I find it very intriguing that academics and entertainers are–at the present time in the U.S.–generally on the same side of political and social issues.
Because superficially, at least, the typical college professor and the typical (rock star, actor, etc) would seem to be very different kinds of people.
Thoughts on this? Anyone? Bueller?
23 thoughts on “Academics and Entertainers”
Why is that intriquing, assuming it is even true. Entertainers? do you mean hip hop performers, actors on stage? film actors? circus clows?
same side: you mean that many academics and many ertertainers support a woman’s right to abortion, and end to capital punishment, gun control etc? perhaps the social issues you have in mind are similar to those these two groups belive in.
I’ll take a few stabs at this. First, the entertainment business is ferociously competitive. When vying for the few spotlights, any negative attributes must be cast off. Given that the commanding heights of the entertainment industry in America is held by the Left, it’s almost a job requirement to lean to the correct side.
Second, I think that you’ll find that most academics are extremely specialized. They can speak knowledgeably about a very narrow field of human experience. About everything else, they’re reduced to following fashion or what feels good to them. Another way to say this is that academics seem to limit their critical thinking to their niche.
It’s this failure to apply rational logic to every issue, not the perceived Leftward bent of the Academy, that’s the true failing of higher education in America.
Many things drive them together in their world view. Ironchefoklahoma points to some and I would add the fact that both of these groups are insulated from the rigors of the day to day life many of us trudge through.
For example it’s easy to concern yourself with global warming issues when you have all of the material things you need and all the security you need. The tenure system provides a good living and security while entertainers make huge sums of money providing the same. They assume others enjoy the same comfort and security.
The guy working in a lumber mill or assembly line may realize global warming policies could cost him his job so his politics would be very different. He knows how quickly his life can be turned upside down.
Business owners see other business fail everyday and understand how tenuous their livelihoods are. Conservative policies tend to be less disruptive of the status quo leading them to support those policies.
The poor, while somewhat corrupted by government aid, believe mostly in conservative personal responsibility. It’s only the threat of losing aid they support liberal programs not the same beliefs that drive academics to support them.
I’m sure others can articulate this idea much better than I can but I think people get the basic theme. The luxury they live in protects them.
My theory is that such groups are far removed from price discovery of markets, relying instead on cultural groups (with narrow demographics) for approval or rejection.
I would add 1) granularity and 2) perspective to the question; something like this …
Which academics? I think you mean humanities/social science types, rather than engineering/hard science types. True? See also Joseph Hill’s question: which entertainers?
Strictly speaking, the political and social issue stances of academics and entertainers as reported in mass media are relatively congruent — and also congruent with the (known) statistical distribution of opinions about those issues among journalists. So is the reported congruence an artifact of the reporting process? This is where I, sounding like a stuck record, again point us to Media/Political Bias (compiled by a liberal academic, one I will nonetheless vouch for as very much having a mind of his own).
The above is not intended as a counterpoint to other explanations, especially those from Steve Plunk and “Caveat Bettor” invoking subcultural isolation and an absence of economic feedback loops.
It’s not just the war, academics-in-the-humanities, entertainers, artist, and journalist etc tend to line up on the same side many, many political issues.
My pet hypothesis is that all these activities require articulation and persuasion. The same general skills and behaviors that lead to success in one of these fields leads to success in the others. People proficient in the fields therefore all have the same general subculture. Leftism evolved to advance the status and power of this subculture. That is why most members of these professions are Leftist and in many cases, such as academics, extreme Leftist.
Leftist oppose warfare by liberal-democracies because during active warfare, articulate intellectuals have no significant role to play. Choosing a military solution marginalizes them and they cannot stand it. They don’t care about the aggressive actions of autocratic states because in most cases it doesn’t effect their status in the free world.
It wasw the “leftists” that wanted us to get involved in WWI, WWII and the Spanish Civil War…it was the other group–those right of center that wanted isolationism. Sorry, shanon but your comment seems way off.
“It wasw the “leftists” that wanted us to get involved in WWI, WWII and the Spanish Civil War”
For that matter, it was the Left that got us into Korea and Vietnam and it was Republican presidents who got us out of both.
Bob Dole and Barry Goldwater correctly called them all “Democrat wars”.
Mr. Bush is the first GOP president to take us into an optional overseas war. Hopefully he will be the last.
By the way, it is a damned good thing that Franco won the Spanish Civil War. He was not much of friend to Hitler, and Hitler hated him for it. The communists in Spain were controlled from Moscow. Had the communists won the Civil War then Hitler’s friend and ally Stalin, would have controlled Spain from September 1939 to July 1941. Hitler would likely have had free access to Spain had Stalin controlled it during those crucial years. Franco was a neutral who kept Hitler out. Stalin was an ally who would have gotten Hitler into Spain. The Meditteranean would have been lost to the British, with the prospect of the entire Middle East falling to the Germans as a result.
there are good ars and bad ones: moral or not. Korea. We stopped the North from taking over the south and turning it into a commie country.Bad? WWII–A Dem in charge and a Dem ended it in victory. Viet Nam? both parties kept us in it and the Ameican public ended it! Iraq? Bush got us in and his party keeps us in.
Spain: all speculation (above). but in fact Spain was hardly as neutral as suggested but was helping in small ways it Nazi pals.
“…World War II broke out in Europe. After the collapse of France in June 1940, Spain adopted a pro-Axis non-belligerency stance (for example, he offered Spanish naval facilities to German ships). Adolf Hitler met Franco in Hendaye, France (October 23, 1940), to discuss the Spanish entry in the war joining the Axis. Franco’s demands (food, military equipment, Gibraltar, French North Africa, etc.) proved too much and no agreement was reached. Contributing to the disagreement was an ongoing dispute over German mining rights in Spain…. Spain was good to Jews who got there in flight from Nazis.
“It wasw the “leftists” that wanted us to get involved in WWI, WWII and the Spanish Civil War”
Hmmm….I wasn’t aware that Bob Taft and Charles Lindbergh were veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Of the hard Left, their attitude toward Spain and WWII changed with attitude of the Soviet Union; they were interventionists until the Nazi-Soviet Pact, when they became isolationists until Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 when, magically, all the fellow travellers became the biggest Lend-Lease proponents around.
In Spain, the advocate of joining the Axis was the foreign minister, Serrano Suner. Franco was wiser but he could hardly deny Berlin access to Spanish ports anymore than Salazar in Portugal could risk cutting off supplies of wolframite to the Reich, despite Portugal being a British ally. Germany could have conquered the Iberian peninsula in a matter of days.
Joseph, I am agreeing with you. It was the Left that consistently pushed for war. Also Bosnia and Kosovo.
Franco was smart. He made impossible demands on Hitler, basically setting his price way too high for participation. Then, when his own pro-Nazi people kept pushing for entry into the war he allowed the organization of the Blue Division, which proceeded to go die in Russia. Problem solved, three different ways. His own trouble makers are safely in the grave, he has given the Germans a gesture to placate them, and he has kept much of the materiel the Germans provided to equip this “allied” formation. A rather brilliant stroke, really.
Stalin was far more cooperative with Hitler right up to July 1941. Hitler would have had a much better ally in Spain if the communists had won. They were tools of Stalin by the end. Orwell wrote about it. They shot the non-Stalinist leftists. There is no basis to think a communist Spain would not have cooperated with Hitler at least as much as Stalin did.
Shannon…I agree that the “articulation and persuasion” factor is very important…”word people” do tend to have a lot of attributes in common. But I’m not sure it’s the whole story here. Musicians, for example, are not always particularly articulate and/or persuasive.
All of us tend to overestimate our own wisdom; groups that are used to performing and moving audiences get caught up in their own charisma. Look at Sean Penn and Ward Churchill – more importantly look at their groupies/hangers on.
Both groups are less likely to feel certified by their acts and so are more reliant on others’ opinions of what they do – that is likely to make them more vulnerable to cascading political opinions.
Both groups are more likely to look at the particular – which generally leads to sympathy with (and study of and performance of) the exception. Not being like other people is an important self-rationalization for both. In America, our tradition is one of rebellion and our institutions are ones of change. Still, both try to define themselves against static conventional boring powerful authority figures (the patricidal tendencies of faculty is clear to anyone who has served on certain campus committees).
Neither wants to think of themselves as the adult – a movie star can be worth millions and running his own company, but he never thinks of himself as the “man.” The most careerist of faculty members spend their lives maneuvering for higher pay, smaller work loads and eventually an endowed chair, but will still identify as a young rebel, an outsider. Another problem is then they don’t take responsibility when they are in control.
Both groups would have been better off if they hadn’t imbibed so much of the vision of the French Revolution and the messier, more self-indulgent Romantics. Both perform, move others (and themselves as well) with emotion rather than logic. They are more likely to be sympathetic to romantic figures than to enlightenment ones. Notice when social studies faculty discusses topics like global warming or evolution or . . . they are likely to fall rapidly into ad hominem attacks or straw men ones. They naturally emphasize emotional reactions. But if your area is soc or anthro or psyc, women’s studies or minority studies or American studies, besides the trendier emphasis upon victimology, the focus has always been on emotions, responses, the unconscious rather than the conscious.
Movie scripts focus on the sympathetic individual, dramatic scholarly theories on the uncommon. For a short period, it was axiomatic that the traditional family was a hothouse for sexual abuse of girls. The fact that molestation by a biological parent is extraordinarily rare was ignored and there was a foggy focus on “father figures” or that rare case. To keep the focus in which a teacher or an actor is treated as some kind of moral saint, they choose to put themselves at odds with the majority, the conventional, the traditional. That trope was especially nice because it was a chance to trash the patriarchy.
And I suspect both groups would be better off if they hadn’t been infiltrated to a much larger than generally acknowledged degree by fellow travelers a couple of generations ago. The Delaware diversity training demonstrates how strongly that group think remains and how little discredited the methods have been.
I think the alignment/alliance of entertainers and academics in American politics is an outgrowth of a democratic political system. The entertainers perform the role of demagogue, which the academic is unsuited to (the typical academic’s “articulation” being more suited to persuading colleagues rather than the public). So the academic writes the script and the actor performs. They both end up on the left because the left the is home of mob politics, and the natural home of demagogues. In a more aristocratic polity, the academics just go straight to the ruling class and ignore the “people” altogether. (And actors end up little more than prostitutes)
In my more cynical moments, I find that the role of the intellectual is to provide a “rational” justification for the power changes that are driven by technology. Marxism was nothing more than an intellectual justification for the real power that labor gained from the concentration of capital in large enterprises. (That power being the power to destroy or hold captive the capital stock of the owner – it is no coincidence that the earliest industries unionized were also those most vulnerable to sabotage, such as railroads). The philosophical underpinnings of the American Republic were little more than rationalizations of the power change brought about by firearms. (Ditto women’s suffrage). Intellectuals follow power, they don’t create it.
Each are the center of their own universe. However, being organics means they need to reverify that on occasion by measuring the pull of their own gravity [aka hubris].
Phwest…so in your model in which intellectual justifications follow power shifts created by technological changes–what do you see as the present-day power shifts based on technology?
This post, and of course the comments, do the usual: a chance to further badmouth anyone and all those who do not side with your position, which sees all the evil as due to those a bit or more to the left of your position, and I assume that includes the “conservbatve” GOP that supported Bush and what he has in so few years managed to do to the nation, the military, and our reputation abroad.Blame the massive deficit we now face on….’; blame the endless war that has no end in sight because Iraq civil war will not allow for them to take over and govern their own country. It was a Democrat who, in the White House, stopped the communist takeover of Korea.It as a Democrat who was in charge when we beat the Nazis and Japan. It was a Democrat who finally got us a surplus in our national budget. It was a Democrat who got us FDIC and on and on…but let us blame not just the commies but also the film industry, the media, and the Democrats for making your life so intolerable. Who “invented” tenure?
Joseph..”leftist,” “progressive” and “Democrat” are not unchangeable Platonic Forms. An FDR Democrat or a Truman Democrat were very different kinds of creatures from Reid or Pelosi Democrats (although maybe not all that different from the rare species of Lieberman Democrats)
It might be helpful in your interactions if you’d get a handle on a few definitions: straw man, red herring, hasty generalization, false dichotomy. If you insist upon dragging in Bush’s rush to war or how much Bush has hurt us internationally , you might temper your statements with a sense that you are actually interested in what went on and is going on and not merely in repeating stale talking points. The only other commentator that mentioned “democracy” is Lex – who, in this case is making an argument similar to yours. We don’t have rigorous standards of argument and God knows I don’t abide by those we do and can go off topic fairly easily. But your posts sometimes seem to be written as exercises in fallacious debate.
“do the usual: a chance to further badmouth anyone and all those who do not side with your position, which sees all the evil as due to those a bit or more to the left of your position”
Who said anything regarding evil? I’m pointing out that your assumptions regarding the history of the period are incorrect.
I’ve always thought it was that academics, entertainers, and journalists, are folks for whom projecting a respectable image is important. Many leftist viewpoints, regaurdless of whether they are correct, sound good. If you are pro-war, you may be violent and evil. But who can blame you for being anti-war? War is bad, right? At best, you’re unselfish, peace-loving, and enlightened, and at worse you’re a little naive.
If you are pro-gay, you are forward thinking; if you are anti-gay, you are bigoted. Affirmative action. Death penalty. Social security. State health care.
On most issues where the break occurs cleanly between left and right, the left’s side sounds more attractive at first. Even if the rightist is correct, it is very easy to paint his point of view as arising from villiany. Whereas, even if the leftist is wrong, it is hard to accuse him of anything more than being too merciful–a very forgivable fault.
When it’s very important to appear moral to people who don’t understand all of the issues, the left is the way to go.
As a friend of mine once remarked, “it’s easy to be anti-war. It’s like being pro-kitten.”
If image is important to you — as it is for entertainers and academics (sometimes, sadly, even in the sciences) — then it’s important to publicly hold viewpoints that sound good. You don’t want to be accused of being pro-violence, anti-poor, anti-black, anti-gay, etc. if your livelihood depends on image. So you must hold the modern Democratic Party positions on a large number of issues.
Sometimes those positions are “right” or useful or efficient; sometimes they’re not. But, for the most part, holding those positions protects you from character assassination.
This post, and of course the comments, do the usual: a chance to further badmouth anyone and all those who do not side with your position…
Personally, I am largely trying to understand the behavior of a certain group of people who have largely escaped scrutiny because they themselves are the people in our society who do the scrutinizing. Most other groups in society have been analyzed to death. Nobody considers it a great mystery why business people support low taxes and low regulation but we still do puzzle over why academics in the humanities, artist and journalist all tilt strongly to the Left and in many cases represent the most extreme examples of Leftism. Leftism has long existed as the only political view to escape any kind of rigorous analysis.
So what is your explanation of why so many entertainers are Leftist? If this seems non-obvious to you remember that many surveys of academics in the humanities definitely show that such academics self-report their own extreme tilt to the Left. How do explain this?
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