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Sep 21

Written by: Diana West
Friday, September 21, 2007 7:08 AM 

One of the supreme delights of blogging, of course, is the fact that the Internet enables the muttered responses of the individual reacting to the world around him to reach a heretofore unimagined audience. This sense of equalizing empowerment comes down to this: Today, the breakfast table; tomorrow the world!
    Take the author of a book, for instance. Pre-'net, on reading what, in this particular case, she determines is an unfair and/or superficial review, she could have complained to her husband and written a letter to the editor. Her husband, being the right sort, would comfort her, but would the letter be printed? Maybe, maybe not. And then what happens? It's off to the recycling bin.  Today, however, she can complain to her husband, write a letter to the editor AND, whether it was printed in the paper, post it on her website forever.
    Why not?
    Here, then, is my response to the review of The Death of the Grown-Up in the Wall Street Journal by John Leo, which was a disappointment not because it was unfavorable--honest--but because it failed either to present or engage with the bulk of the book's thesis.

Perpetual Adolescence

John Leo calls my book, "The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization," "provocative" (Bookshelf, Leisure & Arts, Aug. 21), but he doesn't know the half of it.

At least, he didn't review the half of it -- or, to be precise, the last two-thirds of the book that connect the cult of perpetual adolescence not just to the old culture wars from which multiculturalism ascended, but to the new culture war -- the real culture war -- that the West, now in a period of adolescent-style identity crisis, faces in this era of resurgent jihadist Islam. Having finished writing his review, perhaps he can finish reading the book.

Diana West
Washington
   
    It's not so much a matter of having the last word as having a word at all.

    Now, for the other review that cried out for some response, the one that ran in The New York Times by  William Grimes. At least Grimesy grasped the thesis, even if he did stoop to ad hominem attack and non-supported statements to reject it. I'm not holding my breath until the Times publishes this letter, so here it is, an Internet Exclusive.
   
To the Editor:
   
In his review of my book, “The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization,” William Grimes makes it plain to readers of the New York Times that he did not like it. Sure, there were a few crumbs for the author (“she writes with great flair,” she “has a sense of humor,” she “makes a principled, conservative cultural argument unflinchingly, “ she “does know how to get the pulse racing,” etc.). But the review was overwhelmingly a complete rejection of my key thesis examining the impact of the infantilization of our culture—which the book analyzes in terms of family life, manners and morés, pop culture, the rise of multiculturalism, the loss of Western identity—on the current war against Islamic jihad.

Indeed, Mr. Grimes brands my thesis “half-baked.” At no point, however, does he even begin to demonstrate why--unless ad hominem attacks on an author for not having sufficient “intellectual firepower” count for analysis at the New York Times. He neither mounts reasoned opposition to my main points, nor does he point out a single error or disconnect in my historical argument or logical progression. “To get from the baseball cap to Bin Laden, Ms. West takes more leaps than Carl Lewis,” Mr. Grimes writes—offering no example of elliptical thinking. “She is long on assertion and light on data,” he declares—offering no example of unsupported statements. 

Mr. Grimes dismisses my “grand thesis about the West’s failure to confront Islam”--which I ultimately put down to the absence of “adults” mature enough to own up to the politically incorrect differences between the West and Islam, leaving us  prattling on about the “religion of peace” and one-size-fits-all yearnings for “freedom.” Here, he seems to abandon all pretense at mounting a professional critique. I make this case “none too convincingly,” he writes (again, no examples). This is a sloppy—dare I say immature?--way to dismiss, for example, a factual analysis of the crucial differences between conceptions of human rights in the West and the Islamic world contained in a comparison of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several Islamic human rights documents, including the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, which hold sharia (Islamic law) supreme. It is also a sloppy way to dismiss the weighty research of such scholars of Islam including John Ralph Ellis, Bernard Lewis and Franz Rosenthal, who are cited, for example, in a discussion of the disparate meanings of freedom in the West and Islam. (In Islam, freedom, or hurriyya, may be defined as “perfect slavery” to Allah.) “The generalizations fly fast and free,” Mr. Grimes writes, “obscuring completely valid points in the process.” Generalizations--what generalizations? He doesn’t cite one. And if these “points” I have supposedly “obscured” are so “completely valid,” what in tarnation are they?

Mr. Grimes doesn’t have the answer. Talk about “long on assertion and light on data, ” not to mention unconvincing arguments. Frankly, I expected more “intellectual firepower” from the New York Times.
   
    Diana West


As Laura Ingraham might say, Power to the People.

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