Why Do the Arts Lean Left?

The left may own Television and Print, but the right owns Talk Radio and the Internet. There are more conservative blogs out there than can be counted. Many are good. I started reading one in particular because of a tenuous personal connection. Eric calls himself the Viking Pundit (being from the Swedish side of the fence), and says he’s “the only Conservative in Western Massachusetts.” I’m Viking from the Norsk side of the fence. In any event, Eric writes with insight, clarity and – especially important – with a sharp sense of humor (which The Left claims we don’t have at all). You’ll find the link to Eric’s blog under “Irrelevant.” Not because it is… but because it has nothing to do with the process of writing.

In an essay from Monday, Eric ponders the nature of celebrity, and why so many of them are liberal and feel compelled to speak out on pressing issues, in this case the inevitable war with Iraq. He cites a theory that I’ve also heard postulated by Rush Limbaugh: that their work as musician/actor/writer/etc., is fluff, and that the heart-on-sleeve feel-good aspect of liberalism helps to salve their conscience over being nothing more than a diversion for the masses.

It’s not a bad theory. But I don’t think it tells the whole story. I think many people in the arts are liberal because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

I’m not talking about the fan base here. I’m talking about the political party that has stood by them and stood up for their pretensions of art. In a way, this goes hand-in-hand with Eric’s theory. But I want to take it one step further and say that the left stokes the fires of their egos, telling them that what they do is not fluff, but is something lasting and worthy.

And they stoke these fires with money.

As a writer, I’ve seen this first hand a number of times. For example, in the late 80’s, some lawmaker got the bright idea not to let writers deduct the cost of research on a project until the book was published. For those of you not in the industry, publication is a process that can take anywhere from six months to two or three years, depending on the publisher’s schedule. Can you imagine making this same demand of a pharmaceutical company with a new drug or an automobile manufacturer with a new car design?

When I found out about this, I went to my word processor and wrote to my representatives. At the time they were Senators John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum, and Congressman Ralph Regula.

Glenn, a Democrat, sent me back a polite form letter.

Metzenbaum, a classic liberal Democrat, sent me back pages… and pages… and pages… of documents detailing what he was doing to combat this problem as part of the “Volunteer Senators for the Arts.” And the membership of that committee was a roll-call of Washington liberalism: Kennedy, Cranston, ad nauseaum.

Then there was Ralph Regula, the one Republican. I never got any kind of reply from him.

Dependence on the government teat starts early. I know of two boys, both in the second grade, who became candidates for a school program for gifted students. Both had equal abilities, but they were gifted in different areas. One was showing talent as an artist, while the other displayed an uncanny knack for business. Guess who got into the program and who didn’t? The boy with the head for business did get in two years later, but only after his parents went to the Powers That Be to plead his case.

With all this largesse, someone in the arts will naturally feel pressure to support the people who lobby for them, who get them special treatment, who wormtongue that everything is all right, that they are really relevant.

This aspect of being beholden to the government is one reason I have long been a proponent of getting the government out of the funding-the-arts business. The Mozarts and Beethovens of this world did just fine with a patron system. If someone with the money of, say, Madonna, believes so strongly in the right of artists to be paid for submerging a crucifix in a jar of urine, or covering themselves in chocolate and masturbating in public, then let her write the check. I’d rather see my tax dollars go for frivolous things like giving the members of our Armed Forces a raise in salary.

Now all of this prompts the question If they’re that irrelevant, why does the liberal faction even bother courting Hollywood? Well, why does Nike court Michael Jordan? Yeah, believe it or not, there are people out there who actually form their opinions based on what other people tell them. How many people out there hate nuclear power because Bruce Springsteen told them it was icky? More than we want to admit, I’m sure.

You can’t blame them, really. They’re just borrowing from the Marxist/Leninist playbook – controlling the thoughts of the masses by controlling the media. To bring this all full circle now… it’s a good thing they forgot about Talk Radio and the Internet. Is it any wonder that they’re trying to legislate both into oblivion?

NP – Dandy Warhols (probably all liberal), Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia

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