small a art

I’ve been somewhat grappling with this weird “Soviet Realist” school of artistic analysis I see in our cultural authorities — oh, praises fora politically spruced up and gun control preachy revival of Oklahoma on broadway, for instance…

Apparently it’s not a crowd pleasure, but it is a critic pleasure

But after intermission, there were empty seats where some of those smiling faces had been, and as the second act wore on, still other theatergoers walked out, evidently repelled by the director Daniel Fish’s dark and daring reinterpretation of this enduring classic from Broadway’s golden age. By the usually rousing final chorus of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” many of those remaining in their seats—and many of the actors onstage—were in or near tears.

And if you have a problem with all those guns

“We are honored and proud that Oklahoma! will be leading the way on Broadway by partnering with the Gun Neutral Initiative,” Price said in a statement provided to Deadline prior to the panel. “Just because a particular story calls for the presence of a particular weapon, that doesn’t mean that we have to remain complacent in America’s gun-violence epidemic. Helping to destroy firearms that shouldn’t be in circulation is both a privilege and a responsibility.”

Kind of a “Cap and Trade” policy, I suppose.  They should have gone all the way and staged a gunfree Oklahoma show — that would have been avante garde.

So… everything gets reviewed in terms of how much it advances or retards an ultimate political good.  So we see something here with George Packer revisiting Orwell’s 1984.

 In front of my nose, in the world of enlightened and progressive people where I live and work, a different sort of doublethink has become pervasive. It’s not the claim that true is fake or that two plus two makes five. Progressive doublethink—which has grown worse in reaction to the right-wing kind—creates a more insidious unreality because it operates in the name of all that is good. Its key word is justice—a word no one should want to live without. But today the demand for justice forces you to accept contradictions that are the essence of doublethink.

For example, many on the left now share an unacknowledged but common assumption that a good work of art is made of good politics and that good politics is a matter of identity. The progressive view of a book or play depends on its political stance, and its stance—even its subject matter—is scrutinized in light of the group affiliation of the artist: Personal identity plus political position equals aesthetic value. This confusion of categories guides judgments all across the worlds of media, the arts, and education, from movie reviews to grant committees. Some people who register the assumption as doublethink might be privately troubled, but they don’t say so publicly. Then self-censorship turns into self-deception, until the recognition itself disappears—a lie you accept becomes a lie you forget. In this way, intelligent people do the work of eliminating their own unorthodoxy without the Thought Police.

Orthodoxy is also enforced by social pressure, nowhere more intensely than on Twitter, where the specter of being shamed or “canceled” produces conformity as much as the prospect of adding to your tribe of followers does. This pressure can be more powerful than a party or state, because it speaks in the name of the people and in the language of moral outrage, against which there is, in a way, no defense. Certain commissars with large followings patrol the precincts of social media and punish thought criminals, but most progressives assent without difficulty to the stifling consensus of the moment and the intolerance it breeds—not out of fear, but because they want to be counted on the side of justice.

From the new Robby Soave book Panic Attack:


The second problem, which follows logically from the first, is the perfection problem. Very few people can grasp with 100 percent accuracy the various requirements of intersectional progressivism, given that they aren’t allowed to interrogate the oppressed, who are the only source of knowledge about their oppression. I once saw this issue explained perfectly in a blog post, written by a woman complaining about all that was required of her. “As an ally, my job is to not impose my own beliefs of what’s ‘right,’ but instead amplify the voices of the oppressed people that I’m trying to be an ally for,” she wrote. “Except that I shouldn’t bug them about educating me, because that’s not what they’re there for. And it’s my duty to talk about the issue of oppression in question, because it’s the job of all of us, rather than the oppressed people, to fix it. Except that when I talk, I shouldn’t be using my privilege to drown out the voices of the oppressed people. Also, I should get everything right, 100% of the time. Including the terminology that the oppressed people in question themselves disagree on.”

Even the most well-intentioned person is bound to slip up. My Facebook feed recently served up a note from someone asking for help finding shelter for a wheelchair-bound neighbor. The immediate reply was this: “The only resource I have for you at the moment is in regards to the words wheelchair bound,” accompanied by a link to a HuffPost article titled “Stop Saying ‘Wheelchair-Bound’ and Other Offensive Terms.” You probably didn’t know wheelchair-bound was offensive terminology—I certainly didn’t—and in any case, you shouldn’t ask someone in a wheelchair what the correct terminology is, because it’s not that person’s job to educate you.

In The Daily Beast, Kristen Lopez described the 2018 Marvel superhero film Ant-Man and the Wasp as “ableist”—that is, disparaging of people with disabilities—for including a character who suffers from chronic pain and is attempting to cure her condition. “Instead of helping Ava find a way to cope [with] (and not necessarily eradicate) her disability, the film seeks to provide a cure.” That’s a bad thing, Lopez wrote, because not all disabled people want to overcome their disability.  Who knew you could run afoul of disability activism by making a movie in which a character who suffers from chronic pain tries to overcome it?

Actually I think we’re trapped into a grand unified theory.  The Washington Monthly review on Soave’s book has some interesting things I would place here, but it’s not online as of yet.

Oh, here it is.

Notably, when Soave reports conversations with left-radical protestors, they tend to convey little interest in liberal theories of the case at all. “Free speech is allowing people to express themselves in a way that doesn’t put other people down,” one tells him at an anti-alt-right counterdemonstration last year. “It doesn’t oppress people and damage our society.” Elsewhere, an antifascist activist is incredulous about any need to justify physically attacking a peaceful group of right-wing demonstrators: “They’re fucking Nazis.” Elsewhere still, in arguing to cancel the screening of a pro-gay film about Stonewall that a group of student activists deemed in an open letter “discursively violent” toward members of the trans community, an undergrad student dismisses the idea of showing the film and then debating about it. “Critical discussion,” she says, “is simply a way of engaging in respectability politics.” Overall, the lack of engagement with liberal ideas is at least as striking as the substance of any radical ideas themselves.

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