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Brutish:

A New York Times article faults posts on the We're Not Afraid site (created to "Show the world that we're not afraid of what happened to London today, and that the world is a better place without fear"):

But more and more, there's a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure. Yesterday there were lots of pictures posted of smiling families at the beach and of people showing off their cars and vans. A picture from Italy shows a white sports car and comes with the caption: "Afraid? Why should we be afraid?"

A few days ago, We're Not Afraid might have been a comfort. Today, there's a hint of "What, me worry?" from Mad magazine days, but without the humor or the sarcasm. We're Not Afraid, set up to show solidarity with London, seems to be turning into a place where the haves of the world can show that they're not afraid of the have-nots.

Brutish flaunting of leisure? Photos of smiling families at the beach are somehow not suitably modest? Going to the beach is not exactly sailing your private yacht; even if you count all of Western Europe as "the haves of the world," smiling with your family at the beach is something that millions of poor people in poor countries can do, too. (Or is the fear that they're lording it over the Nepalese?)

And showing off cars and vans? Vans are rarely the sort of thing that people show off. Even the "white sports car" (apparently on this page, though it might scroll off; if it does scroll off, look for "Roberto and Paola, Italy") is hardly a Lamborghini. It looks like my old Ford Mustang convertible, which I bought partly because it was actually quite moderately priced. (Since it's supposedly in Italy, I doubt it's a Mustang, but I suspect that it's at the same relative price level.) Presumably people post photos of themselves with their cars because they like them, smile easily in them, and use them as symbols of the statement that "we'll just keep doing what we enjoy, and not let our lives be changed by fear." Hard to see much "brutish" here, or even "flaunting of wealth."

But here's my question: What do you think is more snobbish, more of an assertion of your own superior standing over the common folk — (1) posting a picture of your "smiling famil[y] at the beach," or yourself with your car, van, or even "a white sports car," or (2) writing a New York Times article that faults such behavior as "brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure"?

(Thanks to Ann Althouse for the pointer.)

UPDATE: Caliban writes, "Thanks to the Volokh Conspiracy for raising my blood pressure to unhealthy levels." We aim to please!

Ron Burgundy (mail):
That's definitely a V6 Ford Mustang Convertible. The cheapest (aside from the coupe) mustang available. I think anyone who's ever driven one would hardly call the V6 a sports car. Sporty-looking car, maybe.
7.12.2005 2:38pm
Joan Smith (mail):
I visited this site today to see bloggers' posts on the Karl Rove situation, and find posts like this instead! I'm hoping to see some Rovian thoughts by you bloggers here soon.
7.12.2005 2:50pm
ss:
As one of Ann's commenters noted, it's strange and sad that in the shadow of the murder of innocent commuters in London, the NYT would reserve the term "brutish" for the proud display of photographs of cars and family vacations.
7.12.2005 2:50pm
Josh T (mail):
It's a V6 Mustang convertible, as Mr. Burgundy notes. It has an American-format license plate and "rub strips" (those white lines on the doors), which suggest that it is an American rental car. I suspect this picture was taken on a US holiday. Perhaps the fact that these Italians can afford to/want to visit the US is even more a sign of brutish flaunting?

The concept of the "We are not afraid" site is excellent; the NYT article is utterly without merit and more than a little insulting.
7.12.2005 2:58pm
Josh T (mail):
One more point on this--the article asserts that the site is a place where "the haves of the world can show that they're not afraid of the have-nots."

Is there any evidence whatsoever that this bombing was carried out by "the have-nots" of the world? Given that many of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks came from relatively privileged backgrounds, it seems premature to assume that these bombers were necessarily "have-nots." Indeed, such a baseless leap would seem to perpetuate the myth, popular in some circles, that terrorism is mainly about poverty rather than politics.
7.12.2005 3:06pm
mikem (mail):
Yawn. The NY Times is trying to find a plausible excuse to defend Islamic terrorism, so they will now paint it as class warfare. If it was good enough for the 'anti anti communists', it is good enough for the liberal anti anti Islamicists.
7.12.2005 3:18pm
Anne Haight (mail) (www):
And why shouldn't I "flaunt" my wealth and leisure, such as it is? I've earned it. I work for a living. Sure, I drive a Lexus. It's a 13-year-old Lexus that I bought used, but what the hell, right? I must be a brutish elitist.

Clearly the NYT is determined to cast everything we do as evil or inappropriate in some way (and by "we" I mean those of us who refuse to bow to terror and think that terrorists should be hunted down and exterminated like roaches).

I'm curious to know whether folks at the NYT all drive beat-up Kias and never go to the beach because it would be too "elitist".
7.12.2005 3:26pm
WB:
In fairness to the times, the article is from "The Critic's Notebook." Miss Boxer does not speak for the newspaper on policy stuff, nor does she seem to write a lot of political stuff. A brief glance at the page that pops up when you click on her name shows that her prior work includes such gems as

Banks Are Local; Meows Are Global

Digerati Vogues, Caught Midcraze

Arial, Mon Amour, and Other Font Passions

With $3.50 and a Dream, The 'Anti-Christo' is Born


and a review of a website called Bless Me, Blog, For I've Sinned


Clearly the type of important stuff any well-informed person who wishes to know more about the terrorism attacks should be reading.
7.12.2005 3:27pm
Cheburashka (mail):
The terrorists are so dumb. Don't they realize we're all used to this by now? It isn't that scary any more.

If they really wanted to piss us off, to start a war of civilizations that could only end with the total destruction of one side or another, they'd go after J.K. Rowling before she finishes Book 7.

There'd be no compromising after that.
7.12.2005 3:31pm
ss:
Don't forget that Sarah Boxer is the same hack who wrote the irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and -- worst of all -- dangerous piece suggesting that the pro-democracy bloggers from Iraq the Model might be FBI plants.
7.12.2005 3:41pm
Browning:
The article's author, Sarah Boxer, is the same woman who wrote an execrable article on the pro-liberation Iraqi bloggers from Iraq the Model that repeated baseless and dangerous allegations that those brave gentlemen are CIA operatives.

God, she's horrible, isn't she?
7.12.2005 3:55pm
Brian Akira (mail) (www):
Here's my collection of the best pics from We're Not Afraid. It's a nice antitode to Canayjin whinging, whining, pants-pissing and doom-and-gloom:

http://zubari.blogspot.com/2005/07/no-fear.html
7.12.2005 4:05pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Eugene, I have to take exception to this. To peoples whose whole family works 60+ hours/week in a sweatshop, and consider themselves "upwardly mobile" because they just purchased a pop-up toaster, yes, pictures of another family happily taking a holiday on the beach would indeed seem like "flaunting it."
7.12.2005 5:19pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Kevin, get a grip. So we have to tip-toe around because someone, somewhere, MIGHT get offended because someone's got a nice car?

Forget that.
7.12.2005 5:47pm
Mindles H. Dreck (mail) (www):
Reminds me a bit of an old Anna Quindlen column:


"Put in the context of current events, how depressing was it to see Afghan citizens celebrating the end of tyranny by buying consumer electronics?"

...or the problem of "untrammelled growth". We should only have trammelled growth and non-consumerist celebrations of the end of tyranny. Too much of a good thing dontchaknow.
7.12.2005 5:54pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Would Ms Boxer really have liked it better if most of the pictures were of (e.g.) a slack-jawed yokel named Cletus a-settin' on his front porch with three refrigerators, six blue tick hound dogs, and eleven barefoot kids, polishing his shotgun and holding a sign saying "We Ain't Afeard No How!"? Somehow I doubt it.
7.12.2005 6:02pm
Gil (mail) (www):
The article is just a stupid opinion by a stupid person.

But, it does, I think, represent the mistaken view of some that inequality is the worst problem we have.

I don't think it's a problem at all, but rather a sign that there are ways of life and institutional organization that are more likely to allow people to be successful. That's a positive message, and it's appropriate to the current conflict.

And, it takes a special kind of moral blindness to see people displaying their cars as "brutish" in the context of mass murders.

These people aren't being brutish. They are standing up against brutality. If you see yourself opposed to them, then I think you have a real problem.
7.12.2005 6:10pm
Browning:
So what are those people who work 60 hour weeks in sweatshops doing surfing the internet? And why should they feel that a defiant response to international terrorists is directed at them, or, for that matter, has anything to do with them whatsoever?

But really the whole premise is absurd. Sarah Boxer is a Harvard-educated Manhattanite who has time and money enough to write comic books about Freudian analysis and publish her opinions on the minutiae of the post-Modern art world. Bully for her. Do you think she asks herself, 'But what if some half-starved third world orphan sees my latest review in ArtForum? Aren't I flaunting my leisure? Won't they feel brutalized?"

Of course not. Nor should she. I think the fact that she feels outrage at Western defiance of terrorists reveals that she feels some sympathy with those terrorists, or rather with her delusional image of the terrorists as representatives of the poor and oppressed.
7.12.2005 6:13pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Seriously -- people working 60-hour weeks in sweatshops would resent seeing "another family happily taking a holiday on the beach"? If they work 10 hours a day 6 days a week, what might they be doing on the 7th day? Might they be taking their family to the beach? Or, if there's no beach nearby, might they take their family to some other nice place? Jeez, going to a beach or a park with your family is not high luxury far beyond the working man's means.

Now I will agree that there may be some people who are in such unpleasant places, or in such difficult circumstances, that they can't even take their families to a beach or a park. My guess is that this represents a tiny fraction of Americans, but I'll stipulate that some such exist. (Plus of course there are lots of people who can't take their happy families to the beach because they don't have happy families, or don't have families, or have tragically lost their families.)

But is our standard of good manners -- in fact, our standard of avoiding "brutish[ness]" -- not saying or doing anything that might be outside the reach of the most miserable?
7.12.2005 8:25pm
Timothy Sandefur (mail) (www):
Maybe they meant a British flaunting of wealth and leisure...which, of course, would be precisely the right response to 7/7....
7.12.2005 8:40pm
J.T. Wenting:
I'd draw the line at mercenaries flaunting the heads of decapitated terrorists (whatever happened to "an eye for an eye", we still haven't applied that principle to the organisation that murdered Nick Berg and others).
But posing with your car or showing off your scantilly clad family at the beach (which of course will enrage Islamic fundamentalists for quite different reasons)?

Apeacement doesn't work with these people, the only thing that does work is violent action.
But then the NYT has never understood that.
7.13.2005 2:44am
Frank (mail) (www):
Well, given Robert Frank's very insightful work on positional goods, I think it's likely that what people at your income level consider de rigeur spending might strike those much poorer as flaunting. Or, worse, might become an aspirational goal that is unsustainable both individually and collectively.

Admittedly, Boxer's angler here is pretty strained. But she does help us understand how personal choices are political ones as well. I can more easily drive to work than take the train, but I do the latter in part because every extra car creates extra political pressure to build highways, increase greenhouse gases, etc. Putting up images of the good life that include fancy cars, fashionable clothing, beach vacations, etc. only increases societal pressure to consider these things as necessities instead of as the luxuries that they are.

PS: Here is a sample of Frank's work. I also admire his books Luxury Fever and The Winner-take-all Society.
7.13.2005 8:10pm