Victor Davis Hanson

Category Archives: Reviews

Douglas MacArthur’s Brilliant, Controversial Legacy

A new biography examines the many sides of the versatile American general.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Moore of Michael’s Nuttery

images (9)by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO- The Corner

I know that it’s shooting whales in a barrel to point out Michael Moore’s — once a guest in the Carter presidential box at the 2004 Democratic Convention — continued displays of ignorance. Nonetheless, the latest example is Moore’s lingering hurt because years ago Clint Eastwood once deadpanned that should Moore show up with his camera at Eastwood’s door (in the fashion that Moore himself had once attempted to ambush and embarrass actor Charlton Heston), Eastwood then might shoot him.

I suppose Moore was trying to suggest that the director of American Sniper logically transposed his own innate murderous instincts onto his movie, which Moore alone sensed.

But given that Moore is both stupid and a hypocrite, almost everything he says is either incoherent or a projection of his own pathologies. After all, he slammed sniping, then backtracked and said sniping was okay if used on the defensive by the invaded. In doing so, he nullified his own point that his uncle who invaded foreign ground was killed by a cowardly sniper — who apparently must have also had good reason to take to sniping against such foreign invaders on Asian ground.

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Book Review: Prime Directive- Check Out Sci Phi Journal

Prime Directive: Check Out Sci Phi Journal

by Craig Bernthal

The shelves of drugstores and news stands used to be crowded with “pulp” science fiction magazines: Fantastic Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Fantasy and Science Fiction, all of which sold for very little and provided a lot of entertainment. Many of them started in the 1920s and featured wonderfully lurid covers of giant flies attacking battleships or luscious blonds being carted away or molested by robots, green aliens, or perhaps just posing in front of a rocket ship. They shared shelf-space with a similar array of detective, mystery, western, and romance publications. In the twenties or thirties, at the height of their popularity, some of these magazines sold up to a million copies per issue. America and Britain had some great writers who got their start in pulp fiction or wrote it: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudyard Kipling, Elmore Leonard and H. G. Wells, to name a few. Pulp fiction was a national writing workshop, providing an enormous market for new writers, and the product was not just formulaic. A great editor, like John W. Campbell of Astounding Science Fiction provoked wonderful, imaginative stories. This scene has now been replaced by the insipid university MFA writing program, which aims to produce sensitive stories for liberal professors, and pulp has given way to innumerable English Dept. journals. What a bad trade! We no longer see the successors to Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or even Updike and Roth. American fiction has become the Oprah book club.

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Thornton reviews the book Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations, by Mary Beard. New York: Liverwright, 2013, 320 pp., $28.95 hardbound. 

by Bruce S. Thornton // NAS 

This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Academic Questions (Volume 27, Number 3).

Photo via wikicommons

Photo via wikicommons

Once the heart of liberal education, the study of Greek and Latin languages and literatures has unfortunately been reduced to a prestige discipline found mainly in elite universities rich enough to afford the luxury of a classics program. The once universal high school experience of memorizing Latin declensions and reading some Caesar is nearly extinct compared to sixty years ago. These days most people get their knowledge of antiquity from lurid cable television series like Spartacus, or historically dubious movies like Gladiator and the more recent Pompeii. The foundational ideas, ideals, literature, art, and philosophy of the West are increasingly becoming historical curiosities that like Egyptian mummies or Viking long ships are artifacts, detached from the society and the minds of citizens who continue to live off a cultural capital the nature and origins of which they know nothing.

Those expecting an argument in favor of reviving the study of the classics from Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations, Mary Beard’s new collection of book reviews, will find misleading the dust jacket claim that the book shows why the classical tradition “still matters.” In this collection, Beard, a professor of classics at Cambridge University and a regular on British television, is more concerned with the intramural professional disagreements and conflicting interpretations of ancient literature and culture unlikely to be of interest to a larger audience. Very few, if any, of these essays cover the ancient “monuments of unageing intellect,” or the classical “things of beauty” that have delighted and instructed the West for 2700 years. Thus these reviews will “matter” mostly to the few hundred thousand academics and other cultural elites who subscribe to the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement—the publications in which these reviews first appeared, and which have little influence on those outside the parochial Lilliputs of academe.

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Book Review: A Genius for Destructive Change

by Terry Scambray // New Oxford Review, May 2014 

Darwin: Portrait of a Genius. By Paul Johnson   Viking. 176 pages. $25.95.

download (7)  It is a measure of the cultural contamination of materialism, given great impetus by Charles Darwin, that even a giant like Paul Johnson can be infected and attenuated by it. For Johnson is one of the magisterial writers of our time whose erudition and immense energy have enlightened so many of us for so many years. Yet this biography is a disappointment in contrast to most all of his previous work. Indeed it is unfortunate that Johnson did not apply his wit and critical talents, as shown in his masterful Intellectuals, to his present subject, Charles Darwin. Oh, what a penetrating study it would have made!

Despite my predilections, Johnson moves in the opposite direction in this book, attempting to lay on yet another coat of bronze to the iconic figure of Darwin. But like all carriers of what Raymond Tallis calls Darwinitis, Johnson never gets around to explaining exactly what was Darwin’s genius. Though there are plenty of sputtering attempts at it, all that the book presents are the usual empty generalities about “Darwin the scientist” and “Darwin the humble self-critic” in addition to the conventional contradictions and misunderstandings about Darwin’s ideas.

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Russia: Weaker than What?


Our elites often diagnose Vladimir Putin as acting from “weakness” in his many aggressions.

A list of Russia’s symptoms of feebleness follows: demographic crises, alcoholism, declining longevity, a one-dimensional economy, corruption, environmental damage, etc. But weakness is a relative concept in matters of high-stakes aggression.

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Taqiyya about Taqiyya

by Raymond Ibrahim // 

I was recently involved in an interesting exercise—examining taqiyya about taqiyya—and believe readers might profit from the same exercise, as it exposes all the subtle apologetics made in defense of the Islamic doctrine, which permits Muslims to lie to non-Muslims, or “infidels.”taqiyya1

Context: Khurrum Awan, a lawyer, is suing Ezra Levant, a Canadian media personality and author, for defamation and $100,000.  Back in 2009 and on his own website, Levant had accused Awan of taqiyya in the context of Awan’s and the Canadian Islamic Congress’ earlier attempts to sue Mark Steyn.

For more on Levant’s court case, go to

On behalf of Awan, Mohammad Fadel—professor of Islamic Law at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law—provided an expert report to the court on the nature of taqiyya, the significance of which he portrayed as “a staple of right-wing Islamophobia in North America.”

In response, Levant asked me (back in 2013) to write an expert report on taqiyya, including by responding to Fadel’s findings.

I did.  And it had the desired effect.  As Levant put it in an email to me: Read more →

Book Review: Intelligent Design or Unintelligent Design?

by Terry Scambray // New Oxford Review, October 2013 

Darwin‘s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, Stephen C. Meyer. Harper One, 2013. 412 pp.

 Stephen Meyer has followed his highly acclaimed, Signature in the Cell, with a worthy sequel.   The sequel, Darwin’s Doubt, blends the findings from molecular biology found in his first book with discoveries in paleontology, anatomy and other 9780062071477_p0_v3_s260x420disciplines in order to make the case for intelligent design as the best scientific explanation for life’s origin and development.  And Meyer does this in his usual clear and composed voice while explaining some complicated material without the distracting emotion that often distorts the study of origins.

 “Darwin’s Doubt” refers to Charles Darwin’s admission in his consequential book, On the Origin of the Species, that the fossil record contradicted his theory that life began with simple organisms and it then progressed through endless transitions on up to the present.  As he admitted: “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in certain formations has been urged by several paleontologists – for instance Agassiz, Pictet, Sedgwick – as a fatal objection to the belief in the transmutation of species.  If numerous species belonging to the same genera or families have really started into life all at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of descent with slow modification through natural selection.” Read more →

“The End of Sparta” — A Review

A classicist’s exemplary historical novel.

by Albert Louis Zambone //

imagesClassicists should infuriate other humanists, in the way that the handsome scholar-athlete who volunteers to help dyslexic children and is a genuinely nice guy should infuriate the guy who just made it onto the football team and has a hard time keeping up his GPA, or the kid with the great GPA who can’t do a pull-up—but they don’t hate him, because he’s just so good. That, at least, is how this historian feels whenever he reads a classicist.

These feelings of bitter self-recrimination are a normal part of the intellectual life, according to most intellectuals, but especially strong within me because I have just finished Victor Davis Hanson’s The End of Sparta, first published in 2011 and issued in paperback this spring. It was an absolutely infuriating experience. Isn’t enough for Hanson to have conceived of a genuinely original theory for the development of classical Greece? Can’t he be satisfied with roiling the waters of military history with his arguments for a “western Read more →

Mideast Nuclear Holocaust

by Raymond Ibrahim // FrontPage Magazine 

A Review of The Last Israelis by Noah Beck

lliAfter constant exposure to critically important news, it begins to lose all meaning and sense of urgency.  Hearing the same warnings over and over again—especially when the status quo seems static—can cause a certain desensitization, a resigned apathy that ignores the warnings in the wishful hope that they won’t materialize.  This hope becomes more optimistic (and passive) with each passing day that the warnings do not materialize.

One of the most evident examples of this phenomenon is the threat of a nuclear Iran.  For years, the international community has been hearing about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; for years, the world has been hearing Iran make bold, genocidal threats—most notoriously, that it will wipe the state of Israel off the map. But so far, Iran reportedly still has no nukes, and no large attack has been launched on Israel.  Thus, many have become desensitized to the situation—including those charged with ensuring that a nuclear Iran never becomes a reality. Read more →

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