Peggy Noonan tells everyone to act like adults, generates narcissism instead

Paracelsus

Crow
Gold Member
https://outline.com/ypNbGz

For reference, Peggy Noonan was Reagan's scriptwriter. The opinion piece comes from the mouthpiece of that part of the marionette meant to represent the Right, i.e. the Wall Street Journal:

I want to write about something I think is a problem in our society, that is in fact at the heart of many of our recent scandals, and yet is obscure enough that it doesn’t have a name. It has to do with forgetting who you are. It has to do with refusing to be fully adult and neglecting to take on, each day, the maturity, grace and self-discipline that are expected of adults and part of their job. That job is to pattern adulthood for those coming up, who are looking, always, for How To Do It—how to be a fully formed man, a fully grown woman.

It has to do with not being able to fully reckon with your size, not because it is small but because it is big. I see more people trembling under the weight of who they are.

Laura Ingraham got in trouble for publicly mocking one of the student gun-control activists of Parkland, Fla. She’s been unjustly targeted for boycotts, but it’s fair to say she was wrong in what she said, and said it because she didn’t remember who she is. She is a successful and veteran media figure, host of a cable show that bears her name. As such she is a setter of the sound of our culture as it discusses politics. When you’re that person, you don’t smack around a 17-year-old, even if—maybe especially if—he is obnoxious in his presentation of his public self. He’s a kid. They’re not infrequently obnoxious, because they are not fully mature. He’s small, you’re big. There’s a power imbalance.

As of this week, it is six months since the reckoning that began with the New York Times exposé of Harvey Weinstein. One by one they fell, men in media, often journalism, and their stories bear at least in part a general theme. They were mostly great successes, middle-aged, and so natural leaders of the young. But they treated the young as prey. They didn’t respect them, in part because they didn’t respect themselves. They didn’t see their true size, their role, or they ignored it.

It should not be hard to act as if you are who you are, yet somehow it increasingly appears to be. There is diminished incentive for people to act like adults. Everyone wants to be cool, no one wants to be pretentious. No one wants to be grim, unhip, to be passed by in terms of style.

And our culture has always honored the young. But it has not always honored immaturity.

I have spent the past few days watching old videos of the civil-rights era, the King era, and there is something unexpectedly poignant in them. When you see those involved in that momentous time, you notice: They dressed as adults, with dignity. They presented themselves with self-respect. Those who moved against segregation and racial indignity went forward in adult attire—suits, dresses, coats, ties, hats—as if adulthood were something to which to aspire. As if a claiming of just rights required a showing of gravity. Look at the pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking, the pictures of those marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge, of those in attendance that day when George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and then stepped aside to the force of the federal government, and suddenly the University of Alabama was integrated. Even the first students who went in, all young, acted and presented themselves as adults. Of course they won. Who could stop such people?

I miss their style and seriousness. What we’re stuck with now is Mark Zuckerberg’s .

Facebook ’s failings are now famous and so far include but are perhaps not limited to misusing, sharing and scraping of private user data, selling space to Russian propagandists in the 2016 campaign, playing games with political content, starving journalism of ad revenues, increasing polarization, and turning eager users into the unknowing product. The signal fact of Mr. Zuckerberg is that he is supremely gifted in one area—monetizing technical expertise by marrying it to a canny sense of human weakness. Beyond that, what a shallow and banal figure. He too appears to have difficulties coming to terms with who he is. Perhaps he hopes to keep you, too, from coming to terms with it, by literally dressing as a child, in T-shirts, hoodies and jeans—soft clothes, the kind 5-year-olds favor. In interviews he presents an oddly blank look, as if perhaps his audiences will take blankness for innocence. As has been said here, he is like one of those hollow-eyed busts of forgotten Caesars you see in museums.

But he is no child; he is a giant bestride the age, a titan, one of the richest men not only in the world but in the history of the world. His power is awesome.

His public reputation is now damaged, and about this he is very concerned. Next week he will appear before Congress. The Onion recently headlined that he was preparing for his questioning by studying up on the private data of congressmen. The comic Albert Brooks tweeted: “I sent Mark Zuckerberg my entire medical history just to save him some time.”

His current problems may have yielded a moment of promise, however. Tim Cook of Apple, in an impressive and sober interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, said last week something startling, almost revolutionary: “Privacy to us is a human right.” This was stunning because it was the exact opposite of what Silicon Valley has been telling us since social media’s inception, which is: Privacy is dead. Get over it. Some variation on that statement has been made over and over by Silicon Valley’s pioneers, and they say it blithely, cavalierly, with no apparent sense of tragedy.

Because they don’t do tragedy. They do children’s clothes.

Perhaps what is happening with Facebook will usher in the first serious rethinking, in terms of the law, on what has been lost and gained since social media began.

Congress next week should surprise. The public infatuation with big tech and Silicon Valley is over and has been over for some time. Congress should grill Mr. Zuckerberg closely on how he took what people gave him and used it. Many viewers would greatly enjoy a line of questioning along these lines: “Is your product, your service, one without which we can’t live, like Edison’s electricity? It seems to me you are a visionary, sir, and we should give you your just reward, and make you a utility!”

Mr Zuckerberg invited Congress to regulate him. Wondering why, it has occurred to me it’s because he knows Congress is too stupid to do it effectively. He buys lobbyists to buy them. He knows how craven, unserious and insecure they are, and would have no particular respect for them. Nor would he have particular reason to.

I hope they are adults. I hope they don’t showboat or yell but really probe, carefully.

More than ever, the adults have to rise to the fore and set the template for what is admirable. If we don’t, those who follow us will be less admirable even than us, and those after them less admirable still. That would be a tragedy, wouldn’t it?
I'm still composing. As starting points, consider these when analysing the article:

(1) Jordan Peterson's been getting a lot of play recently.

(2) Mark Zuckerberg is all of 33 years old, and Laura Ingraham is 54.

(3) Given Noonan is 67, who precisely does she think gave birth to the above two people, raised them, and provided the dominant culture in which they grew up?
 

Paracelsus

Crow
Gold Member
As I was saying, and to answer question (3), it was Peggy Noonan's generation that raised the one that followed -- i.e. Mark Zuckerberg's generation. Laura Ingraham is probably pushing membership in the same demographic as Noonan, but the position is still the same: the generation that Peggy Noonan is now wailing Socratic about is the generation that she raised.

Yes, Noonan specifically. There was no Internet back in the eighties or very early nineties. If anyone had a powerful influence on a generation, it's the woman who writes the President's speeches. She wrote for two of them: Reagan and Bush I. More generally, though, Noonan's generation was the generation that put the pause button on growing up. It fetishised university. It bought into branding. It was the generation that purported to teach children about love and marriage while simultaneously creating the generation with the highest divorce rates in history. Noonan is said to distance herself from Trump Republicanism -- like a lot of self-proclaimed "moderate" Republicans, she now resorts to finding Trump gauche rather than horrifying -- but she rather conveniently forgets it was her generation that first started putting actors in the White House.

I want to write about something I think is a problem in our society, that is in fact at the heart of many of our recent scandals, and yet is obscure enough that it doesn’t have a name. It has to do with forgetting who you are. It has to do with refusing to be fully adult and neglecting to take on, each day, the maturity, grace and self-discipline that are expected of adults and part of their job. That job is to pattern adulthood for those coming up, who are looking, always, for How To Do It—how to be a fully formed man, a fully grown woman.
And thus my question: if The Young People Of Today lack a model on how to be a fully formed man or a fully grown woman, who failed to provide them with that model? And thus having failed to do so, precisely what qualification do such people have to now insist that those young people of today now grow up?

I have spent the past few days watching old videos of the civil-rights era, the King era, and there is something unexpectedly poignant in them. When you see those involved in that momentous time, you notice: They dressed as adults, with dignity. They presented themselves with self-respect. Those who moved against segregation and racial indignity went forward in adult attire—suits, dresses, coats, ties, hats—as if adulthood were something to which to aspire. As if a claiming of just rights required a showing of gravity. Look at the pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking, the pictures of those marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge, of those in attendance that day when George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and then stepped aside to the force of the federal government, and suddenly the University of Alabama was integrated. Even the first students who went in, all young, acted and presented themselves as adults. Of course they won. Who could stop such people?
By the civil rights era, Noonan is talking about the early 1960s, when she was roughly 20 or so. What she rather crucially misses out of this is that everyone was wearing suits and dresses at the time, not just people who wanted equal rights:


Security guards don't want to be taken seriously

That is, that sort of dress standard was the default, not the mark of maturity or eloquence or whatever charisma magic Noonan seems to think Mad Men had back then.

Noonan misidentifies this because, like most narcissists, she sees the clothes that her parents wore as branding. Suit = adult = formed identity. She takes the marketing phrase clothes maketh the man and, like most Americans of a certain age, thinks that applies literally, despite it being a statement an advertiser uses to make you feel better about putting a coloured noose around your neck.

Noonan thinks the perception matters more than the reality, in short. Which is the largest problem facing the West today. Which is what got us to this point to begin with. The civil rights activists taking a line of non-violence was a tactical move, designed to defuse those who accused them of being communists and wanting the destruction of society. Once those activists had what they wanted, Malcolm X and others went to the push section of the push-pull civil rights effort, and eventually started burning their own culture down.

It should not be hard to act as if you are who you are, yet somehow it increasingly appears to be. There is diminished incentive for people to act like adults. Everyone wants to be cool, no one wants to be pretentious. No one wants to be grim, unhip, to be passed by in terms of style.
This proclamation would be funnier if it wasn't coming from the Wall Street Journal, i.e. one of the organs ensuring that people stay in their glass boxes and don't stop branding themselves. Oh, and also the organ most likely read by middle aged men wearing suits.

I miss their style and seriousness. What we’re stuck with now is Mark Zuckerberg’s .

Facebook ’s failings are now famous and so far include but are perhaps not limited to misusing, sharing and scraping of private user data, selling space to Russian propagandists in the 2016 campaign, playing games with political content, starving journalism of ad revenues, increasing polarization, and turning eager users into the unknowing product. The signal fact of Mr. Zuckerberg is that he is supremely gifted in one area—monetizing technical expertise by marrying it to a canny sense of human weakness. Beyond that, what a shallow and banal figure. He too appears to have difficulties coming to terms with who he is. Perhaps he hopes to keep you, too, from coming to terms with it, by literally dressing as a child, in T-shirts, hoodies and jeans—soft clothes, the kind 5-year-olds favor. In interviews he presents an oddly blank look, as if perhaps his audiences will take blankness for innocence.
Note the demonisation of a single figure, someone for you to hate. Not one suggestion that it might be an adult thing to actually shut off Facebook or control their privacy settings, i.e. take individual action, i.e.e. what most of those civil rights demigods can be argued to have done. Jordan Peterson connects adult status with adult responsibility (which has its own traps, but I digress). Noonan doesn't write about that, though, because she has to consciously or unconsciously support the System, i.e. why she got to publish this article in the Wall Street Journal and not on her own personal blogroll somewhere. Here is where she diverges:

Mr Zuckerberg invited Congress to regulate him. Wondering why, it has occurred to me it’s because he knows Congress is too stupid to do it effectively. He buys lobbyists to buy them. He knows how craven, unserious and insecure they are, and would have no particular respect for them. Nor would he have particular reason to.

I hope they are adults. I hope they don’t showboat or yell but really probe, carefully.

More than ever, the adults have to rise to the fore and set the template for what is admirable.
Two key themes amongst the Socratic wailing:

(1) Congress is stupid, you should hate them
(2) But the only adults she's willing to concede exist are there.

The point of that one-two punch is to sucker you into thinking that the answer to these problems is a better government: "Congress regulating Facebook isn't wrong, Congress doing regulation ineptly is wrong!"

As said, the more adult, responsible thing to do would perhaps be to ask the 200 million adults currently jacked into Facebook to cease their support of it and thereby reclaim their privacy without need for more legislation, more regulation. But there's no way any of the companies that use the data on Facebook (and which feature heavily in the WSJ) would want that. And if the idea of Facebook in your n00ds bothers you, how much more terrifying should be the idea of a government sticking its nose in that corporation's business. Because what starts for macro levels in government eventually filters down to the micro level, and government's chief aim, always and everywhere, is to interfere with your personal life.

Noonan amazingly is promoting exactly the same problem she's screaming about: the promotion of government as big daddy, as the only body with power, as the only institution that can do anything about Facebook data theft, and adulthood generally. This actually makes the problem of narcissism worse: you're given another thing to be in opposition to (but nothing to be for, which is much harder to decide) and you are infantilised by believing that government will handle your adult responsibilities for you. And above all, it's making you think that government is a lesser evil than Facebook. Anyone who's had dealings with government knows in their heart which one is the greater threat to man's happiness on this planet.
 
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