Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan was bird watching, enjoying the joyous sights and sounds of our avian friends, the great outdoors, the scent of adventure. Of course, she was on her terrace high above the City, trusty pitcher of Mai Tai nearby (“One must prepare for the rigors of the great outdoors and keep well hydrated.”) and the local fauna mostly consisted of pigeons and gulls, but whatevs as the kids all say.
Training her binoculars away from the mating pair in the bushes —human, not avian— back to the sky, Noonan saw a falcon swoop down to procure a hapless pigeon for his supper. “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” Noonan muttered Tennyson to herself, quickly followed by “That’s enough of that.”
She refilled her pineapple shell and aimed her binoculars at Shakespeare in the Park just in time to see Julius Caesar’s denouement. “Clever, but not amusing,” Noonan tsk’ed, as she watched a Trumpian doppelganger cross the great divide, much like the pigeon just moments earlier. Noonan tried to forget the 2012 production in which President Obama was thus dispatched, or more recently when Caesar was a woman in a white pant suit.
Noonan took a thoughtful sip of her refreshment and murmurred to no one there (not even the chair, as the song says),
The media climate now, in both news and entertainment, is too often of a goading, insinuating resentment, a grinding, agitating antipathy. You don’t need another recitation of the events of just the past month or so. A comic posed with a gruesome bloody facsimile of President Trump’s head.
Noonan turned a gimlet eye to the terrace TV, long since black, covered in widow’s weeds to mourn the loss of Roger Ailes, and addressed a new pigeon sitting on the bistro table near her Mai Tai pitcher,
In the early 1990s Roger Ailes had a talk show on the America’s Talking network and invited me to talk about a concern I’d been writing about, which was old-fashioned even then: violence on TV and in the movies. Grim and graphic images, repeated depictions of murder and beatings, are bad for our kids and our culture, I argued. Depictions of violence unknowingly encourage it.
Noonan picked up the pineapple wedge speared with a cherry under a cunning paper umbrella and shared it with her audience, who coo’ed while accepting the offering, and she recalled Ailes’ reply,
But look, Roger said, there’s comedy all over TV and I don’t see people running through the streets breaking into laughter.
Fingers sticky with tropical delight, Noonan actually petted the pigeon, now sitting on her lap, and she recalled her reply to Ailes,
True, I said, but the problem is that, for a confluence of reasons, our country is increasingly populated by the not fully stable. They aren’t excited by wit, they’re excited by violence—especially unstable young men. They don’t have the built-in barriers and prohibitions that those more firmly planted in the world do. That’s what makes violent images dangerous and destructive. Art is art and censorship is an admission of defeat.
The beastly heat of NYC summer beating down on her, Noonan quenched her thirst and warmed up to her topic as she refilled the empty shell. Addressing the pigeon, Noonan proclaimed
But we all operate within a climate and a culture. The media climate now, in both news and entertainment, is too often of a goading, insinuating resentment, a grinding, agitating antipathy. You don’t need another recitation of the events of just the past month or so. A comic posed with a gruesome bloody facsimile of President Trump’s head.
Noonan quickly skipped over the images flickering in her brain of the endless Obama effigies and nooses festooning Republican events, and even stuck her fingers in her ears as the memories of lock her up chants echoed through her noggin, Donald Trump’s rictus grin at the sound of his adoring fans flaming mob mentality. Noonan also quickly stepped by the transgressions of those heartland folk, so pure, so simple, as they stormed the press boxes at these events and threatened her tribe with physical violence, journalists and media stalwarts, at the command of Mr. Trump.
Returning to her theme of how the liberals are to blame, Noonan boldly declared to the pigeon, now resting on her shoulder,
By indulging their and their audience’s rage, they spread the rage. They celebrate themselves as brave for this. They stood up to the man, they spoke truth to power. But what courage, really, does that take? Their audiences love it. Their base loves it, their demo loves it, their bosses love it. Their numbers go up. They get a better contract. This isn’t brave.
The pigeon nodded sagely, and left a white stain as it fluttered off.
(Rage Is All the Rage, and It’s Dangerous, by Peggy Noonan, WSJ)
(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature (of the past 10 years!) where we parody the much-quoted Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan to try to understand the genesis of her Declarations column in the WSJ. We do not know if Noonan ever used binoculars to spy upon people mating in the bushes, but to paraphrase the Great Writer herself, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” – Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal, April 2000.)