Victor Davis Hanson

Category Archives: Popular Culture

Medieval America

By Victor Davis Hanson // Town Hall


Pessimists often compare today’s troubled America to a tottering late Rome or an insolvent and descending British Empire. But medieval Europe (roughly A.D. 500 to 1450) is the more apt comparison.

The medieval world was a nearly 1,000-year period of spectacular, if haphazard, human achievement — along with endemic insecurity, superstition and two, rather than three, classes.

The great medieval universities — at Bologna, Paris and Oxford — continued to make strides in science. They were not unlike the medical and engineering schools at Harvard and Stanford. But they were not centers of free thinking.

Instead, medieval speech codes were designed to ensure that no one questioned the authority of church doctrine. Culturally or politically incorrect literature of the classical past, from Aristophanes to Petronius, was censored as either subversive or hurtful. Read more →

From Greek tragedy to American therapy

From Greek tragedy to American therapy


The Greeks gave us tragedy — the idea that life is never fair. Terrible stuff for no reason tragically falls on good people. Life’s choices are sometimes only between the bad and the far worse.

In the plays of the ancient dramatists Aeschylus and Sophocles, heroism and nobility only arise out of tragedies.

The tragic hero refuses to blame the gods for his terrible fate. Instead, a Prometheus, Ajax or Oedipus prefers to fight against the odds. He thereby establishes a code of honor, even as defeat looms.

In contrast, modern Americans gave the world therapy.

Life must always be fair. If not, something or someone must be blamed. All good people deserve only a good life — or else.

A nation of victims soon becomes collectively paralyzed in fear of offending someone. Pay down the $20 trillion debt? Reform the unsustainable Social Security system? Ask the 47 percent of the population that pays no income tax to at least pay some?

Nope. Victims would allege that such belt-tightening is unfair and impossible — and hurtful to boot. So we do nothing as the rendezvous with financial collapse gets ever closer.

Does anyone think a culture of whiners can really build high-speed rail in California? Even its supporters want the noisy tracks built somewhere away from their homes.

Even animals get in on the new victimhood. To build a reservoir in drought-stricken California means oppressing the valley elderberry longhorn beetle or ignoring the feelings of the foothill yellow-legged frog.
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Who Are Those Darned “Elites”?

Defining Ideas

The United States and Europe are seeing a surge in populist anger toward the so-called elites. The German public, for example, is furious at Chancellor Angela Merkel for her position on immigration from the Middle East. British voters have forsaken the postmodern European Union. And working class Americans have rallied around political outsider Donald Trump as their presidential favorite, something that neither the Clinton machine nor the establishment of the Republican Party anticipated.

But who exactly are these unpopular elites—and what exactly have they done that has enraged middle-class voters in Western democracies?

Since ancient times, elites have been defined various ways, sometimes by birth (the Greeks’ hoi aristoi), by capital (hoi plousioi), by perceived class (hoi oligoi), by acknowledged influence (hoi gnorimoi), by high culture (hoi beltistoi)—and sometimes by a combination of all of the above.

Today, people are especially mad at political elites, a loose term for those who govern at the state and federal level. They include not just our elected legislators, governors, and President, but also the unelected (and unaccountable) members of the vast government archipelago—cabinet officers, bureaucratic grandees, top military officers, and regulators. Beyond these politicos, the Western elite is comprised, too, of the transnational mega-wealthy, who have been enriched by globalization, especially international finance, investments, and technologies that lubricate worldwide dissemination of capital and communications.

An elite is also defined by education (preferably Ivy League and its coastal counterparts), residence (primarily between Boston and Washington on the East Coast, and from San Diego to Berkeley on the Pacific), profession (executive positions in government, media, law, foundations, the arts, and academia), celebrity (name recognition from television, Hollywood, network news, finance, etc.), and ideology, such as those prominent in the progressive movement. To receive a glimpse of our next generation of elites, read the betrothal notices in The New York Times, look at the interns at Goldman Sachs, and consider the junior faculty at Harvard. Read more →

The More Things Change, the More They Actually Don’t

Technology hasn’t changed the core of who we are, and history proves it.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Three Modest Propositions


By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

21st Century California Reverts Back to the Wild West

By Victor Davis Hanson // Works and Days by PJ Media

I grew up listening to stories of turn-of-the-century rural Central California from my grandfather Rees Alonzo Davis (1890-1976). He was the third generation of the Davis family to have lived in my present house—great nephew of Daniel Rhoades, who had walked into the High Sierra in early 1847 as part of a party sent to help save the Donner Party. Years later, after a small strike in the Mother Lode, Rhoades became a land baron near the shores of the now dry Tulare Lake, in modern-day Lemoore (where his strange mausoleum is currently a California historical site). He died, I think, when Rees was five or six, but his Rhoades portrait still hangs in my stairwell.

Much of my grandfather’s lectures concerned the law and his appreciative sense of progress. Without law in the wild days of his preteen years, sometimes farmers, he lamented, shot it out to adjudicate competing claims over water rights from a common ditch. He referenced a land of early epidemics; his daughter, my aunt, caught a summer polio virus in 1921, and lived most of her life in the living room of my house (d.1980), courageously struggling against a disease that had left her scarcely able to move.
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The Politicization of the English Language

Victor Davis Hanson // Tribune Media Services

Last week, French President Francois Hollande met President Obama in Washington to discuss joint strategies for stopping the sort of radical Islamic terrorists who have killed dozens of innocents in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino in recent months. Hollande at one point explicitly referred to the violence as “Islamist terrorism.”The White House initially deleted that phrase from the audio translation of the official video of the Hollande-Obama meeting, only to restore it when questioned. Did the Obama administration assume that if the public could not hear the translation of the French president saying “Islamist terrorism,” then perhaps Hollande did not really say it — and therefore perhaps Islamist terrorism does not really exist?The Obama administration must be aware that in the 1930s, the Soviet Union wiped clean all photos, recordings and films of Leon Trotsky on orders from Josef Stalin. Trotsky was deemed politically incorrect, and therefore his thoughts and photos simply vanished.
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The Hypocrisy Behind the Student Renaming Craze

By Victor Davis Hanson // Tribune Media Services

University students across the country — at Amherst, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UC Berkeley and dozens of other campuses — are caught up in yet another new fad.

This time, the latest college craze is a frenzied attempt to rename campus buildings and streets. Apparently some of those names from the past do not fit students’ present litmus tests on race, class and gender correctness. Read more →

‘Black Lives Matter’—a Year From Now

Exploring the many reasons why the slogan “Black Lives Matter” will be gone within a year. What will replace it? 

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

This is CNN

This is CNN

In the post-civil rights era of the last half-century, a number of black triumphalist slogans and movements have come and gone.

“Black is beautiful” was an informal self-help attitude that sought to encourage blacks not to emulate so-called arbitrary constructs of white majority aesthetics, but instead to rediscover a natural black essence — from Afros to Ebonics and Kwanzaa — that need not be discouraged.

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The Weariness of the Whiners

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

Photo via PJ Media

Photo via PJ Media

Brandon Marshall, the New York Jets wide receiver and occasional sports commentator, charges that the National Football League is racist [1]. He alleges that the league favors white players over black athletes like him, especially white marquee quarterbacks.

Aside from the fact that Marshall recently signed a three-year contract for $27 million — and, for example, African-American lineman Marcell Dareus just concluded a contract extension with the Buffalo Bills for six years at $100 million — examine Marshall’s whimper in light of the demography of the National Football League.

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