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Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber.

The mailbomb that almost killed David Gelernter in June of 1993, courtesy of the Unabomber, left him with physical injuries and a sense of moral outrage and obligation which he shares with us in this book. That many in the news media and the general public see his assailant as some sort of "mad genius" rather than as a manifestation of evil indicates to Gelernter that we have lost our moral compass. He believes this is the result of the 1960s zeitgeist that has led today's intelligentsia to teach tolerance of morally reprehensible behavior.

The author attacks the "cultural elite" with great gusto, singling out a multitude of targets including feminists, opponents of the death penalty, the producers of Sesame Street, members of the press, and ivy league professors. Their unwillingness to look at the "facts" of contemporary life and take moral stands, and their willingness to privilege wrongdoers and ne'er-do-wells as "victims" makes terrorism, crime, and sanctimony too much of a staple in American life. Gelernter makes this case in a curmudgeonly, idiosyncratic way, citing examples as wide ranging as Norman Mailer's violence-endorsing 1957 essay, "The White Negro," and the drive to make the English language gender-neutral. His points are cleverly made and he does not hide his biases, but the idea that there is an obvious connection between the values of the 1960s and the behavior of the Unabomber seems mostly unproven.

What is proven is that the author courageously underwent numerous physical operations and returned to teach his courses in computer science at Yale without discernible self-pity. He has earned the right to tell us that, "...a society too squeamish to call evil by its right name has destroyed its first, best defense against cutthroats," although the full implications of that statement ought to be debated.
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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1998
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