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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Art And Lies

I haven't had a good discussion here at The Answer Guy Online in a while.

I found something over at Altercation (scroll down) that interested me.

He postulates that the three great bands of the last 20 years (U2, REM, and Radiohead) are all politically minded and have a worldview that skews decidedly left-of-center. He then extrapolates slightly to include The Clash (more explicitly political than even any of the above) and Talking Heads (not as overt, but various band members have made it clear where they stand on political issues, and it did sometimes show up in the music.)

There must be something to this. As a bleeding heart, I'd like to think it's somehow intrinsic.
But there might be an extrinsic explanation...

1. Is it that music critics lean to the left? Although there is no band on that list that has not sold millions of records, to the extent that most "critical darling"-type bands have political leanings, they are to the left. And this is true across the board, across genres, and whether they can sell out arenas like U2 or are happy playing in coffeehouses.

2. Is it that people who intensely love music tend in this direction? Do you think George W. Bush ever wanted to play the saxophone? Can you imagine Tom DeLay or George Will rocking out?

3. Is the media controlled by a guild of liberals? While the music press leans to the left, it would be odd if all the mega-corporations that control the recording, broadcasting, and promotion industries were mandating the distribution of left-wing propaganda. The nation's largest owner of radio stations - also one of the nation's biggest concert promoters - is in fact run by conservatives and visibly promotes conservative values.

My own pet hypothesis concerning art is that it is about communicating what the powers that be in a society may not want to hear. What you cannot say directly, you may be able to express on the canvas, the song, the screen, or in the text of a novel. If what you have to say is the same thing that the king wants said, well, it's much easier to say it directly. If what you have to say is something else, it may be necessary to use one's creativity to communicate it in a different fashion, lest you get your head chopped off.

It takes more creativity and more spirit to criticize or ridicule the king, in all the king's various modern forms, than it does to praise or exalt him.

I suppose I should all that there is something about right-wing artists and their art that I find offensive in such a way that I know I probably shouldn't. I can read read right-of-center commentary well enough, but I find, for instance, jingoistic country music utterly nauseating. In attempt to explain why I felt so strongly about this, I developed the above pet hypothesis.

But I could be totally off base....


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