(Do you remember when Saturday morning was fun? Stupid, but fun…)
1. Your cultural literacy note of the day. The Charles Laughton classic “Ruggles of Red Gap” was on Turner Movie Classics last night. The movie itself is wonderful—I recommended it in an Independence Day post here—but it is also a cultural literacy triumph. In 1935, when the film was released, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was in the process of falling out of the public’s consciousness. The film’s most famous scene, however, revived it. In a saloon, reference is made to “what Lincoln said at Gettysburg,” and all the cowboys in Red Gap ask each other, “What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg?” Then, quietly, unexpectedly, Ruggles the English butler (Laughton) and the only foreign-born man in the room, recites the speech. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, in his post showing observations, revealed that when the film was first shown, audiences frequently stood and applauded Laughton’s rendition, and the Address itself became more widely known and quoted.
This is how popular culture works when it is in sync with national values, and not attempting to undermine them.
Here is the scene…for some reason YouTube doesn’t have it, but does have the entire film. The saloon scene begins at about the 56:09 mark:
2. The Atlantic-Kevin Williamson controversy. Unless you routinely plumb the depths of pundit wars and cultural bloodletting, you might well be completely unaware of this skirmish, but it is ultimately an ethics story.
Conservative writer Kevin Williamson was one of the National Review’s most quotable and flamboyant contributes. Like the magazine itself, but moreso, he is virulently anti-Trump, a NeverTrumper from the beginning. This apparently made him appealing to the relentlessly liberal magazine, The Atlantic, so in what was thought to be an admirable commitment to more ideological diversity, it hired Williamson away from the comfy conservative NR. Then it fired him less than a month later after only one column.
The provocation was a remark he made on a 2014 podcast reiterated in more recent tweet :
And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, “If you really thought it was a crime, you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.” And I do support that. In fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging.