Defending Joe Epstein

Joseph Epstein.

Joseph Epstein.

From now on, I will demand that everyone call me Master Dennis Byrne, to show due deference to my hard-earned master's degree in urban affairs. Written correspondence not addressed to Dennis Byrne, M.S, B.A. will not be opened.

That's because I'm adopting the same standards that a blizzard of elitist snowflakes are demanding be followed when referring to President-elect Joe Biden's wife, Jill--if I might be allowed to use her first name without the necessary honorariums.

Whether Jill Biden must be addressed as Dr. Biden has roared unto the national consciousness after Joe Epstein, a prominent master essayist from Evanston wrote a  Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined, "Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.: Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic."

Yes, comic. The essay was a well-deserved dagger into elite's pretensions about their superiority. While woke progressives were figuratively pissing on statues of honored American heroes, they saw no irony in how they have taken unbridled umbrage at a valid viewpoint that they have falsely labeled misogynist. Yes, it has become hysterical, a word  that damn well applies to the criticism.

Never mind that Epstein's point was about the masturbatory requirement by anyone who insists that they be addressed by their college degree, of which Ms. Biden is but one and the most current and prominent example. I don't know if Ms. Biden makes that demand herself, but the progressive elites sure have, to a ridiculous extent, deserving of parody and ridicule.

A prime example is Northwestern University where Epstein spent almost 30 years of his life bringing love of the word to countless students. Despite Epstein's emeritus status at the school, the school issued a mealy-mouthed condemnation of his allegedly misogynistic” viewpoint, while scrubbing him from its website.

From her high horse, Susan Manning, chair of Northwestern’s English department, called  the op-ed “noxious.” Epstein, she said, had  published other essays that made faculty “livid.” Manning and the university apparently haven't familiarized themselves with the rich literature describing the idea of a university. It's not avoiding offense or making the faculty "livid."

I haven't read  Manning, described in her biography as a dramaturge*, so I can't compare her skills to Epstein's. But I'll put Epstein up against any essayist or writer in America. If I had Epstein's mastery of the English language I would be able to adequately describe his high art.

He's the best-selling author of many fine books, a contributor to numerous publications, a former editor of  the magazine The American Scholarand the recipient of the The National Humanities Medal, from the National Endowment for the Humanities.and the Ribalow Prize for Fiction for his Fabulous Small Jews.

I'm a long-time Epstein admirer, finding everything he writes to be intelligent and witty. He splashes stuff that makes the rest of us bellyache with doses of good humor and insight. I laugh out loud. And appreciate the here and now that surrounds us.

I don't know him personally, but I feel like I know about him, as we grew up in the same neighborhood a few blocks north of Devon Ave. and west of Western Ave. He went to Boone School; I went to St. Timothy's. He was a few years ahead of me, so I don't know if we ever crossed paths.

But he's an old white man and, worse, mostly conservative. Making him an appealing target for the progressive aristocrats and law-givers. His critics, perfectly skewered by the master, can huff and puff all they want, but I and his numerous fans will stand by him and anxiously await his next op-ed.

Meanwhile, check out these episodes of  Seinfeld, back when we could make fun of the pompous and their titles.

*For all the deplorables out there, I have linked  to the definition of "dramaturge" a word I had to look up.

Praise for Joe Epstein from The New Criterion: A look at Joseph Epstein’s work, the importance of reading, and the role of the critic:

For more than five decades as a critic and essayist, Joseph Epstein has been one of our most valuable and vociferous antidotes against puerile and invertebrate reviews, a smasher of hype and entrenched pieties among the literati, an arbiter with a bloodstained yardstick, a writer serious about his convictions and his comedy. With Ruskin and Arnold and Wilde, Epstein is a shining example of how essay writing and criticism aspire to equal footing with imaginative literature. The author of twenty-four books—his newest collection, A Literary Education, will be released in June—Epstein illustrates the necessary difference between disposition and argument and never confuses rhetoric with logic, or rationalization with reasoning. By turns cantankerous and comedic, traditional and irreverent, damning and praising, he writes sentences you want to remember. And that, in the last analysis, is the only measure of a writer.

Defenses of Epstein worth reading:

Fake doctors:


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  • You said that people on the left are insisting that Biden be referred to as Dr., but then didn't actually mention any of the people doing so.

    Who are the people who are insisting that she be called Dr? Again, not the people who think Epstein is a jagoff, but the people who insist that Biden be called Dr?

  • I wrote: " I don't know if Ms. Biden makes that demand herself, but the progressive elites sure have, to a ridiculous extent, deserving of parody and ridicule." Do you bother to read it before you let fly?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    So, who are those people? There must be some, right? You said yourself that Biden doesn't do it, so who is doing this insisting? Because if there weren't people doing the insisting, then why would Epstein write that op ed in the first place? That why I explicitly said 'not the people who think Epstein is a jagoff'. I mean, who are the peothat Epstein was complaining about.

    You've written this opinion piece and replied to me, so surely you know a lot about this. Who are those people doing all of this insisting?

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Here is a starter article for you about those insisting that Jill, babe, be called "Doctor", which includes her press flak, Michael LaRosa. Google can be your friend. And Google knows your real name.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Can you read? I said, who were the people who were insisting that Biden be called Dr.? Surely there was SOMEONE that was doing this that triggered Epstein so much that he had to write an OP-ED. Wasn't there? Who was doing this? Because of this whole "cause and effect" thing (maybe you should watch that Avengers movie where they travel through time to learn more about this), something that happened BEFORE Epstein wrote the Op-Ed caused him to write the Op-Ed. You pointed me to a response to the Op-Ed. Those are the people who think Epstein is a jagoff. I'm not currently interested in them.

    So, I'll repeat. I asked a simple question. Who were the people who were insisting that Biden be called 'Doctor' that triggered Epstein to write the Op Ed? And if there weren't any people doing this, then what caused Epstein to write the Op Ed in the first place? And, if there weren't any people doing this, then surely you will agree that Epstein is a jagoff for writing the Op Ed in the first place.

    So, I'll repeat the question: Who were the people that were insisting that Biden be called 'Doctor' that triggered Epstein to write the Op Ed?

    Why is this such a difficult question to get an answer for? Perhaps English isn't your first language, so this stuff is difficult for you?

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    You need to calm down.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    So, I know you are reading my comments. So does everyone else reading this. So, who are those people who are insisting that she be called 'Dr.'? Because, for Epstein to not be a jagoff just looking for a way to write something stupid, there really needs to be a group of people who are 'insisting' that Biden be called Dr, doesn't there. I mean, you've defended Epstein because he was just calling out the shrill cries of the progressive left, right?

    But, when we think about this, that isn't it at all, is there? I mean, there are some voices on the right who are saying that the media only calls people Dr if they are an MD. But, that isn't what Epstein wrote, is it? He didn't call out the media for calling her Dr. He called out Biden for calling herself Dr. But, Biden doesn't make a big thing of this and she certainly doesn't insist that anyone call her Dr. She refers to herself as a Dr. in certain circumstances, like MOST people who have a doctorate, do. When I was in college, every one of my professors was referred to as 'Doctor'. When I was in grad school, there was even some information from the placement office about when to use the title 'Doctor'. In professional situations, certainly. When doing something where gravitas can be useful, use the title (like, if you are on the board of a charity, call yourself 'Doctor'). If you write a book or publish something, use the title. Using the title isn't elitism, it is common sense and has its place. Biden is going to be contributing to policy in her husbands administration around education, so using the title in those circumstances is common sense and to be expected.

    So, let's get back to Epstein... Biden isn't insisting that the media call her Dr. She hasn't done anything out of place or unexpected. But, she is a democrat and Epstein is a republican and the sheep have to get whipped into a frenzy, don't they. So, we need to publish an op-ed to make it seem like the 'progressive left' is trying to do something wrong. So, he does. He misrepresents everything. Almost nothing he says is honest and everything is misleading (not to mention demeaning). And then, you come along and misrepresent not only everything he has said, but you misrepresent those who attack him. Congratulations on your amazing consistency.

    Unless, of course, there really were a bunch of people who were insisting that Biden be called 'Dr'. But, you've been asked to point out those people more than once and, while you replied to me, you've ignored the question. So, I suspect that there really aren't any people like that, despite your insistence that there is.

    So, what do we have? Epstein being a complete jagoff. We have you, misrepresenting everything that has happened around this. Yep, sounds about right.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    I enjoy it when he gets so blinded by rage that he? is senseless, which is most of the time. He? gets so upset he can't remember his real name.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    This was funny. I have a nephew who is currently in 6th grade. I have a sneaky suspicion that you and I know each other and that you are having him help you write your snappy comebacks.

    "I enjoy it when he gets so blinded by rage". Is that what you call it when people ask you questions you don't want to answer.

    You're really setting up a compelling argument that the people on the Left are the ones who ignore facts and are guided only by their feelings. Seriously. Can you let me know when you make your next post, because I'm betting that it's gonna be great.

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Maybe Epstein was having some fun with the pompous Leftist culture (you) that exists today that insists that Leftist women with Ph.D.'s be addressed as "Doctor", which bubbled to the surface with "Dr" Blasy Ford. Maybe THERE is No ONE person who was insisting, but the culture writ large?

    Have you considered anger management therapy? Asking for another reader.

    Please sign your raving response with your real name, just to humor us and so we can contact a hotline or two about and for you.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    So, Epstein writes an op-ed to complain about no one doing anything. And you want to talk about the pompous Leftist culture?

    Let's see, what was the pompous Leftist culture doing here?

    Oh, right, nothing. Epstein invented something that no one was doing, and Dennis writes a blog to then follow up on those complaints about something that no one was doing.

    I can only imagine you sitting at home thinking "oh, yeah, this'll look like I'm clever if I admit that no one was doing the thing that Epstein was complaining that people were doing". And, of course, those people who didn't like getting accused of doing something that you admit they were doing then get upset about being accused of doing something that you admit no one was doing. And those people are the ones with a problem?

    Did I get that straight? Because, you are right, this all makes you look like you are very clever.

  • I saw someone accidentally call her Mrs. Biden one time. She kicked him right in the balls! "That's Dr. Biden to you, Shitstain" she sneered over his writhing body. "And don't you forget it".
    Thank goodness Mr. Epstein is brave enough to finally call her out on this nonsense. I hope he's wearing a cup!

  • Dennis, there is a certain irony in the attacks you and Richard are making on a woman who takes pride in her earned doctorate when one compares her with the trophy wife occupying the Whitehouse today.

  • It's really pretty simple. We call young men Master, mature men, Mr..

    We call women Miss, Ms. or Mrs..

    Dr. is a title we use when addressing MD's, dentists, PhDs, podiatrists, and DO's. I apologize if I missed anyone. So, what's the problem?

    Dr. Biden earned a PhD and deserves the title of Dr.. Epstein is just Mr. and he should be glad to have that.

    People with MBA's or MS's don't get any special title because doing a master program is just like going from high school to college.

    I'm a Master Scuba Diver, but only certain people get to call me Master. Some people however, shouldn't get to call themselves journalists.

  • In reply to Bob Abrams:

    There is your mistake, like Whoopi Goldberg. Most people associate the term Dr. with someone who heals or treats, like MDs, DDSs, osteopaths, and veterinarians, not PhDs. There’s more confusion, Jill Biden is not a PhD, she is an Ed.D., doctor of education, not philosophy. Part of Epstein’s point is there are so many honorary or non medical “doctorates” passed out, earned or not, that the term “Dr” becomes meaningless without the initials after, such as MD, DVM, DDS or PhD or Ed.D.

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    Now I'm confused. If that was part of his point, why didn't he ever say that? You'd think he would have suggested to Dr. Biden that perhaps she have the incoming Communication Staff add the initials to their press releases, wouldn't you? I didn't see that he did that. He suggested that she stop referring to herself as doctor. How does that help clarify anything?

    Was Epstein really concerned that somehow at a restaurant, someone would be choking and the waiter would run to the Biden's table and say "Doctor Biden, we need an emergency tracheotomy". Seriously? Was that his concern? Because, to be honest, if that is his concern, he's an idiot who shouldn't be given space in the WSJ.

  • I've only read an excerpt of Epstein's op-ed in the WSJ, the passage about Dr. Biden. It didn't sound like he was joking, or like Seinfeld satire. iI think his attack was unwarranted to say the least, and palpably insensitive ---if not incredibly dumb--- at a moment in American history when women are asserting their equality in every way with men in our society. Did Epstein have any issues with calling Henry Kissinger "Dr"?

    In my research I found Epstein back in the 1970s used the N-word and said non-heterosexuals are "cursed". He said something like he would disown his son if he were gay. Epstein never has apologized all these years later according to the source.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I think your problem here is that you are assuming that people like Dennis and Richard are actually trying to seriously discuss something. They've both made statements and when I asked for proof or follow-up, the replied but changed the subject.

    This is really about Right needing to have a boogeyman to whip up the base about. No one has claimed that Biden has done anything atypical or unexpected, but this is still supposed to be some reaction to the 'Pompous' left. No one has bothered to explain what the left was doing that makes them pompous, but that's the beauty of the whole argument. They will refuse to actually say what anyone was doing or who those people even are. Or, if you look at the response from the WSJ, they defended Epstein by saying that the media only refers to people as 'doctor' if they are an MD. But, that isn't the point that Epstein made. He didn't say anything about the media. He was making an argument about Biden having the audacity to refer to herself as 'doctor'. She didn't insist that anyone else call her 'doctor' and no one made any reference to a media outlet calling her 'doctor'. Again, the point isn't to make a rational argument about improper behavior. The point is to whip up a frenzy. If the target is an 'elite', even better. If the target is a Democrat, even better. If the target is the inbound administration, even better. Check. Check. Check.

    And of course, while this is happening, the President tweets that the Governor of Georgia should be thrown in jail. He doesn't even imply that a crime has been committed. Just throw someone in jail because they didn't do what Trump wanted. I'm waiting to hear what Dennis (or Richard) have to say about that. But, their comments (or lack thereof) will give you an idea of their interest in having a rational, reasoned conversation about politics in the US

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    The only frenzy being whipped up is in your mind. It's amusing.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Gotta get the sheeple riled up. Do you make money from it? Or do you just get excited sitting at home hoping you get some likes?

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    I just get a kick out of getting you riled up. It's not hard to do. That's my "like". Oh, and I get $20 every time you reply to me. Please continue.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    I'm sorry you have so few hobbies. I wish you a life where the unseen and unknown reaction by someone you don't know isn't something that drives you so. It's interesting that in your mind, "getting you riled up" means "getting you to ask me a question that I don't want to answer".

    Maybe these words don't mean what you think they mean?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    AP style guide does not refer to anyone as "doctor," unless they are a medical doctor. You will find virtually all mentions of Kissinger in news copy as "Mr. Kissinger." As for Epstein himself and his referrals to Kissinger, do you know if what honorific he attached to him?

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    This is great. Now Epstein really just wants to get everyone correctly using the AP style guide. Ha ha. You aren't ashamed to reach for any stupid thing, are you? You really want to imply that what Epstein is really trying to do is get compliance with the style guide? hahahaha

    Do you ever think to yourself that if you have to come up with these stupid defenses for your point of view, maybe you should change your point of view?

    And, again, if that is what Epstein was trying to do, why would he be telling Biden to stop calling herself "doctor". Shouldn't he be finding a news outlet that writes a news article that calls her doctor and correcting them? Man, this is one of your best.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    So, I did a quick google search. On the first page of the results, I found the following media references of Kissinger as 'Dr. Kissinger': - That's Kissinger's own website. Ouch... -- What? The folks from the Nobel should know better. -- What? The US Government? -- Here, Sheldon Wollin is quoted writing about Kissinger as "Dr. Kissinger". I certainly would have expected more from Mr. Wollin -- Oh my, Santa Clara University. Richard, I think you and I are both disappointed in this one.

    So, that is the first page of results. I suspect that the world is engaged in a conspiracy to make the world think that Kissinger can, in a pinch, remove an appendix.

    In all seriousness, you just made up all this shit about the style guide, didn't you? Just as a joke, right? Like, nobody would seriously try to defend Epstein by making a reference to the AP style guide. No one with any sense, right?

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    I'm not sure what Epstein calls Kissinger, but Kissinger's own website refers to him as "Dr".

    Yes, it seems like the Left has been busy attaching honorifics to itself...


  • Dennis, I spoke to Joe this Morning and he passes on his many thanks for your defense of him. If you want a copy,I can send his email thanks to you. It was well deserved. I read of his Books and no Finer man and author exist. Many thnks from me also.

  • In reply to BOB ANGONE:

    Bob, since it appears that you know Joe, maybe you could clarify this... What exactly prompted Joe to write this op-ed? From what everyone can tell, there wasn't anyone, anywhere who was insisting that Biden be referred to as Dr. The White House did refer to her as Doctor, but that was generally in the context of discussing her role in helping craft administration policy around education (and therefore mentioning her credentials seems like a reasonable and common thing to do).

    For example, does Joe feel the same sense of outrage when he reads this:

    I'm looking forward to hearing Joe's thoughts around this.

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Perhaps you can write Epstein (using your real name) and ask him yourself? This might prompt him to call one of the aforementioned hotlines about you though.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Or, this person who has demonstrated a desire to communicate with Epstein about the subject and communicate his thoughts to a larger crowd would be willing to do it.

    You're a good little helper for coming up with suggestions, though.

  • In reply to BOB ANGONE:

    Yes, please send.

  • > Never mind that Epstein's point was about the masturbatory requirement by anyone who insists that they be addressed by their college degree, of which Ms. Biden is but one and the most current and prominent example. I don't know if Ms. Biden makes that demand herself

    I just thought this was funny. You accuse her of something and then instantly say that you don't know if she actually does that. You need an editor.

  • This quote is from the Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2009:

    "Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, explained that his wife’s desire for the highest degree was in response to what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail.

    “She said, ‘I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.’ That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,” he said."

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