speculation on the leftward tilt of popular culture

(Continuing on a question posed by miguel cervantes in the “Exceptionally Exceptional” comment thread – open to thoughts and suggestions for further development of the idea.)

There is no popular culture that is not in the broad sense a leftwing popular culture. The Left represents the spirit of progress driven by further extension of democratic rights – the education of the human race. America, all of the nonsense about “center-right country” to the contrary, is fundamentally a leftwing project. We are the Left before there was a “Left.”

The creative imagination has little difficulty breaking through to the underlying symbolic connections that measure the distance between where we are and where we imagine we should be, and expressing that distance in a dystopic deformation of what-is. A similar operation from the conservative side would compare a dystopia of what-is to the glories of what-was:  the virtues and values of the “fathers.” That is what drives Beckism-Palinism – “restoring honor” – but such a movement backward is on a fundamental symbolic level un-American, thus the compulsive need to mask it in hyper-patriotism. You could try exaggerating it creatively for the sake of a TV show, but you’d end up either with something like the film William Hurt was acting out in Kiss of the Spider Woman, or, by sheer logic of form, with the self-undermining “In a Mirror, Darkly” episodes of Star Trek:  Enterprise.

25 comments on “speculation on the leftward tilt of popular culture

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  1. Metaphysics
    The Oneness of the Right is exclusionary while that of the Left is inclusive.

    Neuroscience
    A person uses more of the right hemisphere of the brain to both make and consume art than he habitually uses. This hemisphere is more active in liberals than conservatives. So even conservatives become temporarily liberals when making or consumng art. (I just made that lest sentence up, but it’s at least plausible.)

    Economics (ie Teens are the big consumers, what do they want?)
    I’m Saving Myself For Marriage, Just Say No and Abba
    or
    Sex Drugs and Rock n Roll

  2. bob wrote:

    So even conservatives become temporarily liberals when making or consuming art.

    OR… they seek to impose programmatic conservatism on the product… and thus deform it.

    Got a reference on the neuroscience?

    Even and especially the foundational epic and tragic art of Greece was in this sense “liberal,” charting a decline or progress (depending upon your conservative or liberal perspective) from the “faith of the fathers.” Even prophetic “art” – the Bible, the Koran, etc. – unavoidably trace a decline/progress from the revelation they record, since receiving the revelation through a mediating object is obviously inferior to receiving it directly from the Horse’s Mouth.

    It is for this reason, approximately, that Plato (through his Socrates) advises that not art, but innovation in art, be outlawed in his Republic of Virtue. Similarly, he doesn’t, as is often wrongly stated, call for the outlawing of music, but for the outlawing of certain modes of music. He’s fine with the martial modes.

    These and other totalitarian strictures in The Republic are designed to overcome natural tendencies toward decay, and avoid the ills of tyranny, timocracy, oligarchy, and democracy.

    The great irony being, of course, that The Republic itself is so innovative. Since, among other things, it repeatedly exposes the need to lie to the people, to make up myths supporting various compulsory measures, and so on, the text itself would likely have be prohibited in the republic.

  3. “but such a movement backward is on a fundamental symbolic level un-American, thus the compulsive need to mask it in hyper-patriotism.”
    Brilliantly stated bit of social psychology there, CK. Love the way you directed things up to the video. Text and clip make for a mini-art movie.

  4. I did say I made it up…

    Anyway this, right hand column) although it probably supports your interpetation more than mine and is limited to music.(This site has some pretty wild stuff.)

    There’s a lot neuro stuff on how the brain processes art, but it’s a new and the theories are controversial.

    Not on the political point, but interesting and one could relate what he talks about to political brain mapping is this.

  5. @ CK MacLeod:

    since receiving the revelation through a mediating object is obviously inferior to receiving it directly from the Horse’s Mouth.

    never saw the movie – read the book solong ago that I don’t really remember so looked it up on Wiki. So which (direct or mediated) causes laughter, and which prayer?

  6. Actually lets consider just one element, private military contractors, a tool in the war on terror, yet from A Team reimagining to ’24, to Jericho, and NCIS they have been painted as ultimate evil, at the far end, wllling to wage a nuclear war, against the US to accomplish it’s goal. Look at how the military and intelligence have been generally
    framed, even in a comic book style like REDS. Shows like Cagney and Lacey to Miami Vice traded in the Christic Institute template back in the 80s and in the early 90s. Do I need to bring up Law & Order, although they sometimes McGuffin the main point

  7. @ bob:
    A friend of mine’s sister – the hot older girl that all of us desperately worshiped back in 8th-11th grade or so – ended up joining a cult whose leader’s revelation was “You can’t be serious.” So I’m sure that somewhere, if not in that very cult, someone believes that the truest prayer of all would have to be a laugh. I’m wondering if Nietzsche made some comment that could be construed that way.

    Anyway, the Horse’s Mouth book and movie would themselves be a step removed, big horsey strides removed, from the expression with which they play, and that expression itself would also be Vorstellung, as would whatever words emanated directly from the prophet, or even the words or pre- or super-verbal message from God converted by the prophet into words or converted by God through the prophet into words.

    It’s all only Vorstellung unless you are (one with) God.

  8. CK MacLeod wrote:

    I’m wondering if Nietzsche made some comment that could be construed that way.

    Of course he did. Every Nietzschian comment can be construed that way.

  9. @ bob:
    Trying’s not necessary… is the separating… Hey just noticed for the first time on this library version of I.E. that the comment box is way over here in the middle of the page…

  10. @ bob:
    If you if, or if you ain’t, my Buddha.

    A union and a unity are not quite the same concept. A union implies that different, relatively independent entities have come together and formed a front. A unity implies that that they are the same, though perhaps addressable from different aspects.

    Yet even unity, the One – or non-disunity, non-duality – to be spoken of, requires a concept, even if to be “suspended” as implicitly false, of its other. And so we end up at least with a duality of the true and the false, and a trinity of the true, the false, and the relationship of the true to the false, and the only way to avoid this logic chain, and further complications, is to declare against initiating the investigation, which is when the assertion of non-duality becomes nihilistic or classically Skeptical, and open to the critique of that position, including that on its own terms it refuses to take a position, allowing all of the rest of us to dismiss it.

    The German and very Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen described man and God as “correlated,” as each other’s “correlative.” Each requires the other, implicitly. So this “requiring” starts to seem as important as either term, as the actual “thing that’s going on.”

    Strauss looks at Cohen, at the prophets, at the history of philosophy back to the origins in the West, passes through the inescapability of the “Ideas,” via Plato and Plato’s Socrates, and then wonders if the Idea of Ideas, the cause of Ideas, doesn’t have to be the Good, which in that sense is something more than or different from any other idea: Doesn’t any investigation (or any revealed truth) somehow presume a “better”?

  11. @ CK MacLeod:

    If you if, or if you ain’t, my Buddha.

    I don’t understand what this means.

    Doesn’t any investigation (or any revealed truth) somehow presume a “better”?

    One’s not-knowing doesn’t automatically have ontological implications.

  12. @ CK MacLeod:

    Prime Cause is at least equally illogical as Beginiglessness.

    Whitehead’s famous “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

    Could be ammended replacing Plato with the idea of Prime Cause.

    Which is to say, the idea of idea.

  13. bob wrote:

    I don’t understand what this means.

    Maybe Scott does. Or Fuster. Or neither of them separately, but together they do.

    Oh, I got a man that’s always late
    Any time we have a date
    But I love him
    Yes I love him

    So I’m gonna walk up to his gate
    See if we can get it straight
    Cause I want him
    Yeah I intend to have him
    I’ll just ask him
    Is you is or is you ain’t my baby
    Well, the way you’re acting lately, well it makes me doubt
    You were still my baby, baby
    But it seems like my flame in your heart, well it’s just gone out

    A man is a creature
    That has always been strange
    Just when you’re sure of one
    You’ll find that he’s gone and made a change

    Is you is or is you ain’t my baby
    Well, maybye my baby found somebody new
    Or is my baby still my baby too

    Think of the above as a Ghazal song – separation from the other equally separation from God/unseparateness. (Or maybe it’s a counter-Ghazal, God’s complaint…)

    One’s not-knowing doesn’t automatically have ontological implications.

    I’m not sure that the opposite isn’t true. The problem would be that ontology is always epistemological – so for Nietzsche the all is always only irreducibly “will to power” which he strives to locate “beyond good and evil,” but can only be wrong to do so, as he knows, since the notion resolve back to replacing the false good with a better good. Strauss insists, repeatedly, that “the doctrine of the will to power is in a manner a vindication of God.” It’s worth noting in passing, and as indirect support, that the sentence “God is dead,” a sentence widely identified with Nietzsche, was given utterance by Martin Luther (or according to Luther by a critic of his from among the common members of his congregation), and brought to philosophical scrutiny by Hegel. Nietzsche was brought up in a pious Christian household, his beloved father a pastor. It would make psychological sense that his assault on Christianity would end up an unconscious vindication of Christianity.

  14. @ bob:
    Right, and continuing: What Strauss seems to understand, and as Thomas Pangle draws out (quotations from Strauss), is:

    If anything can be said to cause the ideas, it seems it can only be “the idea of the good, which is in a sense the cause of all ideas as well as of the mind perceiving them.” As higher than the ideas, the good can only with reservation be called an idea itself: it “becomes questionable whether the highest as Plato understands it is still properly called an idea.”

    First Cause vs Beginninglessness interferes with the fun only if you insist on a linear (non-Hegelian and unsupportable) notion of time. If you accomodate yourself to putting the Future (here the possible better) first, then it all works out fine. Beginninglessness is the First Cause.

  15. @ CK MacLeod:

    First Cause vs Beginninglessness interferes with the fun only if you insist on a linear (non-Hegelian and unsupportable) notion of time. If you accomodate yourself to putting the Future (here the possible better) first, then it all works out fine. Beginninglessness is the First Cause.

    I’m fine with non-linear time – my watch is set to it. But your formulation “B is FC” seems just verbal play.

    @ CK MacLeod:

    Doesn’t any investigation (or any revealed truth) somehow presume a “better”?

    Doesn’t “better” presume a temporarily prior “worse”?

  16. bob wrote:

    But your formulation “B is FC” seems just verbal play.

    Au contraire. If what is must be of what will be only, then beginninglessness is foretold, which means presumed – always will have set the thing in motion. bob wrote:

    Doesn’t “better” presume a temporarily prior “worse”?

    I think so. Socrates seemed to think so. Imperfection and the fall into time presume each other. Even the “this is perfect, that is perfect, perfect perfect perfect” implies an auditor imperfectly aware of his perfect awareness.

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