NR Digital


Rated PC

by James Lileks

There’s a certain sort of person who feels a merry little thrill when the banning begins. Oh good, the statues are coming down? Now we can do something about that historical plaque I don’t like. As if nothing happened here before 1855. Who knows what the Native Americans did on this spot? We may never know, so let’s stop pretending history began when General Killian McGenocide slept here. Get a crowbar.

If someone objects because you’re crowbarring off a historical marker, hit him with the crowbar. It’s self-defense, after all: The people who object to your objecting are preventing a future in which you’ll be happier. Why, they’re assaulting you.

Statue-banning brings out the ridiculous people who get a moment of media exposure when they insist the entire past must be hidden under a tarp. Let’s welcome the Reverend Hal Shrapten:

“I think we should take down the statue of Lincoln, who was, after all, president of a country in which slavery was legal. I know there’s no chance of this happening, but just being here on TV spouting this twaddle bolsters my political fortunes and inflates my rapacious ego — and yes, I am utterly indifferent to my contribution to the Left’s ongoing estrangement from the center of American thought. Buy my book.”

Perhaps the best example of ordinary folk getting giddy about our bold new era came after the Charlottesville episode, when an actual Yale-educated TV producer tweeted:

“Now that we’re talking, there are casually racist + sexist + homophobic moments in classic movies that don’t need to be classics any more.”

This makes it sound as if there’s a National Classic-Movie Designation Board, where a panel of gouty white men decide which films are classics. The term means “old and pretty good,” and nothing more. But, apparently, we shouldn’t call those movies classics because they have wrongthink embedded in their narrative DNA. Anyone who says “Citizen Kane? My favorite of all the classics” would get a raised eyebrow. Really? You don’t find it problematic that one of the actors, Joseph Cotten, is named after the crop most often associated with slave labor? I mean, in this day and age.

Perhaps all the good old movies could be moved from Turner Classic Movies channel to Turner Diaries Classic Movies channel, named after the white-separatist garbage novel enjoyed by people who move their lips while reading and trace the sentences with their finger so they don’t lose track. You could have a federal blue-ribbon committee that decides which movies go to TDCM, but it would be easier to put everything made prior to 2008 into the bin of Degenerate Art and have exquisitely sensitive people screen them for offense. That would be fun:

“Stop! Stop! Can this movie be anymore homophobic? The prissy, nervous, artistic guy has to live with a real-man-type slob, and we’re supposed to think the slob’s annoyance isn’t shrieking homosexual panic?”

“It’s called ‘The Odd Couple.’ The prissy guy is straight. He’s just a typical neurotic archetype of the era, common to major East Coast areas. See, his wife — “

“Oh, so he’s not gay? They’re negating the experience of actual gay men and straight-washing out their existence? At a time when Stonewall was still fresh in everyone’s mind? Seriously?”

“Would you rather watch a documentary about the Stonewall gay-bar riots?”

“And think about Stonewall Jackson and the Civil War? Do you want me to report you to the block officer?”

Note: This sort of conversation takes place only when there’s someone to harangue and silence. When a person is watching a movie alone, it can be taken on its own terms — but if there’s anyone who needs to be reminded of his complicity in All the Bad Things Ever, then everything’s a problem. Another screening of a Bad-Thought UnClassic might go like this:

“Okay, I can tell I don’t like this movie already. It has Nazis.”

“They’re the bad guys. Relax.”

“Don’t you tell me to relax when Nazis are marching in the streets today.”

“These are historical Nazis who numbered in the millions, backed by a powerful war machine. The current Nazis couldn’t fill a minor-league baseball stadium, and half of them would be there to ogle cheerleaders, because the only women in their daily lives are calling ‘Dinner’s ready’ from the top of the stairs.”

“What’s this — oh, a black man. Movie’s set in Africa, and there’s one black man. And he’s an entertainer.”

“First of all, he’s a musician. An artist. He’s the only one who brings beauty and joy to this place — “

“So, he has magical soul, on account of his people are so spiritual. Right. And didn’t he just call the white man ‘Boss’? Boss?”

“Well, the white man is his employer, yes, but they’re old friends and clearly regard each other with deep respect — “

“Respect? Did you just hear the white guy order him to play it again? You played it for the white lady, you can play it for me, Sam as in ‘Sambo.’ What’s this mess called again?”


“Right. ‘White house.’ Okay, you can call it a classic, but this is insulting to anyone who’s not a white male.”

“You’re a white male.”

“Yeah. But I get it. I understand embedded structures of supremacy, both coded and explicit. I hate everything about the past except for the fact that it led us here, where we can denounce it with utter finality.”

“Okay. What would you like to watch?”

(Pause.) (Looks around, gets up, draws the shades, whispers.)

“Please tell me you have Blazing Saddles.”

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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