WASPS: The Splendors and Miseries of an American Aristocracy

Here are some highlights from this 2021 book:

* You find comparatively few murderers among WASPs.

* WASPs are creatures of guilt and self-questioning, more likely to kill themselves than kill others. Suicide blighted whole families. There were the Sturgises, an old Boston family with a “tendency to suicidal mania.” Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke of his horror when, in June 1853, he heard the “dismal tidings” that young Susan Sturgis Bigelow had swallowed arsenic: three of Susan’s sister Ellen’s children (one of whom was to marry Henry Adams) would also go on to kill themselves. The Gardners too: Joseph Peabody Gardner, in whom was concentrated the blood of a dozen old Massachusetts families, blew his brains out in 1875. His son, Joseph Peabody Gardner Jr., died by suicide eleven years later. Theodore Roosevelt’s son Kermit, his grandson Dirck, and his granddaughter Paulina all killed themselves; Eleanor Roosevelt’s father, Elliott (Theodore’s brother), and her brother Hall both drank themselves to death. Medill McCormick, of Groton, Yale, and the Chicago Tribune, sought relief, by turns, in newspaper work, drink, Jungian psychotherapy, and the Senate before he swallowed swallowed a fatal dose of pills in a Washington hotel room in 1925; John Gilbert Winant, whose career took him from St. Paul’s School and Princeton to the governor’s mansion in New Hampshire and the embassy in London, shot himself in the head in 1947. Edie Sedgwick was preceded to the grave by her two older brothers, Francis, who killed himself at Silver Hill in New Canaan in 1964, and Robert, who crashed his motorcycle into a New York City bus in 1965. As for the two boys of William Woodward (shot dead by Ann), James leapt to his death from the ninth floor of the Mayfair House Hotel on Park Avenue in 1978; William jumped from his fourteenth-floor apartment on East Seventy-second Street in 1999.
The suicides were only the most overt sign of trouble in the culture or the blood; WASPs have long been haunted by the despairs, lunacies, and hysterias in their domestic histories. The Sedgwicks called it “the family disease,” a malady that oppressed their house ever since Theodore Sedgwick made his fortune in western Massachusetts in the late eighteenth century, more than a century and half before his descendant Edie stripped off her clothes for Andy Warhol. Emily Dickinson spoke of “the Hour of Lead,” of a funeral “in my Brain,” Henry Adams complained of ennui, John Jay Chapman lamented his “queerness,” which as a boy led him to make “mysterious gestures before imaginary shrines” and as an adult got him the nickname “mad Jack.” Louisa May Alcott, a golden child of Emerson’s Concord who would go on to write Little Women , contemplated suicide, and “thought seriously” of jumping into the water of the Mill Dam in Boston.

Were WASPs more troubled than other people? Probably not. But they were more articulate. Their miseries got into the record, and did something to shape the destinies of the United States. Reticent though they were in person, they were voluble on paper. At some level they want us to pay attention.

WASP FAMILIES LIKE THE STURGISES, the Sedgwicks, the Gardners, and the Roosevelts were all, even at their lowest ebbs, doing quite well out of life. What went wrong? The New England heritage had something to do with it. (Even those WASPs who, like the Roosevelts, identified themselves with other regions were connected by a hundred ties to the land of the Puritans.) The New England soil was rich in neurotic possibility; the early New Englanders had not only, in Henry Adams’s words, to “wrestle with nature for a bare existence,” they had to do it under the burdens of their perfectionist enterprise. The Puritan effort to build a new Jerusalem in the American wilderness was not a formula for sanity; it was abandoned precisely because it did induce lunacy, not least in (the somewhat optimistically named) Salem itself, the center of witch hysteria. Puritanism was supplanted, in the eighteenth century, by a less demanding (and less fulfilling) Yankeeism, with its easier idolatry of moneymaking. But by then it was too late: the older vision had inflicted enduring wounds.
The Puritan guilts and manias (it is not easy to live in a city on a hill) lingered in New England long after the demise of Puritanism. You sensed them in the dying villages, with their mouldering houses and sapless apple trees, bereft of youth and vitality, for the enterprising children have escaped to seek their fortune in the cities or the West. In the old greens and on the moribund farms, the memory of primeval Puritanism survived, “
shrouded in a blackness ten times black,” in tales of wizards and witch-meetings, malignant groves, a shadowed Satanism, the sort of morbidity Nathaniel Hawthorne and (more recently) Stephen King retail in their books. WASPs in the late nineteenth century were drawn to the haunted countryside, and not only on account of its quaintness or its closeness to nature: they found, in the cranks and recluses, the eccentric spinsters and cracked seers, a reflection of their own uneasy souls.

* THE CHILDREN OF THE BRAHMINS blamed their weaknesses, their fatigues, their failures—the scruples that prevented them from getting on in the world—on neurasthenia. They actually believed it to be a medical condition. In his 1881 book American Nervousness: Its Causes and Consequences, the WASP physician Dr. George Miller Beard described neurasthenia as a disease caused by “lack of nerve-force” and productive of such symptoms as, but not limited to, insomnia, bad dreams, mental irritability, nervous dyspepsia, fear of society, fear of responsibility, lack of decision in trifling matters, profound exhaustion, and excessive yawning.

* What distinguished the WASP neurasthenic was his (or her) consciousness of unused powers in the soul that he (or she) sought to discharge in civic and creative activity. You see it most clearly in Henry Adams, who adopted the pose of a neurasthenic weakling oppressed by his New England heritage, looking on life rather than living it, and doomed to fail in an America that had little use for the patrician’s theory of virtue. The pose was ironic—the man who wrote The Education of Henry Adams was not in any ordinary sense a failure: but it enabled Adams to explain why the best and brightest of his generation so often fell into neurotic despair. Neurasthenia, he maintained, was the natural response of gifted natures to an environment unsympathetic to their gifts. It was the inevitable reaction of those who, resisting the fragmentary part-lives on offer in the Gilded Age marketplace, sought to do justice to the whole of their nature in a land where the two great perfectionist experiments (New England Puritanism and Yankee commercial democracy) were culturally inadequate precisely because they were founded on too narrow a conception of human flourishing.
Neurasthenia was hell. But Adams learned from Dante that hell was good, a thing, indeed, instituted by divine love, ’l primo amore . For in deserving cases the path through la città dolente , the suffering underworld city, led, if not to sanity and salvation, at any rate to small victories over hellishness. This was the tradition of productive lunacy, the belief that you can’t attain the Jerusalem of your heart’s desire without first submitting to a Babylonian captivity. In writing the life of his dead friend George Cabot Lodge, Adams spoke of the young man’s “philosophic depression,” the dejection one feels when one’s powers find no release in joyful activity and one’s soul is condemned to feed upon itself. But the lassitudes of neurasthenia, exempting the sufferer from the demands of the marketplace, could also, Adams suggested, buy one time—to plot a comeback, and obtain one’s revenge on those who doubted one’s virtue.

* BLAMING THE PARENTS FOR THE failures of the children would become, in the heyday of Freudianism, a WASP pastime. Henry Adams anticipated the trend, urging his wounded contemporaries to rouse themselves from their neurasthenic fatigues and repair the errors of the ancestors.
His discovery of the primal sin of the fathers—their narrowness of vision—illuminates WASP culture and in some measure explains it. He made articulate the partly formed, half conscious idea of the WASPs that, however much they might venerate their forebears, there was something missing in the civilization they created. Political reform by itself could not fill the void. It must be supplemented by cultural regeneration, and cultural regeneration—this was the crucial insight—was impossible without forums in which the soul, protected from the rapidity and chaos of American life, could ripen. Looking back longingly to the stoas and porticos of the Mediterranean, Adams was never more of a WASP than when he reflected on the virtues of the old civic culture, the “classic and promiscuous turmoil of the forum, the theatre, or the bath,” formative institutions “which trained the Greeks and the Romans” in their prime, and brought alive parts of their nature that would otherwise have been neglected, but which were unknown in America.
Yet Adams’s most delicate stroke was his suggestion that the cultural revolution he contemplated was unrealizable. The acceleration of mechanical power in America would, he predicted, doom the efforts of the preppy rebels and frondeurs; the WASP coup d’état he advocated would ultimately fail. In effect The Education of Henry Adams dared its readers to prove its author wrong.

* Together with memories of color (sitting “on a yellow kitchen floor in strong sunlight”), illness and taste (coming down with scarlet fever and his aunt “entering the sickroom bearing in her hand a saucer with a baked apple”), and displacement (being “bundled up in blankets” and carried from his family’s house in Hancock Avenue to a new, larger one in Mount Vernon Street), some of Adams’s most vivid early recollections are of filial resentment: of his grandfather John Quincy Adams for making him go to school, and of his great-grandfather John Adams for being a dull writer whose work he was forced to help his father edit. How mortifying, for Henry, that these forebears, with all their faults, should have had, by any worldly measure, so much greater success than he! It must have been an unconscious satisfaction to him that the Republic they founded was inadequate.

* In retrospect it is remarkable that these WASPs should have sought satisfaction in directing the destinies of distant nations and puzzling out the feuds of remote peoples in insalubrious climates. But statesmanship, if it is an expensive form of therapy, is not, Pascal long ago observed, an ineffective one. Yet beneath the WASPs’ pursuit of those twin balms, power and pleasure, there was a desire to make a civic contribution. They had all been expensively educated in a tradition that descended, ultimately, from Athens, and they regarded “the man who takes no part in public affairs, not as a man who minds his own business, but as a man who is good for nothing.” Public service, they were taught, not only bettered the res publica, it was an essential element of self-realization.

At the same time there was something less creditable at work in this zeal for civic virtue. Complex webs of privilege enabled the WASPs to live spacious, many-sided lives even as so many of their fellow citizens performed monotonously dull tasks to get their bread. The WASPs persuaded themselves, as they negotiated their treaties or sailed about their harbors in Maine, that their lives were of service to those forgotten millions who toiled away in occupations that made a mockery of their potential. Self-deception is evident. So far were the WASP mandarins from seeking to enlarge the civic playground, so that others might play there, too, they seemed to rejoice in their possession of the high places in the state. In the recesses of their hearts, they seem even to have derived pleasure from looking down on their less fortunately developed and less well connected fellow citizens.

* “We live by poetry, not by prose,” Wilson said, “and we live only as we see visions.” It would be truer to say that we live by poetry and by prose, and that we get into trouble whenever we confuse the one with the other. The WASP statesmen who were to shape the American Century were, by and large, realists in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt, versed in the language of geopolitical interest. But Woodrow Wilson taught them to clothe this realistic prose in an ideal rhetorical poetry. As statecraft, the WASPs’ mélange of the two presidents’ policies was ingenious, but not without disadvantages. The WASPs intended Wilson’s poetry to be the servant of Roosevelt’s prose. But poetry is a potent, as well as an unpredictable thing. What if the servant should become the master?

* Instruments of collective security differ from the traditional alliances that Wilson sought to do away with. Traditional alliances are “directed against specific threats” and define “precise obligations for specific groups of countries linked by shared national interests or mutual security concerns.” Collective security, by contrast, “defines no particular interest, guarantees no individual nation, and discriminates against none.” It “is theoretically designed to resist any threat to the peace,” but because it “leaves the application of its principles to the interpretation of particular circumstances when they arise,” it unintentionally puts “a large premium on the mood of the moment and, hence, on national self-will,” with different nations favoring different approaches and unable to agree on the concerted action that might deter an aggressor.

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The Sociology of Sports-Talk Radio (9-6-21)

Bud: “Luke, because your intro to Carl Schmitt, I no longer believe in Democracy, Human Rights or the Constitution. You should be kvelling with pride!”

Perhaps a thru-line to some of what I do is to create a little more space between people and their favorite stories. Ask: Why do I love this text? This interpretation? This story? Why do I hate this competing narrative? Why do I need to ignore all alternatives to my story? Why do I cling to my story?

From the 2015 book How Postmodernism Explains Football, and Football Explains Postmodernism: The Billy Clyde Conundrum:

* Mark Bowden’s account of superstar lineman Jerome Brown tragically captured another example of the way the seemingly infinite rewards for aggressive, antisocial behavior on the field represent a powerfully mesmerizing influence on players’ behavior beyond the field, too often blurring if not erasing the lines between the two. From high school to the NFL, Brown was a dominating player who could change the flow of a game almost by himself, and he reveled in the way that talent enabled him to cruise through a life of “breaking the rules, staying out late, skipping class, juggling girlfriends, drinking too much, driving too fast,” as Bowden depicted it, “blasting his music through the center of town, . . . vanishing off into the thick Florida veld to loose up his collection of high-powered automatic weapons, and partying, partying, partying, rolling in snatch.” Brown lived that all to the hilt till the summer day when he crashed one of his six sports cars into a Florida palm tree and died at the age of twenty-seven.

* In the stories of those young men so richly rewarded and exalted by football society we see the seductive way that the more successful one is at the game, the more challenging it can be to remain conscious of the line between what is socially acceptable and what is not—or to even believe that there is such a line for them. It is a powerful dynamic of commercial football, the way that the violence and excess and general antisocial behavior that the game so incalculably rewards on the field inevitably cannot but help be a material factor in identity formation for the game’s participants, especially the best ones. An almost ceaseless
chorus of coaches, players, fans, and video-highlights exhorts football players to tune out instincts that might inhibit committing violence and antisocial acts on the field. In countless ways, the message flashed, shouted, pounded home says to shut off those signals, to give oneself over to the reckless abandon that can endanger the bodies and minds of others and even one’s own—and vast renown, riches, and recreations of the flesh will be yours without end. How can we even imagine such conditioning will influence the way one plays football but only that? How can we imagine that in the complex, tangled process through which an individual’s sense of social reality is constructed that being immersed in the otherworldly reality of talented young football players cannot help but play some role of consequence?

Certainly, not all who play the sport of football will come out of it with a diminished sense of social accountability. It has of course over time produced real-life Merriwells and continues to do so. But it was one of
the most preposterous notions imaginable to have ever even pretended that that would be the only sort of personality turned out by regularly engaging in an endeavor fundamentally structured to advantage players and teams that most effectively inflict sanctioned acts of violence against their opponents. The Merriwell model could be just as well referenced as the Merriwell fantasy, which of course is exactly how the concept began life before being appropriated as a highly effective public relations tool. A more accurate representation of football’s effects on its participants would be candidly encouraging acceptance for the game as a tradeoff—one that would never stop stirring antisocial, Billy Clyde behaviors but would flourish commercially and sometimes produce at
least a few Frank Merriwells or Roger Staubachs.

We can find many examples of the way the game shaped its participants in one direction or the other, often among those who played right next to each other. Tackle Merlin Olson and end Deacon Jones were such dominant players for the Los Angeles Rams that both made the NFL’s Hall of Fame. They played side by side, with Olson always able to isolate his aggressive impulses to the momentary requirements of the game, while Jones maintained long after his playing days that he was driven by hatred of his opponents on the field and that the hatred never left him. Roger Brown, a former teammate, recalled, “Deacon would say, ‘Get out of my way, I’m going to kill you.’ Merlin, after he knocked you down, he’d help you get up.” Jones himself concurred, fiercely so, even many years after retirement: “I ain’t helping you up off the ground. I’m going to step on your hand.” In an interview with Phyllis George, Olson elaborated: “I think it’s possible to separate the game on the field from the person off the field. I’m not a violent person by nature. I detest violence in many ways. But my job requires me to do certain things.” In a relatively recent interview for an NFL Films documentary, Jones is sitting with Rosey Grier, another former teammate, talking about quarterbacks he hated, when Grier commented with a smile, “He doesn’t really mean that.” But Jones growled back, “Yes, I do.”

* So finally we come to the point of more fully proposing just how postmodernism explains football. In one sense, as we will see in the next chapter, postmodernist theory suggests we always need to be questing for deeper understanding—because it holds that our assumptions about what we think we know too often are grounded in unreliable stories. But it also doesn’t promise to provide us with answers so much as it encourages us to seek more stories, to rely more on a multiplicity of narratives than on grand explanations that offer more than they can ever deliver.

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‘Tears: Man’s, G-d’s & The Angel’s’

“All professions strive to maximize the range of their legitimate authority.” (Allan V. Horwitz)

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Unknown)

Rabbi Holland grew up in Lakewood and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. He became the principal of Bais Yaakov. Around 1988, he became a teacher at YULA. He served on the Beit Din for conversions at the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) with Rabbi Avraham Union and Rabbi Gershon Bess. Then he shifted away from working with children and went to Israel for a year around 1996. He then became a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Kollel and moved back to Lakewood to work with at risk youth. One thing that is interesting about him is the depth of his support among certain rich Orthodox Jews in Fairfax-La Brea. Another thing that is interesting about Rabbi Holland is the depth of feeling about him in many different directions. To know Rabbi Holland is to lose the capacity for indifference.

I grew up in stiff upper-lip Anglo culture in Australia. Judaism’s emotional intensity has been a welcome new direction for me. I have Jewish friends who tell me that they’ve been the only people crying at goyisha funerals.

Normal Judaism creates intense ties among people. Abnormal Judaism create abnormal ties among people. Criminal expressions of Judaism creates criminal ties among people. Atheist expressions of Jewish identity can create religious-like ties among people. Jewish life is intense and constantly surprising. I notice that Torah tends to strengthen people in any direction they want to go.

Working for Lakewood or YULA is like working for the Mafia or the Vatican. You’re protected (until you’re whacked). Rabbi Aron Tendler taught at YULA girls school for years in the 1980s and carried on affairs with his students. This was widely known in the community but the only thing that was done about it was to eventually shift him to the boys school and then to the largest Orthodox shul in the San Fernando Valley. Why would powerful rabbis at the RCC protect someone like Rabbi Aron Tendler? The explanation that makes the most sense is that they have mutually assured destruction on each other.

I knew this Orthodox rabbi who served time in prison for possession of child porn. He couldn’t stop himself from sharing words of Torah wherever he went. Most people would be ashamed to teach Torah after a conviction for child porn, but this rabbi was a Torah Energizer bunny.

Have you watched the TV series Dr. Death? Doctors don’t like informing on doctors who are supported by money and power just like rabbis don’t like removing rabbis supported by money and power.

When I watched Dr. Death, I felt like I was watching an allegory about how powerful rabbis in the RCC protect each other. Dr. Death killed people through bad back surgeries, just like a minority of RCC rabbis killed people through bad soul surgeries.

You want to be careful about who you allow to operate on you. You can’t just trust your body to your doctor and your soul to your rebbe.

I am not objective about the RCC nor am I writing from a position of clean hands and a pure heart. As the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles published Aug. 3, 2007:

But his notoriety as an adult-industry blogger complicated Ford’s search for a spiritual home in Los Angeles’ Orthodox community. The first shul to give him the boot was Aish HaTorah in 1995 for being too antagonistic and again in 1998 when Rabbi Moshe Cohen discovered Ford’s double life as a porn journalist.

“He was one of the Torah weirdos,” said Rabbi Aryeh Markman, the shul’s executive director. “You get all sorts of people showing up in shul and we bust them. ‘I’m happy you’re looking for a place to daven. But this isn’t one of them.’ And you throw them out. … The antithesis of Torah is porn.”

Ford journeyed down Pico Boulevard and created a new life for himself at Young Israel of Century City, going by his Hebrew name Levi Ben Avraham. He remained there for three years before being ousted.

About the same time, he was tossed from the Rabbinical Council of California’s conversion program for “deceit and deception,” administrator Rabbi Avrohom Union said. “Don’t take anything he says at face value.”

As the son of a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher, I have rebellious feelings about authority that include a kneejerk antipathy for clergy who abuse their position. I became a journalist, in part, to protect myself and others from this abuse. I remember when I was a nobody trying to convert to Judaism, my weakness invited contempt, but when I developed a widely-read blog, nobody abused me any more (particularly after this happened in 2009).

Some people think it is in bad taste for a rebbe to have a mistress. That this somehow makes him inappropriate to run a shul or a yeshiva or a Beit Din that oversees conversions. But hey, it’s the 1980s! It was a different time. Sure, the Torah’s moral standards are eternal, but when you’re living in Los Angeles, you can’t help but be corrupted by the wider culture.

Some people think it is inappropriate for a teacher at an Orthodox day school to send gifts of lingerie to his female students… Some people think it is inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi to have extra-marital affairs… Some people think it is inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi to have affairs with his under-age students… Some people are outraged when the recipients of the rabbi’s affections have nervous breakdowns and die of drug overdoses, but one thing we can all agree on is that these things must be hushed up lest the goyim find out.

Gaby Wenig writes in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles March 7, 2002:

When, as a young woman, Rebbetzin Yehudis Fasman met Chaim, her husband-to-be, he laid out his life plan and made sure that she agreed with it. His plan was not to become a millionaire or to spend hours in the office shooting up the corporate ladder. Nor did he want to become a pulpit rabbi of a large congregation. Instead, his ambition was to simply sit and study. He wanted to devote at least five or six years of his life after marriage to full-time Torah learning in kollel (an institution that supports married men who want to spend their lives studying Torah fulltime) and after that to work in avodas hakodesh (holy work) on behalf of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Chaim Fasman now holds the position of rosh kollel (head) of Kollel Los Angeles Bais Avrohom, the largest of six kollels in Los Angeles, with 15 full-time learners…

“The people that chose to learn in kollel see Torah as the main and perhaps only objective of their life,” said Rabbi Shlomo Holland, the director of development at Bais Avrohom. “That means they are going to dedicate their life to learning and studying and to conduct their life according to this Torah. The more they are steeped in this knowledge and the more they have a grasp of its true meaning, the more they are able to live this type of truthful life. It is a dedication — not to a profession, but a way of life.”

…”Most people [learning in kollel] have been through the day school system and have gone through a yeshiva high school and have spent a number of years learning in the [post-high school] yeshiva beit midrash [house of study]. Learning in Kollel, is in a sense, the final step in the world of being able to learn full-time,” Holland said.

…”One has to struggle financially, and one has to learn a contentment on a much simpler level of having physical goods and possessions,” Holland said. “But I see this as less of a strain and more as a unifying factor in the marriage. The wife wants this [lifestyle] as much as the husband does, and this creates a tremendous united effort.”

From the 1977 B’nai Brith Messenger in Los Angeles:

From Matzav.com Oct. 31, 2010:

At about 3 p.m., the new Sefer Torah was danced down Cabinfield Circle and out of Village Park to the nearby Chavrei Hakollel building at 911 Somerset Avenue. Just minutes after the crowd entered the bais medrash and began dancing with gusto, the beams beneath the floor gave way. The men immediately scrambled toward the exit of the bais medrash and, boruch Hashem, there were no injuries of any sort, as the floor did not completely fall through.

Rav Shlomo Holland, following the dancing outside, told the large crowd, “One thing to learn from this is that floors don’t hold up Torah, Torah holds up floors!”

Tamar Frankiel writes on the spiritual dynamics of prayer: “I learned much from a particular teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Holland, who used to speak of the “worlds” of prayer. He would speak of the “world of the Shema,” the “world of Hallel,” and the like. At first I thought this was just colorful language, on the verge of being enticingly kabbalistic, but then I began to understand. It was at once more mundane and more wondrous than the systems of kabbalah. Every prayer is an entry point into a world of feeling, of consciousness, that one can inhabit, just like the world that you and your family and friends create in your home, or the “workaday world” as we call it.”

EnglishTorahTapes.com has tapes of Rabbi Holland’s Torah for sale, including #113, my personal favorite, “Tears: Man’s, G-d’s & The Angel’s”:

Self Induced Tests Of Avrohom & Yitzchok
Emes- Truth
Our Actions Come Before Our Thoughts
The Theme Of Rosh Hashana
Lessons On Chinuch- (From Mishlei)
Man In Search Of His Soul
The Wholeness Of Hashem
Bitachon & Hishtadus
What Is An Angel?
The Mitzvah Of Fearing Hashem
The High Holidays (Yomim Noraim)
Creation Of One’s Self
The Spark Of The Neshama In Our Hearts
Anger Management
Judging One Favorably
Birchas Hatorah- Blessings On The Torah
Our Role Of Bechirah -Choice
The Longest Journey From Sinai To Israel
How To Love Hashem
The Mitzvah Of Not Turning After Your Hearts
A Journey Into The World Of Tefilah
The Secret Of Tefilah
Making Your Tefilah Better
The Purpose Of Tefilah
Insights Into Tehillim (Chapter 23)
Mesilas Yesharim- The Path Of The Just
The Proper Way Of Speech
What Does Hashem Want?
The Search For Individuality
Inner Peace
What Is the Real World?
The Convergence Of Derech Eretz
Kedusha: You Shall Be A Holy Nation
What Is Torah?
The Purpose Of Life
In Whom Do You Trust?
What Is Existence?
Bechira & Destiny (Part #1) (see also tape #60)
Love & Klal Yisroel
How To Educate Oneself
Our Mesorah
Hashem, Torah & The Jews
Colliding Worlds Of Truth & Falsehood
Coping With Adversity
The Eternal Phenomenon
The Highway Of Life
Appreciating Hashem
The Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem
The Bond Of Love Between G-d & Man
Being Truthful
What To Aspire For
Why Bad Things Happen To Good People
Proper Speech
The 6th Day Of Creation
The Final Geulah
58) Insights Into Tehilim Chapters #1& #2
59) Torah: The State Of The Jewish Nation
60) Bechira & Destiny (Part #2) (see also tape #40)
61) Proper Parenting
62) Purpose Of The Journey From Egypt To Mount Sinai
63) Giving The Torah- The Eternal Phenomenon
64) What It Means Naaseh V’nishmah?
65) An Appointment With Hashem
66) The Fire Of Geulah Consumes The Fire Of Galus (Tisha B`av)
67) Kedusha: Spirituality Verses Fluff
68) Matan Torah- Shovous
69) Where To Look For Hashem?
70) How Much “Me” Is Important?
71) Are We Responsible For The Thoughts Of Our Hearts
72) Taking the Lessons From Yom Tovim Into The Year
73) How to Cultivate True Love
74) Man’s Birth & Rebirth (Rosh Hashanah)
75) Techias Hameisim
76) In The Absence Of Torah Values
77) How One Creates Relationships
78) Is The Bais Hamikdosh Still Burning Today?
79- 86) 13 Principles Of The Rambam (Parts #1-7)
87) Elul
88) Selichos
89) Shovous: Matan Torah
90) Lag B`omer
91) The Dignity & Divinity Of Man
92) Achdus- The End Of The Journey
93) Shovous: Your Own Kabbalas Hatorah
94) Shovous Of The Mind
95) Shovous: Rus- Mother Of Malchus
96) Sefiras Haomer
97) Purim
98) Jealous Of & Jealous For
99) Chanukah Thoughts: Flames That Burn Eternally
100) Tisha B’av
101) Pesach Insights
102) Pesach- The Ten Makkos Of Mitzraim
103) The Avodah Of Ellul
104) The Ten Days Of Teshuvah
105) Sukkos
106) How To Act Like G-d
107) The Meaning Of Ezer K’negdo
108) The Ego- Less Self
109) Pesach: Retaining Jewish Identity In The Diaspora
110) Redemption: The Season Of Freedom
111) Perspectives On The Rabin Assassination
112) Ahavas Hashem Through Hakaras Hatov
113) Tears: Man’s, G-d’s & The Angel’s

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Argutainment (9-5-21)

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Ears Wide Shut: Epistemological Populism, Argutainment and Canadian Conservative Talk Radio

From an academic paper in 2011:

* For many people, radio has a slightly anachronistic air about it. Perceived as technologically inferior to image-based media and less serious than textual media, radio is often ignored as a marginal and ephemeral medium
with little enduring political significance.

* we have examined the rhetorical strategies of Adler On Line (AOL), the pre-eminent commercial PTR program in Canada. While our analysis has revealed many interesting findings, in this article we have chosen to focus on two elements which we believe are both noteworthy and previously unexplored. The first section of this article argues that the program’s rhetorical practices establish a specific epistemological framework we call epistemological populism, since it employs a variety of populist rhetorical tropes to define certain types of individual experience as the only ground of valid and politically relevant knowledge. We suggest that this epistemology has significant political impacts insofar as its epistemic inclusions and exclusions make certain political positions appear self-evident and others incomprehensible and repugnant.

In the second section, we argue that the style of debate as performed and enforced by the host serves to privilege political speech which is passionate, simple and entertaining. More importantly, however, we show that this style, which we call argutainment, plays a key role in helping establishing the political preferences and views privileged by the program. The article closes with a speculative conclusion in which we identify some of the potential theoretical, political and normative implications of our findings.

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