“Yeah, as long as we understand the word ‘hero’.”
Victor Davis Hanson has given a fascinating interview to Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker.
The interview is well worth reading for the thesis that Hanson, a classics professor and military historian, offers about Trump.
Do you feel that in some ways he is a hero out of Greek myth?
Yeah, as long as we understand the word “hero.” Americans don’t know what that word means. They think it means you live happily ever after or you are selfless. Whether it is Achilles or Sophocles’s Ajax or Antigone, they can act out of insecurity, they can act out of impatience—they can act out of all sorts of motives that are less than what we say in America are heroic. But the point that they are making is, I see a skill that I have. I see a problem. I want to solve that problem, and I want to solve that problem so much that the ensuing reaction to that solution may not necessarily be good for me. And they accept that.
. . . . It reminds me of Trump saying that people will get sick of winning. It seems like you are saying we have gotten sick of it, and that is the tragedy of Trump.
I think so. I tried to use as many examples as I could of the classic Western. . . . They all are the same—the community doesn’t have the skills or doesn’t have the willpower or doesn’t want to stoop to the corrective method to solve the existential problem, whether it is cattle barons or banditos. So they bring in an outsider, and immediately they start to be uneasy because he is uncouth—his skills, his attitude—and then he solves the problem, and they declare to him, whether it is Gary Cooper in “High Noon” or Alan Ladd in “Shane,” “I think it’s better you leave. We don’t need you anymore. We feel dirty that we ever had to call you in.” I think that is what is awaiting Trump.
The article is interesting because of Hanson’s thoughts. But it’s also interesting because of the subtext, which is a cat-and-mouse game the interviewer seems to be playing with Hanson. In the latter game, I’m not sure who wins. But I am pretty sure the answer to that depends upon the political point of view of whom is reading the interview.
When I read the article, Chotiner’s lead-in descriptions of Hanson leapt out at me as being an attempt to debunk the opinions of the man he is set to interview (supposedly respectfully). Chotiner can’t do away with Hanson’s obvious academic achievements and honors, but he distorts Hanson’s record outside of academia in a way that I believe is meant to discredit Hanson in the reader’s mind before the reader even reads any of Hanson’s words in the interview.
One small example:
A longtime contributor to the National Review, [Hanson] has a history of hostility to undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants, who he claims are undermining American culture, and to African-Americans who speak about the persistence of racism . . . .
Speaking of “hostility,” that seems to be a hostile description of Hanson’s work that’s unfair to Hanson and manages to label him as a bigot at the outset. That Hanson’s responses to the interview are so thoughtful and interesting merely makes it even more important that Chotiner set it up in the readers’ minds in a way that the reader knows that he or she is not supposed to pay serious attention to the actual thoughts of this bigoted person.
Chotiner also frames his questions in a way that makes his own bias known, although rather subtly to any reader previously unfamiliar with Hanson’s previous work. Hanson may be more erudite than Chotiner—he’s certainly far more well-versed in the classics—but Chotiner seems better at the spin and propaganda.
Read the whole thing.
[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]DONATE
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