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Comments: Week of December 31, 2012


1. “Dammit, @NYMag’s reasons to love NY is getting me all misty-eyed!” tweeted @theoriginalecs of our annual, itemized love letter to the city (“Reasons to Love New York Right Now,” December 17–24). Other tweeters offered ex post facto nominations, a lot of them pretty great. “Going to bed when the sun rises and sleeping on the subway to make up for it,” suggested @dirrrtyicecrm. Because “you can have a whole roast goat delivered right to your apartment,” wrote @segrisham, and because “Halal carts get their own Yelp reviews,” wrote @pgcornwell. Because “only in NY can strangers argue on 2 train about whether what the other is shouting constitutes libel or slander,” wrote @bretbegun. “When the conductor on the A train says, ‘lets go to work New York,’ on the PA during my AM commute,” wrote @mitchryansucks. And for @crewlove_x: “everything.”

2. “What’s really shocking about the Petraeus affair is not Petraeus’s affair but the fact that once again, we were taken in by a secular plaster saint,” wrote Frank Rich in an essay on our taste for too-good-to-be-true leaders (“Suckers for Superheroes,” December 17–24). “We get an endless stream of these phony heroes because they exhibit behavior that our society rewards,” wrote one commenter at “Let’s face it: In America, modesty, honesty, and frugality are for suckers.” Another argued that the media was to blame, Rich himself included: “Thing is, though, why don’t you, with your ability to track these plastic people, shout about them as they are pulling the wool over our eyes?”

3. “As a moral statement, Zero Dark Thirty is borderline fascistic,” David Edelstein wrote in his review of Kathryn Bigelow’s hunt–for–bin Laden film, which, he said in his year-end top-ten list, “makes a case for the efficacy of torture” (“Epic Pileup,” December 17–24). At the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald was among the first, and most vocal, to pick up the thread: “Ultimately, I don’t believe that this film is being so well-received despite its glorification of American torture. It’s more accurate to say it’s so admired because of this,” he wrote, not having yet seen the movie. “The normalization of torture—and of all crimes committed by the US government in the name of war—is both a cause and effect of this film’s success.” In the same issue, Mark Harris had written a long behind-the-scenes account of the making of the movie (“Zero Hour,” December 17–24), and on Twitter, he challenged Greenwald. “29 paragraphs is a lot of noise to make based on ‘I haven’t seen the movie, but … ’ ” Harris tweeted. Greenwald answered: “that it falsely depicts torture as crucial in finding bin Laden is disputed by nobody, including filmmakers.” Harris: “where torture is placed in the film’s chronology and how it’s depicted is more of a gray area than you may imagine.” Greenwald: “does it or does it not depict torture as helpful in finding bin Laden?” Harris: “The answer, within the movie, isn’t yes/no. Stop being a lawyer. You can’t prosecute art that way. Go see it.” Greenwald: “Most reviewers at every large paper/magazine, & the filmmakers, had no trouble answering that. They’re all clear.” Harris: “‘Most reviewers at every paper have not yet reviewed ZDT; those that have are hardly unanimous on topic of torture.” Then: “And you really do yourself and your argument no favors by comparing Kathryn Bigelow to Leni Riefenstahl.” Greenwald challenged Harris on “unanimous”: “Yeah—just the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Bigelow all agree on this point—that’s all.” Time’s James Poniewozik jumped in: “If nothing else, tho, think Greenwald piece classic example of why ideologues ultimately distrust aesthetes as insufficiently committed.” To which Harris replied: “Polemicists of the right and the left also share a propensity to glibly demonize Hollywood and art as morally unserious.” And Poniewozik agreed: “Yes—where ‘unserious’ = not willing to commit to our preferred absolute answers.”

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