September 28, 2005

The Althouse comments persona.

Here at Althouse, there's the Althouse of the front page posts and the Althouse of the comments. Things are a little more experimental and brainstormy in the comments. I'm used to having my posts linked, but it's surprising to get something I toss out in the comments linked. Not that I think it's off limits. I like links!

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."

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.

Dare I drop it over at CT too?

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.

122 comments:

vbspurs said...

You're no shrinking violet, Ann.

Just make sure this kind of sparking plug remark in your comments section by you, doesn't get muted or killed in future -- simply because you don't want your words misinterpreted.

Who cares what people say. They'll say it anyway.

Cheers,
Victoria

Pat Patterson said...

Yikes, short on specifics and long on vituperation. If you read the posts one would have virtually no idea what the subject was. I still agree that the case could be made that great artists are right-wing for the simple observation of how selfish they are in gaining their greatness. Artists do not come from the caring professionals, they are not willing to sacrifice their vision for compassionate view of the world. At times the rent is not paid, the wife, or husband is ignored or tossed aside, the friends betrayed, etc. What is excused as passion is most often simply a sense of self that excludes all except the creative act.

leeontheroad said...

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!

ok. And it sounds as though you link that "right wing mentality" to "responsibility" for "one's place in the world."

I think you're linking "individual" and "responsibility" in a way that echoes the right-wing (claim to the) theme of "individual responsibility."

Is this the way in you mean artists are "inherently right wing"? over against, for example, "collective responsibility" ?

While artists accept responsibility to the extent to which they make their art public and put their names on their work, I doubt if in fact artists always can be responsible for the way in which their work is received. That is, they can't control the effect. There is always an appeal to the collective inherent in the making of art or, at least, in the making public of a work of art. So, for example, if an artist claims his or her work is misperceived, the artist can be said to deny "responsibility" for the public perception of his or her work.

Or would you say that any artists who denies responsibility for public perception is, by defintion, less than a great artist?

I'm not arguing the linkages. I'm trying to follow them and their implications.

Simon Kenton said...

I read the comments at Crooked Timber. Only one - radek - betrays the least hint of historical perspective. From, say, Lascaux to 1789, we have an enormous sweep of prehistory and history in which trying to descry left-right perspectives in art is a largely meaningless exercise. There are interpretations placing Euripides in the people's camp, or reading Moby Dick as a working-man's novel, or finding Defoe an apostle of the bourgeois state, but generally this is the sort of tortuous drivel that comes of being hired ABD, needing to publish, and knowing your most productive move is to buff up the committee's left perspective. And for art since then, the evidence is all over the place. Wallace Stevens, a VP at an insurance company? T S Elliot at the bank? Steinbeck? John Nichols? Sartre? Storm? Cole Porter? Woodie Guthrie? Nabokov? Even in the last 160 years there's not much to be gained in trying to deal artists into a couple of piles, each labeled with fairly jejune modern categories.

Ms Althouse, I reckon you jammed a stick into the anthill and are licking the ants off it. For that formic tang, that formic tang. If I might suggest a future topic, you could speculate on why consciously leftist lit - say, Grapes of Wrath or The Magic Journey - descends from mawkish to clatfart so ineluctably.

vbspurs said...

Ms Althouse, I reckon you jammed a stick into the anthill and are licking the ants off it. For that formic tang, that formic tang. If I might suggest a future topic, you could speculate on why consciously leftist lit - say, Grapes of Wrath or The Magic Journey - descends from mawkish to clatfart so ineluctably.

Ahhh, the escaped souls from Planet Blogosphere -- here to parry with dainty sabres what has gone unchallenged long enough!

Now of course, one could point out that Ann Althouse's deeply embedded commentary in a thread was taken out of context.

And that in so doing, people have formed all kinds of opinions of what she was saying, but without the courtesy of reading the thread to throw the Light of Context into the remark.

Alas, we'll never know what Ann was truly saying.

To quote a famous conspiracist (allegedly right-wing) as filmed by a director (allegedly left-wing):

"It's a riddle inside a mystery wrapped up in an enigma."

Cheers,
Victoria

amba said...

What Pat Patterson said.

But I don't know that that kind of selfishness is "right wing." More libertarian, maybe. Right wing ideally not only stands for taking responsibility for yourself, but also for your word to and commitments to others, family and society. Great artists, not all but disturbingly many, sacrifice all that without a qualm. I think a lot of right-wingers might say that while their discipline, enterprise and drive may be right-wing, their narcissism is quite left-wing.

Which just goes to show that not everything can be convincingly politicized.

Eli Blake said...

I'm not sure I agree with you.

I know what you are saying, that the artist embodies the invidualism that conservatives like to think of themselves as (of course, in historical context, this is classic liberalism).

What I see in modern conservatism, however, is exactly the opposite view. Modern conservatism is a conformist philosophy, trying to bend science as well as art into it's Judeo-Christian view. It is Conservatives, not Liberals who are always trying to get books tossed from the library, get internet sites censored, put stickers in your children's biology textbook telling them not to believe it, and trying to fine Howard Stern and others for what they say on the air (hint: if you don't like it, there is a knob that says, 'tuning.') In such a dogma-driven society, be it here or be it in fundamentalist Islamic societies, or in a cold, Stalinist communist society, art tends to become as cold as the spirit of creativity itself.

I guess it depends on which definition of 'conservative' you subscribe to.

Charles Giacometti said...

But your comment suggests that lefties, to use the vernacular, do NOT take responsibility for their place in the world. This seems like a caricature to me.

Eli Blake said...

Victoria:

It isn't a misquote (by Churchill). He wrote in in Volume III of his prizewinning 'History of the Second World War.'

He is a conservative, but one I really enjoyed reading.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: The key thing for me is that being on the left seems to demand a communal perspective, concern about the benefit to the whole. On the right, you get to be in it for yourself. Whether you embrace that as a political philosophy or not, by turning your back on group as a whole and pursuing your own affairs in an individualistic way, you are behaving as if you believed in right wing values. These "right wing artists" I'm talking about will basically look apolitical, if they are honest. They may, however, in order to pursue their interest in getting ahead, outwardly display leftist values, because that gives you an in with the arts-consuming crowd. It's a strategy that I think Dylan pursued and knew he was pursuing. As soon as he got sucessful enough to do without their help, he shook them off.

Ann Althouse said...

Eli: You are correct that what I'm characterizing as right wing should also be considered liberal and that the real dichotomy that matters to me is libertarian and anti-libertarian. If you read enough of this blog, of which I suppose there are over a thousand pages by now, you'll find plenty of liberal opinion of mine. I am more of an artist myself and not at all a political ideologue. I dislike politics and care a lot about art and freedom. I blog as an art project and an exercise in personal freedom.

Murky Thoughts said...

It does look like the kind of paradoxical aphorism that would be true, paradoxically, and I think I know what you're trying to say, but it's just so not close to being true. Except maybe for Bono, who hangs out with international bankers now. Way to capture the buzz, though.

Eli Blake said...

Ann:

I've been visiting your blog for about two weeks, give or take, and have found some liberal opinions of yours (although, on balance, quite a bit more of what I would classify as conservative-- but then I make no bones about my Leftist outlook). I do find your blog open and thought-provoking enough that it made my relatively short list of 'non-leftist' blogs to include a link to.

And perhaps you are right about 'libetarian' vs. 'anti-libertarian' although I would posit that a liberal who wants to raise the artist's taxes to pay for a light rail system or for better paid schoolteachers impinges less on the artist's freedom of expression than a cultural conservative who wants to limit the artist in terms of what (s)he can write or paint.

Ann Althouse said...

Charles: What I'm characterizing as left wing is the belief that everyone ought to be concerned about everybody else's place in the world. I think individual lefties try to live a worthy life for themselves but don't see that as enough and would feel it is wrong to do only that. I'm not saying it's lefty to be irresponsible, but it is lefty to feel that it is necessary to be devoted to caring for other people who aren't responsible.

TopCat said...

My favorite Dylan quote is to live outside the law one must be honest. I've always thought that sounded more right wing than left.

Ann Althouse said...

Eli: I agree that the social conservatives are worse than tax-and-spend liberals. I've never said otherwise.

(Does anyone have as much trouble typing in the verification word as I do? I get it right about a third of the time!)

miklos rosza said...

When we begin parsing the question, say with Poe... well then, was Poe the individual right-wing? Was his work?

If one's work is "right-wing," what exactly does this mean? That the form it takes is artistically conservative? This leads us into deep water right away.

Ann Althouse said...

One that seems right wing to me is:

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.


"Equality" is the left word, "liberty" the right, don't you think? He turned his back on them and was the better for it, he thinks.

miklos rosza said...

Ann: You addressed some of what I was wondering about while I was thinking (and sneezing, 'cause I have a cold).

SteveR said...

As can be done for anything, say for instance the Bible, any one statement read with prejudice and/or without a larger perspective can be misunderstood. Its just funny to me that people invest so much in making a BFD about the comment. Even if Ann was trying to say Bob Dylan was another Newt Gingrich, it hardly ranks on the long list of things for which "tenured" professors could be criticized for.

Meade said...

I am more of an artist myself and not at all a political ideologue. I dislike politics and care a lot about art and freedom. I blog as an art project and an exercise in personal freedom.
- Right Wing Ann

(verification word always takes me at least two tries)

Simon said...

I linked to a story you recounted yesterday, which means that my entire blog readershp - which is to say, me - liked your story. ;)

miklos rosza said...

Art that is meant to be medicine to cure the ills of society is almost never any good. This bleeds over into the idea that art ought to be "uplifting," something Poe complained about in the 1830s.

Pete Seeger and "protest singers" in general explicitly endorse "art as medicine" and see pleasure as at best a happy by-product, at worst as an aristocratic waste of time.

Ann Althouse said...

lmeade: Well observed.

stever: Feel free to go over there and tell them that.

miklos: Yeah, I detest political art. Mostly because it tends to be bad.

John Thacker said...

Traditionally, elitism has been the province of the right wing, especially the Old Right, or Continental Right. One can argue about how much that is or isn't true today, and about how much sense that ever had in the US, which never had an aristocracy. I think that elitism, in quite a few different senses of the word, has often been a strong part of the mentality of great artists.

Jim C. said...

Crooked Timber wrote (emphasis added): "It’s obvious that to be a great artist is inherently left wing... there is a goddamn parasite constantly sponging off of friends with real jobs and looking for handouts from the Emperor Joseph II, Peggy Guggenheim, the local Arts Council or what have you."

The funniest thing about this minor foofaraw is that leftists on both blogs are defending all artists as leftists, but not one person has written one word of objection to CT's characterization!

lindsey said...

There's an obvious flip side to this earlier comment:

"What I see in modern conservatism, however, is exactly the opposite view. Modern conservatism (liberalism) is a conformist (conformist) philosophy, trying to bend science (some of the wack global warming "science" out there, the vilification of Bjorn Lomberg, I read an article recently about how funding for a scientist critical of global warming misteriously vanished under Clinton and Gore, etc) as well as art (why doesn't the Leftist elite that runs the modern art market like representational art? Why has the teaching of technique in too many university art schools almost disappeared? Why does Modernist architecture have such a chokehold in architecture schools? Why was one of the only classical architecture schools in Europe in Portugal shut down and turned into a Modernist school by haters of classical architecture who had the classical architects driven out?) into it's Judeo-Christian view (atheist, moon goddess, etc). It is Conservatives, not Liberals (switch) who are always trying to get books tossed from the library (literature written by white males tossed from the university and high school curriculum not due to the quality of said work but because of the race and sex of the author--Footnote: 1., 2.): , get internet sites censored (Huh? I don't know enough about this.), put stickers in your children's biology textbook telling them not to believe it (hehe That was pretty funny!), and trying to fine Howard Stern and others for what they say on the air (hint: if you don't like it, there is a knob that says, 'tuning.') (Yeah, but just like on network tv, those are the public's airwaves. The public should be able to establish some community standards for said airwaves. They shouldn't be able to determine such things on cable or satellite radio, where Stern is now. I don't get why liberals defend Stern so much. I've heard him say some vile racist stuff before that really shocked me. I can't imagine liberals defending racists ranting on the radio and YET Stern gets a pass.) In such a dogma-driven society, be it here or be it in fundamentalist Islamic societies, or in a cold, Stalinist communist society (or Berkeley), art tends to become as cold as the spirit of creativity itself." (Have you seen what passes for art now?)

1.There was a funny article recently linked by ALDaily about a little known female author originally thought to be white, then it was "discovered" she was black. As a result, her work was elevated and complimented and marveled at until it was discovered "oh, wait! she's white!" Nevermind. Back to obscurity because her writing was crap when she was white and wonderful when she was black! If I was Tony Morrison or any other brilliant black author, I'd be seriously insulted. Such behavior unfortunately casts doubt on even the genuinely great work done by minority writers. It casts doubt on all books that are considered worthy of greatness and for reasons that should have nothing to do with the determination of quality and worth.

2. I can refer you to some of the bizarre restrictions placed on school textbooks for being politically incorrect. For example, citizens of the USA are not allowed to be called Americans. There are tons of other things. A story about a blind man who climbed a mountain is oppressive because it implies blindness is a disability. Duh. See the books of Diane Ravitch.

Look. Neither side is perfect. They each have their weird issues but let's not pretend that only one side believes in an absolute freedom of expression or religion or [fill in the blank] when it doesn't.

Ann, I too have occasional trouble with the word verification form. Sometimes letters are combined in such a way that I can't tell what they are.

Jack Roy said...

Impressive; all of six hours before you came up with I'm sorry... I'm sorry you're too stupid to understand what I said!.

Sheesh.

lindsey said...

"I would posit that a liberal who wants to raise the artist's taxes to pay for a light rail system or for better paid schoolteachers impinges less on the artist's freedom of expression than a cultural conservative who wants to limit the artist in terms of what (s)he can write or paint."

But of course, the liberal who wants to raise the artist's taxes impinges on the artist's freedom of expression. Art supplies are expensive! You're making it more difficult to fund the creation of art. This is a much more fundamental restriction on art than not wanting to fund via taxes the exhibition of a painting of the Virgin Mary covered with excrement.) Also, while some cultural conservatives are crazy (Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell), the responsible sane ones I've met have some rational positions for why they think the way they do. They think you can draw and paint whatever you want BUT I should not be forced to pay for it via taxes, I should not have to have it broadcast (public airwaves are afterall leased from the consumers) into my home (Everybody should get behind a la carte cable as well!), etc.

aidan maconachy said...

Terms such as "left" and "right" are problematic because they are far too exclusionary and reflect a theoretical reality that exists mainly on paper or in people's heads.

So I want to drop these labels altogether in an effort to grapple with this question.

In PRACTICE it's never so simple. Speaking personally for a sec - I'm on the right but I'm in no way, shape or form a fundamentalist Bush leaguer who marches to the beat of the GOP drum. I believe that rather than dole out charity to the world's needy, there is a strong case to be made for supporting home grown democratic movements abroad, with military intervention always there as an option. I believe in self-sufficiency, smaller government and have a lot in common with libertarian thinking. I despise racists and homophobes, and people who are smugly insular and unwilling to understand or appreciate other cultures and languages.

So although I'm absolutely "right wing", I also share many common concerns with people on the left.

So I think an artist has to be viewed in a similar fashion, rather than endow him/her with a trite label such as "left" or "right".

I would for example view the extremely amusing writer of satirical novels, Kingsley Amis, as "right wing" for all of the usual stereotypical reasons. Likewise Evelyn Waugh, for the same reasons. I would probably view D.H. Lawrence as a repressed fascist, although I probably need to give that more airing. And so it goes ...

Rugged individualism and a healthy disdain for the nanny state and its machinations, its "isms" and "ologies" ... tends to be the mark of an artist who would be less inclined to join the masses at protests and/or hand out leaflets. I know how that feels, because I also confess to a certain phobic dislike of left wing certainties expressed en masse.

It's all rather complex and there are no simple pat answers. Every case merits examination. As for Bobbo ... hmmm ... sorry but if he is going right it has to be a fetish. Maybe a very large lady in leathers who lays down the rules. Who knows.

Sweet dreams!

Mark Daniels said...

First of all, to this business of a "comments persona": It seems sort of silly to me. If you've got an idea you want to try out, just say, "I'm not sure if I believe this, but..." The not-heretofore-mentioned category of Althouse's "comments persona" seems like nothing more than a smoke screen to say, "Oops! I may or may not have meant that" and if I get called to the carpet, I can say, "Psych! I didn't mean it." (Which may have been inspired by Dylan, come to think of it.)

But to your assertion that Dylan is "right wing" in lifestyle, it really depends on your interpretation of "right wing." It seems that you buy the notion that conservatism is inherently selfish which, in its Ayn Randish, libertarian incarnation, it may very well be.

This raises a final point suggested by a few of the comments. As a Christian, I'm really bothered by the connection made by some--Christians and others--between Christian faith and conservatism. Christianity is not a political program and it's perfectly possible for Christians to be liberal Dems as well as conservative Republicans. (By the way, I'm a Republican.) Jesus has no political party. Governments--and the varying philosophies about how best to run them--are what Martin Luther called "emergency measures" necessitated by the fallenness and consequent selfishness that exists in the human race. Government exacts by coercion what we would voluntarily give to one another if we weren't in rebellion against God's will for humans to live together with consideration, respect, and love.

For any Christian to suggest that one "ism" has a corner on virtue, truth, or divine revelation is to flirt with idolatry, subordinating God to human ideas, turning those ideas or philosophies into idols.

Christianity is inherently communitarian. For some Christians, this will seem to lead to a tilt toward private charity and away from the use of government for social ends. For other Christians, while still believing in private charity, there will also be a strong advocacy for government social spending. But for each, hopefully, God's call to love not only God but neighbor, will be equally important.

Just a few thoughts. I'm hitting the sack.

Mark Daniels

Troy said...

Lindsey wrote: "Also, while some cultural conservatives are crazy (Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell), the responsible sane ones I've met have some rational positions for why they think the way they do. They think you can draw and paint whatever you want BUT I should not be forced to pay for it via taxes, I should not have to have it broadcast (public airwaves are afterall leased from the consumers) into my home (Everybody should get behind a la carte cable as well!), etc."

LIndsey -- exactly. This social conservative (who teaches universoty humanities classes) loves all kinds of art (even non-representational!). I however, have a huge problem paying taxes for Piss Christ or Robert Mapplethorpe. I would have a huge problem paying taxes for new stained glass windows for my church too. I go back and forth on government patronage vs. private.

Simon said...

Re Lindsey's comment about Pat Buchanan, Buchanan is actually entirely sane and often exceedingly lucid. I have some serious policy disagreements with him (Pat opposes the war, which I supported and continue to support, and Pat opposes gay people, which in the words of Tim Yeo, I always thought "was about as menaingful as being opposed to the weather"), but I enjoy reading his column, and he does frequently offer some very good points. I was a subsriber to The American Conservative, but I forgot to renew my subscription.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Think it through people. Don't just blow a gasket!

Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?

peter hoh said...

Do left and right have much meaning anymore? Each side defines themselves in the most favorable light, while framing the other in the most negative way.

It's as if both sides have their own language.

I'm inclined to agree with Ann, but the sweeping terms are too broad. I don't think it's fair to say that selfishness is a right-leaning attribute, but I'm inclined to think that few artists rise to greatness without some degree of selfishness. Or something that looks like it.

But there's something about the art that rises above the personal and reaches outside the artist, or else it wouldn't connect with an audience.

Can an artist be great without the ability to connect with an audience? (I'd venture not, but I'd love to be corrected.) Same goes for politics. You can't win if you can't connect with voters.

On the radio a few years ago. Daniel Pinkwater reminisced about a loose group of artists and writers he hung out with when he was getting started. The only ones who made it, he observed, were the ones who worked. And worked.

I heard Lou Reed say something similar to Charlie Rose. Charlie asked him if he was taking it easy or considered himself "still working." Reed said something like "I'm working. Everybody I know is working all the time."

This "sort of selfish" atttribute goes along with the work ethic. And it's not just found in artists. Nobody got to the top of the heap in the mainstream media by being a nice guy, did they? Same with politics. But that's an aside. There's a huge distinction between artistic merit and rising to the top of an organization.

Another aside: any generalization about artistic greatness has to encompass Picasso and Emily Dickinson. They embody very different ways of going about being a great artist.

XWL said...

I believe the sentiment could have easily been described by saying all great artist (and the relavent detail is greatness) are individualistic, enterprising mavericks in orientation.

Part of being great is being one step ahead of the mainstream. Part of the defining ethos of left leaning politics is that they represent the mass muddle in the middle (though that is less true now more than ever, and probably has never been true as the left is defined in the United States).

So I believe the intent is clear, and I think part of the problem is that when people here right many see the demonic presence of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell condemning sinners and demanding an end to all things fun, but the right that would embrace the mindset of a Dylan, or Shakespeare, or Orwell, or Michelangelo is the right of the individual and of personal responsibility and of letting others live the life they choose.

The left that this is in opposition to an artist like the electrified Dylan is the overly egalitarian left with notions as best expressed by Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes a Village" with it's smarmy, paternal/maternalistic overbearing belief that the STATE or the collective should be the arbiter of what's best for any individual.

It would seem that the left leaning folks out there are the most likely to punish perceived dissent and decry it in the least articulate terms.

I blame the academy (too many years of having easily made assumptions unchallenged, when exposed to a competing viewpoint they recoil like a cave dweller that had never before been exposed to light)

vbspurs said...

Never let it be said that a casual off-the-cuff remark, probably written in haste to get our juices in that thread going, can be taken to such a degree as to spawn 3 blogs' comments section to go ape-caca.

The topic Ann raised is intriguing, but the actual subtleties of 'right-wing' or 'left-wing' sensibilities as commented on in this thread, has me laughing into my hankerchief.

It's funny what each of us believe is a "social conservative" or not, as well as what is left-wing or not.

I would for example view the extremely amusing writer of satirical novels, Kingsley Amis, as "right wing" for all of the usual stereotypical reasons. Likewise Evelyn Waugh, for the same reasons. I would probably view D.H. Lawrence as a repressed fascist, although I probably need to give that more airing. And so it goes ...

I would agree with what you wrote, almost entirely.

But please note that in Evelyn Waugh's case, he was a Roman Catholic convert (as were an overwhelming amount of British novelists, as most people know), and that gave him a veneer of traditionalism that goes hand-in-glove with Conservatism until the 2000s.

That's when old American liberals, perhaps even Ann here, transformed themselves into liberarians or similar, because of the encroaching State mechanism into the private sphere.

(And of course, 9/11)

Then it became less about traditionalism and the status quo, than about individualism -- which is the guiding principle of modern day Conservatism.

No one would call Dylan or Picasso, to use Ann's earlier examples, "traditionalists".

But individualists...well yes, very much so.

That's what I believe was her only point.

Let's file this entire thread discussion under: Much Adu about Poo.

Cheers,
Victoria

Dustin Ridgeway said...

If by 'right-wing' she means that all great artists are individualistic entrepeneurs, i'm inclined to agree somewhat. If part of being 'rightwing' in Ms. Althouse's definition is the platitudinous 'taking responsibility for your place in the world', then that point is undermined by the fact that most artists, even exceptionally talented ones, were/are subsidized derelicts without a strong track record of being able to care for themselves. (as the CT boys pointed out).

In fact, I don't even think I could merit this understanding of right-wing as even platitudinous. Paraphrasing Ms. Althouse's Dylan analogy, George Galloway or Michael Moore employing leftist/liberal comraderie or street cred and then exploiting it for their own financial and egotistical benefit, or even in the more general sense of someone turning their back on their 'group' in order to purue their own individual interests; as a (ostly liberal) Democrat, even I would not be so malicious as to attribute this to Right-wingery.

It smells of very stretched and dubious logic, and I think perfectly illustrates just how much modern partisan political discourse has handicapped/poisoned much discussion on matters other than politics, at least on politically oriented weblogs.

It seems to be that many people who enjoy pop music or film or whatever art, but are conservative or at least inclined to vote Republican, are bothered by the liberal/leftist inclinations/tendencies if not outright voiciferous Leftism expressed by an overwhelming majority of artists and art patrons. In response they either adopt the Laura Ingram defense "Shut up and sing!" or they try to downplay if not outright dismiss the politics of their favorite artists, and instead attribute alternative values/views to them that they feel are more compatible with their own belief system.

Dustin Ridgeway said...

"Part of being great is being one step ahead of the mainstream. Part of the defining ethos of left leaning politics is that they represent the mass muddle in the middle (though that is less true now more than ever, and probably has never been true as the left is defined in the United States)."

I can't recall any leftist tome, polemic or manifesto that defined the ethos of the left that had anything to do with the "mass muddle in the middle". There's plenty of talk about the underclass, or the proletariat, the poverty stricken etc., but left-of-center politics specifically identifying with the politics of the 'middle', whether that be the 'middle-class' or otherwise is a very recent phenomenon, and hence probably more true than at any given time rahter than less so. I think in trying to make a rather un-ideal analogy between artistic excellence and Western politics, you attributed a value to "The Left" that probably didn't belong there.

"The left that this is in opposition to an artist like the electrified Dylan is the overly egalitarian left with notions as best expressed by Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes a Village" with it's smarmy, paternal/maternalistic overbearing belief that the STATE or the collective should be the arbiter of what's best for any individual."


I wasn't aware that "The Left" had taken a position on electric guitar era Dylan.

Question. What organized body or entity, if any, of the left were you referring to when you say

"The left that this is in opposition to an artist like the electrified Dylan"? Are you referring to a position "The Left" adopted unanimously or are you referring to a specific segment? Did the socialist workers party release an official stance on Dylan playing electric guitars or something? perhaps a more moderate faction rejected the SWP's hardline anti-electric stance and sought a more moderate 'third-way' regarding electric guitar Dylan? Do you by off-chance, have any information on what the official position is of "The Left" regarding post-"Purple Rain" Prince and Post-'85 era Stevie Wonder?

XWL said...

I've never been so thoroughly fisked before, thank you Mr. Ridgeway.

You take exception with the idea that leftism attempts to associate themselves with "the mass muddle in the middle". I can't see how that's a problem, any successful political movement must define themselves as being part of, or a guiding force for, the mainstream. Populist, we are the multitude, rhetoric has been part and parcel of Democratic stump speeches from William Jennings Bryan all the way through to Sen. Kerry (though in his mouth that rhetoric didn't come across so well).

As far as the left taking a position on Electrified Dylan I think when he plugged in is when he went from being a talented artist to being a major force in the world of music, and that move was controversial, widely derided, and decried as having dastardly "commercial" intent which was anathema to the committed folkies (who mostly were also committed lefties).

As far as the Left's position on post Purple Rain Prince, They thought he was becoming too commercial as well (see the Batdance album) and with the Sign O the Times album his dependence on sythesizers and his overtly Christian references in songs like "The Cross" were a betrayal of the cross-gender cross-racial identity he formed for himself in the early 80s (and you can find plenty of articles from the late 80s to back that up).

Now Stevie Wonder ceased being relavent after the Master Blaster Jammin (1980) album, everything after that was a pale imitation of what he had previously been capable of and utterly devoid of political content, so he also was derided through most of the 80s and 90s (as much as a legend can be derided) as a commercial sellout who was missing out on opportunities to use his platform and talent to oppose an oppressive society.

Now as far as the general tone of the fisking I see this aspect of left/right as being about statism/dynamism and any great artist is going to be a manifestation of the dynamic triumphing over the static, and the idea set represented by many on the left are Statist in nature no matter how you slice it.

Hopefully that clarifies what I meant and now you can disagree with what I think rather than with what you think I think.

Goesh said...

I always get in late on these feisty issues...the driving ego of successful artists is of course inherently Right - for pete's sake look at their lifestyles, homes, toys, relationships and addictions. Publication, a platinum record, an Oscar, an Emmy - all for the betterment of mankind and the uplifting of beggars? Horseshit! They are dream merchants, plying despair and loneliness, hawking lust and limelight in a most vicarious and deceitful manner - vile Capitalists the lot of them!

aidan maconachy said...

Goesh - are sure you cut deeply enough to the bone with that? Like to take another hack?

I agree that most acts in the pop domain feature self centered, narcissistic little pricks who play act at being charitable and concerned about the suffering of the world's poor. However these celebrities are, in many instances simply tall children; adults in a condition of arrested development. They crave attention just like babies, and have to be the center of everyones attention or they feel worthless. These are severely unbalanced and dysfunctional people for the most part, who happen to have a special "look" in combination with a special talent.

To imply that they are "inherently Right" and representitives of capitalism, suggests a degree of self reflection and political awareness that most of them lack.

I really do take slight exception to the assumption expressed by some posters in here that a driving ego is somehow or other a characteristic of people on the Right. Good god, Che Guevara was known to have a driving ego and his attempt to launch a revolution in the jungles of Bolivia was viewed by Castro as self-serving - more about Che than the worlds oppressed. Look at Galloway - does a more self-serving, egoistical prick exist this side of Uranus?

So come on ... driving ego and personal vanity is a dominant feature of lefties also, and therefore not a prime determinant of anything other than human nature.

Henry said...

Having gone to art school in the early 90s and having had to put up with endless appreciations of politicized art, I was always happy to run across artists who didn't match the agenda, just for the novelty.

I always thought Warhol was secretly a laissez-faire libertarian. Not only did he run a factory, for pete's sake, but look at the art. He painted those campbell soup cans out of love.

wade said...

I haven't read the comments made previously, but for anyone who is interested in a more thorough discussion of what I take to be Anne's ultimate point, Allan Bloom made the same argument in THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND (though he was discussing James Joyce and others, his point was about art in general). Not surprisingly, he got the same reaction--that is, reaction before thinking about his actual point.

wade said...

I haven't read the comments made previously, but for anyone who is interested in a more thorough discussion of what I take to be Anne's ultimate point, Allan Bloom made the same argument in THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND (though he was discussing James Joyce and others, his point was about art in general). Not surprisingly, he got the same reaction--that is, reaction before thinking about his actual point.

Eli Blake said...

lindsey:

On Global warming, all I have to say is that 1) certain elements in the private sector which have an interest in disputing it have been funding a number of scientists of in some cases questionable integrity very well just to dispute it, and 2) at this point, it is already happening (it is easy to see that here in Arizona, I have personally stood on top of a mountain where you can see burnt tree stumps from a fire some years back, but now instead of the forest growing back, only desert vegetation is growing there) so it is no longer a matter of how to avoid climate change-- the right wing already dragged their feet over the past two decades until that window of opportunity was closed, it is now a question of how to adjust to the new reality and hopefully ameliorate its effects.

As far as your comments on architecture and the 'art market,' 1) As you should know being a conservative, anyone can buy any art they want. So if there is a dearth of a particular type of art, maybe it is because not very many people want it?? If anything, a group like NEA (which funds tens of thousands of art projects of ALL types of art) helps lesser known artists get exposure and therefore promotes diversity in art (someone who is a patron of the arts is more likely to notice them that way and purchase some of it). Same for institutions-- if there was really a demand for more classical architecture, don't you think that some institution (and as I work for a college, I can tell you that especially in this day and age they are ALWAYS on the lookout for niches they can fill to make money) would take it? Funny that conservatives espouse the free market but don't want to see it at work when it hits them between the eyes, instead attributing the loss of their particular vein to some sort of widespread conspiracy among liberals (and in any case, if you knew liberals as well as I do, you would understand that one of the biggest challenges facing today's liberals is their inability to unify themselves enough to conspire over anything-- one progressive a few years ago lamented that trying to organize liberals was like trying to collect frogs in a wheelbarrow without having them hop out.)

School textbooks sans 'American'? I had one kid graduate high school last year and have two right now in elementary school, and I assure you that their history books use the word, 'American.' I don't know who told you otherwise.

Stickers in textbooks telling them not to believe it?

RIGHT HERE I intended to put in a photo of the actual sticker put inside textbooks by the Cobb County (GA) school board until it was declared unconstitutional-- but the HTML was disallowed. So you can click here to read it.

You should pay more attention to the news before you snicker.

I have been writing a lot about that on my blog with the trial now underway involving the Dover (PA) school district.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think Ann called it quite a ways above. Probably more accurately libertarianism and anti-libertarianism.

The problem with terms today as I see it is that "liberal" and "conservative" have lost their true meanings.

The left today, and for most of the 20th century at least, has been communitarian / socialist in its economics while the right has been capitalisitic, which is much closer to individualistic.

On the other hand, as to social issues, much of the right, esp. the religious right, is more communitarian, and the left more individualistic.

I would put sucessful artists on the individualistic social side (left), and individualistic economic side (right) - which is probably closer to where Ann sits than either being a liberal or a conservative by today's definitions.

My one big problem with calling this a libertarian / anti-libertarian divide is that, at least in the past, libertarians eschewed a strong national defense. I can see some artists falling into this category, but that is where I, at least, part company with true libertarians.

Goesh said...

Well Aidan, I could have drawn a finer and better distinction between artists and entertainers. The key to it all is the uplifting of beggars and the betterment of mankind, and a goodly number of Artists simply don't fit the bill and never will, despite their token and ever-so-public posturing and pontificating to the contrary.

Eli Blake said...

On your footnotes:

I will look for the AL Daily link (although it would be courteous to include the link in your post if you want me to look at it). Are you sure she wasn't just a 'one-hit wonder?' That happens all the time, in all sorts of areas of life. Someone enjoys one big success, but then they never have another one at the same level. And as for books, again, you seem to ignore your own 'holy grail'-- the free market. No one forces anyone to buy a book. The reason, for example, that J.K. Rowling is now the most successful author living is not because she is female, or white, or British, or likes to write stories about wizards and magic, it's because people like to read them, and enough to shell out their pesos for the privilege.

Very few people will buy a book just because the author is black, they buy it because they like it.

For that matter, some years ago, conservatives were lived that Hillary Clinton's book sold a million copies at the same time that Hannity (who publically boasted he would outsell her) saw his books appearing in discount bins. They claimed all kinds of conspiracies. But it had nothing to do with that. There were a million people in the country willing to plop down $28 to buy Hillary's book, and not more than a few thousand willing to do the same for Sean. And there have been times when conservatives have produced a work of art and defied the critics and it has sold (the 'Passion of Christ' being a prime example).

Funny that a conservative should fail to see the hand of the free market in something like this.

Footnote #2: I will check the ISBN number of my kids' history books (they didn't bring theirs home last night) and get back to you on it.

John said...

Wow - this sure opened the floodgates (apologies to those in the Gulf!)

I haven't the time to read all the comments but I think, from those I have, 'right wing' and 'left wing' are defined more by each other than by themslves. The left defines the right as they see fit - especially to promote their own opinions of themselves - and the same with the right.

An artist - a true innovator - ignores defining others. They become the ultimate, societal observer - above/outside the fray. Able to see and present both sides for others to defend. When 'artists' take sides, their persona diminishes and they stop being of any great value to society.

As for Dylan taking on right wing attributes by going his own way, I think of that more as natural human attributes.

Too Many Jims said...

I believe "being a great individual artist is inherently right wing." Then again, I believe being a great team player and thus aiding your team to greatness is inherently. A great team player may have some superficially right wing things to say but where it counts that individual understands the necessary interplay between personal excellence and collaboration with others to make the whole better than the sum of its parts. I suspect that this is true of other endeavors which require collaboation such as running a government.

This also points out a potential weakness in Ann's argument in that she reduces the universe of "great artists" to individuals (if she addressed this point in one of her comments and I missed it, I apologize in advance). Certainly this is true of painters (as she alludes to Piccasso) and largely true of "solo" singers such as Dylan. But what about "artists" such as the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd or the Beatles? What about artforms which are almost inherently collaborative in nature (e.g. film making)?

Take the Beatles for example, McCartney and Lennon (at a minimum) on their own, I suspect, qualify as "great artists." But most of their best art was accomplished as a part of "The Beatles." It was largely due to John Lennon's "right-wing" tendencies toward "taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that" which resulted in an end to The Beatles.

Eli Blake said...

Bruce Hayden:

The problem is where you draw the line on what constitutes 'national defense.' Ultimately, not all threats to the nation and its security come from the outside, so arguably anything that strengthens society (such as educating the next generation better to be able to take care of the current one) could be considered an aspect of 'national defense.'

The recent debate about the role of FEMA and the revelations about budget cuts in New Orleans area flood control projects has really brought this issue into a sharp light.

Too Many Jims said...

Jim should have said. . .

"Then again, I believe being a great team player and thus aiding your team to greatness is inherently leftwing."

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie (Colorado) said...

What I see in modern conservatism, however, is exactly the opposite view. Modern conservatism is a conformist philosophy, trying to bend science as well as art into it's Judeo-Christian view.

It's just hard to see how that matches with modern conservatism. I'm a pro-liberty, pro-democracy, pro-defense, pro-choice, pro-drug legalization Buddhist. I feel a lot more comfortable in the Republican Party, where all my opinions are respected if not widely shared, than I feel among Democrats, where while some of my opinions are more in line with the Democrats, others fail what appear to be completely determinative "litmus tests".

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Impressive; all of six hours before you came up with I'm sorry... I'm sorry you're too stupid to understand what I said!.


Jack, I'm sorry you're too stupid to understand what she said, too.

g odoreida said...

Jim C, Dustin Ridgeway--

Kieran Healy's characterization of left-wingers and artists was a joke, presumably meant to poke fun at the whole project of generalizing about whether artists are inherently left-wing or right-wing, and whether virtue x or vice y is left-wing or right-wing.

JodyTresidder said...

Eli,
FYI, I think you can safely file the referenced AL Daily story about falsely praised black author who turned out to be white under "one hit wonders". It was a cracking little story, I recall, but not hugely illuminating otherwise.

Ann Althouse said...

Jim: Great team players are not going to be great artists. And McCartney and Lennon were not great team players. Watch the movie "Let It Be" to get a sense of that. They were big individualists, and the miracle of the Beatles was that they managed to work together for a time. Then they just had to split up. They didn't have the mediocrity to stay together.

Jack Roy said...

Charlie:

Look, I don't think it's an unreasonable interpretation people made. Prof. A did not, a la TS Eliot, use terms like "inherently conservative" to describe the artist, which would at least make some sort of sense.

Rather, she (i) employed a description of conservatism that really only applies to its electoral political aspect ("right wing" referring the the side of the legislature they line up on, if I'm remembering), and (ii) explained herself by excluding all liberals from the school of personal responsibility!

That doesn't sound like a statement about art so much as a statement about politics, to me and apparently to many other people.

But "you're too stupid to understand"? Ouch. Bravooo.

Ann Althouse said...

Jack Roy: You seem to be averse to trying to understand my point, but I'll just say I've never said lefties don't individually take personal responsibility for themselves. They just don't focus on themselves as individuals. They think that's wrong. It's kind of a compliment, actually, or should be taken as such by those devoted to lefty values. But they're too into hating on me to even notice.

pietro said...

By Prof. Althouse's characterization of right-wing human traits, there must be something "inherently" right wing about winning a Nobel prize in physics, about achieving membership to the National Academy of Sciences, about earning a PhD in any discipline, and about being a leftist elitist who enjoys pointing out that right-wingers are conspicuously and overwhelmingly outnumbered in science and in Academia in general. And since selflessness is a vice of the Left, there is something "inherently" left-wing about being a soldier. I happen to think--with all due respect--that this introduction of the left-wing, right-wing adjectives to psychology is "inherently"--pardon the pun--naive.

paul said...

Back to the original observation about Dylan.

I've skipped a few comments, so maybe someone has already mentioned it, but didn't Dylan himself (in his recent biography) say that he would not have minded a "middle class" lifestyle, picket fence etc? Anyone here who has read the bio and can comment? (I picked this up in a review of the book).

Dylan has always struck me as someone who has had little real patience with the "political/protest" music scene. (Hurricane may be the exception). There is no question that he is outside of the self congratulatory folky/leftist music scene (Pete Seeger, P,P and Mary, etc).

To the point, Dylan may not be a right-winger, but I'd love to see someone try to defend him as a "leftist", particularly in the modern post 60s sense.

Too Many Jims said...

Ann,

Thank you for your response on The Beatles. Admittedly, I know far less about them than you.

You said: "Great team players are not going to be great artists." This is interesting to me for two reasons.

First, artistically, what does it mean for those artists we think of in the collective or collaborative sense. Is the group's artisitic success the result of a serendipitous convergence of individuals simultaneously "taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that"? (This seems to be an explanation for The Beatles given your characterization of them) Or is it that there really is one great artist in the group who creates/orchestrates and the notion that the work is collaborative is an illusion? If that is the case then what does it say about the artist's view of her "place in the world".

Secondly, it seems to me that the statement I quoted from you has implication for "right wing" individuals. Rephrased (I believe fairly) it could be read to say: "No great team players are great artists." Further, I think it is fair to say that what you have previously said is: "All great artists are 'right wing' individuals." From this I think we can conclude that "No 'right wing' individuals are 'great team players."

(One could of course draw a venn diagram where the universe of "great team players" overlaps with the universe of "non-artist right wing individuals" but since the reason that artists are "right wing" is their being a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that, unless the reason they are not great team players is for some other reason, then the logic should work.)

pct said...

Ann says "The key thing for me is that being on the left seems to demand a communal perspective, concern about the benefit to the whole. On the right, you get to be in it for yourself."

The problem with that use of terminology is that it would identify (say) Lenin and Stalin as essentially right wing. This is an interesting approach, but sufficiently at odds with common usage as to generate controversy. It points up the limitations of the one-dimensional left/right ordering more than anything else.

Jacques Cuze said...

But they're too into hating on me to even notice.

Data please.

I'm Nobody said...

"being on the left seems to demand a communal perspective, concern about the benefit to the whole"

I'd go further. The Left generally assumes that a person is mostly or entirely a product of the society they grew up from. While the degrees of their determinism vary, in general the Left thinks a person is produced by their society while the Right believes a person chooses to be who they are.

But if so, someone might say first, the Left respects the individual's right to choose while understanding that what they choose is shaped mostly by society. Second, while they believe that groups are more important than individuals, that doesn't mean that importance is total or that groups are always right. Third, Dylan had tremendous natural talent and intelligence, and these genetic endowments allowed him to both see society clearly and communicate that vision effectively, though he had to strike out on his own to do it.

Jack Roy said...

Prof. A:

You answer this:

I'll just say I've never said lefties don't individually take personal responsibility for themselves. They just don't focus on themselves as individuals.

Which I have a hard time reconciling with this:

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.

Now, it's true you didn't say that no liberal can ever take personal responsibility &c. But you did identify "taking responsibility for [one's] place in the world" as an inherently right-wing attribute; that's the only way to make sense of your original comment. Just as it's not true that none at all of the NBA players are short people, yet still success at basketball is in some way about height, I think it's more than fair to characterize your initial sentiment as ascribing to artistry something about being "right wing."

While it might be the case that "focusing on that" in the original post was intended to suggest that the true thrust of your argument was the focus on individuality, that's hardly clear from the bare text of your comment. (Certainly it wasn't so obvious as to justify your later accusation that all those who mistook you were simply careless!)

Additionally, as I've said before but it's rather secondary, "right wing" isn't the terminology commonly used for describing the conservative values of art identified by TS Eliot et al. It identifies by contemporary political terms an ideology that, strictly speaking, was not always about individualism and self-expression. The connotation if not strict denotation does support the interpretation of your comment that you find so objectionable.

Look, this is a blog, I don't think you need to defend yourself for short comments about long topics. The blog post, as a medium, is inherently sloppy. But your defense of your comment (first that there's a different persona who writes comments, then that it was only meant to provoke discussion, then that you meant what you said but idiot lefty bloggers wilfully mistook you) strikes me as intellectually dishonest.

Jeff said...

"Pietro said:

By Prof. Althouse's characterization of right-wing human traits, there must be something "inherently" right wing about winning a Nobel prize in physics, about achieving membership to the National Academy of Sciences, about earning a PhD in any discipline"

I believe her point is that self-determination and ambition are "right-wing" traits, as opposed to the "left-wing" emphasis on individuals being crushed by social forces and environments beyond their control. The difference is one of personal responsibility for one's own fate, which is anathema to nanny-staters and the victimization pimps.

"...and about being a leftist elitist who enjoys pointing out that right-wingers are conspicuously and overwhelmingly outnumbered in science and in Academia in general..."

Conservatives are certainly outnumbered in the liberal arts Academia, but in the hard sciences?
I haven't noticed any scientific breakthroughs announced by the promoters of "Multicultural Math"!

Michael said...

Very clever, Anne. You've touched a nerve.

anselm said...

The distinction between visionaries and others is not a communal/individual, or left/right, distinction. The best most people can do for the world, given their limited vision, is to pay the rent, take care of their families, etc. There is no conflict between world and self.

The visionary/artist chooses the larger, because to live within the bounds of a "normal" life would be a useless waste.

As for the rest of us, we can be upright, responsible, and play nicely with others.

Red A said...

If the left wing likes to think of classes and society as primal causes, e.g. crime is mainly societies' fault not the individual, I think they cannot have their cake and eat it, too.

If you think criminals are created by society and class, then by the same token, great artist's must be as well. Even more so since poverty and class inspire their art, no?

They are not individual talent, but simply an expression of society.

Let's be clear: any left winger who all of a sudden starts claiming individuals as mostly responsible for their own action in the field of art should apply the same logic to the criminal, to the unemployed, etc.

kcom said...

I plead comment fatigue in that I haven't read all the comments here, so I apologize for any duplication, but the initial post struck me as an idea that I've always toyed with. The point being not that successful "artists" (movie & TV people, painters, writers, whatever) are "right wing" in the political sense of policy positions, but rather they depend for their success on the things the right side of the spectrum tends to champion as important - i.e. individual initiative, entrepreneurship (a movie star is essentially an entrepreneur with himself/herself as the product), stick-to-it-iveness, and personal responsibility.

There is no government program in the world that is going to make someone a movie star. We've all read stories of the years of privation that some actors have gone through before they hit it big. That's the same thing as many business people have gone through and completely different than working a 9-5 job and knowing where your next paycheck is coming from. In that sense, they are right wing, or at least taking advantage of the opportunities to be personally successful that this country offers and the right side emphasizes.

I've often thought that the most successful gangsta rap artist or left wing actor probably has more in common, beyond a certain point of success, with the right than the standard outward appearance would suggest. They have accomplished something in the world and they know the personal sweat that went into getting where they've gotten and how many people told them to give up along the way. (Note how seriously the artistic community takes intellectual property matters.) After a certain point, I'm sure the hangers-on and wannabes get to be a real pain in the butt because they are just trying to hitch a ride on the money train that the artist created in the first place. And like I said, at some point I think those artists inherently come to have more in common with those on the right (who they might still disagree with politically because that mindset has already formed).

Scott Lemieux said...

Hmm, I see, so reducing art to politics is inhererently "left-wing." So Michael Medved and Lionel Chetwynd are left-wingers? Who knew?

pietro said...

Jeff, the reason I mention the National Academy of Sciences, Nobel prizes in physics, etc., is that conservatives are indeed overwhelmingly outnumbered in the hard sciences in Academia. Libertarian economist Daniel Klein, from UC-Santa Cruz has published a study which details the extent to which that is the case in a couple of elite universities--department by department, including Math, Physics, Biology, etc. The extrapolation is not hard to make, and in fact it is verified by common experience. I'm a mathematician myself, and I don't know many right-wing mathematicians. On the contrary, most mathematicians I know are liberals. I don't know many of us who would recognize "multicultural mathematics" as a meaningful concept, but then again just what in the world is right-wing mathematics? Additionally, a large number of members of the National Academy of Sciences have indeed publicly denounced the science policies of this administration in the strongest terms, including 20+ Nobel prize winners in the sciences.

Essentialist conclusions of the sort "to be a scientist is inherently left-wing, because scientists are accutely aware of the relevance of environmental variables in the dynamics of phenomena, and because they embrace nuanced reasoning and reject simplitude" are of course wrong. And so are statements of this guise in general. To label human attributes as inherently right-wing or left-wing is just incredibly silly.

Self-determination and ambition are not "right-wing" traits. This is the point of my critique and that of many others. To apply the labels "right-wing" and "left-wing" to human traits like self-determination or selflessness is rather sophomoric, and would probably earn the collective scorn of serious psychologists.

Judging by the overwhelming dominance of liberal ideas in Academia (all across the board), a simpleton might conclude, using your logic, that intellectual ambition is inherently left-wing.

Crimsonsplat said...

Ann, your problem is that you're using the same tired old terminology of "right" and "left", but confusing them with "individualist" and "collectivist". Now, I grant you that today, that is more or less where you find them; individualists to the right and collectivists to the left, but they are not the same thing.

I would suggest you consider Dr.Pournelle's two-axis political matrix. If I can find it online, I will post it or a link.

JaxDoug said...

Successful artists probably owe their success to the conviction that they have a valid, unique, significant insight about the world around them and feel compelled to share it.

If they were right wing that would lead them to the conclusion that the people around them were capable of the same thing. If they are left wing, they believe their insights are rare and entitle them to lead the world.

JaxDoug said...

Prominent artists probably owe their success to their the conviction that they have unique, significant insights about the world around them that they feel compelled to share.

If they are right wing, that conviction would lead them to believe the same thing about their fellow citizens. If they are left wing they come to believe that their insights are rare and entitle them to lead the world.

purpleprose said...

Ann, this definitional pas de deux seems to me to result in a rather strawman-Stalin understanding of "leftism." Let me see if I've got it straight.

If I understand you rightly, you're (1) presuming that being a good leftist requires that a person believe in subordinating the individual to the group (your actual words: "require a strong focus on group goals and communal values"); you then (2) assert that great artists "by definition" need to be originalists and individualists; and thus you conclude that (3) the collectivist imperatives of leftism are fundamentally at odds with the individualist imperatives of artistic greatness. As a corollary you conclude that (4) artists aspiring to greatness, because they must by definition be strident individualists, are at best (worst?) crypto-rightists.

I hope I've fairly represented your logic. Unfortunately, while it is logically coherent, your argument is rooted in a crude understanding of both artistic greatness and also leftism. Who says leftists have to be focused on communcal goals? To me, "leftism" insofar as it can be boiled down to a single phrase, is about sympathy with the little guy and an antipathy toward exploitation. There's nothing necessarily anti-individualistic about that. Certainly some flavors of leftism require individual obesiance to the group -- but so too do some flavors of rightwing thinking (e.g. fascism). Nice try, but only groupthinking wingnuts should buy your implicit attempt to identify collectivism with leftism and individualism with rightism.

You also seem to subscribe to a rather -- let's be friendly -- uncritically modernist/bourgeois understanding of the sources of artistic greatness. Picasso may well be the epitome of the artist as musclebound individualist, but it's hardly true that all artistic greatness has sprung from a need to express a singleton selfhood. Many great artists have been deeply rooted in their social milieu, and regarded their art as an expression of that milieu. From Homer to the people who built Chartres to Burning Man, socially organic artistic greatness has always been an available option.

Ann Althouse said...

Jack Roy: "Which I have a hard time reconciling with this..."

A tip: the word "and" has meaning. Think hard enough and you should get it.

pietro said...

"...being a good leftist requires that a person believe in subordinating the individual to the group..."

That sounds like a description of the social conservatism of the religious right, doesn't it?

rivlax said...

Ann,

I think I first began my migration from left to right some years ago when I read several biographies of Jack London, one of my literary heroes. I came away thinking that this guy was the epitome of an individualist but he claimed to be a collective socialist. It just didn't jibe. I think that tension exists for many artists, and it's there because they can't accept their inner right-winger.

I. Ronnie said...

" "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.)"


I thought it was a reference to Ward Churchill. =->

pietro said...

A logician, an engineer, and a journalist take a train trip to Scotland. The journalist sees from the window a black sheep, and he quickly declares: "Scottish sheep are black". The engineer corrects him: "No. Some Scottish sheep are black." And the logician retorts: "At least half of at least one sheep in Scotland is black."

Prof. Althouse sees a handful of examples of proud, famous, and individualistic artists, and quickly pronounces that being an artist is "inherently right wing", notwithstanding the 'superficial' things artists may have to say about their political leanings.

It would be wiser--if a bit more pedantic--to say, like the logician of the joke, that there is at least one superficial right-wing belief that some successful artists seem to hold in relation to themselves, namely that they got where they got because they deserved it. Of course, this does not necessitate that said successful artists believe that merit is equitably and fairly acknowledged in the free market, nor anything of that sort.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: Is an android making a pass at you?

bradley said...

I don’t know if I would classify certain traits as either “left wing” or “right wing.” Politically I think most of the artists discussed certainly have or had a left wing orientation. However, I do think that there is something of the small businessman capitalist about certain artists that is usually identified with the right. For example, The Beatles were mentioned previously. I believe John Lennon was quoted as saying that while everyone else in the sixties was goofing off The Beatles were working 24 hours a day. Paul McCartney has said that they used to sit down and literally decide to “write a swimming pool.” The Beatles also had a certain attitude in the sixties (I believe inherited from their self-deprecating Northern English upbringing) that they merely did what anyone else could do if they put their minds to it and worked hard enough. Again, reminiscent of a self sufficient puritan work ethic sometimes associated with conservatism. Don't forget, this is the band that wrote “Taxman.”

I don’t believe that either Dylan or The Beatles were necessarily right wing as we understand it in a political sense, but I do see them as a product of a democratic, western tradition. So I don’t view it as so much a difference between left and right as between a society based on democratic principles as opposed to a hard core socialist or fascist society with severe limits on individual freedoms. How many great rock bands has North Korea produced lately?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm Nobody: "I'd go further. The Left generally assumes that a person is mostly or entirely a product of the society they grew up from. While the degrees of their determinism vary, in general the Left thinks a person is produced by their society while the Right believes a person chooses to be who they are."

Well put. The strong lefties I've been exposed to in Madison will scoff at you if you think you are a self-made individual. You must acknowledge that the forces of society have made you and that if you've gotten very far it's because powers beyond you have elevated you above others whose oppression you must recognize.

Now there are plenty of liberals, of course, who care a lot about the individual. I consider myself one. But I've been told by lefties that I must use the term "right wing" for this. I'm trying to get with the jargon but sometimes they get cold feet about it. I intend to make it my business to needle them about it endlessly!

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Exalted said...

nice that, despite your attempts to come off as somewhat neutral/objective, you refer to liberals as "lefties" and their politics as "lefty," while simultaneously describing liberal platitudes as "naive." when you start calling those on the right "righties" and their politics "righty", then you can aspire to a mantle of non-partisan objectivity.

further, as to your comment, it seems quixotic to label artists, who are generally anti-establishment, as inherently "right wing," when, in any sense of the phrase that we understand it, "right wing" connotes conservatism, and, of course, conservatism = preservation of the status quo.

moreover, as to your method of execution, "trite" is the only word that comes to mind.

look, i can play this game too -- i arbitrarily ascribe a quality to my philosophy of thought, and then proclaim that all who, in my theory, share that quality must also share the principles of my philosophy of thought!

To be a great thinker is to be inherently liberal. A great thinker like Keynes or Rand may have some superficial, naive, conservative things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a rational individual, rejecting established dogma in the world and focusing on the rigorous examination of all possibilities.

wow, that was fun. what do i win?

Ann Althouse said...

Scott writes: "Hmm, I see, so reducing art to politics is inhererently "left-wing." So Michael Medved and Lionel Chetwynd are left-wingers? Who knew?"

To say that lefties meld art and politics is not to say that only lefties do that. Obviously, some social conservatives do that too. I don't align myself with them. There are many ways to be a mediocrity and to fail at art (and art criticism). My comment is only about reaching the peak of success. My category "great artist" is meant to be very elite, by the way. I don't put Pete Seeger and Joan Baez in it, though they are very good at singing. I'm not interested in their minds.

Jack Roy said...

A tip: the word "and" has meaning. Think hard enough and you should get it.

Or, shorter: You're still dumb. A cunning bit of rhetoric.

I stand by my earlier position; your comment to the initial post simply doesn't reasonably support the reading that you'd like to put on it now, that (only) the focus on individualism, rather than (in part) the individualism itself, is what makes someone "right wing." (Not that that alternative reading would be supported by any but a chary understanding of intellectual history. Is John Stuart Mill, he of the 'most stupid people are conservatives' toss-off, suddenly a right-winger?)

To the central point: You seem to have a rather crabbed view of what liberals believe. Understandably, given your circumstances, but I submit that not only those in the demographic of 18-22 year old undergraduates in media studies courses should count.

sarah said...

I very much like your point about Dylan. Scorcese makes a similar point in the interview with Charlie Rose that was shown after the documentary. He says he thinks it's a great thing for kids to see today, to learn that the artist's journey requires a singular vision, a strong belief in oneself, and integrity--and that integrity is difficult (my words, not his).

I understand why you used the term right wing for this, and certainly it's not possible to use the perfect word all the time, especially in a situation like quick comments, but I don't think it's a good choice of words.

I don't think those left and right labels are very helpful any more, it's easy to come up with contradictory examples for each of them. So I think it's really great, when we have the time -- especially when making thoughtful points like the one that is at the heart of Ann's original point here -- to take the time to spell out what is meant.

The point seems to be noncomformity, or more precisely, the willingness to not conform. There's too little of that everywhere, in my opinion, on both "sides" -- further, it's conformity to one or the other "side" that is polarizing our society so much. (In the sense of people feeling like they have to feel/believe/do/act certain things to be real or good left-wing OR right-wing people.)

Non-conformity is absolutely a key element of what sets artists apart, and the ability to stay that way under attack is rare, and that is indeed a major theme in No Direction Home. And a beautiful one.

The corollary is that most popular "artists" aren't artists at all, which is a great thing for people to realize. Commercial activity is fine -- those popular artists who put money above all else are being great capitalists, which is pretty right-wing by most people's definitions. But if the motivation is primarily commercial, it's most likely not art.

Jacques Cuze said...

Hey a Star Trek joke! Good for you, and here you'd led me to believe you were a Star Trek hater.

I may have been mistaken about you. I've read you off and on for the past month or so, this is the first time I realized you were a member of the granfalloon of Totten/Simon/Jarvis: your wampeter being "bad old libs have excommunicated us falsely: I am a victim and the true liberal"

Larry said...

Ann: Dare I drop it over at CT too?

Take that dare, Ann, drop it! Fwiw, I too think that maybe "left" and "right" are a little too transiently political, even in the expanded or generalized version that you present, for what you have in mind. But that theme is still a good one, and its politicization works better in the current social/cultural context than in previous ones. So -- well said, and go ahead and stir 'em up! (Assuming you haven't already.)

Larry said...

Speaking of the current social/cultural context, by the way, and in light of good ol' Jack Roy's unintentional irony re: "a chary understanding of intellectual history", it might be worth using John Stuart Mill as an illustration of how things change. So, in the current context, John Stuart Mill would indeed be a conservative, no doubt to his own amazement (a greater irony that pertains to us all) -- not "suddenly", it's true, but over the course of the last few generations.

Calvin Ross said...

I like the nature of this discussion, and for that Ann should be both pleased and praised.

My only problem is that I don't buy the notion that behaving responsibly is inherently right-wing.

As an example, I think of my two biological brothers, who are both far east of Limbaugh. Neither have worked in excess of four years. I, on the other hand, am a classic trade unionist who generally has two to three jobs or money-making projects going at all times.

Hell, I'm almost French, except that my favorite country is the Netherlands.

Although never a great artist, I was a classic child of the sixties who spent 25 years in music, wrote 5 books and have written over 400 newspaper columns.

I will admit to one thing: It is inherently progressive to be this narcissistic. Oh wait, I forgot Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly.

Nope, I like left and right to apply to policy at best and to politics in its application. To personality, ethics and morality, apply it at your peril.

Scott Lemieux said...

"To say that lefties meld art and politics is not to say that only lefties do that. Obviously, some social conservatives do that too. I don't align myself with them. There are many ways to be a mediocrity and to fail at art (and art criticism). My comment is only about reaching the peak of success. My category "great artist" is meant to be very elite, by the way. I don't put Pete Seeger and Joan Baez in it, though they are very good at singing. I'm not interested in their minds."

I actually agree entirely with this. I'm as opposed to reducing aethstics to politics when it comes from the left as when it comes from the right (the Village Voice putting together to heap praise on Dogville would be a good example of this), and I also agree that Baez and Seeger were vastly inferior artists to Dylan, partly because they say music as a primiarly political where Dylan did not. (And, as I said at CT, I haven't seen the Scorsese documentary yet, but the parts in which people blather on about Dylan being the "voice of a generation" or whatever certainly sound dreary.)

My only puzzlement, then, is why you think that Dylan's resistance to labels was somehow "right-wing." Defining the political right in such a way that it would include John Stuart Mill and Emma Goldman but would exclude Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk is highly problematic indeed. Broad political ideologies tend to be mixes of collectivist and indvidualist impulses; and while (as in your case) individualism can lead to the right, at other times (as with 60s Dylan, although certainly not the Dylan of Slow Train Coming and Infidels, both of which I play almost as much as Freewheelin'... despite my leftism) with the left.

Or, to be less prolix about it, I think you're entirely correct up until your claim that "artists are inherently right-wing," which I think contradicts the good arguments that preceded it (and is also transparently wrong.)

XWL said...

I'm going to hazard a corollary to Prof. Althouse's highly disputed hypothesis that GREAT artists are inherently right wing (many of the commenters objecting to her using those terms invariable leave out the great part when referring to the mein and mindset of artists).

here it goes:

The mediocrity inherent in modern Hollywood (both TV and Film) is a product of the inherently left-wing nature of the collabarative compromises that are forced upon individuals at every step of production.

In other words modern Hollywood is overly cautious, overly concerned with being innoffensive, overly collectivist in it's decision making apparatus, and most importantly often too concerned with making the correct message rather than making great art (see message movies like The Interpreter, The Constant Gardener or TV shows like Commander-in-Chief for example). In my mind all these are left wing tendencies and antithetical to great art (though occaisonally able to create good art).

Also great filmmakers or show runners like Judd Apatow, Shinichiro Watanabe, David Lynch, Alfonso Cuaron, Brad Bird, Joss Whedon or even Larry David all have politics (the one's who have been explicitly political anyway) from far left to center but their approach to art is one of defying expectations and charting their own course and fit in with Prof. Althouse's description of the right-wing tendencies of great artist.

Ann Althouse said...

Calvin: I've said several times that I'm not saying that behaving responsibly is inherently right wing. I'm only saying that having an individualistic attitude and focusing on that is right wing (as that term is commonly used in American political discussions these days, e.g., to describe this blog). Many lefties are responsible for their own behavior and care about that. But they are preoccupied with caring about how other people are doing and do not hold others to high personal responsibility standards. They expect good lefties to devote themselves to political causes, not their own self-regarding pursuits.

miklos rosza said...

good point about hollywood. (it's been a nice thread.)

Calvin Ross said...

Ann: Thanks for your comments. I understand your parameters in the argument. One experience that alters my view--aside from having lived in lefties' paradise, Amsterdam--is my years in Japan. You might very well know that the Japanese are an anomaly: very communally oriented people that are inherently conservative, both in lifestyle and in values, except that to serve the community is to them the highest of conservative values. They know no other way.

I loved that about them, until it was us versus them, and then I was so out and so not Japanese and so not in their community. (I got over it and still love them.)

So: Shall I stipulate to your claim that individualism in America is a right-wing trait? Yeah, okay, John Wayne, George "Cleared a little brush, chopped a little wood, caught a few fish" W. Bush, that sort of cowboy mentality, yeah, okay.

But note that right-wing moneyed people live in compounds separated by high walls, okay, individualistic, and poor people live in neighborhoods WAY too close together for their own good, trapped communally in poverty. What's our point here? Values? Art?

Remember the stirring words (for some) of Woody Guthrie: "I ain't necessarily a communist, but I've been in the red all my life."

Now there's an individual, an artist.

Larry said...

As I understand the point here, the notion of "individualism" is a political concept rather than a personal one, and stands in opposition to the notion of "collectivism". The former is, as Ann has repeatedly pointed out, typically associated, these days, with what's called the political right, as the latter is associated with the political left. Nothing to do, in other words, with whether or not people who self-identify as leftists have a greater or lesser sense of personal responsibility or not (which, I recognize, is a point that's been made more than a few times). But it does have to do with the question of the role of politics in one's own life, and in the world and one's understanding of it. I don't think it's a stretch at all to say that a "true" artist, great or not, will reject the elevation of the political that a collectivist ideology (conscious or not) implies -- hence will tend toward the individualist alternative -- hence (these days) will find themselves relatively right wing, at least in their art. On the left, since politics is much more important, you tend to find a set of pre-ordained themes that are "illustrated" in various ways -- i.e., you have people who are more like propagandists, of varying quality.

mr. weg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Our Common Condition said...

Hallo!

What Bob actually said was he refused to be a trained seal and jump through hoops for the Left. Goddamn straight and here's a fuck you brother to anyone who feels entitled to exploit and commodify human beings under any circumstances, for any cause.

I'm a member of the Immigrant Shelter, a Dylan message board. This comment came up during our post-doc discussion concerning what exactly Scorsese did:

"No Direction Home is about deities, and the void that produces them, needs them. It also is about the difficulty of truth in a static world. And integrity against forms.

It’s about fighting the very thing you are doing - it is about rising against pre-expectations.
And about the idiocy that makes such narrow thought popular."

Idiocy.

Too Many Jims said...

What is interesting to me is that "leftwingers" seem so interested in retaining their heroes, that they fail to see how this characterization of "right wing" shows that "right wingers" are weaker in other areas.

knoxgirl said...

"I have personally stood on top of a mountain where you can see burnt tree stumps from a fire some years back, but now instead of the forest growing back, only desert vegetation is growing there"

there's your proof! LOL

DirtCrashr said...

Artists are dictatorial - you have to be to carve a David out of stone, or command the mastery of light and shadow from your paint and brushes, of your lens and the submerged paper latent with image of a Moon over Taos, to impose your will on steel and glass architecture, to write and re-write and write some more - it's absolutely dictatorial and controlling.

Meade said...

"...it's absolutely dictatorial and controlling."

Hmm... that sounds more like left than right.

amba said...

As far as I can tell without spending the rest of my life reading these comments, no one has responded to the issue I raised of the crappy way so many artists treat their families and loved ones, and whether that can be characterized as either right- or left-wing behavior, or not.

Obviously, both left- and right-wing public (and private) figures can behave that way . . . Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich no less than, say, Picasso. (I don't know enough about Dylan's life to say anything about him in this regard.) But it seems to me a massive omission in this discussion.

Keeping one's commitments and not putting self-gratification before responsibility to others (friends, wife, children) was a big part of conservatism (= classical liberalism) in the view of the conservative I helped to write a book for teen-agers, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz's Dear Patrick. This kind of behavior is justified, or at least accepted with a helpless shrug, in the case of artists as the price of greatness. Their work is so important and demanding and difficult -- and such a greater gift to us all than, say, mere marital fidelity -- that they will and they must feed their genius with whatever sorts of heedless gratification it requires as fuel for creation, family and vows and all that be damned. (This is not "all" artists -- it's not J.S. Bach, I guess. It may be a Romantic idea.)

I'm not saying this is good or bad. I'm asking if it can be called right-wing or left-wing. Libertarianism seems to ignore this whole aspect of things, possibly even to view the concern as social-conservative oppression. In my first comment I wrote that "I think a lot of right-wingers might say that while [artists'] discipline, enterprise and drive [add independence] may be right-wing, their narcissism is quite left-wing."

aimai said...

Dear Ann Althouse,
I'm one of many people who consider your original comment, and your explicaton, a pathetic bit of illogical special pleading. It resolves itself into this:

I (heart) "artists" (whatever that means) and I (heart) the "right wing" which means whatever I want it to mean at any time useful to me. So the two things must be "The same." Why can't everyone else see it like that.

Please tell me, is Goya left or right wing? Please tell me is the strong indivdualist with great artistic sensibility who also has a strong belief in social justice "Left" or "right" wing? Is a "sense of personal responsibility" and of individualism the only thing that most people associate with the right wing? Does it even legitimately fall into the category of right wing or is it simply a right wing self fantasy? Looking at the exponents of the right wing today:
Tom Delay
Bill Frist
George Bush
Dick Cheney
I see strong, greedy individuals who never take "personal responsibility" for any of their errors. Which part of that will you arbitrarily label "right wing" (the strong individual part?) and arbitrarily label "left wing"?

You are an absolute fool, and I am ashamed that someone as shallow and manipulative as you could end up being a professor of law. I dont know whether to be more embarrassed for you as a woman or as an educated person. Is this level of fantasy and self love the best the right wing can come up with in analysis?

aimai

Ann Althouse said...

Aimai: Like many others, you've failed to understand my point. I'm not going to keep re-explaining. Go back and read what I've already written. You're boring me and you're being rude.

Satya said...

I think the conversation is getting confused by the terms 'left wing' and 'right wing'. What if we repharse the terms to 'progressive' and 'conservative'? It is clear that, virtually by definition, a great artist is progressive and not conservative. The essence of being conservative is to hold on to established truths, to protect established social norms, and so on. The essence of being progressive is to transcend those social norms, to look beyond established conditions and to try and reinvent society. It is clear that, with that understanding, a great artist is inherently progressive. Dylan cannot inspire the masses with music defending the Vietnam war. Picasso is never going to be on the side of the people who bombed Guernica. Transcending social norms is too connected to what it means to be a great artist.

The idea that anyone who believes in rugged individualism is conservative is a silly ad hominem attack on liberals in this particular country. In almost no other political context would right wing be associated with an individual looking beyond the commonweal and in favor of their own interests.

Satya said...

"They expect good lefties to devote themselves to political causes, not their own self-regarding pursuits."

Exactly the point. Great art has something to say about the world. The essence of being a liberal (in this country and in other countries) is to care more about the world, the environment, other people, social conditions, etc. then about your own petty selfish desires. Those people are the ones most likely to create great art. People who are selfish and concerned primarily with their own material self-interest are not likely to produce great art. They are more likely to become lawyers, or business people, or other professions that do not require the actor to look beyond him/herself in order to produce greatness. That is why the vast majority of all artists are, in fact, left wing. Even those who aren't are people who fundamentally care more about some social cause (for example, capitalism for Ayn Rand or Japanese nationalism for Yukio Mashima, etc) than about themselves (a principle perhaps best embodied by Mashima's seppuku).

Ann Althouse said...

Satya: I agree with you about redefining the relevant lines, but I don't think the distinction between progressive and social conservative captures what I have been trying to get people to talk about. The artist will carry on and embody tradition and at the same time challenge conventions. The key is individualism on the one hand, which should include most liberals as well as many conservatives, and on the other hand, the collectivist, communitarian types, who, I believe, drag the artist down. I used "right wing" as the term for the first category, but I would accept the use of the word "liberal" for what I am trying to talk about. My problem isn't with liberals but with the far left. The lefty bloggers who are fighting me on this are reinforcing my belief that they are a drag on creativity, bent on keeping people in line with ideology, and remarkably boring.

Ann Althouse said...

Satya: I think you're just wrong on the facts when you say that focus on oneself is not the way to great art. Look at the life stories of the greatest artists. They tend to be shockingly selfish. Someone interested in the good of the whole world -- and actually devoting himself to that, as opposed to merely mouthing it -- might manage to be arty and to get some artwork done, but greatness? I think not.

XWL said...

The thread that wouldn't DIE!
(coming soon to a drive-in near you)

To sum up the status of the competing arguments so far.

(centrist to right leaning commenters)
Interesting point Ann, I've been thinking along those lines but I've never thought to put them down before, thanks for starting an interesting debate


(left of center to far left commenters)
Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!
You and all the other evil Republicans eat children, choke puppies, and are destroying the environment, how dare you (DARE YOU I SAY) sully the name of any artist or art in general by saying that a single one of these long suffering souls has even an ounce of similarity or sympathy for anything remotely resembling even a small part of the Chimpy McBu$hHitler crowd.
SHAME!SHAME!SHAME!SHAME!SHAME!
(monotonous ain't they?)



Now who would you rather to continue a conversation with, this is why I believe that those on the left can so easily believe that noone that matters thinks elsewise of the way they think, cause at a dinner party or at a coffee house if you display an inkling of dissent from the accepted dogma you will be punished with screed upon screed upon screed, far easier to nod your head and smile
(just like in this comment thread, with some exceptions, and to those on the left that my comment doesn't refer to thank you, to the rest, meh)


[the commenter formerly known as LeRoy W]

Ann Althouse said...

XWL: Yeah, exactly.

aimai said...

Dear Ann,

I'm being rude? You must be joking. Rereading your original comments, or your weak defense of them, doesn't make them any more logical or intelligent--any more than staring harder at an ugly picture makes it prettier.

Here's the thing--I'm as well educated as you are, if not better. I come from the same social strata as you do, if not better. When I say I'm ashamed of you--I really mean it. Your abysmal, boot-licking, craven attempts to appropriate everything good for "your side" and to imply, however foolishly, that everything bad belongs to "The other side" is what it is--a childish, weak minded, piece of special pleading. You well deserve the contempt of those who read you.

aimai
Oh, sorry, was that rude?

mtw said...

I'm a bit of a Johnny-come-lately where, but what the hell...

Leroy W said:
In other words modern Hollywood is overly cautious, overly concerned with being innoffensive, overly collectivist in it's decision making apparatus, and most importantly often too concerned with making the correct message rather than making great art ... these are left wing tendencies and antithetical to great art...

You don't think that offending the fewest amount of people is in any way designed to maximize profits? To believe that "Hollywood" is more concerned with being inoffensive than making money is a bit pollyanna-ish, IMO.

Anthony Cartouche said...

I was just reminded that you once wrote the dumbest thing I've ever read on the Internet (and I read Dean Esmay ):

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.

Thanks, Ann, for being uniquely, inanely, you.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for reprinting that quote, which I stand by. This post is about exactly the same subject. I feel sorry for you that you don't get the point. No, I don't. You're an ass!

Anthony Cartouche said...

I cannot tell you how glad I am to be called an ass by the likes of Ann Althouse. It is one of the greatest compliments I have ever been paid.