April 16, 2005

Robert Hughes and R. Crumb talk about Andy Warhol and Albert Speer.

Robert Hughes and R. Crumb, together at last. Hughes is the art critic who praises Crumb in the movie "Crumb." After a public appearance, at which it's established that both men hate Andy Warhol, the two go out to dinner and talk about Albert Speer:
After the discussion, Mr. Crumb quickly ducked out of the library, avoiding a throng of fans, and later joined Mr. Hughes for dinner, where they took a while to warm up to each other, but by the end were in a spirited discussion about Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, whom Mr. Hughes interviewed in the late 1970's.

Mr. Hughes told about an exchange in which Speer said that architecture was certainly one way to unite a people, but that if the Nazis had had television, there would have been no stopping them.

Mr. Crumb, finishing his plate of baked chicken, beamed. "Oh, that's great," he said. "It's true."
Is it? It seems to me television makes everything small. Grandiosity miniaturized and contained in a box, viewed across the tops of your toes, is not awesome but ridiculous. There you are, in your house, not merged in a massive throng, but on a sofa alone or with your intimates. If we were starting with a free country -- and not state-controlled TV -- I think instant mockery would doom a televised propaganda effort of the sort Speer wielded with architecture.

By the way, I recommend the documentary "The Architecture of Doom," which you should watch in a double feature with "The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl."

Hey, did you notice that Hughes and Crumb ducked out of the assembly and ate chicken; they didn't chicken out of the assembly and eat duck. Why do I bother to think and write such things? Maybe because I was raised on television and still like nothing more than idly flipping the channels looking for stray amusements. Am I wasting my life on trivia? A bit. But I'm also utterly immune to the charms of fascist dictators. Even the politicians I like enough to vote for, I still laugh at and think of as funny little men. That's another way of saying that on TV, Jon Stewart would outmatch Speer.


HaloJonesFan said...

TV making everything small, but that also makes it unimportant. Who can be upset about the actions of people six inches high? If you don't like what you're seeing, push a button and its gone. If nothing interests you, then push a button and everything is gone. Those tiny humans living inside the TV, they're desperate to keep you amused, because their entire existence depends on you.

TV makes us feel that we have mastery over events, situations, and people. Reality TV is popular because it enforces this notion--after all, we can see that we're much better people (or performers, artists, mechanics, house designers, whatever) than those we're watching on TV.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, why do I watch "American Idol," and not the elaborately written and acted dramas and movies on TV? I'm in no mood to be caught up in someone else's manipulations.

EddieP said...

Mr. Hughes told about an exchange in which Speer said that architecture was certainly one way to unite a people, but that if the Nazis had had television, there would have been no stopping them.

I think that Speer was saying that architecture was one way to unite a people, but that if Hitler had access to TV the Nazi's would have been unstoppable. Of course that's conjecture, and perhaps if TV were widely available in the 1930's, Hitler's ideas might have been more vigorously challenged.

However, I do think Speer makes a valid argument for the probable usefulness of TV to the Nazi movement.

EddieP said...

On second thought, if the Nazi's had TV available, it would have been of the UHF/VHF variety which means they would control the entire reception areas. (No satellites and no cable and only the Nazi channnel available.)

Given that environment, Goebbels and Hitler would have an extremely effective propaganda tool. They did pretty well just using AM radio and the Beobachter Zeitung!

lindsey said...

Does this conversation make anyone else think of the current situation in the ME?

dick said...


Yes, it does since the current broadcasting of the news slants the story so much against the administration that the only way we get any good news about what is really going on is by reading the internet. I noted that the NY Times which has not given us many good news stories about the situation over there and has gone out of its way to call it a quagmire suddenly last week published a story about how the US is thinking of bringing some troops home because the situation has gotten so much better. Given the normal news you get from the MSM, how would you ever know this and accept it based on what you had already been told? It just does not match up with the rest of the news that the NY Times has told us about Iraq at all.

If you work from that back to the example of Hitler, Speer, Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl, then you can see that Speer might just have a good point in what he said.