Rightwing Film Geek

I cannot feign surprise

Last week, David Mamet wrote a piece in the Village Voice called “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal” (really … THAT headline got into the Village Voice). It’s lengthy, but well thought-through … RTWT. But here it is distilled in its essence:

mamet.jpgBut my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.
The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it’s at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.
As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

The best part here is his setting up the ideological conflict as one of the worldviews — the tragic and the perfectionist. I’ve always thought that a taste for Greek tragedy (and distaste for the secularized Christianity that is much of the contemporary liberal implicit worldview) contributed to my conservatism by immunizing me from the four-letter f-word liberals like to toss around: “fair.”

I’ve noted Mamet’s politics once here before, and the crack about “National Palestinian Radio” makes it clear that the left’s increasing anti-Semitism (masquerading as anti-Zionism or opposition to this or that Israeli ius in bello violation) is a prime motivator. I also think his work has made it reasonably clear for some time that he was no exponent of pc-orthodoxy — e.g., OLEANNA could only have been written by a man who thinks feminism turns women into grievance-mongering robots, and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS could not have been written by a man who believes man is perfectable (to call the play/film anti-capitalist simpliciter is reductive and flattening).

But anyway … welcome aboard, David. To the actual home of free thought, without smelly orthodoxies.

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March 20, 2008 Posted by | David Mamet | 14 Comments

The P.R. lie

David Mamet, one of my favorite writer-directors, had a column in the Chicago Tribune where he bluntly states some ugly truths about the Middle East, including the irrationality of the focus on Mel Gibson, ugly though what he said was.

Many Jews are upset with Mel Gibson because they believe in something called “the public relations war.”

But Mamet says there is no such thing, because Israel and the Arabs pursue self-evidently morally different causes (“Israel wants peace, the Arabs want Israel gone”) without it making a dent on “world public opinion.” So, he concludes, we are dealing with an irrational animus toward Israel fostering such chimeric notions as “cycle of violence” and “disparity of force.”¹

He also says that attempts to “address root causes” are inherently anti-Semitic when dealing with what is simply an irrational hatred (and anyone who maintains that the Arabs are not irrational anti-Semitic haters, marinated to the bone, is deluded).

That the Western press consistently characterizes the Israeli actions as immoral is anti-Semitism. … The Jews are not the victims of bad PR. They are the victims of anti-Semitism. Europe has always been devoted to the destruction of the Jews. At times it is acute; it is always chronic. …
To ask “must there not be a cause for this anti-Semitism?” is an outrage, similar to asking the rape victim “how short a skirt were you wearing?” The question cannot be posited without, at least, the implication of the victim “having, somehow, at least in part, ‘brought it on yourself’.”

The column piqued my interest in what is easily the most significant gap in my “Mamet-seen” list — the film of HOMICIDE, where Jewish identity is obviously more central than in any of Mamet’s other work. In fact, I’m tempted to say, HOMICIDE is the only film where it’s a centrally and explicitly textual matter — certainly I don’t recall it anywhere else and I’m enough of a Mamet fanboy to have liked the films of OLEANNA and AMERICAN BUFFALO.
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¹ Hezbollah and other Islamists know what they are doing in playing The Victim Card to Western media. The contemporary West has so thoroughly turned away from the (distorted, BTW) notion that “might makes right” that we’ve de facto embraced the ludicrous proposition that therefore “might makes wrong” or “weakness makes right” (the “oppressed” are somehow more authentic and honest, doncha know). So Israel must be being a bully because it has overwhelming military superiority.

August 10, 2006 Posted by | anti-Semitism, David Mamet, Middle East | , , | Leave a comment