Friday, 09 January 2009

The long walk back to the real world. How do conservatives reconcile their cultural tastes with their partisan politics? I don’t mean generally, because generally the answer is they don’t think about their media consumption any more than your average liberal. I mean specifically, that is, when they do consider how the media they consume intersects with the beliefs they profess, what happens? Thanks to Andrew Breitbart, we now have a daily glut of valuable insight into what it is to be a conservative for whom music, literature and film don’t nadir after Beethoven, Shakespeare and Bogart. Admittedly, some of the revelations are old hat, as with Breitbart’s confession of how certain conservatives really feel about the working poor: Whoever cast the Boston grotesques that littered the film, my hat’s off to you. These profoundly ugly people really created a backdrop that made you want to root for the kid not to be found and brought back to her natural origins. But most of Big Hollywood is so awesomely counter-intuitive Walter Benn Michaels wouldn’t touch it with your ten-foot pole. Exhibit A: Evan Sayet’s post on Bruce Springsteen’s secret conservatism, in which he claims that, while Springsteen the multimillionaire, rock star with the mansion in Beverly Hills may be a Liberal, Bruce Springsteen the poet is one-hundred percent Republican. Those of you currently reading Dante in your sophomore English classes take note: Sayet someone out. Not that I need to tell you this, but the Commedia is written by Dante the Man about Dante the Pilgrim as narrated by Dante the Poet. The Poet is the fiction’s conceit—the character who remembers and recalls what happened after he found himself per una selva oscura—and is not to be treated coextensive with Dante the Man. I invoke Dante here because Springsteen, like Dante, is frequently confused for his narrators by people who should know better. No one reads “Caliban upon Setebos” and mistakes the theological musings of Prospero’s deformed manservant for a definitive statement of Browning’s philosophy; whereas with Springsteen, every word his narrators utter is an expression of his personal beliefs even when he opens with a lyric like “[m]y name is Joe Roberts.” By these lights, Springsteen the Poet is a conservative because Joe Roberts believes a “man [who] turns his back on his family, well, he just ain’t no good.” As that belief plugs neatly into the fallacy whereby family values are conservative values are Republican values, Springsteen the Poet would’ve been besotted by Sarah Palin and voting for John McCain. If that sounds simple-minded, you likely won’t be impressed by Sayet’s Sowell-lite philosophizing: liberals believe “man is born good and then corrupted by the institutions of society,” whereas conservatives believe “man is born with a dual and conflicting nature—capable of good and evil and everything in between—requiring cultural forces to help him tamp down the darker side and cultivate the good within.” By these druthers, any song in which options are weighed lilts conservative; any song that narrates the selection of the correct option must, therefore,...

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