culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Infantile America. One of my wife's pet bugaboos is the wildly overzealous demand for child safety. "How we did we manage to get to adulthood without baby monitors and bike helmets and safety seats with extra-large cupholders?" What she sees is a healthy impulse for child well-being that has tipped over into a grotesque, market-driven coddling that encourages the passivity and obesity of youth.

My own variation on this theme is disdain for what people claim as intellectual safety for children. Here's a letter that appears in the November 29, 2004, edition of The New Yorker (not online):
The photograph of the naked ACT UP members in Richard Avedon's photoessay was one of the last works by a great master of photography (Portfolio, November 1). But that doesn't justify your decision to print it in a mass-circulation magazine that children can see in school libraries and medical offices and on their parents' coffee tables. Conservative readers look forward to your thoughtful editorial content, only to be offended by such "art." As the Election Night mandates clearly showed, conservative values are still alive and well in America. The inclusion of the photograph illustrates how out of touch you are with the values of many of your readers.

Frank Laird
San Diego, California
In response, let's skip the "mandate" rhetoric and get right to the issue of the naked people.

The New Yorker is, in the best senses of both words, an adult magazine. That means it covers the widest range of subjects of interest to the adult mind as unpredictably as the unfolding of current and cultural events. Unlike Hustler Magazine, or Cat Fancy for that matter, where you pretty much know what you're getting into when you pick it up, The New Yorker is the kind of thing you want to read when you don't know what you want to read. This requires a level of intellectual openness of which Frank Laird is evidently incapable, because he wants to make the world safe for hypothetical children in doctors' offices.

Here's a tip, Frank: try a different magazine. Why should the discourse of American adults stoop to your perception of what the lowest common denominator ought to be? Surely within the vast sea of periodicals in this country there must be at least a thousand magazines that meet your standards. Why must this one, a continent's distance away from you, adhere to your "values"?

I was in southern California recently, in Orange County near where you live, and as far as I could tell the emphasis was on real estate development, automotive culture, shopping, and a bland, narcissistic athleticism that may be more in line with your vision of what constitutes a worthy publication. Why not start your own magazine, Frank? Call it, I don't know, how about The San Diegan, and let it be as docile and imbecilic and you and your children. Leave The New Yorker and its nudity to us — we can handle it. After all, we're adults.

The problem with the Frank Lairds of the world is, like unwelcome guests, they don't know when to join the conversation and when to shut up. Frank's complaints about nudity reveal a complete lack of worldliness in the most political sense of the word.

We don't remember hearing any howls of outrage from your anti-nudity faction, Frank, when The New Yorker first showed the world the photographs of the abuses at
Abu Ghraib. And that's why we're not listening to your threadbare sanctimony now.

UPDATE: Here's the controversial Avedon photo, courtesy of Fans of the New Yorker Livejournal.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

. . .