Monday, June 19, 2017


...about the Julius Caesar nonsense and where it comes from.

As I've mentioned previously, conservatives' whole idea of culture is driven by their will to power. Their oft-repeated mantra about it is "politics is downstream of culture," which is an expression of frustration that the power they've won with politics is incomplete. They see people responding naturally to art, and see that as a kind of power; they jealously want to turn it to their own purposes, but are temperamentally averse to the empathy and patient attention to human nature (as opposed to a vulpine attention to human behavior patterns) that's a precondition of artistry.

So they try in their crippled, ugly way to reverse that power with weird apings of journalism, using things that look like arts criticism as Rupert Murdoch uses splash-smears in his tabloids. You may recall how enraged they were when feminists were claiming the Wonder Woman movie for themselves and even tried to sabotage women-only screenings of it — but when the movie became a huge hit, they spun and insisted feminists didn’t actually like Wonder Woman (cf., “Alt-Left Insanity: Wonder Woman Isn’t LGBTQ Or Black Enough for Libs,” “Run, Wonder Woman! The Feminists Are after You!” etc). After writing endless screeds against The Handmaid’s Tale because of its feminist subtext -- “The Handmaid’s Hysteria” is one ripe example -- National Review, making a concession to the show's ubiquity and popularity, recently  published -- I swear I'm not making this up -- “The Conservative Case for The Handmaid’s Tale." It’s against statism, see, not the patriarchy.

So the controversy over a 400-year-old play is no shock to me, though it is a melancholy thing to see journalists trying to explain to the punters basic artistic conventions as if they were obscure maritime laws. Well, that's what you get when you don't fund arts education. Also when you teach blanket mistust of all data that contradicts one's prejudices as "skepticism": one of my more depressing exchanges this weekend was with one of the many conservatives who refused to accept that an earlier version of the play had been performed with an Obama-like Caesar. When I sent her a review of that production from The American Conservative, she refused to accept it and demanded video. "That's just a picture & an article," she said. Maybe Noah Millman was lying to protect liberals!

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