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June 01, 2009

Matt and Derb

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Back here, Big Hollywood's Matt Patterson talked to me about conservatives and the arts. Today Matt explores the same topic with John Derbyshire.



UPDATE: TownHall's Ned Rice profiles Big Hollywood's Andrew Breitbart.

posted by Michael at June 1, 2009


An artsiness correlates highly with the personality trait Openness to Experience, which also happens to correlate highly with political liberalism.

What is interesting to me is that, while the people who make up any arts scene are almost monolithically on the left, the best artists are just as likely to be on the right. There is a rather large gap between artsy people and the actual artists, and that gap is interesting. I suspect it is because truly great artists tend to be much more appreciative of tradition, artistic and otherwise. It's not just about the new.

Posted by: Thursday on June 1, 2009 12:52 PM

the people who make up any arts scene are almost monolithically on the left

This is one of those phenomena of the modern age, beginning in the 17th century with the rise of middle-class patronage, and ending in the 19th century with the disappearance, in many part of Europe, of courtly, aristocratic and Church patronage. Once these were gone, many artists had to turn to the market to sell their work themselves, and many of them were ill-suited to the work by temperament. So a small number of them turned to nostalgia for the courtly past, or daydreamed of the Middle Ages, and a larger number looked forward to a future when there would be no more vulgar middle-class people or markets to cater to. Some of these hoped for government patronage, while a few of the most radical looked for the rise of a new classless society in which they would be supported and their work enjoyed freely as it should be, without the need for them to earn a living by it.
Present-day leftism in "artsy" circles unknowingly continues this tradition.

You're correct that a few of the greatest painters, writers, and musicians have tried to break free of it, but they're fairly rare. Coleridge, yes. Perhaps Degas was a real conservative - his family had barely survived the French Revolution. Unfortunately he was also a serious anti-semite. Others are hard to categorize by modern standards. Many Romantics in the 19th century admired Napoleon; does that make them Left or Right wing?

Posted by: Alias Clio on June 1, 2009 7:07 PM

I'm a professional musician who actually lives in Woodstock... the Woodstock, and I haven't played a gig in Woodstock in 20 years.

Interestingly, a female musician recently published a letter in the Woodstock Times, complaining that although she played all the time in town, she never made any money. I play a couple of gigs a week, usually in Jersey and Albany, and I make a decent second income from music.

20 years ago I did play in Woodstock. We had a club run by a good old boy named Marty, the Cafe Espresso. My band played there frequently, attracted a large audience, and we got paid pretty well. Marty's only criteria for hiring a band was that they sound good, and that the audience have fun and buy beer.

A group of radical leftists from the East Village bought the Espresso and quickly drove it to bankruptcy. They hired bands on the basis of leftist politics with the predictable result.

The female musician I mentioned plays in the sole remaining club in Woodstock. This club is the preserve of the hippie/leftist/feminist cult. You can't play there unless you mouth all the currently fashionable leftist cliches and appear at all the extreme leftist political affairs. The musicians who play there aren't musicians... they're propagandists. And, they can't play for shit either. I never set foot in this place because I'll be damned if I'll spend my Friday night listening to leftist agit-prop.

This is just to illustrate that the leftist dominance of the arts is quite often an act of suicide. Certainly, in Woodstock, leftist politics have killed what was once a thriving music scene.

From another perspective, the anti-development hysteria of Woodstock sabotaged every attempt over the past 40 years for the town to profit from its fame as a music town. The anti-development crowd defeated every attempt to build an entertainment complex that would make it possible for a musician to actually make a buck in his own home town.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on June 1, 2009 8:09 PM

As with architecture, it appears that ideology, this time political, has swallowed up craft, in this case musical craft, and a concern for connecting with people, in this case people in clubs who want to listen to music.

Tradition in architecture makes use of tried-and-true forms and methods. Same in music. Innovation for the sake of innovation is deadly, as is excessive a prioristic mental activity. There's a connection to something here that I'm maundering toward, but it's too early for me and I haven't had enough caffeine. But I think it has something to do with tradition, the body, pleasure, human nature and human scale: and their enemy, the overweening power of the unmoored intellect, thinking thinking thinking about everything...and not realizing it has lost its connection to everything that matters.

Or something to that effect.

Posted by: PatrickH on June 2, 2009 11:08 AM

I'm hearing a lot of whining from people here. Why is this discussion couched entirely in negative terms? All you talk about is what you are against and what you don't like. Stand and fight to be heard, you bunch of big babies!

Posted by: Ray Butlers on June 2, 2009 1:08 PM

Ray Butlers--

Why is this discussion couched entirely in negative terms? All you talk about is what you are against and what you don't like. Stand and fight to be heard, you bunch of big babies!

That's exactly what Shouting Thomas, who I hardly always agree with did, you big idiot.

Posted by: doug1 on June 2, 2009 6:04 PM

Doug, That's a big fail.

Posted by: Ray Butlers on June 2, 2009 10:10 PM

Anything to say to Thursday's point or Alias Clio's, Ray?

I shouldn't comment on the irony of somebody whining about the whining, couching his comments in negative terms about how comments here are couched in negative terms, only talking about what he doesn't like and what he's against. But I won't. Instead...

I'll invite Ray to stand and fight to be heard you big baby!

Posted by: PatrickH on June 2, 2009 11:50 PM


1. The personality trait explanation is a lot simpler.

2. Aristocratic and church patronage masked this fact.

3. A _lot_ more writers tend to be on the conservative side than you would think from running in artsy circles. See here:


Posted by: Thursday on June 3, 2009 11:10 AM

PatrickH - It's all about the bonmots, isn't it? Whoever makes the snottiest, most viscious comeback wins. You certainly scored higher than the guy who called me an idiot, but you still fail.

How rude of me to point out your rudeness.

Posted by: Ray Butlers on June 4, 2009 5:28 PM

Ray, anytime you want to contribute to the discussion here, you would be welcome. Give it a try.

Posted by: PatrickH on June 5, 2009 1:45 AM

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