Tag Archives: Intellectualism

An Excess of Space

20 Feb

It has come to me that one of the issues that plagues the Art World these days is an excess of museum (or performance hall) space. Tax money is spent on a great many museums, and one of the consequences is that there is actually space available for exhibits of sophomoric “Statement” Art like Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ.

Now, I don’t want to censor Mr. Serrano’s little anti-Christian temper tantrum; if he wants to travel the country at his own expense, putting on art shows, more power to him. And if some trendy Intellectuals want to band together to defray his costs, more power to them, too.

But, at least to my mind, the fact that space was found in tax supported museums for this, and other notably vulgar displays indicates that there is too much of such space available. Surely if museum curators had to decide whether to display Piss Christ or a treasured Van Gogh, the Van Gogh would be hung, and Serrano could go hang.

Witch Hunt

9 Jan

One of the keystones of the Liberal version of 20th Century history is the 1950’s Anti-Communist Witch Hunt. Books have been written about it, films made about it, children are taught about it in school. It is an important part of the Liberal/Progressive collective self-image.

It is also largely bushwah.

The public perception of the Salem Witch Trials is based largely on the play THE CRUCIBLE in which teenage girls make baseless accusations against innocent people and cause their deaths. In point of fact the actual historical Trials had both more complicated causes and more complex endings. But THE CRUCIBLE, which was deliberately written to echo the author’s perceived persecution at anti-communism hearings, is routinely taught in public schools, and thus strongly influences the public perception of the Trials.  When something is described as a “Witch Hunt” it is tacitly understood that no actual “Witches” exist, and that anyone caught up in the hunt is an innocent victim. We Modern Educated People are invited to feel superior to those stupid Puritans who believed in witches, and to make the jump to believing that in the modern “Witch Hunt” we are being asked to condemn, there also isn’t any actual quarry. And in the case of the “Anti-Communist Witch Hunt” that simply isn’t so.

Under Stalin, the USSR’s intelligence apparatus ran dozens, possibly hundreds, of agents in the United State both during and after the Second World War. This is irrefutable; we have proof from Soviet era records as well as from contemporary intelligence intercepts. The American Communist Party was substantially funded by the USSR for years. Anger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were demonstrably guilty. Many, if not all, of the “victims” of the “Hollywood Blacklist” were passionate Stalinists who worked seriously, if probably ineffectually, for a Communist Revolution.

This isn’t to say that Senator Joe McCarthy was a hero. He was almost certainly a political bully and general jackass and any damage he may have done to International Communism seems likely to have been accidental. But to the Political Left he was an absolute gift. If he hadn’t been real, they would have needed to invent him.

Because, you see, without the myth that the hunt for Communist agents in the United States was an unjust persecution of enormous proportions the Left would have to face the fact that the Communists of that era were a selection of moderately stupid dupes of a genuine Monster. That, in turn, might force them to examine the stupidity of the later dupes who fell headlong for Mao, who was , if anything, an even bigger monster. And much of their cherished air of Moral Superiority would evaporate like morning mist on a hot summer’s day.

The facts are that there was some justification for various Leftist Socialist delusions at the beginning of the 20th Century, but that by 1950 anyone who wasn’t at least dimly aware that the USSR was a brutal dictatorship was ideologically blinded, or exceptionally stupid, or both. The Intellectual Left embraces Communism and related impositions because such systems hold out the mirage of a society run by Intellectuals. And never mind that the Intellectual Class of any nation that suffers a Communist Revolution is almost instantly liquidated by the thugs and psychopaths that always seem to end up actually running things.

The Western Intellectuals have been allowed to wrap themselves in false Moral Superiority for far too long. They are no improvement on any other self-selected elite of would-be aristocrats. They have not, in the West, ever, suffered anything like the persecution they deserve for promoting a system that spreads death and misery the way Communism does. They should be told in no uncertain terms that their Witch Hunt narrative is hogwash, their Moral Superiority bushwah, and their suitability to tell other people how to live as illusory as a syphilitic Bishop’s.

Vice

31 Oct

I’d like to talk a little about Vice. I’m for it. Or, rather, I’m against being against it. The older I get the less persuaded I am that the laws intended (ostensibly) to rein in Drug Use, Alcoholism, Prostitution, and, Pornography do any good in any way commensurate with the harm that they cause.

And the thing is, there are people clamoring to add things to the list of Vices that say volumes about the impulse to control that motivates the Crusaders. People are Crusading against Genetically Modified food, against High Fructose Corn Syrup, against Sugar. A Crusade against Tobacco has been going on nearly as long as I’ve been alive. Some of these Crusades appear, for the moment, to have  some  basis in fact, but many of them are simply the prejudices of the Crusaders, which they want to impose on everybody.

Now, this is hardly new. Read just a little history and you are sure to encounter previous Morals Crusades; factory owners who forbade this and that, Prohibition, and so on. And, often, we take a very superior attitude toward these moralizing ancestors. And then go right out and do the same thing in the name of “The War On Drugs” or “The Obesity Epidemic”.

(Aside; how the hell can we have an Obesity Epidemic? An epidemic is a widespread occurrence of a communicable disease. Is that why the thin people are so hysterical? They think they’re being exposed to Fat Germs?)

In my Cranky opinion the difference between a Victorian Christian busybody pestering people about drink and church attendance and a Modern Secular busybody who wants to restrict what people eat is not visible to the naked eye. I can understand some genuine concern about Prostitutes and Drug Users, but the laws that are used to “Help” them don’t seem to achieve much good, and do appear to have all kinds of unpleasant fallout. The War On Drugs costs huge amounts of money, is the primary cause of most of the SWAT raids gone bad that you can read about on the internet, and attempts to ‘close loopholes’ that previously allowed people the authorities were “sure” were guilty have brought us “Asset Forfeiture”. And Asset Forfeiture is, frankly, the return of the Sheriff of Nottingham without the colorful Medieval costumes. I can accept that drugs like Cocaine, Heroin, and even Marijuana ruin lives. So does alcohol, but it only took us thirteen years to realize that banning that was a huge mistake. Why can’t we drop this idiotic “War? If legalizing everything is a mistake, we can always ban it again.

The current panic about “Human Trafficking” is simply a long discredited Victorian Witch Hunt being recycled by modern Feminists (look up “White Slavery”), and actually accomplishes little other than to place women accused of being prostitutes into the paws of people who absolutely will not listen to them, unless they stick to the Human Trafficking Hysteria script. Who does this actually help? Is it mean of me to suggest that the driving force behind it is a bunch of crabby women who are waking up to the realization that some men would rather pay for sex than put up with THEM?

As for Gambling, where do agents of the Law get the unmitigated gall to raid poker games when every state in the Union is running a Numbers Racket? That’s what a State Lottery really is, except that the traditional Mob run racket offered better odds and probably had more honest books.

Vice isn’t crime that one person visits on another. Vice is what we do to ourselves. It arguably isn’t good for us, but the history of Government attempts to stifle it isn’t impressive. In fact it’s often revolting.

The progress of civilization is seen in the degree to which the common man is able to tell all the people who want to order him about (for his own good) to climb a tree. Anti-Vice Crusades do not forward civilization.

Censorship and Porn

17 Oct

I was born in 1961, which means that I started to be interested in nude girls during the period when the standards for ‘girlie mags’ was shifting from the Playboy standard (no pubic hair, early 1960’s), to the Penthouse standard (soft focus pubic hair, 1969), and thence to the Hustler standard (sharp focus genitalia, 1974). For a while it looked like we’d be up the plumbing with a camera probe by the end of the ’70’s. Of course, as an adolescent I couldn’t buy these magazines. And if you think that stopped me (or any other motivated boy) from getting my hands on them, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you.

The feminists of the day hated this. They asserted, with some justice, that pornography was demeaning to women. It’s hard to argue, but a lot of everyday things are demeaning. Ask anybody who’s worked in fast food. If they had merely called Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and all their imitators tacky and in dreadful bad taste I would agree with them. I’d still look at porn, mind you, but I don’t pretend that it’s Great Art.

The problem is that they want to censor pornography. They want the government to ban it lest their tender sensibilities get hurt. Which means they have learned nothing from the history of the women’s movement; the governments of the past have routinely used censorship of pornography to punish those who want to educate about birth control. Censorship is not a power to grant to the State lightly, because once the State has that power over a category of expression, all manner of material that the State finds bothersome will be classified as belonging to that category.

And banning nudie magazines, or x-rated films, won’t do away with them. Certainly not in this day of cheap printers and digital video. All that it will do is hide it, to a degree, from the feminists, while removing any legal protections from the women who, for whatever reason, pose for it.

I have scant patience for feminism, as a rule. The vast majority of its champions strike me as upper middle class nitwits concerned almost exclusively with their own comfort ahead of anything resembling justice, or common sense. And they seem to religiously avoid anything really difficult, such as the treatment of women in Islamic countries.

I willingly admit, however, that The Sexual Revolution was for the most part NOT to their advantage. There is a song by Stephen Stills called LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH, and every time I hear the line

“there’s a girl sitting right next to you
And she’s just waiting for something to do”,

I cringe. I may not LIKE Andrea Dworkin and her sisterhood of “all heterosexual intercourse is rape” feminists, but when I consider that LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH was performed by a notorious Liberal, I can begin to understand why they are as mad as so many March hares on the subject.

But that doesn’t make them right. Pitiable, maybe. But not right. The spread of porn may be annoying, but it is far less dangerous than a State that believes it has the right and duty to censor what its citizens see.

So, I am against preventing the publication of images or writing that disturbs, annoys, or even demeans people. I do think that local populations should have some degree of control over what is displayed publicly. If a town wants to mandate that “Adults Only” publications must be sold in plain wrappers, I think they should be allowed to. I DON’T think that any local groups should be able to decide that people may not buy ‘filth’ over the internet, or view internet sites that feature it. I DO think that they should be allowed to limit what can be accessed on computers in publicly owned buildings, such as Libraries, because then it isn’t the viewer paying for it, it’s the taxpayers (at least in part). And nobody should be required to pay for something they consider demeans them, unless it is explicitly within the purview of the State (such as War; it’s right there in the Constitution.).

And, having said this, I’m not sure than there is a legal and constitutional way for local populations to do what I think they should be able to do. It needs thought. More thought than simply “Ban it all” or “No Censorship”.

Vulgar

3 Oct

I should like to propose a renaissance of Vulgar. Not of Vulgar things, of which there is an ostentatious oversupply, but of the idea we can say that something is Vulgar, meaning; common, tacky, unartistic, and tiresome.

The thing is, in the culture wars every time something is said or shown that people don’t like, they reach for the Nuclear Option of claiming Offense and demanding that speech be silenced, ads be renounced, and so forth. Now, in the first place, since when did being un-offended become a Right? In the second, do we really want to give to some specific governing body the authority to remove the offensive? What if they decide that they are running things and they are offended by US?

The problem is the we have, as a society, abandoned the idea that it is possible to condemn speech without censoring it. The Free Speech radicals of the 1960’s shouted so loudly and to such effect that we aren’t prepared to draw the line anymore, for fear of being called names. And I, for one, propose to grit my teeth and accept the charge that I am unhip.

The problem with Rap Music isn’t that it crosses the line into what should be censored for the common good; for one thing I’m not convinced that such a line exists. The problem with Rap music is that it is tiresome, crude, and the opposite of clever. In a word; vulgar.

The problem with NEA exhibits like Andres Seranno’s PISS CHRIST isn’t that they are blasphemous. If God is insulted, Serrano will have a chance to explain himself in person before too long. The problem is that a group of self-appointed Intellectuals have decided that it is Art; which is absurd. It is an annoying attempt by a profoundly adolescent mind to get attention by attacking religion in an unoriginal manner with bathroom humor. In a word; vulgar.

The problem with the pronouncements of the Westboro Baptist Church isn’t that they are terrorists, or even that they are Bigots. Many a well spoken Bigot has had a long and successful public career (I’m looking at YOU Al Sharpton). The problem is that they are grating, boring, unoriginal, unintelligent …. vulgar. They don’t deserve to be spotlighted; they deserve to be identified and dismissed.

The term Vulgar just punctures SOOO many overinflated pretensions. It condemns and dismissed as unimportant at the same time.  It doesn’t trespass on people’s right to Free Speech; it simply proclaims the equal right of the people to ignore (or refrain from paying for) the speech of the adolescent, the tiresome, the crude, and the tacky. It is especially wonderful when applied to the so-called Fine Art that the Progressive Art World has inflicted on us for the past three quarters of a century or so. PISS CHRIST isn’t Fine Art; it’s a three dimensional political cartoon, of the type usually published by practitioners of what used to be (rightly) called Gutter Journalism. The claims that it is Art don’t even deserve the courtesy of debate; they are absurd and indefensible. Nothing like PISS CHRIST, that could be duplicated by a low grade moron in an afternoon, qualifies as Art. There is no craftsmanship in it. It is vulgar. It shouldn’t be censored, it should be ignored.

Join me. Call something vulgar today.

Funding the Arts

6 Sep

I recently had a small argument with my step-mother-in-law. Now, the woman is a saint, on numerous grounds. But she is also a reflexive Liberal. For years she sported a “FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS VOTE REPUBLICAN” bumper-sticker, and couldn’t understand why it bothered me, until I pointed out that the sentiment it expressed was that it was acceptable to interfere with somebody’s right to vote simply because you disagreed with their politics. Once I put it in those terms, that sticker came off.

I was complaining about ‘public art’ that was deliberately insulting, and she said “Well, I think that society should support the arts”, as if that clinched matters. And, with the help of a “Drop it” from my Lady, I did manage drop it. But I can’t agree with her.

I love museums and public art galleries. I always have. And, like most people who benefit from public funds, I would like to see the government continue to pay for my fun. Which isn’t the same as believing it’s right that they do so.

The NEA funds a lot of ‘edgy’ art. New art, that hasn’t had the test of time. Art that, in some cases, seems aimed at outraging some of the people who pay for it (If you have another explanation for Andres Serrano’s PISS CHRIST, I would love to hear it). Now, I have no use for people who might want to prevent others from making artistic statements, however offensive.  But there is a big difference between not censoring something, and paying for it.

It’s easy to dismiss the complaints of people you don’t like. And the intellectual Left really doesn’t like Christians who take their religion very seriously. Oh, they’ll welcome pacifist Christians when it’s time to protest a war, but the idea that Jesus Christ was a savior, and that immersing a figure of him in urine is insulting …. well, they don’t really have a lot of sympathy.

And neither would I, although I was raised Christian and respect the religion. But the NEA is tax money. It is collected from people under the threat of prison.

Throughout history, rulers have used tax money wrung from the peasantry and spent it on whatever art they damned well pleased. And if the peasantry took offense at the Art their betters bought for the palace, well, that was what the executioner’s axe was for. But we are supposed to be a republic. The idea that a social elite gets to decide how to spend tax money on non-essentials like art without giving consideration to who may be offended is, in itself, offensive.

Now, if the people who believe that society should support the arts are willing to stand by when something that offends them gets funding, that would be a matter of principle, and I would respect them. Not agree with them, but respect them. And, frankly, I strongly suspect that my step-mother-in-law falls into that category. But I also strongly suspect that a substantial number would have a hissy cat-fit if they discovered that the NEA was funding the restoration and exhibition of, say, THE BIRTH OF A NATION or TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Both are widely regarded as legitimate works of art. Wildly offensive, true, because of what they celebrated, but art nonetheless.

So, where do you draw the line? Should we carefully not offend Islamic sensibilities with paintings of Mohammad? And how is that different from Serrano’s little in-joke? And if the answer is only that, thus far, for all the attempts of various pillocks to draw parallels, Christians don’t assassinate people for drawing pictures, and Islamics do.

The other issue is, if ‘art’ cannot exist without support from tax money, what makes its support worthwhile? We are not a poor nation. We support a great deal of art, voluntarily. And, bluntly put, I have small patience with those denizens of the Art World who disparage anything that is popular enough to survive without public monies.

Tax money supports Opera, but not Heavy Metal. Why? Tax money funds the exhibition of works by Roy Lichtenstein. Why not the originals of newspaper strips and comic books? The whole issue of spending tax money on luxury items like art is full of pits and hidden land mines.

Frankly, if the Liberal Intellectual Left wants to go to exhibits of art like PISS CHRIST, they should expect to have to pay for it out of their own pockets. They are not, by and large, poor. Certainly not by global or historical standards. Sure, if the money is not collected from the Great Unwashed they will blow it on art that THEY like (or, you know, food). And that art might be in dreadful bad taste. But, lets admit it, so is a great deal of art in prestigious museums now. And I’m not talking exclusively about recent art, either. I mean, how many renditions of THE MADONNA AND CHILD can you really look at before they start resembling Elvis on black velvet?

Just how bad a Traffic jam?

11 Jun

A lot of people, some of whom I respect and some of whom I don’t, are very concerned about what, these days, is called Human Trafficking. The concern is that young women from low economic backgrounds, or in socially vulnerable positions, are forced into prostitution and become, basically, sex-slaves. If true, this is a major issue.

The problem I have with it is that it closely resembles a recurring public hysteria, the White Slavery panic, that has on several occasions proved to be so much piddle and wind. The 19th century saw either several separate White Slavery scares in American and England, or one long one that waxed and waned. White Slavery also became a popular trope in the 1920’s. Retrospective examination of these scares has tended to the conclusion that they were largely illusory, based on several factors including but not limited to social concern about increasing license among young women, immigrant populations that didn’t adhere to the sexual mores of the status quo, and the need to sell newspapers.

So, what about the current concern about Human Trafficking? Is this more of the same, or is it a genuine problem? Or is there are genuine problem AND a certain amount of bovine excreta? It isn’t all that easy to tell. In common with the historical White Slavery panics, the Human Trafficking narrative tends to assume that all Prostitutes are victims who couldn’t possibly choose to sell sex. This seems a very upper-class white woman’s view of the world, and historical studies have repeatedly shown that, at least in the past, there wasn’t a great deal of truth to it. But it is easy to dismiss the Victorian and Neo-Victorian attitudes about sex and condemn all concern about Prostitution as growing out of them. Some women dislike sex and are miserable when engaged in it. I feel much the same way about the vast majority of sports; there were one or two that I liked in school, but most of them were wastes of time at best and miserable impositions at worst. Neither of us is necessarily wrong, maladjusted, or evil. But we aren’t a good sole basis for making public policy about either of these popular human pastimes. And at the same time, our odd reaction to said pastimes does not invalidate all concerns about their regulation or the possibility that people are being coerced into ‘playing’.

All Politically Correct invocations of Multicultural Understanding aside, Islamic societies have historically spread their customs of slavery and the subjugation of women, and the current crop do not seem to represent a change in this regard. I would be unsurprised to discover that Islamic countries around the world, and Islamic communities in the West were practicing Human Trafficking on a significant scale. But, for the most part, the people who are publicly involved in the fight against Human Trafficking do not seem to be focused on Islam. Further, their proposed solutions simply assume that no woman wants to be a prostitute; they don’t concentrate on protecting women from pressure to make choices they might choose to make differently if they could, they make the entire subject of sex for money taboo. That doesn’t stop the trade, puts the girls in a position of horrible vulnerability, and encourages government corruption.

It also, of course, keeps the (mostly) White, Middle Class women who are the backbone of any women’s movement from having to compete with sex-for-pay. Given the way that they have managed to skew divorce proceedings, child custody, and  other such issues against men, one can readily see why they would feel the need for such protection. There is scant rational reason for a single man to marry these days. Now, I am married, and I am VERY happy with my irrational reasons. But marriage, as it exists today in light of numerous court decisions and social changes, is a trap for men. And far too many feminists apparently consider sex the the bait in that trap.

I think that Human Trafficking probably does exist. To the extent that it exists outside of barbaric societies (such as Fundamentalist Islam) it would seem to require the anti-prostitute policies being touted by the anti-trafficking advocates. I don’t insist that that is a goal, but it clearly seems to be a symptom. I think, on consideration, that my response to the Call To Arms over Human Trafficking is to want to legalize Prostitution, so that the women who engage in it can seek the protection of the Law if they so desire, and the oppression of the more disgusting Islamic customs, such as stoning rape victims, forced marriages, and anything that smacks of slavery. And let the women who want to have vapors over strippers, prostitution, and pornography retire to their fainting couches.