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Tuesday, December 13, 2005



I'm an art major, so I know where you're coming from. I can say, though, that there is hope for the future, if only because of the ridicule that sort of groupthink gets from my peers. I hear lots of profs whining about "conservatism" in students these days.

A professor once scolded us for not "fighting against the establishment". I got a cheap laugh out of the class by pointing out that those sharing his views ARE the establishment, at least in the academic world.


You actually think Ute Lemper ignored her maid? You must be a Jew!! Ms. Lemper obviously was contributing to the immerseration of the working class, which is a necessary precondition to global revolution.

Shannon Love

I think we are looking at a hyper-conformist subculture.

Within the humanities, any given individuals personal success is wholly dependent on the good opinion of one's professional peers. Its not like in the sciences or business where natural or market forces can prove an iconoclast right. In the humanities, popularity is everything and those that do not conform to current fads face professionally fatal ostracism.

Combine this fear of expulsion with a culture of overweening intellectual and moral arrogance that leads them to believe that no other group has ideas or experiences of any worth whatsoever and you get a subculture of individuals who will not deviate from the herd in the least.

John in Tokyo

Hartley claims he liked the movie "American Beauty." I thought it had moments of truth and orginality but in the end, it's ruined by the very thing you point out, a banal confirmation of the progressive world view. What could be less original than attempting to 'unmask the hypocracy of sububan middleclass consumerist culture'?! And the caricature of the military father could not have been cruder: wife beating, child abusing, repressed and bigoted (homo-phobic, but that's because he's a repressed homo!), closet-nazi, murderer. No wonder it won an academy award.

I thought it sucked. Mendes's artistic talent is ruined by inability to actually challenge his own narrow sensibilities. In the end, he aslo chickens out of the whole Lolita angle! I guess he wouldn't want the Kevin Spacey anti-hero character to do anything that he and the audience might actually disapprove of.


With due respect to artists, it's been my experience over the past 40 years, dealing with musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, and actors, that outside of the specific field of their endeavors they have little of substance to say.

I've assumed that this is because art is different from most other fields. It is intensely personal, not relying on social consensus (although there is that matter of financial and psychological support that must come from audiences/customers/patrons).

Whatever one wishes to call it--"progressive", "liberal", "artsy-fartsy"--these sentiments are all feel-good. By accepting the values represented by the zeitgeist, one feels good about oneself without actually having to think about things. The artist just buys a nice cozy comforter and is instantly innoculated against the real world. This, of course, leaves more time for what most important: art.

Sharon Ferguson

I got a cheap laugh out of the class by pointing out that those sharing his views ARE the establishment, at least in the academic world.

Wouldnt call that cheap at all - Id say that is PRICELESS. And needs to be said more often...loudly. With finger pointing and laughter.


I think what hurts artists most is the assumption so many of them seem to make that they are SUPPOSED to have something to say, some esoteric "message" that the rest of us troglodytes would remain ignorant of without the guidance of our betters, the artists. As opposed to, you know, creating beautiful things. I mean, art.


I noticed that at a major computer graphics trade show in 1996. Until then, computer effects had always been the domain of programmers doing tricks for visualization of mathematics and data. By '96, however, computers were exploding in Hollywood, and artists were moving into the field.

I noticed that everyone I met fell into one of two groups. One was the original computer geeks, who were colorful individuals whose politics and philosophies ran the gamut from communist/fascist to Objectivists (Ayn Randians).

The other group were the art school graduates. They were all very alike, in their worldview and politics... all made out of ticky tacky and they all looked just the same.


First, let me commend both Shannon Love and John in Tokyo for their excellent comments. JIT neatly expresses my views on the movie "American Beauty," which I've always considered tirelessly over-rated.

As someone who earned a PhD in English, but has since left the field and migrated further to the right politically in the years since, I was always willing to defer to the authority of my professors, until I got my first (and only) job as a full-fledged faculty member at a small college. What I quickly realized was that most of my colleagues were incapable of making intelligent, informed and cogent arguments about politics; they resorted just as frequently to questionable generalizations and logical fallacies as my students did. The only difference was that they had advanced degrees and positions of authority. Once I left teaching, I realized that, even as I had rebelled against the enforced worldview of literary academics, it had entrapped me, and only when I began to throw it off did I see opportunities in the world that would not have occurred to me if I were still stuck in that mindset.

Julian Morrison

Disagreed about "American Beauty". You can look at it with an intent to see politics, but you don't have to. The characters are ALL caricatured, but they operate within their own closed universe as exhaustive transforms of the old arty question "is truth, beauty?". In that way the repressed military father is an unfavourable character because he's repressed, not because he's military.


Maybe your right, but when somebody is creating characters, they associate the things they don't like with the characters they don't like. It is part of creating drama. The father was a jerk, and to associate him with the military was no accident on the part of the producers of the film. What they wanted to say was "Jerk father = homophobic repressed homosexual = military"

NOTHING in a film happens by accident, no color of a scarf, no degree of attractiveness of a character, not even the quality of the dishware in a kitchen scene. I think you are dreaming, but, like I said, I could be wrong.

On the grounds of craftsmanship, that is technically expressing the mindnumbingly uniform and tiresomely over rated POV of Hollywood, the movie was excellent. As a piece of art, it was a POS.

Chris Goodman

When a teacher stands up and tells their pupils that their purpose is to get them to think for themselves you know that they are a fake.

If they are on the ‘right’ they believe in objective standards of excellence – which they are there to impart.

If they are on the ‘left’ they require submission to leftist orthodoxy – which they are there to enforce.

In the first questioning is only allowed to occur after the acquisition of what the teacher has to impart, in the latter questioning of assumptions never occurs.

Jack Tanner

I'm with JFB on the uninformed and lack of substance of the artistic types. It's all pseudo intellectual posing by musicians and artists which is pretty harmless because generally they have no idea of what they speak. It can be harmful when the occassional Bono type gets some influence. I do agree with Shannon about the need to get along in these groups because success is generally do to subjective judgements. But most of all I agree wit JIT, American Beauty sucked beyond belief.

Dr. Deano

The fact is that more movies suck today than not. Sad. Two things Hollywood needs to get a grip on - there are few true artists making movies today, and the product that Hollywood creates is not essential for the continued existence of humanity.

I'd like to see one of the plethora of Hollywood's pathetically self-aggrandizing awards programs announce that there will be no award for "Best Film" this year - because there is no film that deserves such a title.


Once again I find myself "looking East" for my fix of something different than the Hollywood formula. South Korean, Japan, and HK (as well as Thailand) have provided me a bevy of films that differ wildly from anything I see over here and even from each other. Sure the political messages find their way into those films as well but it is quite rare. If I'm looking for originality or a new spin on thing I just look for what is coming out over there.


As a professional classical musician, I can somewhat identify with the assertion that many artists think alike if they think at all. But, there certainly are those of us who do think deeply about politics and philosophy and are not leftists. A minority, it is true, but we exist. Most of us keep quiet because there is a genuine fear of rejection by our peers on whom we often depend for our liveleyhoods.

Now is it weakness on my part for not challenging them on their politics? Yeah, probably. My silence may be complacency. But until I am more established in the field - my survival less dependent on the personal preferences of others - I'll be pragmatic. It's unfortunate and it supports the Cochin quote.

As far as the popular and elite artists with a "bully-pulpit", not all of them use it - and many of those who don't are more "right wing" than you think.


Rather than cry about artist hegemony? Where are the conservative artists? I thought they were too busy downtown trying to make enough money, so that they can buy art, to care about making it themselves. Then again, the world doesn't need more paintings of migrating ducks.

It's kind of scary to think what form a conservative filled art movement might take?


Artsy types were the black sheep of the family in nine cases out of ten, and this gives them a deep need to belong. But they are also proud of their outsider identity and wish to retain it. So they join an "outsider" group, thus satisfying their twin needs for acceptance and rebellion at once. The fact that their group's doctrine makes no sense is immaterial.

BTW, Izzy's anti-bourgeois boilerplate is a typical defense mechanism, not grounded in reality. (Take Charles Ives f'rinstance, Wall Street insurance exec by day and crazy-great composer by night.) If a WASP insider type showed artistic talent it would kill their Boho dream!


Artists would love to think they possessed that kind of power. Conservatives haven't been recognized recently by the artworld because they haven't contributed anything compelling. Now, this may be due to their lack of inate talent or that they just don't care. But don't tell me they don't have the means to open a storefront gallery and start selling. They had the resources to dominate MSM didn't they?

Evil Pundit

Conservatives only came to prominence in the media when the technology developed for independent outlets -- blogs, Cable TV and the like.

Conservatives will come to prominence in the arts when the technology to create and distribute art comes within reach of struggling non-leftist artists. Photoshop, eBay and movie-making software will be the foundations of this revolution.

Be patient, Izzy. Soon the left-leaning MSM will be largely out of business, to be followed in turn by the left-leaning movie and music industries.


Seems like Izzy would benefit from a bit more historical perspective. From what I know of cultural history, I feel comfortable asserting that great art (and great artists) usually end up transcending the partisan politics of their day in a way that most of the blatantly political stuff produced by so many contemporary "artists" simply fails to do.

Ann Althouse has suggested that there's something inherently conservative about the way most great artists focus on the individual rather than the collective vision. (See for more on this point.)

Very few enduring works of art fit nicely into the vision of either the political left or the political right, even though the leftists who dominate the academy continually try to appropriate them for the left.


I agree evil, All we have to do is first get rid of those left-leaning audiences. What we need is a focal point to rally around, like a degenerate art show that proves how left-leaning they really are. I also like your point about independent outlets, because we know that Cable TV is so much more independent than Hollywood. Perhaps new technologies such as VOD will help in this realm. It's also encouraging that there really are powerful and affordable movie creation tools in the market -- video cameras, Old Holland paints, and sable-hair brushes were prohibitively expensive. It's a brave new world we are entering. But we only have about 30 years or so left before the rapture, so we better hurry.


Ya had to go and Godwinize it, didn't ya Iz.


Brian: I did. ;) Fun thread!


I thought about posting to the Althouse thread, but it was a bit stale. In any case, I admire the attempt to wrap Dylan and other artists in a Libertarian flag, as if Libertarian is the only way to say independent thinker. I don't mind that so much, even though it's clearly false. Why don't we ask Bob Dylan now that he's going to have a show on satellite radio. In any case, there have always been two ways to judge art. 1) Within a political context, which is necessarily subjective, and 2) on it's merits as craft. I think most people here will agree that in the long run the later prevails -- which is in part why even liberal historians such as Athur Danto still prefer to invoke the 50 year rule before judging art. You need some distance, at least in order to let the current political considerations fall away. Does that mean we can finally say that Leni Riefenstahl was a great artist (Godwin again)? Perhaps... In any case, even the great liberal artists are striving to innovate the form in a way that will have them considered beyond political considerations. That said, it is ABSURD to suggest that there is a cabal of liberal academic elites controlling the gateway to success in the art world. It's a market like any other (which I would assume the people in this thread assume to know better than liberals). Since presumably the market for conservative buyers is potentially large (they have money), the only conclusion one is left with is that not enough artists have tapped it. There's nothing stopping them. Why not you say? That's a whole different question, but in the meantime, the whining is sounding (dare I say it) oh so liberal!

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