Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The sadness of the bien pensant

... I read the Utne Reader yesterday.

Ann Althouse has some fun with her chance re-encounter with The Utne Reader, and it seemed to capture the spirit of the bien pensant so well that I've had to post it. "Bien pensant" is a phrase I only came across a few years ago myself -- according to Merriam-Webster, it means "right-minded; one who holds orthodox views", but that doesn't really explain its peculiar nuance. It's used not just to describe the orthodox, but the fashionably orthodox, the sort of boutique opinionating that swirls in little gusts around the cappuccino bar at the independent bookstore or organic food mart, where you'll find the Utne Reader on a rack near the cash register -- the spot occupied by the National Enquirer in the down-market, inorganic outlets.

Here's where she has the fun:
But Utne Reader is not a young man's world — or a young woman's world. It feels like an old person's place. I felt too young for it... and I'm old. Or it's for those other aging Americans... the lefties. I see these people in Madison all the time. Do they feel left behind? Do you think the day will come when "lefty" will seem to mean left behind?
And not in the unRaptured sense. I think maybe the day has come, except for the poor souls still sipping obliviously on their specialty coffees. Do you think that explains some of their baffled rage against the right?


  1. Utne does tend to set off the BS-o-meter. Then, so does the WSJ. AS does Althouse's unique blend of Limbaugh-like generalizations, legalese and the sexxy midwestern housewife schtick.

    Bien pensant, right thinking, as in ideological orthodoxy of a sort--but I'm not sure it always applied to ..La Gauche.

    So you agree with Mss Althouse that old lefties and progressives should give up on the granola, the peacenik BS, the eco-concerns, and the criticism of corporations and the wealthy, eh metamorf?--make friends with yr inner Dick Cheney, and have a martini...bombs away Ayn Rand would be proud

  2. Bien pensant, right thinking, as in ideological orthodoxy of a sort--but I'm not sure it always applied to ..La Gauche.

    No, quite right. In fact, back when right-wing fascism was fashionable, it no doubt applied to la Droite.

    As for the aging lefties and self-styled "progressives", I do think they could cut back on the granola, yes, and give up on, e.g., "eco-concerns" that serve as a kind of faux religion -- in fact, give up on intellectual and moral posturing generally, and learn how to question themselves. That's good for everyone, of course, not just the lefties, but right now it's the lefties that need it more.

  3. and maybe they should tune into the wit and wisdom of Rush Limbaugh, America's official obese carny barker too, eh, metamorf: as Miss Althouse has-- at least most of the time. Occasionally she sounds a bit...sunday schoolish, as do her acolytes. First church of PT Barnum, Rev. Limbaugh presidin'.


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