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George Packer has a swing at some of the US's most respected radicals, and at Gore Vidal in particular. Dissent is the leading journal of the American left

By George Packer   March 1997


Fall 1996

A number of qualities make the contemptuous stance appealing to a political writer. Contempt is knowing: it implies a reserve of wide and hard experience (and much better to be thought a snob than a fool). It maintains a specious sort of engagement without risk of taint. It is clear: instead of having to make new judgements every day, contempt already knows what it thinks about everything. It has ready access to various types of wit, including satire and irony in all its shades-in fact contempt comes equipped with its own prose style, a light, deft, dancing…

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