Why has Conservatism inexplicably become our generation’s Hollywood Squares?

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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181 Responses

  1. Meat Loaf says:

    people so starved for spotlights long since faded that they’ll say they’re conservative just to get gigs like talking to Sean Hannity for five minutes

    Oh I would do anything for fame, but I won’t do that…on second thought, yes I will.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    “Can someone explain to me why there is such a huge disparity in Democratic and Republican celebrity endorsements year after year?”

    Because dumb people think by linking images in their brains, and therefore “old white guy with ‘R’ next to his name was quoted in a HuffPo article saying that he hated gay people, this means Mitt Romney is evil”.Report

  3. George Turner says:

    Did you think the sliver of Americans whose main job skill is pretending (and whose secondary job skill is generally waiting tables) would vote any other way?Report

  4. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Bart Starr just endorsed Romney! Bart Starr, man. Game over.

    Seriously, I agree there’s something in the creative arts that likely correlates to political radicalism–creativity is akin to problem-solving.

    How creative actors and other such celebrities are is another question. Knowing my share of them here in LA [and the wife is in the biz], they’re conformist pinheads stuck in 9th grade. Eeew, Rush Limbaugh. You like himmmm???

    Accordingly, there is a danger in coming out in Hollywood–conservative is the new gay, as they say. Only an Eastwood—who hires people more than he himself is hired—can operate with impunity. Bruce Willis was untouchable box office gold, and even he kept his righty sympathies on the downlow. Otherwise, even a successful mid-level star is going to pay the price.


    And God help the rest.

    Is it changing? This says so


    but I don’t think so. When an article like that has to list Scott Baio and Stephen Baldwin, it’s clearly still a hard row to hoe.Report

  5. Scott says:

    Who gives a crap which A-list celebrities black or white have endorsed Barry? How many folks are going to base their vote on what a bunch of Hollywierd folks think? By the way, you forgot to mention that Samuel L. Jackson is atleast honest enough to admit that he endorsed Barry b/c he is black.Report

  6. Self-promotion alert:


    So much of what’s cool is anathema to so much of what today’s conservatives believe. That’s why they’re stuck with the uncool celebrities (mostly).Report

  7. Paul Barnes says:

    I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the political sympathies of the lower level actors. They tend to be social liberals (usually of an extreme variety). Another possible explanation is the distortion of sexual orientation within the acting field (I am quite sure the number of gay men is grossly disproportionate compared to the national average). In other words, a lot of it is demographics.Report

  8. MaxL says:

    It should be the case that artists are interested in the new and novel, in challenging the status quo. I have no idea about celebrities or show business suits, they are a different beast.

    I mean, if you win an Oscar, per your example, chances are you have devoted some real time and effort to the art. Beyond the craft of it there is the drive, the temperament to be devoted to something so completely impractical. No doubt you’d want to talk about your useless, impractical pursuit with others on a similar journey without having to self censor contraversial topics or risk being labelled “other” or “un-American”. The people and party that favor the status quo, authority, order and religious doctrine/dogma are not exactly welcoming to people who challenge those things.

    Even more reliably liberal than actors, who really do get caught up in the celebrity business end of show business a lot, are musicians. Think of all the stories about bands who don’t want their music played by Republicans at their events. And this must be surprising to no one. I mean, how many hippie liberals get in a snit about those kids playing their music and growing their hair? None that I recall. Its always the church ladies and the cocks of the walk with their bluster and certainty and golden oldies that make life miserable for them. If I recall correctly, those are the people who shat on every young artist, always and everywhere. Creative kids are disruptive in class.

    In every small town I know, all every art-y kid ever wants is to get the hell out. We do, and we never go back. Newly minted big city liberals and libertines and un-Americans, all.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to MaxL says:

      As someone with an MFA in theatre directing, these are all good points. Though I also had the practicality to get a JD. They are not going to tolerate me talking about Sarah Kane and her deep and dark plays at the country club or mega church. They probably would not even tolerate or like Beckett and Chehkov.

      There were some Republicans in my program but not many. One of them came from lots of money.Report

      • MaxL in reply to NewDealer says:

        Do you think it’s only possible to talk about radical, liberal ideas in polite company when they are safely distant in history? Also, barely along this line of thought but nagging me lately, is this article on History as Radical Skepticism from Professor McGrumpy: http://600transformer.blogspot.com/2012/10/professor-grumpys-historical-manifesto.htmlReport

        • NewDealer in reply to MaxL says:

          I suppose it depends on what we mean by polite company.

          There have always been upper-middle class people of a liberal bent who are not exactly bomb-throwing radicals and fully participate in upper-middle class economic culture but do take a liking towards less than mainstream art. I grew up in a very well to do but also very liberal-Democratic (mainly because we were mainly Jewish and Asian with some Italian/Irish Catholic thrown in and part of the incomed-rich over the business-owner rich*) suburb. Many of the adults in the community were fairly artistically sophisticated and not the country club set. My parents encouraged my artistic life (though I think they are glad about the JD) and take my art recommendations seriously and were willing to see avant-garde stuff. They are still capitalists. My parents are liberal but far from bomb-throwing radicals.

          Then there is the other half of polite company that needs the distance of history and even that might not work. Brecht has been dead for almost 60 years. He can still shock people. Genet still shocks. Some people still find Matisse, Picasso, Kaddinsky, and company to be too radical and out there.

          *I think when it comes to the upper-middle class you can make a division in politics based on the source of money. The income rich like Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Scientists, Designers, Architects tend to be liberal/Democratic. The business owner/Capital rich tend to be Republican. I’m not quite sure why being income rich makes one more Democratic but it seems to be a good indication.Report

          • bookdragon in reply to NewDealer says:

            That last is a good observation. One would think engineers would lean more conservative, but ~80% of those I know (self included) tend to be more liberal/Democratic. Ditto lawyers and the trend is more pronounced for scientists. (I don’t know enough doctors well enough to talk politics with them, but the nurses I know tend to lean liberal).Report

            • NewDealer in reply to bookdragon says:

              Well the Koch brothers are MIT educated engineers!

              Seriously, a lot of the original modern conservative movement was done by engineers. Orange County in CA was a big home to the Goldwater-right movement and many of the core supporters were engineers. At least according to the histories on the modern conservative movement that I have read.

              Out of all the professional groups, I think engineers are the most likely to split between strong-left and strong-right. I’ve known many liberal engineers and many super-conservative engineers.

              My guess would be that engineers swing more liberal now because of the Christian Fundamentalist War on Science. I imagine most of them believe in evolution and other scientific theories that conservatives oppose. If they are in computers, they are probably against the rampant xenophobia of the modern conservative movement.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                My experience with engineers is that they tend to the right. Two caveats: (a) Most of the engineers back home are aerospace or chemical and aligned with conservative industry, and (b) I think it depends on age and racial demographics. Young engineers seem to be more liberal (and not in the “not yet mugged by reality” way).

                Doctors tend to the right, though the same caveats about “which kind of doctor” and demographics apply. If you look at primary care, obstetrics, and academic medicine, it’ll likely be liberal or less conservative than everywhere else.Report

              • Relatedly, I talk about doctors and politics here.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                For engineers, it probably matters what kind of engineer they are:

                Almost all the engineers I know are either civil engineers or work in computers/internet/Silicon Valley stuff. These are two of the least conservative industries out there. Silicon Valley might be the most Democratic leaning business outside of Trial Lawyers.

                I imagine doctors politics deals with geography. Doctors in blue areas are going to be Democratic. Doctors in red areas are going to be Republican.

                Though as far as I can tell, we inhabit two polarized sides of the Continental Divide. I grew up and have only lived in areas that can be described as the bluest of the blue. The only exception being that my undergrad was in a conservativeish area but my alma mater itself was very left. There were a few nearby towns with left-wing vibes as well.

                As far as I can tell, you grew up and have lived in areas that are the reddest of the red.

                We both seem to have grown up in upper-middle class professional areas and this shades our view. My hometown was Democratic no matter the profession even if it was a traditionally conservative profession. You seem to have grown up in an area where a plaintiff’s lawyer might be Republican even though plaintiff’s lawyers almost always swing Democratic.

                Doctors in the NYC-Metro and San Francisco-Bay Area are going to be Democratic even if the profession tends to swing right.

                And I still believe in the demographic trends of the Republicans scaring away professionals and people with higher ed degrees because of their constant pushing against climate change and evolution.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                You are broadly correct, especially as I talk about engineers. When it comes to doctors, it’s based as much on what I have read as much as those doctors I personally know. (In fact, the latter sometimes contradicts the former.)

                I agree with your last paragraph, though I think it’s more abstract that climate change and evolution most specifically. I say in my post about doctors, a question of reluctance to support the party that went from George H. Bush to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin.Report

              • dhex in reply to Will Truman says:

                “Doctors in the NYC-Metro and San Francisco-Bay Area are going to be Democratic even if the profession tends to swing right.”

                this has generally not my experience, though i cannot speak for sf. i don’t even think i could lock it down by specialty, beyond their often having the same disease as everyone else in america, namely a belief that their competency in one area means they understand things well outside that competency.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                Many software engineers of my acquaintanceship are libertarian (often of the “I make a lot of money; what’s wrong with those other people?” variety.) Many others are liberal. I know very few who are social conservatives, and the war on science is a significant part of that.Report

              • I almost added, though then removed, a special thing to say “excluding computer and software engineers”… also civil engineers. That was what had me thinking “Actually, most engineers I know tend towards chemical and aeronautics. I should mention that!” (I should have added “mechanical” in there. Some electrical, too.)

                Anyhow, I tend to put software engineers in a different category when talking about engineers and don’t typically include them. Not that they are less engineery, just living in a different world.Report

            • Kim in reply to bookdragon says:

              This is a new thing, and part of a concerted effort on the part of the Democrats to stop being so anti-science crazy.Report

          • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

            The person who made his own business is still Democrat. Lamont, for example — the man who didn’t want to run, until people said “nobody else will. your turn, sucker.”

            He also shops at Costco, because once a pennypincher, always a pennypincher.Report

        • George Turner in reply to MaxL says:

          I have serious doubts about Professor Grumpy’s project

          You might enjoy The Killing of History by Keith Windshuttle.Report

          • MaxL in reply to George Turner says:

            Thanks for the referral. I’m not familiar with the title, but just read the excerpts and review on Amazon. I think it could be a good jump off point for a debate not just about history but also about what makes a good story and the value of shifting the point of view. I have to admit that after living abroad for a few decades, I have a lot more sympathy for the idea that there is no such thing as a single, clear moral arc to any of our stories, however much we may want it to be so. And the “official” story, beaten to fit the current Myth in need of fluffing, usually bears very little resemblance to what you’ll find first hand.Report

          • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            One of Windshuttle’s points is that the study of history requires lots of time and dedication to “raw data”, sifting through the period letters, court records, documents, and artifacts, to establish what is known, what is not, and what can or can’t be known. Without the firm anchor of all that data, history becomes nothing more than storytelling and should move to the fantasy literature department.

            An example of that was addressed by the bookNumbers From Nowhere by David Henige, addressing the debate over the pre-contact population of the New World. The first couple of chapters are a tour-de-force of academic argument, showing that the whole narrative of a massive Indian genocide from disease and war was spun from no evidence whatsoever, and that history can never answer the question put to it in that debate because you can’t count something that isn’t there to be counted, and that left no countable traces when it disappeared. Many of the population estimates use the same methods to count Orcs in Middle Earth, with equal accuracy, too.

            Some of the book can be a slog, but refuting so many bad arguments requires addressing them.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

              Oh that’s precious. Epidemiology has amply demonstrated what smallpox, measles and pertussis did in the New World. May I refer you to Rosencranz: Smallpox in Colonial America.

              Here’s the deal with the “data”. We don’t have much information on the cultures of the Mississippi, though we do know how much land they had under cultivation, a whole lot more than the population of the region at the time. We’re not sure what became of the Mound Cultures which built at Cahokia, for example. Estimates of 55 million cubic feet of earth went into those mounds. Cahokia was one of the largest cities in the world at the time. By the time Europeans arrived, Cahokia was almost abandoned.

              How did Cahokia fall so hard and so fast? How, for that matter, did the Maya? But if a Martian had arrived in, say, anywhere along the coast of Europe in the wake of the Black Death, he might have asked the same questions.

              There are always over- and under-estimations of this sort. But these aren’t orcs we’re counting. We have the mass graves of London and Paris and Prague and Vienna and we still don’t know how many people died in the Black Death.

              How much can we say about the impact of European diseases on the New World? We do have some working data, the measles epidemic in Fiji, 1875. A quarter of the people died. That’s roughly congruent with the fraction of people who died of smallpox in Europe in the Black Death.

              It’s called a Virgin Soil Epidemic in epidemiology. The statistics of these events are very well understood. So is the sociology. Europe was shattered by the Black Death. Read Barbara Tuchman’s Distant Mirror if you want a finer-grained view of its impact. Smallpox’s arrival in the New World was equally devastating, demonstrably so.

              I get sick of wiseasses who think just because we don’t have all the data that we shouldn’t reach conclusions. Such people need at least two more semesters of statistics.Report

            • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

              Well, as the book points out, there isn’t much actual epidemiology being used, nor is there much corraboration of vast plagues other than the ones that hit Mexico City, which a Harvard trained epidemiologist recently deemed more likely to have been a native rodent-born hemorrhagic disease with symptons akin to ebola, and definitely ruled out smallpox, measles, or plague based on the period autopsy records by a Spanish physician who was quite familiar with all such European diseases. And, as it turns out, the Aztecs were quite familiar with the disease (and greatly feared it) while the Spanish were stumped.

              Tracing down the literature on other claims that disease wiped out the Indians leads nowhere, because the mortality estimates cite the pre-disease population estimates – and the pre-disease population estimates cite the mortality estimates, round and round in a big circle, and not once is there an actual pre-disease count or an actual count of the mortality rate. Not once anywhere in the period documentation.

              In many cases there’s not even a period record of any disease. Sometimes a historian made one up to get a paper published, extrapolating a diary comment from some priest along the lines of “many the Indians I saw in the village that day looked sickly” into a vast smallpox epidemic that wiped out tens of millions in someplace like Baja California, with no evidence of either tens of millions of people, or smallpox, in any records anywhere. In other cases, they’re so sloppy that they’ll take a census drop in one area and blame it on a devastating plague with a 90% mortality rate, accounts of which don’t appear anywhere, even though the same census shows the same number of Indians showing up to work at a silver mine a short journey away. Hrm…. What’s a historian to make of that?

              As for virgin soil epidemics, they happen all the time. Africa is often hit with massive virgin-soil measles outbreaks with 20 and 30% fatality rates, and their population doesn’t ever seem to collapse. Europeans were constantly suffering major smallpox outbreaks and it didn’t make a dent, either. Somehow the epidemic in Fiji boosted their population from around 120,000 then to 800,000 today, so obviously they didn’t just float away or anything. Primitive societies can sustain extremely high growth rates, and even in African war zones or places like Afghanistan the population growth often exceeds 4% annually. At that kind of growth rate the population recovers from a plague that had a 30% fatality in just 9 years. More to the point, Europeans were the ones who had all these plagues, and their population was exploding. And Europeans don’t have any more natural immunity to any of them than the Indians did. If we did we wouldn’t have to get vaccinated all the time. Your ancestors, even your parents, may have had smallpox, measles, and the black plague all at once, but you get zero immunity from that.

              The Orcs reference comes from some of the estimates of population made by early Spanish explorers. One of his key points is that a historian has to be very conscious of how the people he studies used numbers, and in the case of European explorers of that era, they were, by our standards, not only innumerate, but didn’t even care. Cortez didn’t know how many men he had to probably a factor of two or three, based on his wild guesses at how many people were on his ships. A hundred? Three hundred? What’s the difference?

              And those were men he had to keep supplied. They cared not a whit about counting anyone else to even that pathetic level of accuracy. You still see this in the Middle East, where an explosion or buiiding collapse kills anywhere from three people to 3,000 people, depending on who’s reporting the story. Different BBC stories from the Middle East will authoritatively give death tolls that are an order of magnitude different from other BBC stories about the same event. Years later they’ll still have no idea on the actual numbers, because the idea that a count needs to be accurate to the one, with names and ages, hasn’t caught on everywhere yet.

              This was the situation in Europe in that era and prior, and often accounts of battles and numbers were staggeringly wrong, to the point of a couple of thousand men fighting several billion in hand-to-hand combat, and winning, or having armies numbering in the hundreds of millions embarking from a hundred or so galleys. Part of the job of a historian is filtering out such garbage, not accepting it uncritically and then spinning even more elaborate yarns from it.

              And it gets worse, because then the Orc counters extrapolate from an extremely unreliable guestimate, which goes something like this: “I saw a village that had thousands of people.” That actually means, perhaps, yes 50,000! “There were surely more further into the jungle.” So perhaps 1 village for every 10 square miles, times the size of the entire rainforest – equals hundreds of millions! One recent high-counter’s Orc-method estimate of a pre-contact Carribean island population, a tribe of hunter-gatherers with almost no agriculture mind you, works out to a population density that is higher than modern Los Angeles. And this cr*p gets published as academic research.

              Needless to say, at some point a historian like Henige gets frustrated enough to publish a book about it. The numbers come from nowhere, as do the mysterious plagues that only strike when nobody is looking, kind of like the light bulb in the refrigerator.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                We don’t know what the Aztecs saw. That meme has been kicking around a long time and it’s as fabulous as the magnetic monopole. If smallpox had been around in the New World, it wouldn’t have killed any more native peoples than locals. It did kill more natives than settlers. Pertussis killed many more.

                Squanto is a microcosm of what happened in many places. We don’t know what happened to Squanto’s village but whatever it was, it it killed off a great many of the Paxutent and Wampanoag and left them vulnerable to their enemies, including the settlers.

                What you’ve postulated is a contradiction in terms. Africa is not hit with multiple Virgin Soil Epidemics. My parents stopped a smallpox epidemic in Niger Republic, I was around for that as a little boy.

                I would only repeat myself in saying all those who want to question the conclusions are free to do so. But their conclusions won’t be based on any more data than the conclusions they question. It’s all so much sophomoric bullshit.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Yes, we do know what the Aztecs saw. The Spanish doctor (who had treated Spanish nobles, including I think the King) made detailed records of what happened, along with detailed autopsy records as good as any in Europe. What he saw looks like ebola. Even more interestingly, the Mexico City plagues kept recurring into the 18th century, and always followed the rains that broke a severe drought, implicating rodents as a vector. It might have been some devastating relative of hantavirus, but we’ll never know because it seems to have disappeared. It’s possible the plague cycle was broken by better sanitation and domestic cats imported from Europe. Oddly, one of the Mayan gods was named Trash Master, and Trash Master only attacked victims who left food waste lying around their house, leaving them bleeding from both ends (mouth and ass), which likely springs from the same disease.

                What you’ve postulated is a contradiction in terms. Africa is not hit with multiple Virgin Soil Epidemics.

                The CDC website on measles says they are, and lists the countries affected by the repeated virgin-soil epidemics. Apparently they don’t vaccinate. To a plague, every village that hasn’t been hit in the previous outbreak is virgin soil. In the case of a plauge with a 100% mortality rate among those who contract it, the virgin-soil aspect never goes away because none of the survivors of an outbreak were infected, leaving them all as virgin soil for the next outbreak.

                What Henige is saying is that the idea that tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, of Indians were wiped out by plagues when nobody is looking is totally unsupported by evidence. It’s a narrative that didn’t even arise until the late 1960’s. He’s also saying that historical and archeological methods will not ever produce such evidence because they can’t.

                If you applied similar methods to pre-Roman Europe you could make up endless narratives, such as suggesting that ice-age Britain had a population of about a hundred million, but that they were wiped out by devastating diseases carried by Indo-Europeans or Eskimo ice-travelers. Those diseases had a 99% mortality rate, as evidenced by the drop in Britain’s ice-age population, and we know Britain’s ice-age population was that high by estimating the number of survivors and dividing by the plagues’ survival rate.

                That would be laughed at in European archeology circles, but is accepted practice in some New World academic circles.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                More unscientific nonsense. We know exactly who Patient Zero was for smallpox in the New World, an African slave captured when the Aztecs gave Cortés a beating. It’s part of Cortés’ own diaries. Reference Hassig, Mexico and the Spanish ConquestReport

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Smallpox isn’t deadly enough to wipe out a population, with a mortality rate of about 18%. Europeans have had major smallpox epidemics throughout history, including some devastating outbreaks that hit Greek city states. Is epidemiology and math somehow different the two sides of the ocean? Even where smallpox infects everyone, about 82% survive and carry immunity from then on. Indians were no different, and we know they weren’t different because we got to meet the countless survivors who carried smallpox scars, just like we did, and here their accounts nd tallies of the disease.

                How many Europeans got smallpox? Pretty much all of them, all the time, for centuries. In fact, one medical historian calculated that smallpox killed 60 million Europeans from 1700 to 1800, and given its 18% death rate, not only did every single European catch it, but they all caught it twice! Regardless, instead of decimating their population, European numbers increased by 34%. There is no European immunity to smallpox. Their survival rates aren’t better than anyone else’s on the planet. So if smallpox can wipe out two continents worth of Indians, how come it couldn’t wipe out Europe?

                Further, we know Indians had really high population growth rates or they couldn’t have sustained all the tribal warfare, much less the constant sacking of cities followed by ritual sacrifice of tens of thousands of captives – which had gone on for centuries. An 18% mortality rate, even if everyone got smallpox, just meant they needed to lay off the ritual sacrificing for six years and then resume it as normal. It’s a blip, like a drought and a famine.

                The disease narrative is for children who can’t do math. Yes, the Indians had diseases, and we did too. Their existence doesn’t explain the disappearance of non-existant millions who weren’t seriously suggested to have existed until the 1960’s.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to George Turner says:

                Do you understand the difference between a virulent disease and a chronic disease, and how evolutionary dynamics lead diseases to change from virulent to chronic?Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Yes, and do you understand that even the virulent plagues wouldn’t have serious affected the long-term population numbers, just as they didn’t in Europe, or among the European settlers. On top of that, the worst outbreaks kept occuring in places like Boston, where the popoulation density is high enough to support fast-moving plagues (isolated villages with warring tribes are notoriously difficult targets for plagues that require human transmission). From an epidemiology perspective, it should’ve been the European settlers who got wiped out, not the Indians. Heck, we lived in cholera factories.

                Once the populations intermixed, which they did very quickly, you can’t posit a chronic disease that somehow wipes out brown haired people but doesn’t affect blond haired people at all, yet has exactly the same fatality rates in blond and brown haired people, and we know the chronic diseases affect us the same because we still have doctors, diseases, and tens of millions of Indians among us.

                As to a virulent plague, even if it infected 100% of the population of the Americas, every single person, and had a 99.2% fatality rate, a plague unprecedented in all of human history, the population should’ve fully recovered before the Mayflower even landed. And there’s no evidence of any such plague, so we might as well talk about a hundred million ice-age Britains wiped out by universal phone sanitizers.

                The whole plague narrative is based on magical thinking, which is why it wasn’t advanced either by doctors or epidemiologists. It’s something you can imagine could’ve happened, but you can’t make the numbers work out, and even if you could, there’s no evidence that it happened.

                What’s interesting is that in part people asserted that it must have happened because all the Indians got wiped out in places like Puerto Rico and such, where it was completely accepted that all the current inhabitants are Spanish, black, or Spanish and black, with only 0.5% or less being even of mixed Indian heritage. Then a meddling scientist sampled their DNA and lo and behold, well over 90% of them have Native American maternal DNA. As it turns out, at some point the rule was that if you speak Spanish, you’re not an Indian. “Nope, no Indians here! We’re all Spaniards!”Report

              • James Hanley in reply to George Turner says:

                Yes, and do you understand that even the virulent plagues wouldn’t have serious affected the long-term population numbers, just as they didn’t in Europe,

                Because it always worked out the same way everywhere. Of course, why didn’t I think of that.

                Except we have evidence of places where it didn’t work that way, particularly in the Pacific islands. You’re also assuming no other factors are at play. A population that begins small may not recover. One that is already stressed may be pushed beyond its ability to recover. One that has antagonistic neighbors may find them opportunistically taking the opportunity to eliminate an old enemy.

                To date, disease is the best explanation we have for the disappearance of the Mississippian culture. To displace that theory, you can’t just make a theoretical argument against it, but you have to provide a superior alternate theory (see Kuhn, “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”).

                I get that you’ve tumbled to an exciting theory that makes all those politically correct academics look wrong, but what you have is one theory going against the grain of a theory that’s not just developed by historians but by anthropologists, archaeologists and biologists. It’s best to take it with a grain of salt unless and until it’s verified by further research.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Oop. Sorry for the belated reply. I hadn’t noticed anything on the side-bar.

                Because it always worked out the same way everywhere. Of course, why didn’t I think of that.

                And the point is that plagues don’t work like the American narrative requires anywhere. It’s magical thinking. For example, none of the Pacific islands were wiped out by plagues, and only a minority took even a temporary hit. Their populations are constrained by their fishing and agriculture, and rebound quickly to even dramatic disasters (Tambora and Krakatoa excepted!)

                Keep in mind that whether surviving by subsistence agriculture or hunting and gathering, all early populations take occassionally large losses from droughts and subsequent famines, and all take large losses to warfare. If you posit that somehow Indian populations couldn’t recover from a plague, then they likewise couldn’t recover from any other disaster, natural or man-made, and they would’ve been wiped out long before Columbus got here.

                To date, disease is the best explanation we have for the disappearance of the Mississippian culture. To displace that theory, you can’t just make a theoretical argument against it, but you have to provide a superior alternate theory (see Kuhn, “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”).

                Well, the disease theory requires European time-travelers, who wiped out Cahokia around 1350 AD. But if you posit European time-travelers, wouldn’t European time-travelers with lasers on their heads do just as well as disease at explaining the decline?

                The problems with the disease theory can be summed up as:

                A) There’s no evidence of mass plagues, aside from the ones that the rest of the planet was used to, or the ones that were already native to North America. Applying some math shows these couldn’t be responsible if diseases work like we think they do, and we rule out magical diseases.

                B) Even if their was a mass plague, the population would’ve quickly recovered, so quickly that we wouldn’t have noticed there’d ever been a plague. When Indians traveled back to Europe, did they notice that it had been hit with the Black Death not long prior? No, they didn’t suspect a thing, because the population was booming.

                C) None of the Indians remember any such mass plague. You think they’d bother to note something like that. Even the archeologists and researchers who are pushing the disease theory have to pull quotes out of context to even imply that an Indian said something about it. One case changed “Our numbers were reduced as much by disease as by war [with a neighboring tribe]” to “Our numbers were reduced by disease.” That’s as close as they can find.

                D) None of the settlers remember it, either. They ran into tribes where many of the members had smallpox scars, and talked to them about it, but again, no evidence of any big die off.

                E) There’s no evidence of vast populations in the first place, other than the ones we know about, such as the Mississipians and Mayans whose declines pre-date Columbus, and which were caused by warfare and crop problems.

                What you have isn’t a theory, it’s a wild conjecture based on nothing. Nothing at all. You can’t just make up a population decline, and then make up a disease to go with it, and claim to be a historian. If you could, we could talk about how Avian flu wiped out Ireland in the 1800’s (hey, let’s just make stuff up!), or how over 15 million Japanese living in Sweden in 1,300 BC were completely exterminated by whooping cough.

                That’s why the serious historians are upset by this made-up nonsense passing itself off as research, like Ward Churchill’s smallpox blanket stories. They’re making up myths, just like the Mormon histories of Central America.Report

              • Roger in reply to George Turner says:


                Just wanted to mention that I have enjoyed reading this sub thread. I always heard that 80% or whatever of native Americans were wiped out by new diseases that they had no immunity for. I was not aware that this was controversial.

                Very interesting.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to NewDealer says:

        An MFA in theatre and a Democrat too? What were the odds? Next you’ll be telling me you’re employed in academia and are a union member.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to NewDealer says:

        Actually, many musicians who work for a living lean right. The ones in busses and trucks, not airliners.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to MaxL says:

      We do, and we never go back.

      That’s a bit of an overstatement.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to James Hanley says:

        Sometimes there are academic jobs!

        Though I imagine Oberlin is a different kind of small town than Bronson, MO.Report

      • MaxL in reply to James Hanley says:

        The “everywhere and always” line is overwrought, too. But “almost never” is too limp and to go any further with that thought always leads me to this one from the end of “Cinema Paradiso”:

        Living here day by day, you think it’s the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave: a year, two years. When you come back, everything’s changed. The thread’s broken. What you came to find isn’t there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time… many years… before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It’s not possible. Right now you’re blinder than I am.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        I went back, not to the same town, but to the rural Midwest. I had to get away and live in the big city for a while to appreciate the country.

        I haven’t been awakened by sirens or car horns in years, haven’t been assaulted, haven’t been stuck in traffic, haven’t shared walls or kitchen smells with a neighbor, and haven’t had middle class teenage dropouts panhandle me for money, my house cost 1/3 or less for more space and a big yard for my kids to play in, and I pay less for car insurance. There are things I’m giving up, sure, but I can get to major cities within a few hours when I’m craving those things.

        My friend, Jeff grew up on an Iowa farm, then lived in the Twin Cities, L.A, and Seoul. today he lives in an Iowa town of 300 souls.

        I’m not saying everyone should do it, but some of us do, and are quite content. My only beef is that my town is too big–it has some stop lights for gd’s sake.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to James Hanley says:

          “and haven’t had middle class teenage dropouts panhandle me for money”

          To be fair, this seems to be exclusive to the San Francisco-Bay Area. I have never seen this be considered acceptable teenage behavior in New York, Boston/Cambridge, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Portland, Washington D.C. Philadelphia, or any other city I have been to or visited.

          Of course when I go back to New York, I seen teenagers eating at restaurants with their friends and these are restaurant I could not afford on my own until fairly recently in my life.

          I’ve never lived in a small-town. Only inner-ring suburbs and large cities. If I ever have kids/family, I would probably want to raise my kids in an inner-ring suburb. That way they can have a yard/park but the city is close enough for museums, theatre, orchestra, dance, and art activities. My parents took me to Young People and the Orchestra every weekend at Lincoln Center for a few years and I will probably do an equivalent activity with mine.Report

        • MaxL in reply to James Hanley says:

          Home for me was a small town (pop 15oo) New England. As small towns go, we had it pretty good. No keys for the front door, one stoplight, close to the shore. “Hyperquaint” was the word they used for it on the leaf peeper map in the NY Times. There were even a lot of artists and skilled artisans around as well – hell, in high school my friend and I used to work for Sol LeWitt making scale models of his sculpture projects before they went into fabrication. It wasn’t West Texas by a long stretch.

          Even so, like most small towns, all the smart kids left for college and all the kids with an artistic bent in particular stayed gone for a long time. That’s not so say a lot haven’t returned – they have. 25 years later, with a family and some practice and reputation in their field or craft, enough have headed back to the area that I am sorely tempted to return myself. To abuse another movie quote, you never make friends like the ones you did when you were twelve. And there is no doubt the place will always be home, no matter where I live.

          But to get back to the larger point, I don’t think that changes the simplest fact: the same temperament that leads one to seek out new experience and explore it through art just does not mix with well with the settled, old-ways-are-always-best answers on offer in a small hometown. Those who want something beside that will find their way to the cities that welcome the transients – SF, LA, NY, Chicago, Portland, Paris, Berlin…it’s a long list. They may well go back the small town, to home, but not until they’ve thrown enough sticky at the grubby walls to satisfy. And even when they do head back, it’s not because they’ve had a change of heart about the political leanings of rural America. Just because you don’t worry about what other people are thinking about you anymore doesn’t mean you agree with them. Reactionaries just don’t irritate as much once you have the rest of your life and family going the way you’d like.Report

        • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to James Hanley says:

          I grew up in a small town. I hated it. It’s a HORRIBLE place to be “different”. So I’m glad you like it but I couldn’t live in a small town again.Report

  9. NewDealer says:

    Today’s conservative movement involves a Paul Lynde making semi-nuanced jokes about his sexuality? Who would have thought?

    I love how all the butt-hurt conservatives are coming out in droves for this post.

    More seriously, I think Conor is spot on. Much of modern art and culture or more broadly much of being an artist is directly contradictory to the modern conservative movement. We don’t have conservatives, we have reactionaries trying to push back the clock to a time that never existed. They don’t like birth control, they don’t think art should be any racier than Ozzie and Harriet or maybe the Goldbergs.

    That being said, you can probably find some really serious artists who vote Republican but most of them probably keep it under wraps. The art and culture industries are by and large very liberal. The book, The Republic of Dreams, is a history of bohemian life in Greenwich Village and covers the first half plus of the 20th century. In the book, Ross Wetzsteon talks about the Republican politics of such avant-garde darlings like Hart Crane and e.e. cummings.
    e.e. cummings refused to attend the Kennedy inaugural and launched into an anti-Irish and anti-Semitic tirade at the administration.

    There are probably still serious and important artists like this somewhere. There are also probably more popular entertainers with conservative politics but they keep quiet on the endorsements. Also many consumers of culture are very apt at contradictions between their entertainment/culture choices and their politics.

    But in the end, the contradictions pile up way too high and cause too much cognitive dissonance. How can someone in intellectual honesty and good faith enjoy Robert Mapplethorpe while voting for candidates pushed by the Pat Robertsons of the world?Report

    • George Turner in reply to NewDealer says:

      Camille Paglia had a good response to that (I could probably dig up the link), arguing that liberals have largely killed the arts in this country, producing little worth noting since sometime in the Andy Warhol period.

      I surmise the problem she sees is that good art that poked at the status quo, questioning it, pushing the boundaries, became a status quo that can’t be questioned, poked at, or pushed, and people raised in it aren’t doing any of those things, they’re merely repeating the same cliched formulas over and over and calling it art, in most cases hardly even putting any thought into it.

      She has some interesting viewpoints.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to George Turner says:

        Is there anything those godless heathens won’t destroy? Is nothing sacred?

        Give me an honest Republican, and his devout push for more NEA funding any day.Report

      • MaxL in reply to George Turner says:

        Is that why she is saying lately that George Lucas is the greatest artist of our time?Report

      • Michelle in reply to George Turner says:

        Camille Paglia has become cliche. She takes great joy in bad-mouthing all things left just because, so she can play a rebel in academia.Report

      • Oooops, George, Pavlov’s bell just went off. Paglia = no good. Another one for the endless blacklist. Nice try though, talking about ideas and stuff. Next time just write “one scholar” or some such instead of the actual name so the idea has an actual moment to breathe before being strangled in its crib.

        You fool!Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Good point, Tom. I forgot that much of liberal thought is devoted to the avoidance of thinking. It’s so much easier not to.

        Regarding the NEA, part of her point was that conservatives were huge supporters (and funders) of the arts until liberals decided the only valid, narrow purpose of true art was to mock conservatives. I doubt the former Soviet block thinks their state-sponsored anti-capitalist “art” was good and the suppressed edgy, anti-communist, rebellious art was bad, but they are of course be mistaken, because only left-wing art can be true art.

        One of Paglia’s complaints is that liberals politicized everything, poisoning the well, when great art transcends politics.Report

        • Sounds right. Transgressivism is like so conformist these days there’s nothing to transgress.Report

          • Michelle in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Oh please. I read Sexual Personna and used to read Paglia’s column when she wrote regularly for Salon.com. When it got to the point where I knew exactly what she was going to say and why, I stopped. She’s pretty much a one-trick pony.Report

        • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

          Yeah, if you’re not trangressing people think you’re either weird or losing it. Hollywood people can ruin their careers by not trangressing often enough and publically enough, and often they fake it so the establishment won’t reject them.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

        they’re merely repeating the same cliched formulas over and over and calling it art, in most cases hardly even putting any thought into it.

        I wouldn’t argue with Paglia about that kind of thing.Report

  10. NewDealer says:

    Also I’ve met and know quite a few of Conor’s Cognitive Dissonant conservatives. They are deeply vexing as a group of people.

    One woman I know in this group can get down and wild and wasted like any club kid but also makes posts on facebook begging Mitt Romney to install values back in this country. How do these things work? Unless the conservative elite think piety and restraint are only for the minions. See the recently called-out comfortablysmug from twitter. He spent Hurricane Sandy tweeting lies and falsehoods about the damage the Hurricane was causing. His most outrageous tweet was about flooding on the NYSE. It turns out the guy was a hedge-fund type and heavily involved in Republican politics. Further digging found that he had a wild, party hearty fratboy reputation.

    This is why I find Republican politics to be so galling. There are too many Republicans especially young Republicans who will run the party that want all the benefits of secular and liberal society but only for them. For everyone else, they preach restraint, prudishness, and piety. I don’t think James O’Keffee leads a boring life either.Report

    • Mo in reply to NewDealer says:

      When I was in grad school at large midwestern Catholic U, I was out a a bar chatting up a couple of young ladies. After about 30 minutes of conversation it appeared that they were, as the kids say, DTF. While, I am charming, I doubt I was the first guy she would bed after knowing for less than an hour. While we were talking, one of my gay classmates joined us briefly for a conversation and left. She and her friend then went off on how immoral and disgusting homosexuality was and how the Bible is explicit in how wrong it is. I was immediately turned off, possibly because I was not in the mood for hate fishing that night.Report

    • George Turner in reply to NewDealer says:

      One of my conservative friends look’s like a punk rocker and has bedded half the city’s roller derby team, sometimes in groups. He’s a study in unusual, so shy and polite that sk8r girls have talked him into holding a 9mm on someone during drug deals on more than one occassion.

      I’ve had lots of strange housemates like that, liberal and conservative. Their stories are often bizarre.Report

  11. Mike Dwyer says:

    I have to say Tod, this post kind of feels like concern-trolling. Hollywood hasn’t really gotten along with the Right since the McCarthy hearings. Those that are Republican or tend to support Republicans are mostly in the closet. Just to name a few though:

    Bruce Willis
    Gary Sinise
    LL Cool J
    Brittney Spears
    Sarah Michele Gellar
    Kelsey Grammar
    Jerry Bruckheimer
    Vince Vaughn
    Jessica Simpson

    I hate to have that pissing contest because honestly I don’t know that many intelligent conservatives that care. Do intelligent liberals really care about Hollywood’s endorsement? I can’t imagine they do.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      The below was meant to be a reply to this comment.

      Bruce Willis and Kelsey Grammar are good actors but for the most part the others prove Tod’s point. They had their moments and are no longer that relevant.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Kelsey Grammar on marriage:

      I have a funny thing about marriage. I think that marriage is the providence of the church. I think it’s a religious rite. I don’t understand the civil angle on marriage at all. So am I pro-my friends who love each other getting married? Yes — gay, straight or otherwise. I don’t have an issue about it. Somebody obviously thought it would be fun to tax marriage one day, so they made it a government thing.

      If I were paying alimony to three ex-wives, I’d feel the same way.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I thought concern trolling necessitated that I feign some kind of concern. The amount that I care who Lady Gaga is voting for is bupkis.

      I just find it odd. Why would an industry risk alienating half of its customer base?

      (And yeah, of course I didn’t name the only two celebrities… nor did I claim to. But are you seriously saying my perception is incorrect?)Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Well, for one it could simply be how she feels, and darn the consequences.

        More likely, however — her demographics listeners more or less agree with her.

        My father, staunch conservative that he is, only managed to boycott the Dixie Chicks for two years before giving in.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Morat20 says:

          Two years is a pretty long time for that kind of boycott.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to NewDealer says:

            My dad loves him some Dixie Chicks. He’s been out in California the past three years, which may have mellowed him. Apparently it’s hard to get worked up about stuff when the weather is gorgeous. 🙂

            Me? Never much of a Dixie Chicks fan. Now Hot Irish Chick Orchestra? Sign me up. I can never remember the name of that actual group. It’s those Celtic women playing violin and singing. I’m a fan of violin, of real singing that’s not auto-tuned, and injecting classics — like classic folk, Celtic or whatever — alive.

            Although as much as I hate auto-tune, I have to admit musicians are starting to have fun with it — automatic pitch correction makes for lazy singers, though. 🙂 Pro-tools is also fun.

            Man, now I wanna go dig back into one of my old music projects. There is this one composer that uses data mining and evolutionary programming to create music….I had some ideas off that.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod – I guess I felt like your approach was insincere considering the answers seem so obvious. Hollywood is liberal. It has been that way for over 50 years. I’d say it’s a more dependable vote for Democrats than blacks (and that’s saying something). I think the liklihood of people boycotting them en masse for those opinions is about as liklihood as their endorsement affecting the outcome fo the election.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      One caveat. The McCarthy hearings had nothing to do with Hollywood.

      I’d also add Robert Downey Jr. as someone who might or might not be conservative, but he certainly isn’t liberal.

      Others would be Fred Thompson, Victoria Jackson, Kevin Farley, Ben Stein, and of course Ronald Reagan, Charleton Heston, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Garry Cooper, Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Shirly Temple, Pat Sajak, Sylvester Stallone, Dennis Hopper, Jerry Doyle, Drew Carey, Dennis Leary, Penn Jillete, Joe Rogan, Kevin Sorbo, David Zucker, James Woods, Dennis Miller, Tony Danza, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy (Gopher!), Howard Stern, Russell Means, Scott Baio, Robert Duvall, Robert Conrad, the Rock, John Rhys-Davies, Ricky Shroder, Tom Selleck, Chuck Connors, Gene Autry, James Earl Jones (you knew Vader was evil), Dixie Carter, Bo Derek, Dean Cain, and many others.Report

      • At least some of those are libertarian to a degree that I don’t think conservative can be said to apply.

        Adam Baldwin is a Republican, though. And Stephen Baldwin (Alec’s brother, not Adam’s) went conservative. Angie Harmon and Janine Turner.Report

      • DRS in reply to George Turner says:

        Your inclusion of James Cagney as a conservative is interesting (actually, I think all of the dead people in your list should be excluded as they came of age in an era that was so different from ours that it’s like another world). He fought Warner Brothers tooth and nail in the 1930’s over contracts and compensation, limits on hours worked in a given year, safe working environments on the set – he insisted that the studio stop using live ammunition (!) during shooting and go with the then-more-expensive squibs or blanks instead – and showed the industry that it was possible for a major actor to stand up to the studio bosses and get a more equitable deal. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Cagney as well as his autobiography which is a fun read)

        By the standards of the 1930’s Cagney was a very left-wing liberal – on a lot of fronts he didn’t really change. He really was the classic “Reagan Democrat”, which is not saying that he was a Republican.Report

        • George Turner in reply to DRS says:

          So demanding an outrageous salary of money, and demanding that the set be perfectly safe (so he doesn’t risk his precious butt getting hurt), and limiting working hours so he can sit back and spend his millions in leisure isn’t right-wing?Report

          • DRS in reply to George Turner says:

            The live ammunition was aimed at the actors; this was the era of the Warner Brothers’ gangster movies. Cagney personally almost got killed twice by live ammunition. And he was very aware that the overwhelming majority of actors and actresses did not have the protection of his own box-office popularity to demand safe working conditions. Cagney was a very empathetic individual who understood the industry he worked in very well. If he made millions himself (and in the 30’s, he didn’t), he was very aware he was making hundreds of millions for Warner Brothers, and he thought that was an unequal ratio. He walked off the lot many times to protest the studio’s contract violations and refused to return until they were rectified. A really amazing guy.Report

  12. NewDealer says:

    Gary Sinise is the only person hear I could consider to be a serious and significant artist above them all. Largely because he was a founding member of one of one of the most vital American theatre companies:


    • MaxL in reply to NewDealer says:

      And there is a difference between, say, artist, entertainer and celebrity. And where someone could be described as all three, it’s still pretty clear in which order they apply.Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    A few years back, Maureen Tucker (yep! MOE TUCKER!!! FROM THE VU!!!!) made an appearance at one of the tea parties and a number of my lefty friends were scandalized.

    “You’d think punk rockers would be more supportive of the establishment”, I jibed.

    They told me to shut up.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

      I see your point but the Tea Party is plenty establishment in their own way and in most ways. Really, all they wanted as the establishment back.

      Occupy is more anti-establishment than the Tea Party.

      But you reveal an interesting conundrum.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

      The one that always made my head spin was Johnny Ramone – and that was no ‘non-partisan’ Tea Party thing, that was full-on right-wing Reagan-worshipping conservatism.

      In the “End of the Century” documentary, IIRC the other band members did credit him with being the business brains of the band – he always made sure that they generally made a profit/got paid.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

        If I recall correctly he also enjoyed making anti-Semitic comments to Joey Ramone. I remember that from a documentary.

        There has always been a kind of conservative libertine artist. Allegedly Jack Keuorac cheered for McCarthy while getting stoned and smashed.Report

        • Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

          Yeah, Johnny wasn’t the easiest guy in the world to get along with, by most accounts. How he and Joey managed to stick it out together for so long, while hating/not speaking to each other, is a mystery.

          Still, thank god for ‘im anyway. That really was a great documentary.Report

  14. zic says:

    Most talented stars actually worked as starving artist back in the day. Perhaps funding for the arts, which helps feed arts, is the reason?

    Either that or these are really smart, MENSA types, some of them even have college degrees, plus they see how their support staff struggles.Report

  15. Michael Cain says:

    If I were guessing? They work in an industry that is heavily unionized; the actors, even the big names, work with people down at the bottom of the heap on a daily basis and see the benefits of unionization for those people; lots of the actors, even the big names, were poor and struggling for years and think, “It would have been nice to have some more help then, even if it means I pay more now”; the industry is socially liberal. Given all that, I would be surprised if support for the Republican Party platform weren’t rather sparse.Report

  16. Ahunt says:

    Coupla ideas here.

    I could swear I remember Bill Buckley arguing in favor of funding the NEA, citing, for example, the internationally respected orchestras and museums, and even community based folk arts programs.

    On our community level, conservative types certainly do support our theatres, childrens’ programs and the local music scene. Perhaps it is more a case of personal connection that drives conservative interests in the arts.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Ahunt says:

      I remember a Firing Line about that. WFB and his guest were defending the idea that there are High Art and Popular Art, and society has a responsibility to preserve High Art for future generations against the unwashed relativists who denied that Mozart had more value (in any absolute sense) than Moby Grape. The guest said that the kids prefer pop music because it’s simpler and more approachable than the classics, and WFB responded “I’d call the Rolling Stones an attractive nuisance if they were in any way attractive.”

      Good times, good times. (And, not that it matters, but I’m on WFB’s side.)Report

      • Ahunt in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        WFB was defending and promoting the “art” closest to his heart, and had no problem, IIRC, with public funding for that which he loved….hmm.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        This is the one area where I often get in trouble with fellow liberals around my age. I am likely to defend high culture as being better more often and they tend to be of the relatvist mind set.

        I don’t have a problem with popular art. I like a decent amount of it but I get very snobby/unrepentant grad student when it comes to a lot of art.Report

  17. Trumwill Mobile says:

    I find it intersting the extent to which we can have this conversation, and yet when I suggest that the content produced by these artists has a general leftward tilt, a number of people around here think I’n blinkered.

    Anyhow, there are a number of reasons as to why this is. I’ve discovered through various attempts to discuss the issue is that the only acceptable one to many is “cuz conservatives are lame and stoopid.”Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

      I would say that the content produced by many of these artists (or current pop culture) is more libertine than liberal/left. Certainly this makes it non-Conservative (unless you want me to make an Ancien Regime argument).Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

      Maybe because what the leftward tilt you’re perceiving isn’t a political orientation? It’s not partisan? Not a form of political advocacy?

      I think that’s the problem I have with all this stuff. Conservatives have made it the case that there are no non-political views anymore. A view is either conservative or anti-conservative.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

        Except here we are talking about the political orientation of its producers and participants.

        For my own part, I have difficulty believing you can have this kind of imbalance in any creative industry without it finding its way into the product. That, to me, is the only reason this matters. The only reason that conservatives should care about this, ultimately. This is why it’s a problem for them (and one that they can’t shake away simply by criticism and condemnation).Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

          People are *VERY* good at compartmentalization.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

          one that they can’t shake away simply by criticism and condemnation).

          I agree with that. They need to compete in the artistic marketplace against liberals to shift the balance, I guess. And they either don’t want to, or are incapable of doing that. (And to be honest, I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to.)Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Stillwater says:

            See my response below. I think that Conservatives have responded to liberal Hollywood by basically creating a shadow culture industry of their own. There is nothing wrong with this as a tactic but it prevents anyone outside the group from appreciating it.

            It is possible to create great art that is also largely conservative in outview. But too much of the modern American right is interested in comfort food/propaganda too much.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

          I agree with Jaybird, people are very good at compartmentalization.

          Hence you can have a lot of Republican folks who consume a lot of non-Conservative culture. Didn’t Paul Ryan say his favorite band was the very left-wing Rage Against the Machine?

          Though I also think that most people really don’t pay attention to the lyrics of songs but that it is another issue entirely. The best example of this is when Sting gets mad at couples using Every Breath You Take as their wedding song. From what I hear his reaction is to ask sarcastically “Don’t you realize that song is about a stalker? It is not a romantic song!”

          The problem is that a lot of conservatives are not very good at producing culture to reach a broader audience. They tend to be too heavy on the propaganda first or producing for a narrow cast audience. It seems to be all the Kirk Cameron stuff which is not going to appeal to non-Evangelicals and non-Fundamentalists. Or it always feels jeering.

          Yasujiro Ozu movies have largely conservative/traditional values in many ways. At the very least, they are about how modernity can tear apart the family. Tokyo Story is a good example where adult children with modern and busy lives do not have time to take care of their parents until it is too late. Late Spring is another good example. Frank Capra movies are largely conservative in their outlook on life. For more recent cinema, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Still Walking is largely about familial obligation and responsibility. It is not conservative in the American-Republican sense of the word but there is a lot about the importance of family. His most recent movie I Wish is a good example of how divorce can have serious negative psychological effects on children.

          The problem is that very few modern American conservatives can make movies like Ozu or Capra. They play the heavy hand too much and focus more on the message than the story. Or they go into their most junvenille mood where nothing is more important than being “anti-PC” and pissing on liberals. There are plenty of liberals with a heavy hand as well but all in all, liberal artists seem to have a lighter touch most of the time.

          There were plenty of conservative/Republican artists in old Hollywood. Spencer Tracey was a Republican, so was Barbara Stanwyck.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

          Not to forget the great Western filmmaker John Ford.

          Hollywood always had a lot of liberals like Humphry Bogart, Lauren Becall, Katherine Hepburn, William Wellman, etc.Report

    • Kim in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

      Do I really need to roll out a list of the “redneck movies” of the year?
      Point is, hollywood is often about bottom lines.
      (now,t he fact that those movies generally SUCK? that might be because folks are a bit out of touch with the woods)Report

  18. John Biles says:

    It really should not be any surprise at all that the great entertainers of our time are not conservatives.

    1) American mass entertainment largely tries to be apolitical to get the most people to watch it; this ensures that people bond to entertainers in a non-political context.
    2) Having bonded to said entertainers, they will largely dismiss any political actions as irrelevant in the same way that people who have identified with a party will forgive the sins of party members; the same thing that lets Senator Vitter talk about family values, then get caught consorting with prostitutes and then be forgiven by those who claim to care about such things is the same thing that means people won’t punish entertainers for their political beliefs.

    These factors ensure that there is no real incentive for entertainers to cater to conservatives for purely financial reasons and can follow their own inclinations.

    3) Ever since HUAC attacked Hollywood, American conservatives have increasingly spat on art, artists, entertainers, etc, especially Hollywood. People who are spat on usually don’t identify with the spitters.
    4) Creative people generally chase visions which lead them away from the accepted; further, successful people in entertainment basically live lives which have little resemblance to the ideal lifestyle advocated by conservatives.
    5) Entertainers have little to no self interest in the Conservative economic agenda beyond maybe wanting lower taxes.
    6) Success in entertainment lets you become rich without having to be around businessmen or adopt their attitudes.

    In Britain, Margaret Thatcher basically alienated an entire generation of artists and musicians. Pretty much anyone British who was prominent from the late seventies to the early nineties hates MT with a burning atomic fury.Report

    • Pyre in reply to John Biles says:

      Also, with this election, there is another economic factor.

      Obama supported and signed ACTA. His opposition to SOPA was weak and only came about after the internet went up in arms about it, something that he isn’t likely to care about after he starts his second term. His recent executive order indicates that he is unafraid to pass such things through Executive orders.

      If I were in Hollywood, I back the one who is most likely to repay me with some form of legislation concerning online piracy.Report

  19. John Biles says:

    I hate to follow myself up but I need to add that Country Music is, in fact, chock full of very publicaly conservative people.Report

  20. KatherineMW says:

    Can someone explain to me why there is such a huge disparity in Democratic and Republican celebrity endorsements year after year?

    My gut? There’s probably plenty of people in the entertainment business who wouldn’t mind even lower taxes. But there’s very few celebrity social conservatives. I think even if you went into Hollywood as a social conservative, the surrounding lifestyle and assumptions would make it very hard to remain that way, and you’d end up either getting out or changing your mind.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Yeah, this makes sense to me.

      There’s also the whole “age” thing. Hollywood has a *LOT* of young celebrities. A lot, a lot… and kids skew liberal. Once you reach a certain age, you’re a lot more likely to be conservative, sure… but you’re also a lot more likely to be a former celebrity as well.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Actually, that’s a myth. Nothing about aging makes you more conservative.

        Seems just an artifact of a few decades of shifting around — mostly, I think, the post-CRA housecleaning, and doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.Report

        • Pyre in reply to Morat20 says:

          Not sure I buy that. As you get older, you’ve constructed your golden years around a number of tenets, both financial and societal. The closer you get to that, the less likely you will want anything to rock the boat.

          As an easy example, look at social security. Whenever a plan comes to change it in any way, it is always the 20-year-olds who are willing to change it while it is the 60-year-olds who want to keep it the way it is.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to Morat20 says:

          If it was just the CRA, countries other than America – like Britain and Canada – wouldn’t see a larger proportion of older people voting Conservative. I don’t know about Britain, but I’m pretty sure older people are more likely to support the Conservatives here, and younger people are more likely to be leftist (NDP).

          I’d like to see a proper analysis of the question though (e.g.: could it be that older people just tend to have more money, and richer people vote conservative?).Report

  21. Pyre says:

    Mark Hamill was for Obama or, more accurately, against Romney.

    If I were to go with any celebrity endorsement, that would be the one.Report

  22. GordonHide says:

    People in the arts have always been at the cutting edge of cultural change. Surprise, surprise, that translates to anti-conservative. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant numbers of conservatives among their ranks.Report

  23. Roger says:

    This is an absolutely fantastic question. More broadly, why do teachers and journalists and lawyers and entertainers and people who can’t find their ID vote overwhelmingly left, and why do people who build their own business and believe the earth is 6000 years old tend to vote right?

    In the business world, my experience is that those in finance, accounting, actuarial and such fields are overwhelmingly right leaning, and those in marketing lean left.

    Clearly our political beliefs are strongly influenced by our disposition and experiences. Does anyone know of a good book or study analyzing and explaining these tendencies?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Roger says:

      I would also love to read such a book, if anyone knows of one.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

      It’s all semantics. The people I work with in a global finance corporation all seem to lean Left. The firm I’m with went through a huge downsizing after the capital markets crashed in 08 but have recently been hiring on new employees this year. We’re doing pretty well these days. We’re sick of what happened in the Glory Days of Deregulation. Now we’re a lot more cautious. We’re backing sound bets. And we recently put a few of our own Wall Street execs in jail, if that’s any indication of the sort of firm this is. This firm gives lots of Attaboys to volunteerism here in New Orleans, hardly a facet of some Right Winger Outfit.

      You’d think, being a capital firm, we’d be against regulation. If the usual idiotic Right Wing Rhetoric were applied, we could theoretically make lots more money without regulation. Such is not the case.

      What passes for Right-ism these days is nothing of the sort. Again, you may cavil at that statement and with good reason: they may call themselves Right-Wing Conservatives but I hope we can agree Prudence is the sovereign virtue of an actual Conservative, not the deregulatory madness we’ve seen over the last few decades from these jackasses.Report

    • Kim in reply to Roger says:

      All the Republicans in high finance that I know, are now FORMER Republicans, burnt and ready to vote Democrat.Report

  24. MBunge says:

    One fact in entertainers being more liberal is that they work in one of the most brutally capitalistic enterprises in the world. Spend most of your 20s and 30s working shit jobs while you see less talented people get their big break instead of you, or get your big break and remember all the incredibly talented people you know who still have to hustle for every crap audition, or try and negotiate a contract with a studio and you probably lose your taste for Randian-style right wing politics.


    • BlaiseP in reply to MBunge says:

      This depends on what you’re doing. I narrowly escaped becoming a session keyboard player, some long while back. Zappa had a few words on this subject:

      We are millions and millions, were coming to get ya
      Were protected by unions so don’t let it upset you
      Can’t escape the conclusion, it’s probably God’s will
      That civilization will grind to a standstill
      And we are the people who will make it all happen
      While your children is sleepin’, your puppy is crappin’
      You might call us flakes or something else you might coin us
      We know you’re so greedy that you’ll probably join us

    • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to MBunge says:

      My own theory relates closely to this.

      I think those that make it in the entertainment industry are acutely aware of how much their success is mostly due to the vicissitudes of fate: luck, family, that big break. They all have left friends behind–toiling in community theater, or who ended up selling life insurance–who may have been as talented, as dedicated, and as determined as themselves.

      When you live in this kind of universe, it’s kind of hard not to be liberal.

      Also, what George Turner said: the actors, writers, and directors of popular entertainment have to be able to “make believe,” which largely consists of exercising their sympathetic empathy: pretending to be other people, and imagining their reactions, and their lives. This also, I think, would incline one towards liberalism.

      Finally, there’s something deeply wired into the DNA of popular entertainment (or, at least, American popular entertainment): people who are tired, oppressed, and downtrodden in Act One have to be singing a happy tune by the end of the Third Act. Problems are fixed. I think that this outlook is an essentially liberal one.Report

  25. Reformed Republican says:

    I can understand why people in entertainment or not particularly conservative, but I cannot understand why they seem to overwhelmingly support large government.Report

  26. Kolohe says:

    Random Observation: Lena Dunham’s “Your First Time” and Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” do make a nice symmetrical metaphorical point/counterpoint.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

      Except that Lena never made her vote contingent on hearing an answer to the age old question: “will ya love me forever?”

      I’m not sure what that says about her, actually. Or Meatloaf for that matter.Report

  27. Ahunt says:

    Mike Schilling upthread…hope you get this for a chuckle.

    Short story…and quick note…we love music…pretty much all music. Not big on television around here.

    Talking with the Better Half, and showed him our memories. His response?

    “Eat A Peach” is “high art” …

    I agree.Report