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Mark Bauerlein is Senior Editor at First Things and Professor of English at Emory University, where he has taught since earning his PhD in English at UCLA in 1989. For two years (2003-05) he served as Director of the Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. His books include Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (1997), The Pragmatic Mind: Explorations in the Psychology of Belief (1997), and The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (2008). His essays have appeared in PMLA, Partisan Review, Wilson Quarterly, Commentary, and New Criterion, and his commentaries and reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Weekly Standard, The Guardian, Chronicle of Higher Education, and other national periodicals.

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A Theory for Tattoos

From Web Exclusives

The motives for tattoos are many, but they all have a common subtext. A tattoo can mark a group identity—sailors, soldiers, inmates, gangs, motorcyclists. It can memorialize a person or event, as in a virtual archive of snapshots of tattoos showing names and faces of deceased loved ones (I attended a presentation of the archive by two academics in Toronto last year). Sometimes they happen by blunt peer pressure, a set of 20-year-olds on Saturday night getting drunk, knowing not what to do until one of them blurts, “Let’s go get a tat and a ring!” (a good friend tells me of pulling out just as his turn came up). Continue Reading »

Bare Facts

From First Thoughts

Ever since the 1965 Moynihan Report on “The Negro Family,” the rate of children born in African-American homes without fathers has been a key statistic in social science discussions and policy debates. Back then, it was 25 percent. Today, it’s 70 percent, a rate extraordinary enough to have become a standard citation in discussions ranging from rap music to African-American test scores to Ferguson, Missouri. Continue Reading »

The Power of the Liberal Script

From First Thoughts

Rusty Reno’s treatment of the Ferguson affair in his Web Exclusive today emphasizes the predictable “script” that has unfolded since that fateful confrontation on August 9th. “Black youth shot by policeman [arrow] outrage and protest [arrow] rioting and looting [arrow] indignant and solemn discussion of American racism by pundits and columnists”—that’s the drama, and it surprises nobody anymore. Continue Reading »

The Enemies, and Friends, of the Humanities

From Web Exclusives

A funny thing happened when Michael Novak brought Herbert Marcuse to lecture to his students. It was the early-1970s when campus rebellion had entered its darker phase, and Marcuse was an idol of the Movement. His theory of “repressive tolerance” served as an essential touchstone for protest, and his volatile mix of Marx and Freud seemed an edgy, relevant style of intellectualized activism. Continue Reading »

Is It Legal—or, Who’s the Victim?

From Web Exclusives

One of the more intractable aspects of sexual politics today for traditionalists is the emergence of the courtroom as the arena for settling every debate. Even when they have a democratic majority, not to mention centuries of sexual-marital mores, on their side, the contrary will of one-to-five politically-appointed individuals can prevail. Of course, judicial activism is an old problem, undemocratic and arbitrary, placing monumental decisions in too few hands. But there is another problem, an indirect one that follows precisely from critics taking seriously the courtroom’s power. We could call this problem the “legalization” of debate, meaning not whether something is legal, but instead the conversion of moral, social, religious, and other dimensions of an issue into legal, or legalistic, terms, or at least the neglect of them because of a focus on what the judges will say.

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Rules Not Virtue

From the June/July 2014 Print Edition

When a winter storm in 2011 sent a tree crashing into a creek in a town in New Jersey, officials acted quickly to remove it and stem the flooding—until a man (“probably the town lawyer”) apprised them that a “class C-1 creek” could not be altered without a formal . . . . Continue Reading »

Transparently Honest

From the January 2014 Print Edition

George Orwell: A Life in Letters edited by peter davison liveright, 524 pages, $35 When, in her book Treason, Ann Coulter cited George Orwell in support of her denunciation of liberals as traitors, her readers probably didn’t even blink. Like thousands of high school students every year, they . . . . Continue Reading »

PORGIing Out

From the February 2013 Print Edition

America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats) by David Gelernter Encounter Books, 200 pages, $23.99 When Roger Kimball wrote Tenured Radicals back in 1990, for conservatives and traditionalists the thesis quickly congealed into the explanation for the . . . . Continue Reading »

My Failed Atheism

From the May 2012 Print Edition

In thirty years as a professor, of graduate seminars, academic conferences, committee meetings, lunches and dinners, and conversations short and long, I have heard God mentioned rarely, and when he is mentioned he is never talked of in a way that assumes his reality. God may have stood foremost in . . . . Continue Reading »