David Mamet, As In Gamut

Over the past several years, playwright David Mamet – widely considered a flaming (tongued) liberal – has gradually drifted rightward in his political views. (See his 2008 Village Voice piece “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.'”)

And conservative media outlets are delighted to trumpet that drift.

First on the hardreading staff’s radar was Andrew Ferguson’s piece in the Weekly Standard earlier this month, which began with a description of a 2009 Mamet speech at Stanford University:

Higher ed, he said, was an elaborate scheme to deprive young people of their freedom of thought. He compared four years of college to a lab experiment in which a rat is trained to pull a lever for a pellet of food. A student recites some bit of received and unexamined wisdom—“Thomas Jefferson: slave owner, adulterer, pull the lever”—and is rewarded with his pellet: a grade, a degree, and ultimately a lifelong membership in a tribe of people educated to see the world in the same way.

“If we identify every interaction as having a victim and an oppressor, and we get a pellet when we find the victims, we’re training ourselves not to see cause and effect,” he said. Wasn’t there, he went on, a “much more interesting .  .  . view of the world in which not everything can be reduced to victim and oppressor?”

This led to a full-throated defense of capitalism, a blast at high taxes and the redistribution of wealth, a denunciation of affirmative action, prolonged hymns to the greatness and wonder of the United States, and accusations of hypocrisy toward students and faculty who reviled business and capital even as they fed off the capital that the hard work and ingenuity of businessmen had made possible. The implicit conclusion was that the students in the audience should stop being lab rats and drop out at once, and the faculty should be ashamed of themselves for participating in a swindle—a “shuck,” as Mamet called it.

It was as nervy a speech as I’ve ever seen . . .

. . . and the runup to Mamet’s forthcoming book, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture, whose theme, Ferguson says, is “The belief that government is essentially a con job run by con artists.”

The latest Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview elaborates on Mamet’s “coming-out party:”

Hear him take on the left’s sacred cows. Diversity is a “commodity.” College is nothing more than “Socialist Camp.” Liberalism is like roulette addiction. Toyota’s Prius, he tells me, is an “anti-chick magnet” and “ugly as a dogcatcher’s butt.” Hollywood liberals—his former crowd—once embraced Communism “because they hadn’t invented Pilates yet.” Oh, and good radio isn’t NPR (“National Palestinian Radio”) but Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt.

Mamet’s evolution didn’t happen overnight, but took a specific path, according to the Journal piece:

Mr. Mamet rattles off the works that affected him most: “White Guilt” by Shelby Steele, “Ethnic America” by Thomas Sowell, “The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War” by Wilfred Trotter, “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich Hayek, “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman, and “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill.

Before he moved to California, Mr. Mamet had never met a self-described conservative or read one’s writings. He’d never heard of Messrs. Sowell or Steele. “No one on the left has,” he tells me. “I realized I lived in this bubble.”

When it popped, it was rough. “I did what I thought was, if not a legitimate, then at least a usual, thing—I took it out on those around me,” Mr. Mamet says wryly. It took “a long, long, long time and a lot of difficult thinking first to analyze, then change, some of my ideas.”

But now they are changed. And we’re about to see a real life political drama worthy of Mamet’s playwrighting talents.

Fucking A, as a Mamet character might say.

(Illustration for the Wall Street Journal by Ken Fallin)

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6 Responses to David Mamet, As In Gamut

  1. Steve Stein says:

    I love the way conservatives are quick to dismiss the political views of those in the arts.

    Except when they don’t.

  2. Al says:

    Higher ed, he said, was an elaborate scheme to deprive young people of their freedom of thought. He compared four years of college to a lab experiment in which a rat is trained to pull a lever for a pellet of food. A student recites some bit of received and unexamined wisdom

    How is that any different from our MCAs drive el-hi school public education today?

  3. Bob Gardner says:

    As someone who was exposed to Sowell, and who was assigned Captialism and Freedom in college, I think Mamet should count his blessings.

  4. Pingback: David Mamet, As In Gamut (II) | Campaign Outsider

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