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Shakespeare's Sister

We’ve all met people like this. People who can’t appreciate a work of art except as a mirror. Heck, we’re all guilty of this sometimes, usually, though, when we’re 20.



Excellent post. Hit home with me!

Mike Schilling

Nitpick: it's "John" Podhoretz. Or perhaps "Fredo".


Somehow I think this post and this one by Digby are related in some way that escapes me right now.

Kit Stolz

Re: Chesterton...he is considered a conservative, because of his articulate defense of Christian orthodoxy, and of tradition, which he describes as giving one's ancestors a vote.

Note: "Conservative" is the word the current administration and its defenders like to use to describe themselves, but a great deal of evidence (reckless spending, reckless war-making, reckless destruction of the planet) suggests they are anything but "conservative."

Kate Marie

Excellent post, Lance. Thanks.

Kit, I always thought it was Burke who said that about giving one's ancestors a vote . . . but Chesterton makes sense.

By the way, I just saw Brokeback Mountain this weekend, and I think what you're telling me, Lance, is that it's okay *not* to like the movie provided that I just don't think it's a very good movie.

I do appreciate your acknowledgment that a tendency to want to see oneself in works of art is neither a strictly liberal nor a strictly conservative trait. I wonder, though, whether you're ignoring that tendency in liberals a bit. I haven't seen Cinderella Man, so I have no opinion about whether the movie can be defended as a great movie on its own terms. But I *do* think there are examples of movies that were embraced by critics/"liberals" at least partly because those movies sort of unquestioningly confirmed some pet liberal assumptions. I'm reluctant to name names (but I'm thinking of a much acclaimed and award-winning movie of a while back which I thought was extremely overrated as a work of art), because I don't want this thread to devolve into a mini culture war.

I suppose the childish question to put to you, Lance, would be "Who started it?" The politicization of art is probably as old as art and politics themselves, and I would argue that the "liberals" who declared me a fascist for liking Dirty Harry are just as responsible for the state of the culture wars as the conservatives who called Cinderella Man the best movie of the year.


Isn't Rand's philosophy called "objectivism?" If so, one way of measuring it for movies is box office receipts.

From The

Cinderella Man box office:
Total US Gross $61,649,308
Production Budget $88,000,000
Worldwide Gross $108,215,308

Brokeback Mountain box office:
Total US Gross $83,043,761
Production Budget $13,900,000
Worldwide Gross $177,643,761

Hmm. Does that mean Brokeback is inherently conservative?


Chesterton became a conservative in the older sense, a traditionalist or even a reactionary. There's a great book about his deep friendship and deep disagreements with GB Shaw, that famous Althousian conservative. But hold up, I thought liberals were the ones usually painted as radical individualists and non-conformists, favoring individual freedom and rights over the wishes of the State and the majority, hence the persistence of anti-family, anti-church, anti-America talk from the right? Silly me, so easily confuzzled.


In 2002, Bruce Bartlett was actually way ahead of Jon Singer (h/t Crooked Timber):

1. Paul Anka, "(You're) Having My Baby"

Considering that Roe v. Wade had already been decided by the Supreme Court, and that being "pro-choice" had already established itself as liberal dogma, it was very courageous for Anka to put such a [message] in one of his own songs. The fact that the song was a massive hit also tells us something important about what most Americans really think about abortion.

4. James Brown, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"

I included this song on grounds of general political incorrectness and because I love the "Godfather of Soul". However, I think one can also listen to the lyrics not just as a celebration of the accomplishments of men versus women, but of entrepreneurs and industry. ... Rather than a glorification of male chauvinism, I prefer to think of this song as a paean to the inventors and builders who made the many products we all take for granted.

7. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

This is an odd conservative classic, having been written by old time lefty Pete Seeger and performed by a group that later glorified drugs in "Eight Miles High". Nevertheless, it makes my list because the lyrics are drawn straight from the Book of Ecclesiastes. I figure that any song based on the Bible deserved inclusion.

17. Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the U.S.A."

Greenwood is a well-known country and western singer. This song was originally released in 1984, hitting number 7 on the country chart. But in 1991, in the wake of the Gulf war, it was re-released, crossing over to the pop chart.

27. The Kinks, "Sunny Afternoon"

British taxes must have been really high in 1966. That year, The Beatles recorded "Taxman" and fellow Brits The Kinks also recorded this anti-tax anthem. As they sing, "The tax man's taken all my dough. He's taken everything I've got."

30. Madonna, "Papa Don't Preach"

Amazingly, this is a strongly pro-life song, for which the singer was criticized by pro-choicers at the time. In it, she asks her father's advice about what to do with an out-of-wedlock child. "My friends keep telling me to give it up," she sings, but in the end decides, "I'm gonna keep my baby."

35. SSgt. Barry Sadler, "The Ballad of the Green Berets"

Inclusion of this song is so obvious it hardly needs comment. I am still amazed that such an explicitly pro-Vietnam War song could make the pop chart in 1966.

[Note: An anonymous commenter at Jon's seems to have noticed this too.]

More proof of the efforts the right makes to ensure that they are impossible to satirize. The bit about "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" is just classic. Feel free to speculate why both the NR list and Bartlett's list end with "Stand By Your Man".


Correction: I meant Jon Swift not Jon Singer.


Please also keep in mind that the term "artist" is somewhat a victim of the romantic period. Maybe a romantic meme, much pushed by folks like Beethoven, and adopted fully by the new bourgeoisie class. I fail to see how one can make a wide sweeping statement about artists and art without taking its time into context...

Was Bach a republican? Does not seem to apply at all...

Temple Stark

I've heard of this Althouse character. Allow me a creative moment of intended profanity (underlying) - she's teh stoopid.

Ask 20 people their top 20 lists of music albums, songs or artists. Then try and tell which are Rep or Dem. Occasionally it WILL be obvious. but mostly you'll be wrong. It's like trying to tell partezanship from spelling.

Case in point. I just segued from Age of the White Dove - Shenoah to Heartbeat - Buddy Holly.


Isn't Rand's philosophy called "objectivism?"

i think in layman's term it's called selfishness and greed. but then what do i know... i'm only beating my head against page 450 of Atlas Shrugged(700 more to go!)

harry near indy

great post, lance!

by the way, artists like picasso and dylan respect the past and have learned from it. then they take it from there. i would call them traditionalists, or at least respecters of the artistic tradition.

now conservatives -- some may like the old school in art, music and literature and may have no truck with the new stuff out now. the new stuff isn't their bag, and they admit it. i respect their opinions, altho i don't agree with them. but a lot of conservatives want to stop art at a certain time and all that doesn't resemble that art at that time is garbage.

in short, it's shakespeare roolz and mamet sux! those people i don't respect.

(and some, it's the opposite -- shakespeare sux, mamet rulz! but i'm not talking about them here.)

that's for culture. now for society,

it seems like a lot of conservative pundits are attached to a college of some sort, like althouse and, for example, glenn reynolds. colleges come from an outlook that has its roots in the past, especially the past of a society where church and state are intertwined and there were different classes and all knew their place.

in short, a lot like 18th-century england in the dreams of samuel johnson and edmund burke.

these college-connected conservatives write as if the business outlook or industrial revolution have had no affect on their lives, which it probably doesn't. worst yet, they write as if the business outlook or industrial revolution have had no affect on society as a whole, which is a big, big mistake.

either they don't see the connections, or they won't mention them because it won't fit into their outlooks. just like old commies didn't mention stalin's atrocities as he worked the soviet union into a superpower.

their silences speaks volumes.

plus, althouse and reynolds are commentators and critics, and not creators. i wonder if they ever tried to create but gave it up.

i find literary criticism from artists more enlightening than a lot of literary criticism from folks who are just critics. i think that's because the artists have been there and done that.

it's kinda like respecting the opinions an ob/gyn who's a woman more than an ob/gym who's a man.

btw, rock and rollers are anarchists in attitude. and there are some marxist anarchists -- groucho, harpo and chico. definitely not carlo and vladimiro.


Very nice post. The problem with a lot of conservative commentators (especially the True Believers) is that the are down-the-line conservatives, so they assume most liberals are the same way, as if political orientation can only be set to 1 or 0. But most of the liberals I know have a number of more "conservative" beliefs (myself especially). It's just that, at the end of the day, there's no way we're siding with someone like Bill Frist.

blue girl

I hate to throw a stereotype around here in this comment thread, but I think it would be a cold day in h-e-double hockey sticks when a conservative blogger would write such a thoughtful post (like this one) admitting that he/she has any liberal qualities at all. And that, to me, is the difference between conservatives and liberals. I can be pretty conservative in a lot of my views, but am constantly told how "evil" I am -- and how out of step I am with mainstream America -- so I have done what all good liberals do when they want to drown out the likes of Bill Frist&Co...

I have set my political orientation at 11.

Why at 11 you asked? -- and not at 10?

Because 11 is one louder.

Cryptic Ned

I think Althouse's argument is more a variation on the idea that great artists are people with talent, and people with talent ought to be in favor of enforced inequality, whereas mediocre people ought to be in favor of enforced equality.

The Viscount

I often wonder what Ayn Rand thought of The Beatles?


For a good parody of Ann, check out

Kevin Wolf

I think the movie version of The Fountainhead is a classic of quasi-fascist camp, and not to be missed.

Kate Marie

For what it's worth, it seems conservatives and liberals can agree on The Fountainhead. This is from Whittaker Chambers' review of that book:

"Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber — go!'"


Hmmm . . . so Joe Strummer was a conservative. And so are the guys in System of a Down. Bet they'd be surprised to learn that!

Michael Bains

To Kate Marie: "Who started it?" LMAO!!!

It was the egg, silly! {-;

I was goin' to quote one of your lines, Lance, but decided that there is simply much of Value in it to use any of it for silly (see above) gloating.

The theme of "we are ALL human, no matter our idiosyncracies" is what I think underlays my entire blog. You did an awesome job of pointing that out vis-a-vie our political leanings here today. Thanks Man.


I think the movie version of The Fountainhead is a classic of quasi-fascist camp, and not to be missed.

Oh, Lord, yes. It's a laff riot. I've always wondered how all those terrific actors read that godawful script (penned by Rand herself) and said, "Oh, man! I wanna make this movie!" But I saw an interview with Patricia Neal, and she said it was the part that year; every woman in Hollywood wanted to play ol' what's-her-name.

And getting into Gary Cooper's pants wasn't even part of the deal!


um you all do realize they are making a movie out of Atlas Shrugged with Brangelina, right? and the screenplay is being written by a man whose credits include such outstanding works as T&A Academy 2.


I hate to throw a stereotype around here in this comment thread, but I think it would be a cold day in h-e-double hockey sticks when a conservative blogger would write such a thoughtful post (like this one) admitting that he/she has any liberal qualities at all. And that, to me, is the difference between conservatives and liberals.

Actually I know a few conservatives at my church who can be as thoughtful in their admittence of some liberal beliefs. Unfortunately they are not hip to much online beyond email. But they do exist. I also know a few farmers who would label themselves conservatives who are very introspective and clear about why they believe in environmental protection and (at least for kids) universal healthcare. Of course you could only take their guns away by "prying them from their cold, dead fingers" and they rail against big government too.

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