Today, I risked saying this in the comments section of that Bob Dylan post:
To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.That got linked over at Volokh Conspiracy (from the elusive Juan Non-Volokh), which led to a link at Crooked Timber, and now people are talking about my comment in the comments at both places, saying things like:
"Jesus, what an absolute load of bollocks. Artists are (in)famously left wing. Reading Althouse and Reynolds is like stepping through the looking glass. They say the most inane things as if they are just God’s own truth."And:
"Are they actually insane? Has it come to this, that the insane now have tenured positions in law schools across the country? It’s clearly a product of wrongheaded liberal do-gooders in the 70s who made it harder to commit the delusional."(I love the way Glenn Reynolds comes in for a gratuitous beating.)
Anyway, I was just trying on a little idea there in the back room, in honor of Right Wing Bob, giving you folks something to react to in the ranging conversation that is the comments page. So, react away. But try to focus on the actual point. I'm not saying great artists consciously adopt the agenda of the political right. I'm saying there is something right wing about the sort of mentality you have to adopt in order to be a great artist! Think it through people. Don't just blow a gasket!
UPDATE: Here's a comment that I'm going to leave over at Volokh in response to a commenter:
Dustin writes, "I feel somewhat disconnected from the discussion. How do 'left-wing' and 'right-wing', political classifications, apply to art and artists? Since 99% of artists who try to be 'political' an any which way, end up failing miserably and ebarassing [sic] themselves, I'm lincined [sic] to believe that good artists are neither left or right wing; and I don't mean that in a sesame street way."Dare I drop it over at CT too?
You're asking a question that very nicely represents the way people keep misunderstanding my statement. I'm not saying that the great artist adopts a right wing political ideology. If fact, I agree with you that the great artist needs to separate himself from politics and certainly to get it out of his art. I'm saying there's something right wing about doing that. My comment arose in a discussion of the Scorsese documentary on Bob Dylan, which shows how he did not fit in with the left wing folksingers who tried very hard to keep him in their fold and felt betrayed when he alienated himself from them. My observation is that he was, at heart, a great artist, and it was not possible to do what was needed to be a good lefty, which would require a strong focus on group goals and communal values. He certainly wasn't switching to right wing politics. He was getting out of politics.
I'm calling that right wing. It's certainly antithetical to left wing politics, which requires you to remain engaged and would require the artist to include politics in his art. The great artist sees that those requirements will drag him down. That's what I'm theorizing. Feel free to debate that and reject it if you want. All I'd like to ask is that you get your mind around what I'm trying to say before reflexively rejecting it. I'm not surprised that lefty bloggers and commenters can't do this. They've got to enforce the kind of values that freaked Bob Dylan out and made him want to disengage from their clutches. And don't even get me started on my experience with lefty bloggers. They treat me miserably, and if I tried to get along with them, it would guarantee mediocrity. And thus, I am a right wing blogger – even though I don’t share many beliefs with right wing politicos.
UPDATE: I'm glad I've started a conversation. But why are the people on the other side of the conversation so boring? All they say is that I'm "stupid" or my comment is "nonsense." What I said is apparently interesting enough to respond to, but you don't say anything interesting in response. Say something about art! Say something new and unusual about why I'm so wrong! Dammit! I can see people are talking about me, and I go over to hear what they are saying, and it's a thuddingly dull remark.