|Woodcuts from the Dance of Death, Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1525, via WikiArt.|
Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, thunders old Hefner into hell with apocalyptic hatred ("Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner"):
Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.
Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.Poor Updike!
Speaking for myself, I'm here to bury Hefner, not to praise him, or not even that—let the dead bury their dead. If you want to read about Hefner, blogfriend Lance Mannion did a great post.
The Monsignor doesn't really want to write about Hefner either, but he can hardly stop himself with the fulminations, paragraph after paragraph. He really wants to write about Bill Cosby, the nightmare Negro rapist, who literally did to women the things that liberalism figuratively does to Ross's raw heart all day long and thus proved that Ross's terrors are justified—and what he wants most of all is to link three names with hyphens, toward the end:
And his appreciation of male-female difference was rotten, too — the leering predatory sort of appreciation, the Cosby-Clinton-Trump sort, the sort that nicknames quaaludes “thigh openers” and expects the girls to laugh, the sort that prefers breast implants to female intellect and rents the charms of youth to escape the realities of age.There it is! President Bill Clinton is the same person as President Donald Trump, and they're all nightmare Negro rapists who are going to drug your wives and daughters and have their way with them!
Upon which the real work is finished, and he can sidle off to a bothsiderist conclusion:
Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself — with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president....Hefner was never my captain, thanks, in spite of that stupid cap, though I certainly did as a very young man read Playboy pretty often, including the Updike story, or whatever (Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates, Jean Shepherd, Anne Sexton, and Nadine Gordimer were not valued for their breast implants), the parts with all the words in them, which is not to say I wasn't looking at the pictures. I don't think it's right to think of him as a leader of a crusade in the way Roger Ailes, mastermind of the Fox News propaganda machine, was; Hefner was just an extraordinarily gifted ad salesman who caught a wave.
And the Playboy philosophy of the Mansion, as opposed to the magazine, wasn't especially for liberals, though I know great musicians and comedians gigged there, and Hefner was a generous donor to freedom of speech and civil rights issues. It was for rich people; conservatives who didn't know they were conservatives like Cosby ("Pull your pants up, boy!") and Trump, who wanted to be cool without putting their values into the questioning process. The real sexual revolution was women taking control over their sexuality, and it passed all those guys by. It's no accident that more online pornography is consumed in red states than blue ones, you know. Pornography (real pornography, not those irrepressibly cheery Centerfolds) goes with repression, not with liberation.
Ross, like his wing of the Roman Catholic church, has no more respect for women's autonomy than Trump or Ailes, he's just more deeply conflicted within himself. But he doesn't want to write about that either. He gets a subliminal chubby from slipping Clinton's name into a hole where it doesn't belong, and then goes on his way.