Monday, May 16, 2011

David Mamet's conversion to conservatism

Over the weekend, a few of my conservative friends touted this Weekly Standard profile of playwright David Mamet, who is rather famously converting to conservatism. Put aside, for the moment, the spectacle of conservatives who profess to disdain Hollywood high-fiving each other when a celebrity turns out to be Republican. There are hints that Mamet—smart as he is—is motivated more by contrarianism than other factors. You don't have to be dumb to be conservative, but (as represented in the article, anyway) Mamet seems to be guilty of rather shallow thinking.

I'll pluck out two of my favorite examples:
“But I saw the liberals hated George Bush. It was vicious. And I thought about it, and I didn’t get it. He was no worse than the others, was he? And I’d ask my liberal friends, ‘Well, why do you hate him?’ They’d all say: ‘He lied about WMD.’ Okay. You love Kennedy. Kennedy didn’t write Profiles in Courage—he lied about that. ‘Bush is in bed with the Saudis!’ Okay, Kennedy was in bed with the mafia.”
I dunno. Lies are lies, I suppose, but to me there's a vast difference between lying about a best-selling book and, say, misrepresenting and hyping intelligence about non-existent WMDs in order to sell an invasion that will bog your country down in a war for a decade, at great cost and at the expense of thousands of lives. Moreover, while both "lies" might reflect on the character of the particular president, only one seems to have real bearing on governance. That Mamet reduces the two to a kind of equivalency suggests A) an overly simplistic moral imagination and B) a carelessness about what the president actually does.

Next example:
“The question occurs to me quite a lot: What do liberals do when their plans have failed? What did the writers do when their plans led to unemployment, their own and other people’s? One thing they can’t do is admit they failed. Why? To admit failure would endanger their position in the herd.”
This statement comes in a magazine edited by Bill Kristol.

I'm not saying liberals are morally pure, or don't succumb to a herd instinct. But I don't think it's an ideological problem; it's a human nature problem. David Mamet, from what I can tell, is just changing herds. And that's fine. I just wish he'd spare us the sanctimony.


Glomarization said...

Is this really some kind of sudden conversion? Even a cursory read or viewing of Mamet's anti-feminist, anti-academy, anti-political correctness play Oleanna would peg the author as a conservative.

Anonymous said...

Also, what about "The Unit"?

D Johnston said...

Mamet's always been pretty conservative, but he doesn't toe the movement conservative line. Media types never quite know how to handle people with mixed political opinions.