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Forum discusses Culture Wars

February 2, 2001
Political journalist David Brooks uses a map of voting results from this past Presidential election during his lecture on the social and economic changes between generations Wednesday night at the Kellogg Center. —

The war has subsided.

David Brooks, a renowned political journalist, told students and faculty that the culture wars have calmed in the United States at a lecture on Wednesday in the Kellogg Center Auditorium.

Brooks, the first speaker in the LeFrak Forum and the Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy, addressed audience members about cultural and political change in his speech, “Are the Culture Wars Over?”

“The message is that we used to have a very polarized culture and that we used to have real hostility in our politics,” Brooks said. “Due to the way the economy is shaped, the politics isn’t as angry as it used to be. So our culture isn’t as polarized and it becomes much more contented.”

Brooks is the senior editor of the Weekly Standard magazine and a contributing editor to Newsweek magazine. He is a regular commentator on National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service, often appearing on “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.”

More than 100 students and faculty members participated in Brooks’ presentation, even debating with the journalist at times.

“I think there was dissent,” he said. “I am more conservative than most in the audience, I think.

“There was some skepticism when I said that (President) Bush isn’t an aggressive right-winger, which I don’t think he is, and many people in the audience seemed to think he was.”

Brooks spoke about experiences he gained while writing the book “Bobos in Paradise,” which is a study of the new upper-middle class.

“I thought (the presentation) was very provocative,” James Madison College Professor Richard Zinman said. “It was interesting and in some ways controversial.

“Therefore it did exactly the type of thing that we hope these kinds of lectures will do.”

Zinman said the topic intellectually engaged audience members.

“I think the thesis is an interesting thesis,” he said. “The notion that, contrary to the opinions of many journals and academics, the culture wars are over or have been substantially tempered is a very interesting view.”

Some students agreed interesting points were brought up at the symposium.

“He commented how there are 22-year-olds just out of college that have blue hair and piercings all over the place and they are working for computer companies, but their big thing is that they want to get married and stay married because their parents were divorced,” said Ian Walker, a political science and pre-law senior.

“While they may look wild on the outside, they are taking up conservative feelings on the inside.”

Political science junior Ryan Wurtzel agreed the presentation was informative.

“I’ve never been to one of these things before, so I was expecting it to be drier than it was,” he said. “I was pretty involved and I’ll probably come again.


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