Black on White

There are altogether too many people who mistake ponderosity for wisdom. As children they were convinced that medicine, to be effective, must be bitter and nauseous. When they grew up they applied the same logic in the realm of thought and conduct.

Truth, they are now convinced, must be heavy and boring. Sincerity must be loaded with polysyllables like an exploited old mule. An idea or a viewpoint which deigns to wear homespun phrases and a spangle or two of humor loses intellectual caste in the eyes of these ponderous pseudo-thinkers.

Sulking in their armor of polysyllables, such knights of the melancholy countenance are sure they have annihilated the infidel by calling him a “wisecracking liberal.” It is their belief that light words betray a light mind. They forget, or never knew, that heavy words frequently issue from cavities where there is no mind at all.

LIGHT-HANDED TITANS

Without drawing any flattering parallels I refer them to the wise-cracking philosophers of the ages, from Aristophanes to Bernard Shaw, taking in Rabelais and Voltaire and Sholom Aleichem and Anatole France en route. I am ready to match the truths and the sincerities of these men against the ponderosities of their contemporaries.

The artificers of wisecracks are not always wise; neither are they always cracked. By the same token the unsmiling and mentally heavy-footed are not always in the right. The juxtaposition of multi-syllabic inanities by lachrymose and self-righteous monitors of other people’s morals is the easiest and cheapest form of self-indulgence. (This sentence is cast in their own pretentious mold, my friends.) They confuse sound with soundness.

I regard the arbitrary methods of the self-styled Legion of Decency as quite indecent. I poked fun at their humorless pretensions of divine inspiration in labeling this film immoral, that one morally harmless and a third one beneficient. I pointed out what should be pretty evident to an outsider: that they were reading their own libidinous imaginings into certain films.

TOO FROTHY FOR CRITICS

That method does not suit L. Wolfstein and certain other critics. Had I made a pompously erudite analysis of the dangers of censorship in the creative arts, they would have condescended to argue the matter. I might have proven what requires no proof—that arbitrary, self-constituted censors in one field, if given their way, will be intruding quickly enough and again without invitation into other fields, such as magazines and books and theatres and political ideas. I might have demonstrated by a series of I. Q.’s that Bishop So-and-So (or, for that matter, Rabbi So-and-So) is not the safest dictator in questions of edifying entertainment.

Instead I chose to comment on the obvious absurdities of censorship in sanctimonious robes. I shall return to the subject soon.

Not that we pay attention to such matters, but here is a quotation from a column run by a namesake in the New York Evening Post:

“Eugene Lyons says this is the time of year when employers throw their dogs a bonus.”

The Post obviously recognizes a thought even when it is disguised as a wisecrack.

After watching a number of European dictatorships in operation, the business sums itself up in my mind thus: The spectacle of a lot of blind, bleating sheep being driven in one direction is not edifying—even when they are being driven towards Utopia.

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