New Essay at The Daily Beast: Stat-Happy News Ignores Journalism’s Need for Narrative

In my newest essay at the Daily Beast, I expose the arrogant conceit of “data” and “explanatory” journalists, especially Ezra Klein, who believe they transcend ideology by merely reporting statistical facts. I call on the literary journalism tradition to accomplish this task, showing how Twain, Hemingway, Mailer, Didion, David Foster Wallace, Tom Wolfe, and others, demolished the delusional narcissism of conventional journalists, like Klein, many years ago.

I also show how “data journalism” is part of a larger American trend of moving everything toward the machine. Technology is the new master, and young Americans approach it on their knees, hands folded, prepare to make any sacrifice. In the essay, I make the point that a literary journalism startup is what the culture desperately needs.

Since the Daily Beast published the essay, I’ve noticed a pattern in the responses I’ve received. Most middle aged readers understand the points I’m making clearly, while young readers can’t even begin to comprehend them.

It reminds me of an experience I recently had at a Gov’t Mule show in Chicago. The crowd was about an equal mix of millennials and silver pony tailed boomers. The silvery pony tails watched the show enthusiastically, enjoying the music, closely paying attention to the musicians, and reacting with excitement. The young fans held their “smart” phones up the entire time, pathetically trying to document different parts of the performance, I assume, for sharing on social media.

There’s more to life than machines, regardless of the benefits they bring. That goes for concerts and it goes for journalism.

Read the essay here.

Interview with Mondo Film Podcast on the Norman Mailer Novel, An American Dream

I was happy to participate in an episode of the excellent, Mondo Film Podcast, on the Norman Mailer novel, An American Dream.

As a member of the Norman Mailer Society, I was flattered to receive an invitation to participate in a conversation on one of Mailer’s greatest novels. Listen to the entire program at the Mondo Film Podcast website.

I will also contribute to the next episode, which focuses on Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize winning work of literary journalism, The Executioner’s Song.

New Column for The Indianapolis Star – “Political Correctness about to Get Worse on College Campuses”

Last week, the Indianapolis Star ran my column on the tyranny of political correctness. Norman Mailer might have put it best when he said, “I detest political correctness. It is the enemy. There are many enemies, but they all come under the one rubric of one person telling another person how to think.”

It is not with the words of Mailer that I begin my column, but with the words of another artistic genius and free speech warrior – George Carlin. The hilarious and rebellious provocateur explained that in his life he had witnessed a shirt in which the biggest threat to free speech went from the hysterics of the right wing to the PC policing of the left wing.

carlinAs I make clear in the column, those who still value free thought, robust conversation, and flirtation should prepare for a battle, because the Department of Justice recently issued a new policy to all colleges that receive federal funding to hideously restrict the exercise of free speech.

Read about the policy and my indictment of it at the Indianapolis Star.

New Essay for The Atlantic: Why Still So Few Use Condoms

Liberals are obsessed with condoms. They are convinced that teenagers, adult couples, and gay men don’t use condoms because they don’t have sufficient “knowledge and awareness,” and they believe that the Catholic Church is primarily responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, because of its stupid policy of preaching against condoms.

In my new essay for The Atlantic“Why Still So Few Use Condoms” – I take on these myths, and I acknowledge the politically incorrect truth, logic, and reality that most people don’t like or use condoms because they significantly rob sexuality of pleasure, intimacy, and spontaneity.

I also write about how the unlikely and unholy alliance of Planned Parenthood and the religious right have convinced generations of Americans that something they invented call “precum” can impregnate women, despite a mountain of evidence proving that the opposite is true.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was possible for me to write about all of this, because of the necessary, noble, and heroic work of Bill Gates, who after finding that in Africa most people don’t use condoms because of the pleasure factor, he has offered a $100,000 grant to anyone who can present credibly demonstrate that they are developing a condom that will “enhance pleasure.”

I begin my essay with a few quotes from the mighty Norman Mailer who put it best when telling Madonna, of all people, that “the only thing you can depend on with condoms is that they will take 20 to 50 percent off your fuck.”

Major Announcement: New Ebook now available on Amazon – “Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity”

Readers who have followed my work since the publication of my first book, Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen (Continuum Books), in 2010 have likely noticed that my politics have shifted in various directions. The role of any thoughtful and thinking person must include closely observing new developments in history, politics, and sociology, obtaining new information and insights, and adapting accordingly. Citizenship requires the citizen to always move like a quarterback in a scramble – ducking and dodging oncoming opponents, reacting with agility and speed to changes in the play, and remaining steadfast in the commitment to advancing one’s priorities and purpose.

In my new collection of essays, Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity, I write about my own personal and political development, and how I escaped from the enclosed ideological cell of big government liberalism to find the free territory of individual freedom, neighborhood empowerment, and communal enlivenment. The new and exclusive title essay deals with the events that shaped my politics, and shows how I became a proponent of what Norman Mailer called “Left Conservatism.” I now take equally from the left and right, and I criticize both left and right – in the process claiming the inspiration of figures as diverse in range as Cornel West, Bob Dylan, Albert Camus, Gore Vidal, Stanley Hauerwas, Pope Benedict, and the aforementioned Norman Mailer. The new collection of essays demonstrates how a strong individual can move against traffic – creating one’s own identity and using one’s own intellect, heart, and spirit as cartographer.

Against_Traffic_book_coverMost of Against Traffic is new material – the grand title essay and an introduction, but the book also includes my previously published letter challenging President Obama’s supporters, and my previously published essays on the death of American Empire, and the “dangerous alliance of big business and big government.” It closes with my eulogy celebrating the life and career of Gore Vidal.

The description on Amazon is as follows:

Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity is a compelling and provocative collection essays from one of America’s most versatile and forceful young writers. David Masciotra, who writes about pop culture for PopMatters, literature for the Daily Beast, politics for Front Porch Republic, and religion for Relevant, turns his clear eyes, powerful intellect, and large imagination toward the fiasco of American politics. What follows is a blistering attack on the clichés of the left and right, and the superficiality, tribalism, and frivolity of the American political scene.

In the title essay, Against Traffic, Masciotra takes readers through his deeply personal and political travels from the ideological trap of big government liberalism to the open ground of neighborhood empowerment, communal enlivenment, and what Norman Mailer called “Left Conservatism.” The essay also deals with the importance of literature, the arts, existential Christianity, and localism in the formulation of an edifying politics, citing figures as diverse as Albert Camus, Cornel West, Gore Vidal, and Pope Benedict.

Masciotra shoots through the delusions of most pundits by indicting both big government and big business. President Obama, the liberals who have defended his disastrous policies, and the Republican Party are all undressed as equally culpable in the destruction of the American community and family. The political solution that Masciotra offers will surprise and please anyone concerned about the maximization of freedom and the empowerment of the everyday person.

Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity not only issues brilliant commentary on American politics, but also examines how independence, rebellion, and liberty are possible in an American culture committed to groupthink, party loyalty, and conformity.

Against Traffic, which in addition to the grand title essay includes an open letter challenging President Obama’s supporters, an examination of the death of the American Empire, an exploration of the “dangerous alliance between big business and big government”, and a eulogy celebrating the life and career of Gore Vidal, is a must read book for Americans fighting to free themselves from the shackles of America’s dysfunctional, and often diabolical, political system and culture.

It is a unique work of insight into how Americans can resist the restrictions of American politics, and live with strength, courage, and conviction.

Buy it now

New Feature at The Daily Beast – “The Jesus Novels”

James Lee Burke said when I interviewed him, “Find a metaphysical story you like and stick with it.” I like the story of Jesus and I’m sticking with it. As much as it sustains, empowers, and inspires me, I often find fault with the Biblical rendering of the narrative. Norman Mailer had the same criticism, claiming that the story of the Christian Messiah simultaneously living as God and man was indeed the “greatest story ever told”, but that it was not told in the “greatest way.” Mailer’s Jesus novel, The Gospel According to the Son, in which Jesus tells his story in the first person is a book that I turn to more than the Synoptic Gospels. It is a book of mystery, majesty, and magic.

My newest feature for the Daily Beast is a short run down of some of the best and most interesting Jesus novels. I offer barely more than summary of each book, but the article gives a good introduction to readers looking to read the Jesus story as shaped by the delicate hand of the novelist. In addition to Mailer, I give Fulton J. Sheen, Anne Rice, and Nikos Kazantzakis the most praise. Deepak Chopra is not much of a novelist, but I also compliment his surprising, insightful, and unconventional effort of speculation on Jesus’ teenage years and twenties.

Jesus NovelsChristians looking for a reminder of the Jesus story’s power will find any of these novels a good place to start, and nonbelievers will also enjoy them. As I point out in the article, the Jesus novels provide “artistic means of accessing a tale containing all of the most effective tools of drama—pity, terror, sadness, heroism, tragedy, and redemption.”

My “Must Read” Book List for the Presidential Election Season

Today the Daily Beast is allowing me to force my tastes on the masses. I’ve written an annotated list of my top ten books for the Presidential election season. The list includes three of my favorite authors – Norman Mailer, David Foster Wallace, and Gore Vidal, who I recently eulogized for PopMatters.

One of the reasons I enjoy writing about pop culture and literature is that it enables me to introduce unpopular political or philosophical ideas into mainstream discussion.

The overarching theme of my Daily Beast article, and the dominant theme of all the books I’ve chosen for inclusion, is that Presidential politics is a ghastly and fraudulent spectacle of stagecraft in which personality dramas, public relations, and image branding silence and defeat discussion of the issues most important to the lives of the American people. It is often difficult to enter such an unforgiving critique into political debate, but with the usher of pop culture and/or literature, it can happen.

The main reason I’ve selected all of the books on the list, however, is that they are valuable and insightful works of art or research that elevate their respective genres to new standards of excellence. Everyone, regardless of ideology or level of political passion, could benefit from reading great books.