September 29, 2005

All Great Artists are Right Wing(ish)

Or so says Ann Althouse in a post about the Bob Dylan doc "No Direction Home." (the claim is found in her comment at 12:33). She argues that the guy who sang "Masters of War" secretly has a very right wing personality.

But before you start chucking your copy of "Highway 61 Revisited" into the nearest rubbish bin, check out how Althouse defines being "right wing."
I'm not saying that the great artist adopts a right wing political ideology. If [sic] fact, [...] the great artist needs to separate himself [sic] from politics and certainly to get it out of his [sic] art. I'm saying there's something right wing about doing that... [I]t was not possible [for a great artist] to do what was needed to be a good lefty, which would require a strong focus on group goals and communal values[...]
I'm calling that right wing. It's certainly antithetical to left wing politics, which requires you to remain engaged and would require the artist to include politics in his art. The great artist sees that those requirements will drag him down.

My inclination is still to say very clearly and loudly "Bullshit," but it does give me pause--are true liberals really so concerned with communal values that they can't be powerful individuals?
In the sense of Mill's liberalism, yeah, probably so. The idea is to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people, so that essentially precludes the type of individualism practiced by "great artists." (Hello, Ayn Rand)

But this comment (later on Althouse's post) rocks her shit totally (I can't do better, so I'll just post it):
Conflating individualism with right-wing politics immediately leads to embarrassing rah-rah non sequiters [sic] like this. It's another link in a long chain of National Review-style "everyone I like is on my political side, whether they know it or not" arguments. Don't your musings imply something like this:
"To be a soldier is inherently left wing. A soldier may have some superficial, naive, righty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, a person who will put aside his personal preferences and goals to obey orders, even laying down his life for his fellow man, shows a powerful recognition of the greater good."

It is awfully nice, though, of Althouse to expose the right wing as a bunch of narcissistic, politically unengaged, selfish solipsists.

In other news, all things not specifically focused on group goals and communal values, like pot-smoking, pornography, and watching Seinfeld re-runs have been labelled "right wing."


  1. Anonymous5:05 PM

    The idea that Bob Dylan adheres to any political ideology is nonsense---he is a far too mysterious, ellipical (self-created) personality for the imposition of this or that credo.

    By the way, for all those who hold up Dylan as some icon of the leftwing agenda: he wrote 'When the ship comes in,' his most wrenching song of 'social justice,' in response poor room service at a fivestar hotel.

  2. That song's actually a covert message that hotel employees should unionize.

    Yeah, I'm just full of shit.