Heisenberg's Irrelevancy Principle

Heisenberg's Irrelevancy Principle

Heisenberg's Irrelevancy Principle

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July 5 2000 11:30 PM

Heisenberg's Irrelevancy Principle

Subject: Edelstein's Reverse Snobbery


From: Mandarin4

Date: Mon June 26  9:23 a.m. PST



To: David Edelstein, Slate

From: The cultural mandarins who determine the flow of the Zeitgeist

Cc: Film critics everywhere, but especially those with cushy culture-desk gigs at online magazines

As of today it will no longer be considered culturally subversive, or even puckishly counter-intuitive, for sophisticated film critics to defend the oeuvre of the Farrelly brothers in an effort to deflect charges of elitism and aesthetic snobbery. What was originally granted as a privilege has clearly come to be seen by entirely too many as an absolute right. It is our belief that this privilege simply cannot be sustained in light of the staggering number of critics who feel the need to alleviate their own class guilt and project an image of themselves as something other than the bunch of Thorstein Veblen-lovin', Pauline Kael-readin', Battleship Potemkin-watchin', Cineaste-subscribin' smarty-pants types that they are. The list of banned critical activities includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1) theorizing on the "eschatology of scatology" during the Farrellys' celebrated "brown period"

2) equating the Farrellys' obsession with excrement and human semen with Shakespeare's reliance on bawdy humor and sexual double-entendre to reach the audiences of his day

3) arching an eyebrow at anyone who would maintain that the Farrellys are a pair of unbelievably lucky idiots rather than a duo of taboo-shattering provocateurs.

This ban is effective immediately. And we don't want to hear you going on and on about these movies at dinner parties, either. Just give it a rest. They're perfectly vile films that are indeed coarsening the culture, and if you insist on celebrating them as some sort of triumph of the splendidly messy id over the confining restraints of the ego, well, then, we're going to force you to write long, flattering reappraisals of all those Porky's and Hardbodies and Revenge of the Nerds movies, too. Then you'll be sorry.

[To read David Edelstein's reply, or to reply to this message, click here and scroll to the bottom.]


Subject: It's Not the Principle That's Important

From: Rachel Barney

Date: Thu June 15  6:17 p.m. PST


The fact that a presidential candidate has presided happily over a criminal justice system which makes no particular effort not to put innocent people to death—how on earth can that not be legitimately a major story? Whatever you may think of capital punishment in principle, its administration in Texas and some other states is a national disgrace.

Saletan refuses to distinguish the issue of principle from the issue of administration because he wants to claim that the press are out of step with the public here. But he doesn't offer any actual evidence that journalistic concern over maladministration is just being driven by a hidden agenda about principle, only generalizations about the journalistic mind. And the evidence is against his insinuation that this is just a manufactured issue. There is no way that Gov. George H. Ryan of Illinois would have placed a moratorium on executions if he hadn't thought that the public cares. And there is no way Gov. George W. Bush would have reprieved Ricky McGinn if he hadn't been very nervous that the public had started to care—thanks in part to a rare and welcome outbreak of responsible investigative journalism.

[To reply, click here.]

Subject: Heisenberg's Irrelevant Struggle With Nazism


From: John Woodward

Date: Wed June 21  9:27 a.m. PST

With all due respect, Werner Heisenberg could not have possibly been the "savior" of western civilization. The Nazis never had a chance of building an atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project was not a one-man deal, even with men like Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer. It was a large engineering project, which took over a dozen geniuses and thousands of first-rate talents. By the time Heisenberg was assigned the task, he was the only genius physicist left serving the Third Reich; most of the first-rate scientists were long gone and the best engineers were working on rockets. The Nazis simply lacked the talent to build an atomic bomb, never mind the resources (which were equally unavailable). Heisenberg's decision to build the bomb for Adolf Hitler or sabotage the project by foot-dragging was irrelevant after the elite of Europe's scientific community refused to serve fascism and defected to England or America. Heisenberg may indeed have been a tragic hero, but the drama of his life had little bearing on the fate of the world, whatever playwright Michael Frayn may want us to think.

[To reply, click here.]

Subject: Explaining Asylum to Explainer

From: Joseph

Date: Fri June 23  11:40 a.m. PST

Explainer writes:

The Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to consider Elián González's asylum application because under the law, only a parent can seek asylum for his child. By any measure, Elián would have had a hard time meeting any one of the five conditions for asylum, even though his mother fled Cuba.

It might be true that Elián would have had a hard time meeting the conditions for asylum, but it is certainly not true that only a parent can seek asylum for his child. Go back and read the circuit court opinion again:

The INS responds that section 1158 is silent about the validity of asylum applications filed on behalf of a six-year-old child, by the child himself and a non-parental relative, against the wishes of the child's parent. The INS argues that, because the statute does not spell out how a young child files for asylum, the INS was free to adopt a policy requiring, in these circumstances, that any asylum claim on [Elián's] behalf be filed by [his] father.

If you need to parse the words, do it. But however you do, pay attention to the phrase "in these circumstances."

[To reply, click here.]