February 12, 2006

The Voice of the Neuter is Heard Throughout the Land

Joel Stein, "Humorist"
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They're trying to blow it up

-- Bob Dylan: Desolation Row

LIKE SOME HAGGARD CRACK WHORE banging on the door of a dealer's den willing to do anything , the hapless Joel ( "I despise our troops." ) Stein has been passed randomly about the blogsphere in the last couple of days.

Once a blogpile of such mountainous proportions starts, there's little left to comment on in terms of the content of Stein's small dry excretion after the first five hours. By that time the whole quisling screed has been pretty much picked apart like a biology major dissects an owl's pellet and glues the contents to a board with captions.

Then it is time for the masters of the trade to go to work and perform, live and on the air, "The Final Evisceration." In this case, Hugh Hewitt comes forward with what is perhaps one of the best full flensings of his career. [Pointer and "flensing" courtesy of LILEKS (James) ]

If you have ever wanted to hear a classic radio interview cooly calculated to have the interviewee reveal himself in all his naked smallness before a national audience, you owe it to yourself to listen and read the audio and transcript of Hugh Hewitt interviewing Joel Stein. You owe it to yourself to listen to this segment -- and you'll need to listen in order to understand what comes next. You don't have to listen to all of it, although it is hard to turn the ear away. Just listen attentivily to the voice of Stein himself for a minute or so.

Go ahead. I'll wait here.

Back? Good.

What is of interest to me here is not what Stein writes or says. His own words damn him more decisively than a thousand bloggers blathering blithely What interestest me is how he speaks.

If you focus on it, you realize that you hear this voice every day if you bounce around a bit in our larger cities buying this or ordering that, and in general running into young people in the "service" sector -- be it coffee shop, video store, department store, boutique, bookstore, or office cube farm. It's a kind of voice that was seldom heard anywhere but now seems to be everywhere.

It is the voice of the neuter .

I mean that in the grammatical sense:
"a. Neither masculine nor feminine in gender.
"b. Neither active nor passive; intransitive,"

and in the biological sense:
"a. Biology Having undeveloped or imperfectly developed sexual organs: the neuter caste in social insects.
"b. Botany Having no pistils or stamens; asexual.
"c. Zoology Sexually undeveloped."

You hear this soft, inflected tone everywhere that young people below, roughly, 35 congregate. As flat as the bottles of spring water they carry and affectless as algae, it

tends to always trend towards a slight rising question at the end of even simple declarative sentences. It has no timbre to it and no edge of assertion in it.

The voice whisps across your ears as if the speaker is in a state of perpetual uncertainty with every utterance. It is as if, male or female, there is no foundation or soul within the speaker on which the voice can rest and rise. As a result, it has a misty quality to it that denies it any unique character at all. It is the Valley Girl variation of the voices that Prufrock hears:
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.

It's parting wistful wish for you is that you "Have a good one."

Above all, it is a sexless voice. Not, I hasten to add, a "gay" voice. Not that at all. It is neither that gentle nor that musical. Nor is it that old shabby lisping stereotype best consigned to the dustbin of popular culture. No, this is a new old voice of a generation of ostensible men and women who have been educated and acculturated out of, or say rather, to the far side of any gender at all. It is, as I have indicated above, the voice of the neutered. And in this I mean that of the transitive verb: To castrate or spay. The voice and the kids that carry it is the triumphant achievement of our halls of secondary and higher education. These children did not speak this way naturally, they were taught. And like good children seeking only to please their teachers and then their employers, they learned.

This is not to say that the new American Castrati of all genders live sexless lives. On the contrary, if reports are to be credited, they seem to have a good deal of sex, most often without the burden of love or the threat of chlldren, and in this they are condemned to the sex life of children.

No, it is only to say that this new voice that we hear throughout the land from so many of the young betokens a weaker and less certain brand of citizen than we have been used to in our history. Neither male nor female, neither gay nor straight, neither.... well, not anything substantive really. A generation finely tuned to irony and nothingness and tone deaf to duty and soul. If you can write in this tone, and Stein can, you can become a third level columnist for the Los Angeles Times. With a little luck, over time, you might even rise to the level of second string columnist for Vanity Fair. Should the country so lose its mind and elect another Clinton, you could even become a White House speech writer.

For now you can hear the poster child for this sexless cohort in Joel Stein's dulcet voice quavering and halting and rising to a falling lilting question as Hugh Hewitt exposes the nothingness at Stein's core in question after quiet question. When Hewitt is done, you ask yourself what Stein has actually said in answer to Hewitt's questions.

What Stein has said is what his whole cohort has said in response to questions of honor, duty, country. It is the standard issue answer and will be their standard issue epitaph:


UPDATE: For both an expansion and an extension of these thoughts, I would ask that you to read Robert Godwin's penetrating essay , The Pathetic Last Children of Nietzsche's Pitiable Last Men at One Cosmos.

[HT: Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping ]

Welcome Hewitt and Limbaugh Listeners. While you're here, go "main" above and take a look around my little corner of the world.

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Posted by Vanderleun at February 12, 2006 12:37 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


Finally, someone with great writing skills has written about the "Whatever Voice!"

Thank you so very much!

Posted by: Norm at January 26, 2006 1:55 AM

In my work, I'm on the phone alot with Eastern Canadians. The majority of the English-speaking (non-French) Canadians, end their statements with a questioning tone of voice. It's an irritating habit. Thanks for clarifying their wishy-washy statements & paralell life philosophy!

Posted by: daughter of patriots at January 26, 2006 5:01 AM

My teaching assistant and I had a related conversation a few weeks back.

We were writing up solutions for an upcoming homework assignment, and, after successfully working a particularly clever problem, he asked "What's the answer in the back of the book?"

"Why do you care?" I responded. "The goal of your education is to solve problems that have no predetermined answer. You need to have the confidence in your knowledge that you can solve most common problems without the answers, even without the book. You must not rely on authority for the answers to scientific questions. You need to rely on the proper application of theory to observation."

He was stunned--no one had ever told him that before. But he's a good kid, and a smart kid, and I think I can break him of that appeal-to-authority habit.

Posted by: Mike Anderson at January 26, 2006 5:53 AM

That is a pretty damning post. And what's worse, I think you're largely correct.

Listening to audio is excruciating. I though the transcript showed Stein to be a clueless idiot, but listening to it....whoa.

Posted by: Eric Blair at January 26, 2006 6:24 AM

Great observation. It's a less in-your-face form of the argument presented by Kim Du Toit in his essay, The Pussification of the Western Male.

The other place I've noticed it, aside from the local Starbucks, is in what passes for today's movie stars.

Gable, Cooper, Tracy, Cagney, Bogart, McQueen, Mitchum, Peck; from their first screen appearances, they were men, guys that reminded us of our fathers and their friends.

Today? Keeanu, Pitt, Cruise. Eternal college-age young adults.

Tom Cruise is older now than Bogart was in Casablanca. Steve McQueen was only 31 when he took part in the Great Escape.

Our culture no longer prizes "men." Or is this just another Red State/Blue State divide?

Posted by: Mike Lief at January 26, 2006 8:01 AM

Hey!? I'm in that age range?

I don't think I end every sentence with a question? I mean, I can make simple declarative sentences?


Posted by: Rusticus at January 26, 2006 8:11 AM

I didn't say everyone, I said "cohort."

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at January 26, 2006 8:31 AM

I really hated that essay by du Toit. I thought in its own way, it was just as bad, seeming to me, to celebrate what could be characterized as the Maxim-Lad/Soldier of Fortune/any porn mag crowd, which is also an eternal adolescence of a sort. That and it relied way too much on bashing TV stereotypes, some of which I had to go look up, since I don't really watch TV.

Posted by: Eric Blair at January 26, 2006 8:45 AM

Aside the gender-neutal, non-aggressive attitude pressed on kids as being so desirable by the educrats, what is surfacing in Stein's column is the left's demonization of the military, last seen in full blossom at the end of Vietnam. What with this and Code Pink, we're probably just short of hearing troops refered to as 'baby-killers.'

Posted by: ed in texas at January 26, 2006 9:35 AM

What wonderful writing about such a disgusting little creature.

But if the Devil can have his Dante, then Stein can have his Vanderleun.

Posted by: Tim at January 26, 2006 11:37 AM

Thank you for your insight. I listened to Hugh's interview live and was astounded by Mr. Stein's utter lack of interest in LIFE, outside the small confines of his own self-made universe. The question I hoped Hugh would ask was, What did Joel Stein's father do for a living? My guess is that Joel Stein does not know what it means to work, as in manual labor, to really sweat, has never suffered a blister, or the pain of a broken blister, has never had a callus on his hand, does not know how to change out a light switch, or unclog a drain, or tie a square-knot, or change the oil in a car, or any of a host of other seemingly trivial or mundane tasks each of which evidences minimal but meaningful attention to how things work in everyday LIFE. Joel Stein's life is worse than apathetic--it is purposeless.

Posted by: Stephen Liberatore at January 26, 2006 11:41 AM


Posted by: idgit at January 26, 2006 11:48 AM

I've been trying to put my finger on what was bothering me about Stein and you nailed it - the flat, lost-in-myself-and-irony voice! Excellent piece!

Posted by: theanchoress at January 26, 2006 12:05 PM

I think that John Eldredge (author of "Wild at Heart" and other books about masculinity) would have much to say about this unmasculine man. Our God-given design as men cries out to be wild and free -- not confined to a sexless, suburban existence. Our fathers play a critical role in preventing this and releasing us to be men -- not arrogant jerks, but men who are not afraid to explore, conquer, or subdue the world. And as a perk, women are crying out for this type of man -- one who is truly masculine and alive. Neuters, please step aside for the real men.

Posted by: Scott at January 26, 2006 12:20 PM

What some commentators have mistaken for self-deprecating humor by Stein is nothing of the kind. Rather, it is his spineless refusal to defend his own words and ideas in the face of criticism or, alternatively, apologize and ask the forgiveness of the troops who so selflessly risk and sacrifice for all of us, including worthless scum like Stein. You can hear it in the Hewitt interview. Hewitt was trying to push Stein toward an apology, or at least an expression of regret for his words and the ideas they conveyed. Stein's response to this opportunity for some measure of redemption was a mere concession that perhaps he didn't express himself as clearly as he should have, which belied his conviction that his actual ideas are really ok, but that his readers misunderstood him and condemn only their own flawed understanding of the "truth." At best, it was a whiny "Please don't hate me," which of course makes him deserving of something far worse than hatred: contempt. If Stein and his cohort do indeed have "a good deal of sex" it is probably better for society if it is in fact "without the threat of children," although that would remove the opportunity for Stein to be dealt the justice that he truly deserves -- rejection by and contempt of offspring who grow up to realize that their faither is a pussy.

Posted by: Rich at January 26, 2006 1:33 PM

In my experience, scum generally runs in families. My guess is that little Joel's father, if he was present at all during his first thirty-odd years of childhood, was the simpering-and -henpecked type. Just a hunch, but I have to stomach people like this all the time in the San Fernando Valley.
Too bad he will most likely get his own show with Bill Maher now.
I hope he finds himself in a room surrounded by Marines in the very near future. I believe they will conduct a much more thorough and searching interview of dear little Joel.

Posted by: Sifty at January 26, 2006 1:41 PM

Dude! You Rock! Seriously!

Posted by: Greg at January 26, 2006 2:06 PM

Dood. Awesome :)
I listened to that interview and it exposed not just this...whatever he/it is...but the whole leftist view that does not care to account for the cost of our freedoms. Its just too hard...for them.

Posted by: John at January 26, 2006 2:58 PM

Perhaps one can call this the American version of the 'public school accent'.

Posted by: P.A. Breault at January 26, 2006 3:28 PM

Here's the truly frightening aspect of the 'Joel Stein Generation' -
One day they pick up the mantle of leadership in this country b/c its their turn - and the country will sit around and fetter away the moral and spiritual fiber -the soul if you will -of Western Civilization - we just can't let this insidious passiveness go unchallenged

Posted by: Greg at January 26, 2006 3:35 PM


I think the problem with little Joel has been identified very well in these posts. I wonder if he appreciates all the free psycho-analysis he is receiving all across the country?

Wait, appreciation, gratitude, and humility are definitely not this meal-worm's strong suits.

I can imagine him and his little buddies clustered in their dark little worlds feeling very put-upon by all of us un-enlightened cavepeople. I see them lamenting the unfairness of the masses. I would imagine that more if the patchouli smell wasn't making my nose and eyes burn.

Posted by: Sifty at January 26, 2006 3:36 PM

"The voice whisps across your ears as if the speaker is in a state of perpetual uncertainty with every utterance. It is as if, male or female, there is no foundation or soul within the speaker on which the voice can rest and rise. As a result, it has a misty quality to it that denies it any unique character at all."

Poetry, really.

And in this great irony, too, for in my youth, I secretly thought all poets were soft somehow, not "real" men, except for maybe Robert Service. Yet, with this poetry you perfectly describe what that softness is that I could not articulate. But I must say that I don't agree that being "fine tuned to irony" is a negative thing, for I consider irony to be profound, illuminative, and often cruel. Perhaps that's why it is so often referred to as Poetic Justice?

Posted by: MWilson at January 26, 2006 3:40 PM

Its the generation that was never put upon, the same kids who all got trohies at camp simply b/c hey, everyone deserves a trophy whether you achieve something or not - b/c its easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize than actually throw yourself into the world to get dirty and try to make a difference

God forbid Mr. Stein should engage in any critical thinking - he might look at himself and find something he doen't like

Posted by: Greg at January 26, 2006 3:43 PM

Re: Mr Stein

Having read additional work by Mr. Stein he further condemns himself by admitting that he cares about what Maureen Dowd thinks. What a useless tool...

Posted by: Robert Meybohm at January 26, 2006 4:36 PM

Stein is best known for his appearances on VH1s 'I Love the 80's.' His expertise is in Teddy Ruxpin, not foreign policy or military deployment. He should stick with that. Hey, maybe he picked up the hideous speech pattern from the mechanical bear.

Posted by: Melissa at January 26, 2006 4:51 PM

Ohmigod...what freakin' prose this man Vanderleun writes! A writer worthy of Caesar. I read the Hewitt/Stein transcript first and thought he was a thoughtless, pampered child with no depth. Then I remembered he wrote "funny," lighthearted stuff for Time magazine. To no one's suprise, he's completely out of his element doing political commentary. Then I listened to the mp3 of the interview. I appreciate even more how much a man is Hugh Hewitt, today's Real Man. He absolutely lifted the cow's tail in front of Stein. Stein will be licking his wounds from this for months to come. I believe he will stop doing commentary, and certainly never give an interview to a superior mind again.

Posted by: Timbo at January 26, 2006 5:46 PM

I can only imagine how full of pride little Joel was, waking up that morning and thinking about all of the radio interviews he was scheduled to make. That all came crashing down, of course, about 45 seconds into the on-air vivisection performed on him by Mr. Hewitt.

That was the impression that I got from listening to the interview. He was on top of the world and then all of a sudden he realized that he was in very, very deep doo-doo. You could hear him struggling to form answers by repeating back the questions that he was being asked.

Yes, little Joel is a sexless wussy. An anti-male. An incurable wimp. He didn't even have the courage or brains to terminate the interview when it was obvious that he was being eviscerated.

If this is the future, then I grieve for my children.

Posted by: Gordon at January 26, 2006 5:54 PM

And I thought I wrote well! That was nothing short of a masterful analysis, made better because I listened to the live on-air castration of the feckless Stein.

Posted by: BK at January 26, 2006 6:01 PM

Timbo notes Stein will "certainly never give an interview to a superior mind again."

If he gives interviews at all I don't see how he can avoid it.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at January 26, 2006 6:05 PM

And, lest it be lost in the comments above, here's another vote for Kim DuToit's The Pussification Of The Western Male

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at January 26, 2006 6:07 PM

This poet's poem captures the essence of the neuter:

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Posted by: Charles at January 26, 2006 6:11 PM


This reply and Hewitt's masterful goring of Stein's gutless corps made my day. Sixty days in boot camp Stein might find his manhood, but I doubt it. The photo of him lying in bed surrounded by stuffed animals and dolls says a lot about his lack of character. On the otherhand, it says Stein is a stuffed toy not to be confused with humans.

Posted by: JimboNC at January 26, 2006 8:47 PM

Excellent essay, and your advice to actually take a moment and listen to Stein was spot on.

But I can top him. Recently my employer hired a twenty-something guy who makes Stein sound like Churchill. He speaks (mumbles, really) in an absolutely emotionless, flat monotone. I actually thought he was mentally retarded when I first met him--only he isn't. Now I'm wondering whether he wasn't one of those boys who was punished in school for being male, and put on medication.

As a simple example: When he says "OK", it comes out more like "ugga". And he says that a lot. All day long: ugga--ugga--ugga.

Posted by: rickl at January 26, 2006 10:03 PM

What a great poem, Charles. Thanks for posting it.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at January 26, 2006 10:18 PM

Great post but I have a couple of questions: If kids like poor Mr Stein were not "taught" to speak in a "sexless voice," and allowed to "speak naturally," how would they speak? How do those who aren't like Stein and who "speak naturally" learn to speak at all, if they aren't taught? If everyone's taught how to speak, what are the criteria for a proper, natural way of speaking vs. an unnatural, sexless, castrated form of speaking?

I'm also curious as to how the way one speaks, in Stein's case speaking like a childish "American Castrati," leads to a life where "they seem to have a good deal of sex," but there's never any love or any children. I never knew that the way one speaks can lead to such a dire outcome. If one undergoes speech therapy and successfully eradicates the Castrati speech pattern, is that enough to make one's sex life more meaningful? Does it make you more fertile too? Is it possible to alter the Castrati dialect only a little so that you can still have a lot of sex, but it's more edifying sex that people like you will approve of? Could it involve speaking more deeply, like Barry White? Or does it require a little southern twang?

Posted by: CaptHowdy at January 26, 2006 11:37 PM

I didn't hear the audio, but I read the transcript. What I found most notable was Stein's complete self loathing. He hates himself. He thinks he's worthless, and everything about who he is and what he does resonates from that.

Asked how much he works, he answered that he was grossly overpaid. Nonresponsive to the actual question--he couldn't even answer it, he could only jump to his own guilt.

Asked how much feedback he received from his editor, he jumped to claiming that his editor never said anything positive because he didn't deserve anything positive. He coudln't answer the question, he could only jump to his own loathing and despair.

His lack of knowledge of his subject is the same--he rolls down to saying it's just an opinion, and not a very important one.

I feel sorry for someone for whom all of the great gifts he's been given led to him thinking so terribly about himself. He feels a fraud so deeply and can't recover. His leftist utopian ideals are things he can't live up to, and instead of questioning the ideals, he drowns in more self loathing. They cling to those ideals all the more as they hate themselves.

His sexless voice is merely a symptom, no? He has hated his self--fundamentally bound up in his own maleness, his sex--for so long that he has tried to eradicate it.

He's the perfect instantiation of Eric Hoffer's The True Believer.

Posted by: anonymouse at January 27, 2006 12:29 AM

Relax. While some folks like Mr Stein (he is a he-right?) may take up the mantle of governance, there are hundreds of thousands who've gone to war (Men and Women), there are millions more police, firefighters, business folks, even nurses that have a pair. Folks who have no problem saying what they think and know what they believe in (Sounds like a country song "Boondocks").
I went to Iraq as a reservist with many college kids and a few hoodlums. Most came back with maturity and a sense of awe and appreciation for the good ole U.S. of A. One good thing about our "war" is that in the crusible of dust, sweat, and tears are being formed new men and women of steel who will someday stand-up and take us forward.

Posted by: Kelly Heth at January 27, 2006 12:56 AM

Stein's opinion didn't bother me either. What I found offensive, like the majority of the commentors, was his method and his arrival to his conclusions.

The audio interview by HH is much more telling than the actual transcript. I'm in a line of work where most of what I do is question people. His stall tactics, his repeating of the question are all indicators that his story does not resonate with truth. He didn't believe in himself. his facade was utterly stripped away.

For the shame of it he is a reflection of what pop culture and mainstream media has become; all fluff, but no substance. It may be compared to listening to high school kids practicing for a debate in a subject that they have no background in.

Perhaps Stein has led a blessed life so far in that he has had no "real" struggles to temper his life philosophy. I hope that this experience will encourage him to reflect upon his embarrasing lack of discernment and possibly bring a change to that affect forthwith.

It is a shame that he has a podium without having earned it. But this is indicative of opinion pieces. Anybody can stand on a roof top and crap all over themselves. It is up to sober minded people to gently take the Steins of this world aside with an arm around their shoulder and then tutor them and show them that there is a better way. It is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you a fool then to open it and remove all doubt.

Posted by: Iamspartacus at January 27, 2006 9:42 AM

I'm not sure that I care what the man's voice sounds like. AND I think that, although he was deferrential in tone (recognizing his inferiority in the singular context of the interview) his answers pointed to a overwhelming belief in his absolute superiority. HH got him to admit that he supported the troops in some situations with which he agrees (peacekeeping) but not other situtations (Iraq). Stein apparently thinks his OPINION of the mission is what counts in determining how the world should react (to parade or not to parade) to a massive, multidimensional organization like the US military. He is saying that the only value they may claim or we may recognize is the value that HE assigns. This is Cindy Sheehan's problem, too, incidentally. They want everyone else to buy into and act on their own moral judgements. Well, so would I but I don't write articles demanding it!

Posted by: pura.vida at January 27, 2006 10:06 AM

Rush Limbaugh is reading this piece right now.

Posted by: Reese at January 27, 2006 10:14 AM

Neuter this!

Posted by: BillBobo at January 27, 2006 10:15 AM

Actually, the voice is very similar to that of an adolescent female. Those of you with teenage daughters, give a listen to them talking with friends and compare it.

Posted by: Ted at January 27, 2006 10:31 AM

i just heard excerpts of your essay on Rush. I was struck by how much what I heard sounded EXACTLY like C.S. Lewis' essay "Men Without Chests."

If you haven't read the essay, I recommend it heartily. You can find it as a chapter in Dr. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man" or excerpted in Dr. Bennet's compilation "The Book Of Virtues."

Posted by: StevePoling at January 27, 2006 10:33 AM

What a GREAT column!! Thank you!

Posted by: Terri at January 27, 2006 10:34 AM

I noticed this speech affectation back in the 1970s when I was in my early 20s. It seemed to be rampant amongst teenage girls. I labeled it "Vally Girl speech." Usually, statements would be followed with "you know?", but the modern expression drops the superfluous phrase and implies it with the rising infection at the end. I don't know if this speech pattern still carries import (merely learned pronunciation, such as a regional dialect), or is deliberately expressive, seeking approval/agreement of the listener, or inquiring if the listener is in fact listening. Whether or not this speech pattern indicates the neutering of Americans, it certainly is most noisome to hear.

Posted by: Wayne Dougherty at January 27, 2006 10:47 AM

Great piece, and well read by Rush on the air! Also, did you hear the subsequent caller, a professor at CUNY who backed up everything Gerard said, with some additions of his own.

All in all, a great day for the real MEN of our time! Blowing lipsticked kisses and fluttering my eylashes at you all.

Posted by: SallyVee at January 27, 2006 10:48 AM

Gerard, your dissection of the lost souls of Generation Whatever is painfully accurate. I do believe there is hope for the future, however. The children of these wastes of carbon - assuming some accidental breeding occurs - will push back. People always do, thank God. In 30 years we will be looking at another generation of Bogeys and Bacalls. It will be a pleasure to read your praises of them.

Posted by: AskMom at January 27, 2006 10:50 AM

Rush now trying to get your name right, Gerard. He used a soft "G" on Gerard and couldn't decide between "LINE" or "LOON."

Whatever. It's all good. : )

Posted by: SallyVee at January 27, 2006 10:53 AM

"One day they pick up the mantle of leadership in this country b/c its their turn - and the country will sit around and fetter away the moral and spiritual fiber -the soul if you will -of Western Civilization"

That sounds like Canada!

Posted by: Doug at January 27, 2006 10:57 AM

IamSpartacus nailed it:

"It may be compared to listening to high school kids practicing for a debate in a subject that they have no background in."

Posted by: kwh at January 27, 2006 11:04 AM

THANK YOU!!! Brilliant. I am witness to this phenomenon on a daily basis as an undergraduate senior. There are no opinions anymore. More to the point they are scared to have a coherent opinion for fear they might offend someone. I plan on circulating this amongst all my friends, including the apolitical and outrageuously liberal. Once again, thank you.

Posted by: Jon at January 27, 2006 11:18 AM

I think you can expect the Rush-alanche to continue for a few days. As soon as Rush archives today's show, I am sure he'll put up a direct link to The Voice of a Neuter.

Posted by: SallyVee at January 27, 2006 11:28 AM

"Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at January 27, 2006 11:43 AM

Thank you for that. I have searched for sometime now for a term that adequately describes this frustrating phenomenon among my peers.
Thank you again.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 27, 2006 12:01 PM

Never in my life have I ever heard anyone nail this linguistic pattern better! My husband and I have noticed this for years, and were pleased a few yrs ago when our local talk show host, Joe Soucheray, dubbed it "uptalk." But it is MORE than that interrogative inflection. It IS the sexlessness, the feminine teenage hesitation. The breathiness that is not really gay. My 15 yr old daughter overheard a young American man in a Paris restaurant speaking this way. He was with 2 attractive women his age, and my duaghter noticed how the women looked so unimpressed with him as he babbled on, breathy yet loud, with that dichotomous self-consciously non-offending superiority. She said "listen," and we did. She said it was that "American man talk" that she hates. That's what she called it. Not that "wimpy American man talk". No qualifiers. Is this what our young ladies are surrounded by as they hope for husbands (and they DO!)? It seems that almost all young men talk that way now, the valley girl talk. Even the conservative ones, I'm sorry to say. It's wormed its way in and will be very hard to get out, without a major hearts and minds reordering.

Oh, that was a good article! WOW!


Posted by: lizzy at January 27, 2006 12:52 PM

Great piece. You've said an awful lot in a relatively small number of words.

Posted by: B Knotts at January 27, 2006 1:02 PM

Well said...well said. As soon as you said you weren't going to comment on what Stein said but rather how he said it, I was right there with you. Who among us is unfamiliar with this tone of indifference? Usually this tone accompanied with the popular eye-roll-of-disinterest spits out some meaningless statement that is hollow and empty devoid of any substance or conviction. Stein truly has adopted the voice of a "neuter."

Posted by: someguy at January 27, 2006 1:07 PM

I note for the record that initial impetus for this essay was put into my mind in email from "AskMom" -- above.

Thanks, AskMom

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at January 27, 2006 1:20 PM

This was an excellent analysis by Gerard Van der Leun, and I hate to rain on the Hewitt interview's parade, not that he didn't eviscerate Stien, he most certainly did, but I don't think that this creature, this SimperStien monster, hung up his phone and thought anything else but what an absolute boob that redneck interviewer was for not being able to get his point. After all, throughout the interview he kept trying to make his little statement that he was only decrying the hypocrisy of his fellow Libs who don't support the war but say they do, and so, like, why the heck did Hewitt keep trying to talk about something else, especially something so off the wall as whether or not he understood what the Military does, or why, or anything like that - like it Matters!? Hello! I was just pointing out that the yellow sticker libs are hypocrites! Why was he trying to connect it to something else! Whatever!

And that's the 3rd level of horror dwelling beneath this aptly termed Neuterishness - that the visibly neutered such as the Simperstien monster, and even those who retain the appearance of Men & Women, yet still conduct their self talk in the neutered (and I assure you that they are legion) - that they truly do not integrate ideas.

They are incredulous that you should try to connect their statements, their instances of "expressing themselves" to more fundamental principles existent in the world. They are only annoyed at your refusal to let them make their simpering comments free from analysis, free of connection to the world, free of any need to confirm their validity... hell, just Free! And isn't that what they actually think is the purpose of America? To support their 'freedom' to act freely, without constraint, without moral evaluation or cultural condemnation 'Free to be ME', where the idea of Freedom has itself been neutered of it's more powerful attributes, and meant now only in the sense of it's popular meaning, what the Founders would have recognized as Libertinism.

They don't believe in Principles, thanks probably in large part to public education, they believe that principles are a barbaric notion, an illusion that's so 20th century. They sniff diffidently and lift their eyebrows in a patronizing down the nose glance at those who profess to. Should they have no choice but to continue a discussion with someone who believes in principles, they will spastically spout out instances that they think will burst wide open the bubble of your illusory Principles.

"You think George Washington was Noble? What about all the land he bought cheap in order to make money?! You think this is a great country? What about the homeless?! You think America is a force for good? What about the women and children killed in Afghanistan?! Come on!" and they are astounded if you don't fall into complete agreement with them.

They don't admit to Principles at all (only assertions "Global Warming!") or that there are any vital connections amongst ideas, much less that there exists any hierarchy among ideas ("Homelessness is BAD, don't try to blather about personal responsibility, they're HOMELESS for Gods [just an expression] Sake!")- To them one item that is perceptually BAD, negates any idea of a good.

And that's the true horror of them, and the danger too, that they won't mentally engage or condescend to argue with you. They'll oppose you, they'll spite you, but they won't argue in the sense of testing the worth of opposing Ideas and battling towards truth. When they see you spout off about principles and Rightness, in their eyes you are doing nothing more than mouthing inanities. To them, speaking of Duty, Honor & Country REALLY is no different than speaking of the Tooth Fairy; and so they will dismiss you, unconsidered, with either 'humor' ala Simperstien, or red-faced spittle ala Howard (yeeARRRGGHHH!!!) Dean. Afterall, it's so much easier to dismiss than to discuss.

There is no embarrassing them, and there is no saving them, and we'd better think of a way to uproot the schools that created them, because someday the Simperstien's will find themselves in Power, and we'll need their children to be able to resist them, and to recover from them.

Posted by: Van at January 27, 2006 2:57 PM

Gerard Vanderleun,

Your comments are ad hominem and, tellingly, completely ignore the substance of Mr. Stein's editorial. And what is with your bizarre references to Stein's sexuality? If you truly object to what he wrote, then it'd be better to confront the important issues he raises, instead of attacking their source and talking about his real or imagined sexual circumstances.

Posted by: Philip Callas at January 27, 2006 3:26 PM


Posted by: Van at January 27, 2006 3:33 PM

Dear Mr. Callas,
You seem, in your reading of the article, to have glided past the statement:

"What is of interest to me here is not what Stein writes or says. His own words damn him more decisively than a thousand bloggers blathering blithely What interestest me is how he speaks"

I also note at the beginning: "Once a blogpile of such mountainous proportions starts, there's little left to comment on in terms of the content of Stein's small dry excretion after the first five hours"

I fail to see how annoucing I'm not going to do the content and then not doing it fails the promise of the article.

If you have not been able to see articles critical of Mr. Stein's "content" you have been failing to look in lebenty-leben of the right places.

A scroll of michellemalkin.com will quickly lead you to an entry thick with pointers to those writers who have. Reading just a few of them will, I am sure, satiate your lust for content.

Gerard Van der Leun

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at January 27, 2006 3:51 PM

I just want to say this. No offense to the older people posting, but they don't really get what people like Joel Stein are all about. I am a 25 year old female raised in an upper middle class family with everything that entails. The author's insightful take on the generation Mr. Stein represents is scarily accurate. Almost everyone I know or have known in my age range speaks like Joe Stein. I did too. It's the representation of the self-absorbed, detatched, highly superficial, pseudo-intellectual epitome of post-modernism. It's we that have been given everything, had to want for nothing, were inundated from the earliest with a million toys, games, TV shows, pop music, pop psychology, and later, clothes, gadgets, sports, social events, etc. Our parents knew we were the best children on earth and there was never a question whether we would be able to go to college and have a good enough job to continue our easy lives. If 9/11 hadn't happened, I'd probably still be like that; I was right up until that day. What I know of people like Joel is that he won't be embarrassed or feel bad in any way about his miserable displays anywhere. He'll laugh about it and so will his friends; they're cooler than those lame people that actually care about things like their country, or think that we could actually have an enemy that is trying to destroy us. If he does feel a prickle of conscience he can just go out that night, get a buzz, do whatever else sounds fun. He's not really going to sit and reflect upon himself, are you kidding? Not in a meaningful way. What this type dwells on are all the things that are bothering them: they've been feeling withdrawn lately, they're still affected by the way that 2-week relationship with whoever ended, they wish they had more money for... But, oh well, f--- it, who really gives a f--- anyway, right? Hence, the author's summarization their mindset with the word "Whatever". That's exactly it. Nothing ever touches them too deeply. That would not be cool, and of course, that's everything, right? It is to them, even though they articulate it in seemingly more complex, eloquent terms. You have no idea how much of a stranger a person like me feels around the same kind of people I've known all my life now. I wish I could still just say "whatever" to it, but I can't anymore, and probably will never be able to again.

Posted by: KL at January 27, 2006 8:45 PM

That was absolutely hilarious. I have now put you on my favorites list. Keep it up. I'm always in for a good laugh. You have really painted a picture with words and I can't get that picture out of my head!!!!

Posted by: Acheick at January 27, 2006 10:51 PM

After hearing the Stein interview I brooded the rest of my 1-hour commute home trying to figure out how he sounded. "Callow" was all I could come up with. Thank you for expanding my vocabulary with your post.

Also, I started thinking about the other Steyn (Mark) on Hewitt's program. He reviews musicals and Broadway plays, he has a high-pitched insistent voice with a Canadian accent, and always sounds slightly worried and exasperated. I think he even has two or three kids at home to tempt him in to talking like a munchkin.

He frequently couches his arguments in off-hand satire and humor, sort of like Stein tries to do. By any accounting he "should" sound wussier than Stein, yet every statement or observation just hits like a hammer. I'm sure it helps to be scary-smart.

Posted by: jeffus at January 27, 2006 11:36 PM

How about this analogy for Stein's position: You're living in the South in 1864 and you oppose slavery. Do you nevertheless support the Confederate troops? No.

Posted by: Ulysses S. Grant at January 27, 2006 11:48 PM

What, are you 12? This the level of discourse you want to have? Really?

There's plenty of reason to attack the words, but this is the kind of response I'd expect from a 6th grader.

Posted by: AS at January 28, 2006 8:01 AM

As usual, you are getting carried away.
You had a superb interviewer (HH) taking on a callow novice.
Big deal.
Lighten up and get a grip.

Posted by: Raw Data at January 28, 2006 8:12 AM

I think everyone is missing the point. Stein is actually the most honest, true to perverse-logic liberal commentator on this subject yet. It's as if one sliced open the average liberal skull and poured out the garbage for everyone to see. He has managed to clearly expose the tone, thought processes, decision loops (and loops and loops) and moral uncertainty of liberals in a glorious spew of prose and commentary.

In fact, I believe he is being quite intellectually honest; in that most liberals hide behind the faux 'I support the troops' mantra even as they actively undermine our troop's effort overseas.

Mr. Van der Leun: You are a talented writer and I agree with you often. But please do not waste your talents by mocking the vocal deficiencies of others. The WWII generation equally disliked the vocal and stylistic peculiarities of the 'me' generation, and the generations that follow will inevitability dislike the same... There are better things to analyze and expose.

Posted by: John Barbour at January 28, 2006 9:12 AM

I thought that it was excellent! As a 22 yr.old female in college these are the type of men (and women) that I am surrounded by on a daily basis. They have no real facts to back-up anything that they say, and are nothing but spineless wimps. Bravo for such an excellent interview of that coward that put him in his place.

Posted by: HMJ at January 28, 2006 9:33 AM

Great essay, you really nailed it.

Posted by: The Editors, American Federalist Journal at January 28, 2006 10:45 AM

I am a retired Army E-8. I sent Klein a nastygram taking him to task for not knowing of what he was writing.

If he be young and unskillful
and puts his neck on the line.
Take his life praising Heaven
The fool has made himself mine

Posted by: al bee at January 28, 2006 1:58 PM

You have totally pegged it! Write a book on this I LOVE IT!! Being marinated in it every day I find it so very cold-fish disturbing!!!

Ithaca NY

Posted by: Andy at January 28, 2006 3:12 PM

A ballet dancer/onetime boyfriend of mine remarked on this about 14 years ago. If he (gay elitist) & I (Appalachian gay) find this annoying...

Posted by: Baldy at January 29, 2006 1:51 AM

We have heard this voice at call centers, in college, and in the workplace. The owner of this voice is the product of twelve years of atheist-feminist-government school brain washing. In the government schools, students are forbidden to have any opinion other than the opinion of the teacher. The Greeks and Romans had a better word for the people like Mr. Stein: eunuchs.

Posted by: sovietdemocrats at January 30, 2006 6:46 AM

Even though I have a dialup connection, I downloaded the Hewitt/Stein mp3 file so that I could listen to the voice and style of Stein.

What I hear from Stein is him repeating every single question asked by Hewitt before responding. I don't necessarily agree that it's the voice of the neuter personna. Here's why.

There is a television show where you can observe Stein-like interactions from time to time: "Cops". When a police officer detains and begins interrogating a suspect, you will occasionally see the suspect repeat the officer's question word for word, over and over, exactly like Stein did.

On one occasion, an officer clearly explained what this was, because he sees detainees do it all the time. The detainee repeats the question verbatim in order to buy himself time to construct a measured answer in a high-pressure situation.

This is usually done when the detainee is in very hot water, and he appreciates the fact that his fate may rest on the answers that he gives the interrogator.

The same can be said for Stein. He brought down an avalanche upon himself, and he attempted to measure each answer with extreme care in order not to make the magnitude of the avalanche greater.

Hence, he was "buying time" to think by repeating each of Hugh's questions.

---Tom Nally, New Orleans

Posted by: Tom Nally at January 30, 2006 10:52 AM

Van made an interesting point above:

"They are incredulous that you should try to connect their statements, their instances of 'expressing themselves' to more fundamental principles existent in the world. "

As John Barbour points out above, Joel Stein is perfectly correct in saying that you cannot both oppose the war and support the troops. But Stein wanted only to point out this logical inconsistency.

What he failed to anticipate was that this analysis would expose both his feelings about the war AND his feelings about the troops. He's a fool if he didn't see that coming.

Posted by: Bostonian at January 30, 2006 11:28 AM

This style of speech has been around for quite some time. When I was in high school (more than a decade ago; geez, where does the time go?) I was in a production where the director spent some time coaching several students out of delivering their lines with a rising inflection.

It was the first time I'd had that particular style of speech pointed out to me and I instantly decided that I hated it, and determined to not pick it up. (It's the sort of thing I needed to think about; I'm a bit of a sponge when it comes to accents.)

For my writing I decided to likewise sponge away the uncertain tone and the passive voice. The end result is that those "gender" sites that rate your writing always rank me as male, which annoys me. "Women's" writing is assumed to be passive voice? I don't THINK so...

Posted by: B. Durbin at January 30, 2006 7:59 PM

Tom Nally pointed out above that the style of repeating back the question might show an awareness of guilt:
"There is a television show where you can observe Stein-like interactions from time to time: "Cops". When a police officer detains and begins interrogating a suspect, you will occasionally see the suspect repeat the officer's question word for word, over and over, exactly like Stein did."

That may be true, but I think it would probably be more relevant to watch an episode of "Friends" than "Cops" to see this mannerism actually in play.

Watch any episode where one of the "Friends" is in an encounter with either a non-Friends character (probably an authority type), or one of the Friends themselves who has cluelessly done something particularly stupid. In either case you'll see the active Friends character, probably Chandler, repeating the question back... slowly... deadpan expression, followed by the dreaded rising inflection at the end statement.

The point being, as HMJ & KL also noted above, almost certainly Stein felt no sense of guilt during the Hugh Hewitt interview. Furthermore, if in fact he did begin to choose his words carefully, it was more likely an act of deliberate condescension towards Hewitt's inability to appreciate the feelings of honesty that he felt he expressed in his column, than anything else. The fact is that the main "idea" he put forward, that the leftists who are saying they support the troops when they so obviously can't and don't, is of little real value, when the overall context of reality and truth are being so blatantly violated by everything else he says and concludes.

Posted by: Van at January 31, 2006 3:37 PM

NPR's "This American Life" with Ira Glass is the epitomie of this pseudo-sophistocated, supposedly ironic, world-weary, deadpan voice. "No problem." "Whatever." I suspect that it has influenced many young writers. Too bad, It is such a bore. Impossible to listen to.

Posted by: East Coast at February 1, 2006 3:40 PM

Well done! I am astounded that Mr. Stein (and his ilk) can so quickly approve of military action for the genecide in Kosovo. But seemingly overlook the horrible atrosities which occurred in Irag. OH yeah I forgot, Bill Clinton approved Kosovo. Does he get paid to publically demonstrate his poor morals and his vacancy of intellectual reasoning? No wonder the LA Times is losing subscribers.

All the best,

Posted by: Neil at February 2, 2006 8:23 AM

I first heard this perverse 'uptalk' about the time the first Valley girls were being conceived. I heard it in public screwels, from teachers and any administration types that had regular contact with students. The purpose of it was to convey superiority. It used to be called "talking down to people." It was (and is) verbal shorthand for the concepts: "Are you listening?" "Are you really listening?" "Do I have your complete and unfailing attention?" "Do I have not only your rapt attention but your complete agreement?" You get the idea.

In present use, 'uptalk' is simply a never-ending commentary on The World As I See It. Being opinion, it requires no defense, but anyone who disagrees is a moron.

Perhaps the simperers have no need to differentiate between questions and declarative statements because for them, the two classes have merged. The 'fashionable' use of nouns as verbs is of a piece with this. See the 'Newspeak Dictionary' for a very prescient analysis of these language trends. The development of English is proceeding on two divergent tracks. One track progresses toward the use of language to better express complex ideas, and the other progresses toward using language to suppress ideas. This track must end in a pre-adolescent worldview where everything is declaration or demand. Thus the development of language, and the development of the speaker, come full circle. The first use of language is making needs known and expressing identity. If the Steins of the world have their way, one day it will be the last -- and only -- use of language as well.

I close with the observation that if Stein and his ilk were any more self-absorbed, they would disappear from the universe, in much the same way that a star can collapse in upon itself to a point where nothing can escape. The only evidence remaining to the outside observer is a "giant sucking sound." Perhaps that is the best analogy for these legends in their own mind, because they likewise draw everything into themselves and release no detectable amounts of anything of value. Their reason for being is to suck, in other words -- proving that even simperers can achieve excellence.

Posted by: Craig at February 6, 2006 6:09 PM

This may be true for Stein's generation, but the kids just coming of age today are, according to the opinions et. al. gathered a number of surveys, made of different and sterner stuff.

As it happens, the kids just might be alright....

Posted by: Joe Katzman at February 28, 2006 10:05 AM

hmm... I thought we lived in America. and I also thought that meant that we were all entitled to freedom of speech...including Joel. Well here's my opinion... Joel is an disgusting writer and the fact that he can't express his opinion on the war clearly but sends it to the printers without a clue as to what makes this country great makes him utterly neutered. It makes him a wussy man. And I admire that quality. I'd like to marry him.

Posted by: Elizabeth at April 8, 2006 9:14 PM

Hey I didn't say that! Ya'll changed my comment!!! You guys totally intruded upon freedom of speech. YOU PSYCHO CONSERVATIVES!!!

[Editor: Humm, what is it about the notice above that says comments may be edited at will that you fail to understand?]

Posted by: Elizabeth at April 26, 2006 11:30 AM

I could understand ya'll editing it. But, you guys changed my total view. and that's not right. I should be entitled to say that I admire the fact that Joel had the balls to write that, send it to the printers, and not apologize.

[Change is what editing is all about. But at the end you've said it all above. We shall let it stand but only because we heart brunettes.]

Posted by: Elizabeth at April 27, 2006 11:09 AM

Kian Trevor Nathanael Rahul Luke Brendon

Posted by: Nicholas at May 3, 2006 8:23 PM
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