There seems to be a very large overlap between the political and social opinions of academics–a group which is very highly-educated, at least if we measure by time spent in the classroom–and the opinions of entertainers/celebrities–not typically distinguished in their educational level by that same metric, to put it mildly. (Although with individual exceptions, of course)
15 thoughts on “Strange Bedfellows?”
There’s no reason these industries should be leftist, and a generation or so ago they weren’t. They were specifically targeted by “the left” because they are so culturally influential. For the last couple decades, if you are conservative your options are:
1. see them as hostile territory and look for a different line of work
2. keep your mouth shut and try to just put up with persistent hostility to what you believe
3. be so amazingly good at what you do that you can overcome hostility to you (this is nearly impossible for newcomers due to the gatekeepers in these worlds)
I stick with my theory that the Vietnam War led leftist students trying to avoid the draft to stay in grad school and they became the faculty members of the 90s. The leftist faculty we see now are the students those leftist professors mentored along with the affirmative action shock troops, like the 88 professors that supported the prostitute accuser of the Duke lacrosse team. Those all are still in academia.
Like the economy, this was the work of Lyndon Johnson, the worst president in history.
I have read the Robert Caro biography twice.
There could be different mechanisms producing the same result.
As Mike K says, the universities (and through them the entire educational establishment) was taken over by Leftist draft-dodgers. The initial infiltrators acted as gatekeepers, such that today it is difficult for even a Far Leftist to get tenure at a university if he has the misfortune to be male & white.
For the top-line entertainers, the explanation is probably different. Just as the winning athlete knows there are usually other competitors only a fraction of a second behind him, the entertainer at the top of the greasy pole knows that she was lucky as well as talented. She could acknowledge her good fortune by writing big extra tax checks to the government, but it is a whole lot less painful to keep the money while mouthing Leftie platitudes.
One common factor that may be in play: both entertainers and (non-STEM) academics are professionally concerned with ‘narratives’, and there can be a tendency to confuse narrative with reality…
There are plenty of entertainers who are conservative/Republican/etc. There’s nothing inherent in that that can explain what you’re asking about. Conservatives like to tell stories too.
Roseanne isn’t conservative or Republican, she’s just off in some bizarro quadrant of her own, and she got her career completely destroyed overnight for insulting a mutual friend of her network president and Michelle Obama. I think that after the Clintons the Hollywood/media “elite” has become much more extremely intertwined with the Democrat party. In many cases they’re literally in bed with each other.
Brian, I think the actors have made such a huge amount of money the past 40 years, they are embarrassed and act like inherited wealth trust fund kids.
I just read Leslie Caron’s autobiography and she had a very interesting life. She is kind of a lefty but was always sort of vulnerable to economic winds. Her grandparents were wealthy but ruined by the war. She was malnourished during the war.
The actors popping off at the Oscars and on TV have never known real hardship and think the money they are being paid makes them smart.
The evidence is pretty clear that neither group cares much about reality and members of both groups are extremely concerned about being part of the “in” group.
Today the need to conform is so strong that expressing disagreement can be economic suicide.
I am not disagreeing with any of the theories, but would add to that “narrative” bit that both professions involve a fair bit of not only reading what the public will like, but anticipating it. Even more, they have to also please a very small group of gatekeepers to get to perform at all. They are not only word people but have to communicate with tone and insinuation as well.
They didn’t all do that in my day, and I doubt they all do it now.
A conjecture: Both groups attract a large number of wannabe aristocrats. And modern leftism, despite its pretense to “progress,” “science” and “the future” is actually a retrograde, lord-and-peasants ideology that’s attractive to wannabe aristocrats. That’s also why modern leftism is so simpatico with Islam.
“Narrative” was the way of old mythology since it is easier to remember the details without any “thought” or comprehension. Memorizing the “narrative” has been the core of much, non-stem, education and is, after all, the core of entertainment/theater, so it is not surprising to me that both have degenerated to the same prattle. Economics or political philosophy can take a bit of effort but the “narrative”, i.e. “The Party Line”, provides an easily memorized answer to any question/challenge. “Marx” or “Social Justice” provide all the needed answers, at least superficially. Any disruption is a hated attack on the easy flow of the “narrative”, because it might suggest the need for actual thought, comprehension, or knowledge. The “cool kids” don’t need none of that, they know the magic words.
The mindset of the thing you do for a living over many years shapes your mindset over the long term.
The skills of a successful entertainer are in manipulating an audience. If you develop them yourself, they are founded on predicting the reactions of that audience well enough to manipulate them. If you learned them from others, they were originally based on studying the audience’s reactions well enough to do that manipulation. Movie projects are big, and hand off the audience study to specialists, whose reports are examined by management. Book projects likewise have a lot of potential divorce between the manipulator and the immediacy of audience feedback.
If you have come to believe that manipulation is important, that you are a good manipulator, and that the skill makes you complete, then leftism is an attractive philosophy. It is attractive because it promises to reshape reality by manipulating reactions, emotions, and perspectives.
The explanation for an academic is similar. When you come to see the world through the lens of working with information and arguments to write something about the ‘theory of x’ in journals, or teach it in classes, etc., leftism attracts because of the extravagant promises it makes to intellectuals.
Leftist theory always has more work to do, because of the need to change things to suck up to the current powers of the left. It also purports to believe that the theory is of fundamental importance. So leftist theory is very attractive for scholars who are not up to legitimate scholarship in any field, because it is something to do, and claims to be important.
My position on intellectuals is anti-intellectualism. My intellectual journey to that was largely a result of Kratman’s explanation that he is not an intellectual, because he does not think that his intellectual activity will have a profound effect on the world.
Look, I would not plan on an academic career because I have no intention exposing myself to that level of risk from leftist punishment. Beyond that, most fields of academia are boring for me. Leftist ideas are ultimately sterile, and sorting for the good ideas within a field would be a lot of work. Within the small number of fields where the work to gain a good foundation isn’t prohibitive (because they are not filled with junk), there are only a few interesting ones. In those fields, actual improvements are not things you can count on making, so you have to be able to live off of the expectations for what you can reasonably accomplish. The choices are a) do academia, but live of other successes in life b) set a realistically narrow set of academic accomplishments, and be able to live off those c) go academic, and use the socialist religion to bring meaning to your life.
Mike/SMO…”Economics or political philosophy can take a bit of effort but the “narrative”, i.e. “The Party Line”, provides an easily memorized answer to any question/challenge. “Marx” or “Social Justice” provide all the needed answers, at least superficially.”
C S Lewis said something similar: in critiquing what he thought was a very lame literature textbook, he remarked that literary criticism is *hard*, and it’s much easier to write about politics at a superficial level.
This point seems to apply more to the academics than to the entertainers, though…If you’re a lousy actor, it seems unlikely that spouting the right political opinions will lead you to a stellar career.
They’re both fields where the work is manipulating information. Also, the product in both fields is not a necessity. Both are outside the “mainstream” of economic life.
There are also some massive differences.
Entertainment/arts is financially ruthless: absolutely no security, one is entirely at mercy of the market (i.e. the audience). One must produce immediate value, continually, or perish.
In academia, the product (instruction, scholarship) is of no immediate value. Most workers enjoy steady pay and lifetime tenure, drawn from government or non-profits, not the consumer. “Quality control” is weak.
Brian is right. These fields were intentionally taken over by leftists. The long march through the institutions is real and was intentional.
I asked our friend Robert Avrech, an Emmy-award-winning screenwriter and a genuine Republican and conservative in Hollywood, for his thoughts on this. His response here:
also, Robert’s blog is highly recommended.
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