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Ambassador Wintour?

Jun 25, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 39 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Elgin Marbles are a priceless collection of 5th-century b.c. sculptures, inscriptions, and architectural details from the Parthenon, and other structures on the Acropolis in Athens, which were purchased at the beginning of the 19th century by the 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Lord Elgin was worried, and with good reason, that the artifacts might not survive into posterity. 

The Turks had no cultural affinity for classical Greek antiquities, and the Parthenon had been used as an ammunition dump where, during a 17th-century bombardment by Venetians, an explosion caused considerable damage to the marbles. At huge personal expense, Lord Elgin purchased them from the Ottoman authorities, shipped them by sea to England, and sold them to the British Museum at less than the cost of their purchase and transport. You can see them today in a wing specially built to display them.

It is, of course, understandable that Greeks lament the fact that the Elgin Marbles survive in London, not in Athens—just as, no doubt, some Englishmen must regret the fact that the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare First Folios is in Washington, D.C. But Lord Elgin, so far as The Scrapbook is concerned, acquired the marbles with scrupulous legality from the government of the day, and his concerns about their long-term survival were not misplaced. Greece has suffered its share of political turmoil and violence since the early 19th century—not to mention a Nazi invasion and occupation during World War II—and Athens’ legendary pollution has taken a toll on other antiquities on the Acropolis. 

Indeed, The Scrapbook has always believed that the Elgin Marbles survive to this day—and on permanent exhibit, in one of the world’s great museums, for all to enjoy—precisely because, for the past 200 years, they have been in London, not Athens. And if Greece’s financial crisis deepens much further, as it seems likely to do, they will probably stay put for at least another two centuries.

Psychoanalyze Thyself

The mainstream media clearly have difficulty understanding conservatives. Time has even gone so far as to hire a psychoanalyst—Justin Frank, M.D., of George Washington University—to write a column entitled “Republicans on the Couch.” After reading Frank’s latest, we’re convinced that someone needs a long session on the couch to get to the root of their mental anguish—and it’s not the GOP.

The headline, “The Root of Mitt Romney’s Comfort with Lying,” tells you all you need to know, but we read on anyway. “[Romney’s] pattern of lying and not acknowledging it, even when confronted directly, has persisted and led me to look for other sources of Romney’s behavior and of his clear comfort with continuing it,” writes Frank. This keen scientific analysis is based on two observations: (a) that Mitt Romney dismissed some handwringing over an Obama quote in one of his campaign ads being taken out of context and (b) that Romney has accused Obama of deliberately slowing down the economy to pursue the passage of Obamacare.

The first claim of “lying” is absurd—it’s not as if Romney wrote and edited the campaign ad in question. Perhaps it’s regrettable that a political ad is not as rigorously fair as it should be, but this is a complaint that should be taken up with every political campaign ever, including that of Romney’s opponent. Frank’s second claim is that Romney’s citation of a new book by the New Republic’s Noam Scheiber as evidence that Obama slowed down the economy to pursue health care legislation has been refuted by Scheiber himself. It’s true Scheiber doesn’t like the way that Romney reads his book, but if you follow the link Scheiber provides, he also writes, “I can’t give Romney the full ‘you know nothing of my work’ treatment. While he’s definitely misrepresenting .  .  . the administration, there’s a kernel of truth to his interpretation of my book.” Indeed, just last week Scheiber wrote a blog post entitled. “*Of Course* Doing Health Care Slowed the Recovery.”

But don’t worry, Frank has an explanation for this rash of alleged mendacity. “I think much of this comfort [with lying] stems from his Mormon faith. .  .  . There is a long tradition in the Mormon belief system in which evidence takes second place to faith. .  .  . [I]n the Mormon Church, there was a decision to accept authority as true—whether or not evidence supported it.”

To say that this is a woeful misrepresentation of what Mormons believe would be an understatement. The assertion that their belief system makes them uniquely prone to lying is nothing more than knee-jerk religious bigotry.

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