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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 20, 2009 / 30 Menachem-Av 5769

The Answer to Everything

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong."
          —H. L. Mencken


The Great Explainer is at it again. Every era has one, or maybe quite a few if it's as enlightened, liberated and gullible as our own. Think of the 1920s, when Freud was a rising star, Marx was about to be, and Charles Ponzi had figured out a way to make any investor millions. Now we have Bernard Madoff, and our great explainer is Malcolm Gladwell.


Who he? He writes best-sellers, which may be the most damning of judgments on the popular taste of our time — apart from some of the fare on television.


Malcolm Gladwell's specialty is the kind of pseudo-intellectuality designed for the carriage trade, and delivered with an air of insight — and only the air. Pretentious, and ponderous, it's mostly piffle — when it's not just plain wrong-headed.


Should you think I exaggerate the combination of vast ignorance and baseless condescension represented by the Literary Works of M. Gladwell, just take a look — if you can bear it — at the August 10-17 issue of The New Yorker. It features Mr. Gladwell's expose of Atticus Finch, attorney-at-law. That's right: the hero of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," that staple of high-school English courses.


You wouldn't recognize the book or the South in general from Mr. Gladwell's account of the trial that is the centerpiece of the book. He quotes a legal expert's solemn judgment that Atticus Finch's defense of Tom Robinson is all wrong. Indeed, that it amounts to an abuse of an innocent young woman who was victimized by the defendant. By the same logic and evidence, the Scottsboro Boys — who would spend years establishing their innocence of rape charges — should have been executed as a tribute to white womanhood.


Our author blames Atticus for choosing to save an innocent man rather than using him as a martyr in the cause of civil rights (much as the Communist Party used the Scottsboro Boys), and for conspiring with the local sheriff to avoid dragging a recluse who can't stand the light of day — Boo Radley, every little Southern town's bogeyman — through a pointless public trial. Which would have been torture for Boo, and in the end would have proved only that he was guilty of justifiable homicide.


Mr. Gladwell skips over Atticus' classic summation to the jury, with its appeal to the Old South's ideals of justice, honor and noblesse oblige. That speech is about as fine and concise an examination of the Southern psyche of the time as you'll find anywhere. It captures the ethos of a South on the cusp between Jim Crow and the two great revolutions that transformed the region: racial integration and air-conditioning.


The Gladwells among us, and they are legion among the chattering classes in academia and out, see the obvious readily enough, namely that the Cavalier ideals Atticus Finch represents, and appeals to in the trial of Tom Robinson, had been perverted by the South's original sin: Negro slavery.


But these sages are oblivious to what should be just as clear: For ideals to be perverted, they must exist in the first place. They must be real. But in their blindness, and in their rush to congratulate themselves on their superior insight, the Gladwells must deny not just the perversion but the ideals themselves, and especially the personification of those ideals in someone like Atticus Finch. The result: Having set out to expose Atticus, our author succeeds, once again, in exposing only himself.


Can the man have ever set foot in a small Southern town, let alone lived in one? For he seems to write from a vast well of inexperience in which one's world is just a set of impersonal power relationships rather than lived experience. He derides Atticus Finch's view of his town as a community of individuals, each with his — or her — own set of peculiarities, all bound together by personal connections and a common code.


Instead, the Gladwells among us would have us see Atticus Finch's world as but a sociological construct of abstract groups, a view that lies at base of today's empty, depersonalized and in the end deeply unsatisfying identity politics.


Before now, I have to confess, I never thought of "To Kill a Mockingbird" as The Great American Novel, but only as a good read with a moral lesson thrown in here and there for young people. But after reading Malcolm Gladwell's complete misunderstanding of it, the book is starting to look like a literary masterpiece.


For lagniappe, Gladwell drags in the Leo Frank lynching in Atlanta, which was about as characteristic of the old, agrarian South as the noisy new industrialism that was invading it. He does so to bolster his claim, ignorant even by his standards, that "anti-Semitism of the most virulent kind was embedded in the social fabric of the Old South."


No doubt that's why the Confederacy chose a Jew — Judah P. Benjamin — as, successively, its attorney general, secretary of war and finally secretary of state. Or why the Confederacy had a much higher percentage of Jewish officers in its ranks than did the Union, or why, when Judah Philip Benjamin, Esq., was the subject of anti-Semitic insults, they would usually if not always come from Yankee politicians and generals.


Atlanta — Leo Frank and urban sprawl and all — is no more typical of the South than San Francisco is of the American West. (Here is the best and most concise explanation I know of why the South fought the Civil War: to keep Atlanta from happening.) As anyone who was raised in the Bible Belt ought to know, the South is actually the most philo-Semitic part of the country, or at least it was before it became as biblically illiterate as American society in general. This is what is known in our time as Progress.


In short, Malcolm Gladwell doesn't know jack about Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch, the South old or new, or much else. Which is why this latest little expose of his in The New Yorker, which so perfectly reflects the sad decline of that magazine from its glory years, is on a par with the rest of his best-selling oeuvre. As usual, the man who has an answer for everything has an answer for nothing.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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