Lust in Action: Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt 3

It would be misleading to say that Hustler v. Falwell extended the scope of First Amendment speech protections. What the Supreme Court did, essentially, was to preserve the scope that already ex¬isted, which they did by rejecting an effort by the Appeals Court to allow a public figure, absent a finding of libel, to recover on a claim of emotional ... Read More »

Lust in Action: Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt 2

In the movie, Flynt is initiated into the business of “adult’’ pub¬lishing by a local printer who explains that he can’t just print photo¬graphs of naked women without some sort of text as a legal “beard.” But this story does not appear in the book, nor is there any sugges¬tion there that it was ever Flynt’s intention, in launching Hustler, ... Read More »

Lust in Action: Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt

The People vs. Larry Flynt opened on Christmas Day, 1996. It is the story of a free-spirited entrepreneur who dares to flout every canon of piety and taste. Though his irreverence is rat¬ified by an enormous commercial success, he is persecuted incessantly by hypocritical bluenoses, convicted of absurd charges, imprisoned for contempt, and paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet. Confined ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 8

Because the subject is dismissed altogether from The True and Only Heaven, rights have no place in the book’s account of the Southern civil rights movement, and this seems a telling omission. For what saves Lasch’s populist tradition from being merely a bouquet of the values left strewn in the wake of progress is his contention that the populist spirit ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 7

The True and Only Heaven was, one assumes, intended to pro¬voke many such disputes about the selective readings and unortho¬dox interpretations of various figures. But there are two larger criticisms that I think Lasch invited, and they have application not only to that book, but to his work generally. Of the many peculiari¬ties about the moral tradition Lasch constructed in ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 6

Lower-middle-class virtues persist, Lasch thought, but as an en¬dangered moral species, preyed upon by the social-engineering schemes of the liberal professional classes. The controversy be¬tween suburban liberals and working-class city residents over the busing of school children to achieve racial integration and the argu¬ment over abortion rights are, he suggested, recent instances of lib¬eral imperialism. In the Boston busing wars, ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 5

Lasch meant by “populism” something more than the late- nineteenth-century political movement the term ordinarily denotes. Indeed, the book contains very little discussion of William Jennings Bryan, for instance, or of the Southern populist leader Tom Wat¬son. The populist tradition Lasch described has been transmitted through an oddly assorted sequence of thinkers. These thinkers all share one attitude, of course: ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 4

The True and Only Heaven was the first place in which Lasch tried to suggest, with some degree of comprehensiveness, a way out of the regrettable condition he thought the modern liberal view had left us in. It is much the longest of his books, and it suffers from many of the faults one has come to associate with his ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 3

Lasch’s argument, at this point in his work, had begun to show some similarity to that of Michel Foucault, whose analysis of mod¬ern institutional benevolence as a tyrannical system of social con¬trols Lasch wrote about approvingly. Perhaps a stronger, or more immediate, influence was Philip Rieff’s notion of “the triumph of the therapeutic”—the idea that the twentieth-century belief in per¬sonal ... Read More »

Christopher Lasch’s Quarrel with Liberalism 2

It is possible to be messianic in the effort to root out messian¬ism, though. Even pragmatism can suffer from hubris; and Lasch’s detection of a self-aggrandizing impulse, a secret determination to convert the world to its own “anti-ideological” ideology, in the osten¬sibly instrumentalist politics of midcentury liberalism was an in¬sight whose accuracy was confirmed, for many people, by America’s subsequent ... Read More »