Of Conservatives and Art

UPDATE: Brian Niemeier responds.

UPDATE 2: Daytime Renegade responds.

UPDATE 3: Yakov Merkin responds.

Recently, Brian Niemeier put up a post criticizing conservatives for abandoning their ideological allies in the workplace whenever SJWs demand their firing. He asserts that conservative claims of high principle are masks for cowardice, and that any conservative seeking to dissent from the SJWs — who hold influence in all major institutions — will receive no support from their supposed allies.

This got me thinking on how this applies to art, because as many a commentator has noticed, all artistic institutions, from film and television to music to comics to fine art to book publishing, are stuffed with people of the Left (though not necessarily SJW extremists.) The few non-Leftists in those industries tend to be libertarians, not flag-waving, God-fearing patriotic types. I think I have an idea of why this is the case, and it is related to the points Niemeier made.

Mainstream conservatives are too practical, and this is why they ignore the arts.

The US conservative ethos can be summed up as: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Make money to support your family and improve your lifestyle. Handouts are shameful. In following this ethos, they select careers with a practical application that would get them earning right away. It’s not bad advice; you need money to live, and more money is better, for bills need to be paid. With this conventional mindset, conservatives relentlessly focus on “what works,” emphasizing careers like engineering, resource extraction, skilled trades, and other things of that nature. Since these are skills immediately useful to society, conservatives have a reputation of “getting it done.”

And it’s this exact temperament that makes them unsuited for the world of art — and by this, I mean all forms of artistic expression, not merely paintings or installations.

Art is not immediately useful; it neither grows your food nor supplies your energy. Except for a handful of megastars, art is low-paid. Most artists rely on either a job or on other people to support them in their endeavors; “don’t quit your day job” is a cliche for a reason, as is “starving artist.” It requires the mind to break with conventional modes of thinking and spend much time speculating on bizarre possibilities. Art requires one to focus on emotion.

This is as far from the conservative mindset as one can get.

As a result, conservatives do not view the arts as particularly important; to them, it feels like a useless indulgence. To the liberal (whether SJW or not), the arts pose no psychological obstacle since their self-concept does not derive from accumulating wealth, being the hardest worker, or having a conventional family life. They’re fine with being supported if that’s what it takes. They’re fine with making less money if that’s what it takes. They’re fine with not getting married or having children.

Thus liberals have the psychological advantage for art. Thus liberals put in the work to become successful at it. Thus liberals shape popular culture through it.

Though art appears useless, it is quite real — every bit as real as anything conservatives prefer to deal with. People love to engage with it to relax or to gain some emotional thrill, and such things are highly addictive. The small buildup of every little piece of art over time eventually shifts the culture. Though most entertainment is chosen, the mere availability of high-quality works can brighten someone’s day. People like being entertained.

And few conservatives provide this entertainment because they consider art to be beneath them.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? Conservatives avoid going into art, then they complain that all the art is liberal. If conservatives are to make any headway in the world of art, they have to let go of their doubts and do what they do best: get to work and get it done.

No one reads think tank papers for fun.

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6 Responses to Of Conservatives and Art

  1. Roffles Lowell says:

    There’s a point you bring up in passing that I think is worth delving into more deeply. (Because it pertains to me, lol.)

    Having put in time in my local
    fine art and DIY music scenes I can *absolutely* agree that the flakes and the dreamers are the ones most inclined towards making art their full time jobs; the ones who do it on the side, after the day job is taken care of, they are the ones who skew conservative. Among the young artists you do notice that the guys who go all-in go further, faster.
    But i rarely saw this translate into actually going the distance. Here’s why….
    One common trap I saw these shoot the moon types fall into is a situation where they decide early on that they will live on money generated by their art; do or die, yknow? Very romantic. The problem arises when the only paying gigs are for artists willing to make compromises in their work; sell out, if you will. When you’re hungry enough you do that. When you’re working full time doing HVAC you maintain the freedom to turn down a bad gig, but if not? When the club owner says change this, or when the art guild tells you your themes are problematic, you can only be as independent as your rent bill will allow. By the time both parties are a couple decades into the game, the part timer is usually the one with far more interesting and personal ideas.

    Which is good for both readers, and the economic future of the art form, as trends get old and stale and people look around for new ideas.
    (Why comics, music, movies and books are in financial peril is a point not unrelated to this!)

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      Excellent insight. It lends truth to the common refrain that one should not quit their day job.

      As for the “selling out” bit, there is another group telling artists what to change: the audience. If the audience does not want to purchase the work, the artist is in serious trouble. It’s one thing to question the club owner or the art guild; it’s quite another to attack the audience for “not recognizing your genius” or whatever. People who want to make a living at art have to cater to the people paying them.

      • Roffles Lowell says:

        “Sellout” is a pretty fraught term. I used it in reference to the an artist who makes concessions to the gatekeepers of opportunity in order to succeed… but most often when people say “sellout” theyre callously belittling a brave person who cut out the middle man and went straight to the audience.
        I think I can articulate this better.

        When a raw talent submits themselves to whatever machine turns out the new up and comers, they will get a better push, sure… But they’re going to be groomed to reflect the stale tastes of the persons in power at the time: example being, Nirvana makes it big, so we get a half a decade of Nirvana-lite bands. They are prepared for a hypothetical audience by people who may or may not even understand the audience in the first place. This is not even getting *in* to what happens once cliques form and enforce their pernicious preferences into the mix. It’s a recipe for disaster; bad art, bored audiences, bankrupt studios….. and SJW totalitarianism.

        When something new sets the world on fire it might exploit some circumstance that made a big entity want to take a bold risk, but that is *rare.* There aren’t many Medicis in the art world these days.
        *Way* more examples of artists who went straight to the audience, became bankable, and thus forced the management to bend the knee. In music I’m thinking of bands like Blondie, and to even greater effect, Madonna; they took advantage of the take-all-comers nature of the punk scene and built a following before getting signed by a major label on much more favorable terms.

        When the creative market is stratified enough that you still have “poverty row” print houses, comic imprints and/or movie studios operating alongside the big guys, you have a better expectation to earn a reasonable living even if you never make it big-time. This is how you got guys like Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Will Eisner and Carl Barks in comics in the first place; it paid their bills. I don’t have the same knowledge of pulp authors to compare but I imagine having the possibility of making money as a Mickey Spillane type instead of a literary dilettante allowed a far wider variety of perspectives to come to the table.
        Worth mentioning that this setup is also democratizing; it makes “art” a viable career choice for individuals from working class background. When following your dream means risking your future security, you’re not going to see clever and stable people of *any* political leaning opt to take that chance. I gather from all this that until there’s a way to eke out a living wage in the arts outside of the established system, we will have neither new ideas…nor conservatives.

        There’s got to be a way around this.

        • Rawle Nyanzi says:

          Again, this is great information. One thing I keep seeing from indie authors in particular isn’t just going to the audience, but finding one’s audience as well. You can tell off the suits, you can tell off the SJWs.

          You can’t tell off the audience.

  2. Pingback: Responses to My Post on Conservatives and Art -Rawle Nyanzi

  3. Byzantine_Corporal says:

    This conservative lurves him some Shakespeare, Caravaggio, Beethoven. “Piss Christ” not so much. So sad!

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