Thursday, February 24, 2005

Feb 24/05- Peggy Noonan tries her hand at blogging...fine result


I'll Link to That

Hunter Thompson, Larry Summers, Hillary, Condi and the Internet's patron saint.

Thursday, February 24, 2005 12:01 a.m.

This week, an homage de blog. Or would that be homage du blog? James
Taranto will know. It's good to have an editor, especially one I would
characterize as a nonintrusive stickler. He always knows my topic,
doesn't know my view, corrects my spelling and grammar. [De? Du? It's
all Greek to me!--ed.]

Today I post thoughts blog-style. There is, however, a theme. Find it.

Hunter Thompson, RIP. Tom Wolfe, a genius, goes over the top in his
praise of Thompson. Wolfe and Thompson were of the same journalistic
generation, and we are all chauvinists for our era. But Hunter
Thompson was not Mark Twain, who was a genius, nor was he the great
comic voice of America in the 20th century.

He was a reporter/diarist who helped create a new journalistic form,
to which 30 years ago he gave the even then embarrassingly corny name
"gonzo journalism." It was highly personal, eccentric, with the writer
at the center of the story, and it had its moments, the best of which
was "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which had a different sound, a
different attitude, and a whiff of anarchy that seemed liberating.

In time Thompson's swashbuckling came to seem joyless, aggressive and
half dead. What he thought fed his gift (drugs, alcohol) killed it. He
must have been very scared to get tanked like that to write. The empty
page, the blank screen, is scary. But so is a mortgage. So is the
stillness of a courtroom before you make the closing argument. And so
is a broken leg that needs fixing fast. We all have jobs. You take a
bad turn when you start to think your next work must be marked by
genius because you are a genius. Thompson's death is an occasion not
for inspiration or celebration but compassion. Not pity, but a sense
of universal idiocy, and sympathy.

The Larry Summers story continues. What choice does it have? It could
end, but its authors would have to have the good sense to put a period
in and change the subject.

Tuesday he faced an angry faculty gathering where "his ears were
pinned back," as one reporter said. Summers now seems to be saying he
made a mistake in airing the idea of gender-related differences in the
interests and aptitudes of scholars. But here is what he may be
forgetting, for people under pressure often lose track of their lack
of culpability: Summers did nothing wrong. He thought aloud about an
interesting question in a colorful and un-defended way. That's what
universities are for.

His mistake was stepping on the real third rail in American cultural
politics. It's not Social Security. It is attempting to reconcile the
indisputable equality of all people with their differentness. The left
thinks if we're all equal we're all alike. Others say we're all equal
but God made us different, too, and maybe he did that to keep things
interesting, and maybe he did it because each human group is meant to
reflect an aspect of his nature. Our differentness is meant to teach
us his infinite variety and complexity. It's all about God.

But what the Summers story most illustrates is that American
universities now seem like Medieval cloisters. They're like a cloister
without the messy God part. Old monks of leftism walk their hallowed
halls in hooded robes, chanting to themselves. Young nuns of leftist
deconstructionism, pale as orchids, walk along wringing their hands,
listening to their gloomy music. They become hysterical at the
antichrist of a new idea, the instrusion of the reconsideration of
settled matter. Get thee behind me, Summers.

These monks and nuns are the worst of both worlds, frightened and so
ferocious, antique and so aggressive. Will they exorcise Summers from
their midst? Stay tuned. But cheers to the Ivy League students who
refuse to be impressed by these relics.

Hillary. Forget her prepared speeches, put aside her moderate
statements on Iraq and abortion. This is how you know she's running
for president in 2008. Ten days ago a reporter interviewed her in the
halls of the Senate (another kind of cloister) and asked if she
planned to run for president. She did not say, "I'm too busy serving
the people of New York to think about the future." She did not say,
"Oh, I already have a heckuva lot on my plate." She said, "I have more
than I can say grace over right now."

I have more than I can say grace over right now. What a wonderfully
premeditated ad lib for the Age of Red State Dominance. I suggested a
few weeks ago that Mrs. Clinton was about to get very, very religious.
But her words came across as pious and smarmy, like Tammy Faye with a
law degree. Maybe she still thinks in stereotypes; maybe she thinks
that's what little Christian ladies talk like while they stay home
baking cookies. Whatever, it was almost as good as her saying, "I'm
running, is this not obvious to even the slowest of you?"

Condi Rice. The new secretary of state has been doing something both
different in public and, I suspect, not without meaning. When she
meets with the leader of another country and poses for the handshake
photo-op she never looks at the leader. She always looks at the
journalists witnessing the event instead. She gives them her warmest,
most connected smiles.

Then, when the picture taking is over, she turns to the foreign leader
with a more neutral look, makes eye contact and chats. I don't think
this is an accident. I suspect it is the administration's way of
finally fighting back against 50 years of embarrassing and
compromising pictures of American leaders meeting with leaders such as
this, this and this. The Bush White House doesn't want those pictures.
They may be inconvenient down the road. And so administration members
on meeting foreign leaders give all their jolly warmth to the moment,
as it were, and not the man. Interesting. And Rice is not alone.

The patron saint of the Internet. St. Isidore of Seville, inventor of
the encyclopedia, is said to be the leading contender for the title,
but I hope he doesn't get it. The obvious patron saint of the internet
is St. Joseph Cupertino. St. Joseph was a great man of the 17th
century, and is my second favorite saint.

Many saints were deeply intelligent, and some were geniuses, but St.
Joseph Cupertino, God bless him, was a bit of an idiot. Great saints
like Teresa of Avila (my favorite: her common sense had a kind of
genius to it) wrote books. St. Joseph Cupertino couldn't even read
them. He had a low IQ. He was accepted to the priesthood only when a
small miracle occurred: His big final test question dealt with the one
part of the Bible he'd managed to fully memorize.

What was so special about St. Joseph? His intellectual dullness left
him modest; the fact that no one seems ever to have loved him left him
not angry but humble; the violence inflicted on him by others left him
sympathetic to their frustrations. He thought nothing of himself, and
God knew. He loved God with pure and complete ardor, and God knew that
too. And God filled him with what most others could not be filled with
because they were so full of themselves, and that was love. God poured
so much love into St. Joseph that he was lit with it, floated with it.
It literally left him airborne.

St. Joseph would pray, and then have visions, and soon he would begin
to float. He would come to and find himself in the top of a tree and
climb down with great embarrassment. It angered his superiors--who is
this idiot to be so filled with love? Smarter people deserved visions!
They also resented the fact that the local peasants began to follow
him, for they and not the monks and nuns could see something special,
the man was a saint. (He was: he'd be sent out to beg for food for the
monastery and wind up giving the poor peasants his shoes and cloak
instead. One cold winter day he came back naked.) Instead of wearing
his shoes, the peasants saved them as relics.

Animals too seemed to understand St. Joseph. They felt the love within
him like a mighty vibration. Maybe it was the exact opposite of an
earthquake vibration dogs are said to feel. They didn't run from him
but to him, and were quiet when they were with him, and put their
heads on his knee. Birds would follow him. He'd tell them to shoo but
they wouldn't, and he'd laugh. They flew all around his head. He died
in obscurity after finally having been assigned never to leave his
cell. The best essay on him is in "Saints for Sinners" by Alban

Why is St. Joseph Cupertino the obvious patron saint of the Internet?
Because he flew through the air, lifted by truth. Because no
establishment could keep him down. Because he empowered common people.
Because they in fact saw his power before the elites of the time did.
And because it could not be an accident that the center of the
invention of the Internet, ground zero of Silicon Valley, is
Cupertino, Calif., named for the saint centuries ago.

Was God in this? Of course. Does God do such things for no reason? He
does not. Has the church recognized St. Joseph Cupertino as patron
saint of the Internet? No. But the church was always slow to give him
his due. If you want to tell the pope that St. Joseph should be patron
saint, you can reach him at

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and
author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal
Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which
you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears

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