicans hate everything cool.  A beautiful argument does none of these things; it reaches out to people who are UNLIKE us.  Remember, it’s E Pluribus, Unum.  From Many, One.  Right now we have the Democrats (from many, many) and Republicans (from one, one).  I love Professor Hanson’s work, but his political writing doesn’t do a great deal to reach out to those who don’t already agree with us.  THAT’s what we need to do.

  3. Layla

    Agreed, Henry–although I’d say that our arguments must be true AND good AND beautiful (the classical trifecta, if you will). But *boy* is it difficult (1) to craft a true, good, and beautiful argument that can (2) connect with an undereducated populace that can no longer discern truth, goodness, or beauty.

    I’m stymied.

  4. Leslie Watkins

    Terrific post.

  5. Boymoose

    We can use what is culturally relevant to tell timeless truths.  Use engaging visuals and storytelling to begin to win back enough of the culture to have a stage.

    Also use humor like Andrew Klavan.  I’m not exactly sure how to do this but I know it can be done.  I do know it must be done with excellence.

  6. mesquito

    Nobody, imho, makes a persuasive argument more  beautifully that George F. Will.

  7. Israel P.

    He was on with Milt Rosenberg this week. I haven’t listened yet.

  8. Pseudodionysius

    I’ve just finished reading this book and have been yammering on about it on Ricochet like a Yammering Ya-Bob of Positivity. Hanson is evoking the Platonic transcendentals – The True, The Good, the Beautiful. But they alone couldn’t save Athens.

    I won’t claim the Kesler-Murphy test is definitive: merely an indicator. Of what, I have not yet decided.

  9. Pseudodionysius
    Henry Scanlon

    Yeah…ok.: What is beautiful about affirmative action or pro choice? · 3 minutes ago

    Nothing.  That’s the point. · 2 hours ago

    Remind me to jot down the name of the photographer who snapped VDH’s majestic, furrowed brow.

  10. Southern Pessimist

    Henry,

    This was simply……beautiful.

  11. Nick Stuart

    We can’t all be Victor Davis Hanson, Dennis Prager, Thomas Sowell, Peter Robinson, Rob Long, James Lileks, Claire Berlinski (where are you), Mollie Hemmingway, &tc.

    We can however be ourselves. We can learn the apologetics of conservative and libertarian thought, and practice saying them in our own voice until we can do it without too many ahs, ums, and sidetracks. We can work on presenting and teaching them to our friends and relatives, and hopefully inspiring them to do likewise.

  12. Raxxalan

    We stopped trying to make arguments at all. Instead we are trying to talk in metaphors. That only works if people listening have the cultural context. Increasingly American’s have a pluralistic cultural context making metaphors and short hand explanations unreliable. Prior to Obama the voting public by and large shared the similar cultural contexts so short hand still had a place, now though with an expanded electorate they don’t work anymore. We have to explain again why tax cuts lead to economic growth, not count on people remembering that they do, why government is not the solution to every problem, and why welfare hurts the poor, and society. It isn’t enough to count on the old shorthand because it isn’t there anymore. That having been said the truth is still there and it is on our side, so there is hope in explanations.

  13. Cunctator

    When Republicans/Conservatives give answers about questions that we know are contentious and can be predicted well in advance, eg age of the earth, abortion, evolution, you name it – their answers typically and sadly are about as unbeautiful they can be.

  14. flownover

    City Journal is my favorite magazine , everything about is right . 

    Nice post. VDH is an important observer . Knowing what he does about the history of mankind and governments, he goes beyond education to erudition.  His modesty is only exceeded by his thoughtfulness and humility.

    I’m guessing that is your photo…

  15. Henry Scanlon
    Nick Stuart: We can’t all be Victor Davis Hanson, Dennis Prager, Thomas Sowell, Peter Robinson, Rob Long, James Lileks, Claire Berlinski (where are you), Mollie Hemmingway, &tc.

    We can however be ourselves. We can learn the apologetics of conservative and libertarian thought, and practice saying them in our own voice until we can do it without too many ahs, ums, and sidetracks. We can work on presenting and teaching them to our friends and relatives, and hopefully inspiring them to do likewise. · 1 hour ago

    Yes. exactly.  Exactly right,  I think.  Emerson said something along these lines… I wish I could find it…

  16. Henry Scanlon
    Raxxalan: … It isn’t enough to count on the old shorthand because it isn’t there anymore. That having been said the truth is still there and it is on our side, so there is hope in explanations. · 1 hour ago

    Yes, truly:  Explanations that are pursuasive and beautiful to make those truths unmistakable. I love your phrase “hope in explanations.”…

  17. The Mugwump

    A beautiful argument will only appeal to a cultivated mind.  The common mind prefers the crude, rude, and simple (rap “music” comes to mind).  Liberalism won the last election because it catered to the base instincts of the electorate (greed, envy, and fear).  The thing every tyrant fears most is an educated mind (it’s why they burn books).  The thing every tyrant understands is that a mindless mob will do his bidding without ever understanding the consequences.  And when the mob has outlived its usefulness, there’s always the gulag.   

  18. Henry Scanlon
    flownover: I’m guessing that is your photo… · 28 minutes ago

    Edited 27 minutes ago

    Yes.  I would have liked to have gotten an angle that eliminated the bottle, but I didn’t want to be intrusively scurrying around.

    Thanks.

  19. Johnny Dubya

    I agree with Nick Stuart. The president can have his “Apology Tour”. What we need is an “Apologetics Tour”.

  20. Edward Dentzel

    As much as I respect Victor Davis Hanson (and I saw him on the cruise as well), I think he’s somewhat wrong.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I’m pretty sure what I find to be beautiful about an argument is vastly different from what a liberal finds beautiful. If we are to change lib minds, we have to frame our arguments in their form of beauty, not our own. And I’m pretty sure this isn’t what VDH means.

    From experience, the only thing liberals find beautiful is brute force. Look at the movies they make. The rallies they hold. And the politicians they elect. This is why the most persuasive conservative over the last 20 years has been Rush Limbaugh, and not Mr. Hanson. It’s also why he’s the most popular and highest paid. His arguments are in the liberal form of beauty: loud and nasty, that’s the only way it sticks.

    We conservatives get too caught up in the punctuation and prose, instead of relying on the passion and power. It’s why we end up with candidates like McCain and Romney, and not Gingrich and Palin. 

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