February 18, 2012, 5:35 pm
It’s hard to be piercingly heterodox when heterodoxy is the culture’s orthodoxy—heterodoxy of a certain sort, anyway. Heterodoxy is not inherently instructive, accurate, or interesting. It’s pure reaction. If you tell a small child to be quiet and he yammers more loudly, his rebellion is a form of bondage. It’s hopelessly tethered to what it rejects. It’s wholly predictable and adds no value. It’s provocation whose point is to provoke, but not for any particular reason other than provocation itself. It’s reverse-the-sign heterodoxy—change the plus sign to minus, or vice versa. If conventional opinion condemns al-Qaeda and you defend them because the imperialists attack them, you’re a useless idiot. Much of the worst thinking of the last century has been of this form.
Bill Maher has on occasion made trenchant objections to orthodoxies of the moment, and last fall did herald…