By: Mike of the Ornery Young Gunz
Not too long ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson, in a failed attempt to sound more profound than the Kim Kardashian of astrophysics, made a comment regarding art that sparked a somewhat passionate response from me.
It usually surprises people – even people who know me very well – to learn about my artistic side. People rarely seem to think that the conservative guy who loves debating politics and religion with people also likes theater, drawing, music, and writing – you know, things that inspire passions and “feels”. Which is strange to me. Yes, political and religious debate are more rooted in logic and that rational than art, but to me there has always been a clear intersection between art, culture, philosophy, politics, science, et al that we as a society have lost sight of for some reason. Perhaps thanks to the “Left Brain/Right Brain” dichotomy being prevalent in society (even though it’s a complete myth), we’ve perceived art and creativity at odds with, and even mutually exclusive to, logic, science, and critical analysis, even though classical western thinkers actually saw them as closely intertwined and different but complimentary ways of expressing “The Real”.
For a long time now, the institutions most closely associated with creativity and the arts have been perceived as controlled by the Left. (Indeed, one has to wonder in this day and age what institutions beyond family and the church the Right can be said to have any influence over, but that’s another discussion entirely). Hollywood, universities, art museums, et al are perceived by the public as being predominately products of the Left. Prominent complaints from the Right include: a lack of media entertainment that adequately reflects Rightwing views and traditions (when it isn’t trashing them outright), art that isn’t very “artistic” and borders on the pornographic, the blasphemous, and the profane, and when art and media DO reflect rightwing views and ideas favorably, they often are didactic, preachy, or just plain bad from a purely artistic perspective.
The value of Art is precisely that it appeals, not to our minds, but to our hearts and souls. It uses imagery, sound, and emotion to speak to our common humanity. The best art is art that relates to a universal audience; when it’s preaching to the proverbial choir, it loses its ability to shape and mold individuals. My favorite stories in books or movies are not those that mindlessly preach what I already believe, but that take truths and apply them to characters that that are relatable and real, despite being fictional, in believable situations.
Believe it or not, for almost 100 years now there has been a concerted effort by the Left to destroy or degrade classical Western concepts and understandings of art and replace them with crude facsimiles, from purely post-modernist and Dadaist thought to pop culture (which can best be described as a race to the bottom of a sewer). Hollywood is a cesspool where perversion, politics, and art intersect on a regular basis. Modern art is less about expressing ideas and truth in a way that challenges us at an emotional level, and more about either making money (not that there’s anything wrong with that but let’s not pretend then that artistic integrity here is what matters to the artist) or scoring political points. But why do this? What does the Left gain?
Two major forces are at play in this effort.
The first is what I like to call the “Emperor’s New Clothes” effect.
How many of us have been turned off to art because of the overt snootiness of the art community, especially of the Avant Garde elitist art consumer, the art critic, or the artists themselves? (Think actors and their inane views on politics.) Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet embodies the false sense of smug superiority that is often used as a smokescreen for a complete lack of substance. “Only the most sophisticated and erudite person understands the real meaning of art! Oh, you don’t see what I see? How droll, you quaint little rube!” In today’s society where popularity and acceptance mean more to us than being right and true if it means being alone or cutting against the grain, there is enormous pressure to nod your head and swallow whatever bullshit the artiste tries to shovel your way. Most of us just prefer to step aside and avoid the flying poo rather than cry out “Hey! The Emperor has no clothes!” The value of being a member of a bullshit community though is you can say or do anything and still make gobsmack amounts of money and no one can call you on it because they’re just as full of shit. The inherent danger here is that this is how you get the Kardashians and The Jersey Shores or worse, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye (hey, nobody pretends that Kim or Pauli D are paragons of higher learning). Where art tries to elevate thought and emotion to a different plane in order to illuminate the individuals, pop culture is pretty much a race to see who can pump out the most derogatory crap the fastest to grab eyeballs for advertising. There’s profits to be made and taking standards, artistic or otherwise, and throwing them out the window is probably the easiest way to do it.
But if rampant greed and corruption were the only problem in the art community, there wouldn’t be much of a story except for the occasional traumatized potted plant or abused starlet.
There is a second, more sinister force that derives its power from the first, and deliberately drives the ruination of classical art: a very Marxist animus towards Western culture that is cultivated in our schools and universities and incubated in our media.
Marxism is inherently hostile to Western culture and art. Why? It has to do with Marx’s concept of the superstructure.
According to Communism, we are all products of our culture – the political beliefs, norms, traditions, character, et al of a given society; also known as the superstructure (as opposed to the Western view that art and culture are an expression of the values of the people from whom they spring). While it is true that culture influences us, inspires us, Marxism takes this understanding and cranks it up to eleven: the superstructure defines us and determines our destiny, and until it is destroyed mankind cannot realize the “utopian” promises Communism offers. This is one of the main reasons the Soviets during the Cold War sought to infiltrate and undermine American cultural institutions: universities and Hollywood. That, and America’s greatest weapon against the spread of Communism was its culture and art: as more and more communist countries were exposed to Americana, the less they believed communism was in fact superior. (This is also why Soviet countries banned American film and art.)
Given the troubled history between Hollywood (the mecca of American art in a sense) and Communism, is it any wonder that long after the Cold War has ended it still seems run by people who hate America even as it makes them obscene amounts of money?
For the most part, Communism was successful in its infiltration of American cultural institutions (though not in the way they might have planned or in the way we would think). And even after the Cold War has ended and Soviet influence has died out (in the sense that there aren’t any Soviet agitators causing a ruckus in our institutions), that animus against American culture and Western Art still pervades society, thanks to the American Progressive (who hates American culture while loving American money as much as the Soviets did). And ironically, even amongst Conservatives there seems to be an aversion to fine arts and humanities, precisely because we can’t stand the smug self-righteous self-proclaimed superiority of the coastal elites who “love” art (but especially -if not only- when it’s making zero artistic sense or can be used as a tool to bash Conservatives). There needs to be a revivalist movement within the Conservative movement for the classics and art. So often we hear from many on the Right about the dangers of “cultural Marxism” (which is ironic because Marxism was never just an economic philosophy; it always had a cultural aspect to it, so people who use that term unironically as if they are some especially informed in-group are actually belying their own ignorance of the ideology and thus a diminished capacity to combat it); the way to combat counter-culture is to produce our own superior culture…just like we did during the Cold War.
Art is a powerful tool for communicating ideas in a way that conveys nuance and empathy – two things we on the Right are often falsely accused of lacking.
It can challenge us or entertain us or both. If Conservatives want to take their country back, they have to take back what defines art and entertainment from control of people who see both as nothing more than a tool to bring down American traditions and culture or as an excuse to brow beat and look down their noses on their fellow Americans (looking at you NGT!)
America is an awesome place. Conservatives have awesome ideas and traditions. It would be nice to see these things depicted in art more frequently in a way that appeals to the common humanity of those on the Right and the Left at home and abroad. Art is aesthetic, it’s creativity, it’s passion and emotion and beauty. More importantly, art is fun. It’s uplifting. It’s nice.
And don’t we deserve nice things?