The Corner

Not So Smiley

Jonah: That Jane Smiley tirade at Slate is hysterical–in every sense of the word. My favorite lines: “The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. … Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. … The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. … The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers.”

And it goes on and on and on. The only reason Slate published it is because Jane Smiley is a semi-well-known novelist. (I read one of her books once, called Duplicate Keys. It was okay, but nothing special.) Publishing these musings on the election is a form of celebrity journalism for left-wing intellectuals–Smiley’s opinions aren’t valued because she has said anything worthwhile, but because of who she is. If someone unknown to the Slate crowd didn’t know had written the exact same essay, it wouldn’t see the light of day.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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