Saturday, January 30, 2021

links for the weekend: bits on free speech questions in the age of social media, quotes about journalism (or postjournalism?), a Schenker-related lawsuit? and some links that show how the right and left can paradoxically overlap on "plandemic" class theories, maybe

At Los Angeles Review of Books Stephen Rohde reviews books that are, broadly speaking, for and against "free speech" in light of social media dynamics 

Alan Jacobs has three quotes on journalism.  The last quote topic of "post-journalism" 

In the last year conservative friends have taken to talking about the "plandemic" and how it is, though they never use the term, a kind of elite class war against normal Americans.  Postmillenial Reformed types may really just never read outside their bubbles because if they did they might find out how leftist/socialist they sound if they, say, read Leila Mechoui's and Alexander Davidson's riff on the pandemic as class warfare at The Bellows.  Along the theme, there's also Alex Gutentag's "The Great Covid Class War".

There's ... actually litigation going on over the Philip Ewell presentation that sparked controversy about Schenkerian analysis?   Having neither studied Schenkerian analysis nor felt any need to ever study it but having read Roger Scruton's criticism of it, it's a surreal thing to see that there's actual litigation going on in connection to it now.  I suggested a while back that if even conservative philosopher and author on the aesthetics of music Roger Scruton concluded that we'd be better off not bothering with Schenkerian theory that granting it's not the "only game in town" would be easy.  But this would be the point at which I concede I never got into academic music theory or musicology (and the two fields aren't really the same, as I have seen stated in conversations online in the last few years).  So, uh, anyway, that's something that may keep making headlines. 

1-30-2021 4:26pm
Throwing this one in

Kyle Gann's "Make Way for the Guitar Era" still seems relevant.  As a guitarist, of course, I readily admit my bias!  Not that I'm gonna stop reading Doug Shadle on symphonies, for instance, but just about any North American guitarist could point out that American music has probably always been an era defined by the guitar more than by the symphony. 

John McWhorter as "organic black conservative" (?)

Ta-nehisi Coates has written in the past about what described as the organic black conservative tradition, and his case study at the time (2008) was Bill Cosby.  Now, obviously, Cosby is hardly a spokesperson for a political philosophy among African Americans.  Coates has written in the past about social conservatism among blacks as distinct from think tank conservatism, As years go by I wonder if, maybe, John McWhorter might fit Coates' idea of the organic black conservative.

Friday, January 29, 2021

a substack take on Sanders having won the ideological war to tilt the DNC left with an abject failure to create a functional movement

Substack is sort of popular as a niche among writers who were more mainstream journalists and sometimes there's stuff that catches my eye.  Doug Shadle's substack is undergoing some kind of reboot and it will be interesting to see where he goes next with his writing projects.

This is someone I hadn't heard of until recently via Socratic Gadfly, who described this as a fair to middling take on the Sanders movement.

at The Gospel Coalition, Michael Horton on the cult of Christian Trumpism

I don't usually link to TGC for reasons long-time readers might already understand but ... every once in a while ... 

Regular readers may not need a reminder that I have a negative view of American civil religion more generally, whether in its red state or blue state forms.  Nostalgia for Camelot or Reagan would fit within that general rubric. I've floated a question in the past about whether there might be a thread like millenarianism (premillenial or postmillenial eschatology rather than amillenialism) that unites this specific variation of American civil religion but that's something for scholars to debate.

via Crosscut, articles on PNW tribal news--a tribe dealing with covid-19 and tribes litigating to keep records of tribes (recognized and not) within the PNW

Two articles by Manola Secaira.
First, on how the Quinault Nation has been handling the pandemic.

Second, tribes have joined a lawsuit to keep National Archives in Seattle

Mere Orthodoxy book reviews on white masculinity in U.S. evangelicalism and a review of Robert P Jones' White Too Long

Mere Orthodoxy has three reviews of Kristin Kobes du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne
Now I've got the book and plan to get to it but a progressive acquaintance of mine mentioned that she regretted reading it because, if I may paraphrase a bit, Jesus and John Wayne turned out to be not as much of a history as a project in nutpicking that functionally scapegoats white evangelicals more than it situates their activities in ways that can be understood whether we agree with them or not.

Another progressive acquaintence of mine mentioned this book which as yet has a review at Mere Orthodoxy, Robert P Jones White Too Long.

Monday, January 25, 2021

At Hyperallergic, Noah Fischer makes an argument that the art world needs a non-pejorative definition of populism but that since Trump's election populism has been cast in strictly negative terms

In short, these have been victorious years for anti-populists, who maintained their economic status quo while successfully rebranding exclusive cities, companies, and cultural institutions as the frontlines of progressive struggle.  But what is populism, anyway?

Just about four years ago, President Obama said: “I’m not prepared to concede the notion that some of the rhetoric that’s been popping up is populist.” He was referring to Trump’s racial-bullhorn campaign rallies, and still believed the term to be contested — that it could mean standing with the people in their struggle against financial elites — the rhetoric he’d employed in his 2008 campaign.  But after the 2016 election, US populism has been pulled into line with Europe’s decades-long use of the term to mean basically, nativism — and the hazardous and cynical manipulation of an ignorant populace by authoritarian leaders.

This negative framing of populism isn’t new to contemporary art. While major museums have long tipped their hats to popular tastes with exhibitions on Star Wars or motorcycles, skepticism of the general populace is embedded not just in the art world’s proximity to the one percent of one percent, but arguably in the socially vulnerable nature of the avant-garde. In the late ‘90s, for example, NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani deemed the YBA “Sensation” show which had travelled to the Brooklyn Museum, “sick stuff,” focusing on Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary” (1996) painting as an offence worthy of defunding the museum.


One of the points I've made here at Wenatchee The Hatchet since Trump got elected is that it's been troubling to see arts journalism define populism in strictly pejorative terms.  Since Trump's election it has been easy for well-established critics at venerable journalistic institutions to come up with patently idiotic appraisal of the most boilerplate liberal messages in mainstream popular level films.  Take Richard Brody's claim that Brad Bird promoted authoritarian populism in The Incredibles 2, for instance. This was the same Brody who claimed that Lady Susan Vernon didn't break any of the "important" rules of ethical behavior in Whit Stillman's Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship, which anyone who has even passing familiarity with Austen's writings knows is not the case. The possibility that something can be popular and have a populist aim without being "authoritarian" has seemed difficult for arts journalists, whether fine arts or performing arts, to even consider.

Fischer added:
In his short book What is Populism, German political philosopher and Princeton professor Jan-Werner Müller calls populism “the permanent shadow of representative politics.” His book argues that populism wherever it is found, is based on narrowly defining “the people,” so that populists always oppose pluralism. And yet, anti-populism conveniently justifies the rule of a benevolent elite, tasked to defend the nation against the uncouth, messy, and dangerous impulses of its masses. The book was assigned for the incoming Princeton class of 2021—an appropriate first instruction for a stratum preparing to helm the nation’s top institutions.

In a representative democracy, elites do, to some extent, have to contend with the voice of the street. Anti-populism therefore depends on incorporating popular imagery and language —even including the language of uprising— into the walls of their impenetrable institutions. The instruments of art, academia, and public relations/advertising are called on to perform this incorporation. Georgetown philosophy professor Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò explains how the concept of “elite capture” can be used to describe, “how political projects can be hijacked — in principle or in effect — by the well positioned and resourced.”  ...

This being an article at Hyperallergic the end goal is a left populism for the author but the points are worth considering across the spectrum of political and economic theories--why did it become so easy for arts institutions to cast all forms of populism as revanchist nativism?  Does a focus on representation within arts production make things better for Americans who are not working in the arts?  

Personally I don't have any problem writing about Wenzel Matiegka's guitar sonatas and Nikita Koshkin's 24 Preludes and Fugues for solo guitar on the one hand and then turning around and writing about Batman: the animated series on the other. I wrote years ago that it's one thing for film critics to complain that Hollywood keeps recycling the same old franchises and another thing to provide some feasible explanation for why this happens, and I proposed that if we actually look at which franchises keep coming back or staying around there's a pattern--that the franchises that stick around in Hollywood tend to be utopian or dystopian touchstones of pop culture in the JFK/LBJ "Camelot" era of the American civil religions or the Reagan era.  Thus "Nostalgia and the Anxieties of Empire: Toward a unified theory of American sci-fi movie nostalgia

Pointing out that the sci-franchises America keeps recycling cluster around the Camelot and Reagan era political mythologies is at least a theory as to why Hollywood is not merely "running out of ideas" but why they keep drawing from Star Trek, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes or trying to riff on Robocop.  The theory could even potentially explain why some reboot attempts keep failing to gain momentum a la Charlie's Angels.  None of which is to say that The Exorcist can't come back in some form, I was playing more with the basic idea that we should move beyond the critical bromide that "Hollywood has run out of ideas" to see if we can find any patterns in what franchises keep coming back.  If you factor in the 1980s and how G. I. Joe and Transformers were toy lines then you have to consider that the playtime kids had with those toys is  inextricably bound up with the films. 

Even Richard Brody could claim he enjoyed moments in the Bay-formers movies for replicating the experience of being a kid dumping all the toys out of the box to play some chaotic scene with them.  Right, Brody's still wrong to claim George Miller doesn't give or have as much fun as Michael Bay but if Brody can "get" the idea that he brings his memory of his own playing with toys as a kid to cut Michael Bay any slack as a film-maker he's at least tried to think about why anyone would greenlight the Bayformers films.  But then Brody could turn around and describe Brad Bird's Incredibles 2 as "authoritarian populism".

If the only kinds of populism that can exist are the kinds that American arts journalists and musicians the Western world over think will just vote for Trump then that cedes the whole concept of any kind of populism in the arts (and politics) to people like Trump and I would think that liberals, progressives and leftists would want to question why that has to be the case.  The article I've quoted from Hyperallergic clearly shows a writing who identifies with the left asking why this conflation of "populism" with "reactionary" has been so easily embraced in the arts.