Art & Architecture & Building, Book Reviews, Charles, Foundationalism, Left-Liberalism, Post-Liberalism
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The New Philistines (Sohrab Ahmari)

I am a Sohrab Ahmari fanboy. I endorse his recent full-throated calls for creation of a post-liberal future, and admire that he has boldly claimed the mantle of leadership. What matter if Ahmari’s prescriptions are not yet fully coherent? The mark of a true leader is one who can inspire others to follow him. A man who claims to know with precision every step along the way, and the solution for every problem, is an ideologue or a grifter, not a man of destiny. This short book, Ahmari’s first, though barely three years old, is interesting primarily not for its topic, the ideological degradation of contemporary art. Rather, it’s interesting for what it shows about the arc of Ahmari’s thinking, about the march of post-liberalism, and about how art relates to post-liberalism.

Ahmari’s growth, to appropriate a term beloved by the Left, has been pretty dramatic. As he relates in his 2018 memoir, From Fire, By Water, he grew up a Marxist semi-agnostic in Islamic Iran, then moved to the United States as a teenager, and gradually drifted rightward. Most recently, a fight he initiated with David French of National Review exposed fracture lines on the Right and brought into the open a burgeoning line of conservative thought, one that is tired of being a beautiful loser and instead insists that winning is both possible and necessary. We will not discuss that much here, even though it is a fascinating topic, and one upon which much turns. What matters is that competent, rational, unashamed post-liberals have emerged on the Right. By that term, I mean someone who rejects most or all of the Enlightenment as a failed project, and who regards wholesale rework of the American system as both desirable and necessary. Under this definition, a populist conservative such as Tucker Carlson is not a post-liberal. He overlaps some, and he may be an ally in the wars to come, but the distinction is that Carlson, for today, still maintains that a restoration, not a rework, is possible of the American system. Those who have moved beyond that are post-liberals.

By itself, that’s not enough to make a movement. The ferment on the Right throws up lots of new ideas, some good, some bad, some in-between. Most die unloved and unknown. What makes Ahmari different is two things. First, Ahmari occupies a prominent public position, op-ed editor of the New York Post. No other conservative, much less post-liberal conservative, occupies such a position; conservatives are all either stuck in the conservative ghetto with no relevance beyond it, or like David Brooks, are house conservatives on the plantations of the Left, docile and obedient to their masters, and careful to never pose any actual challenge to Left hegemony. Second, Ahmari is the only prominent post-liberal with any charisma. That is, there exist several fairly prominent post-liberals, notably Curtis Yarvin and Adrian Vermeule (very different from each other, to be sure). Their collective charisma does not register on any meter one can find. And true, there are some semi-prominent men with charisma who seem like they are working up to become post-liberals, notably Michael Anton. But he has not come out of the Enlightenment closet, though as I have said, he will, soon enough. That leaves Ahmari, for now at least, as the man of the hour on the post-liberal Right.

This seems like an odd introduction to a book putatively about art and its degradation. Certainly, Ahmari wrote The New Philistines in 2016 about art, not about post-liberalism. But viewed from 2019, it is a stepping stone, a puzzle piece, in the development of Ahmari’s thought. If it were a book purely about art, I would have little to say, since with all forms of art, I am not able to say much of worth to others, because my own discernment and insight is close to zero. Whether it is music, painting, theater, or architecture, I do not especially enjoy it, or really understand it. (My Jordan Peterson-approved five-factor personality test confirms this gut understanding of myself; I score very low in “creativity and aesthetic sensitivity. ”) I am not repelled by painting, or sculpture, but do not go out of my way to view it. Mozart sounds like elevator music to me. Theater is boring. Architecture I view instrumentally, as modes for living and a projection of power, although if I had to pick an art where I had some actual thoughts, it would be architecture.

Ahmari wrote this book about art. So let’s at least do him the courtesy of evaluating what he says. Ahmari does not claim that he has special insight, but he is a lot more appreciative of art than I am. He is at pains on the first page to acknowledge that since Aristotle, claims have been made that art has declined, and to distinguish this historical tendency from what is happening now. His claim, which he attempts to demonstrate within the book, is that “Things that are going wrong with art are qualitatively worse than all that came before.” Ahmari does not dislike Modernist art, for example, or if he does dislike it personally, he does not reject that it has artistic value, even if it is based on “radical ideas about what counts as beautiful and how to convey truth.” Today’s art world, however, is wholly and deliberately disconnected from any conception of beauty. Rather, it is a set of noxious manifestations of identity politics, a tool in the struggle to obtain power and release from supposed oppression, rather than being “a mirror and repository of the human spirit.”

Now, I suspect this idea that one generation usually thinks that art has declined since the previous one is exaggerated. Perhaps it is sometimes difficult to distinguish fashion from art, but I suspect the Ancient Greeks may sometimes have carped about changes in art, yet still for the most part attempted to make objective aesthetic judgments, and did not assume newer was not as good. The same was probably true for other eras of the efflorescence of high art, from the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the Islamic Golden Age. I could be wrong, not being at all an expert in art history, but I suspect that this exaggeration is deliberate and a form of modern propagandistic sophistry designed to shut down criticism. My bet is that we are often lectured that unfavorable comparisons of today’s art to art of the past are the historical norm is merely an attempt to prevent us from complaining about actual degradation that is occurring in modern times, by making the complaint seem uniformed and illegitimate, and therefore not calling for any response except contempt.

This is part of a broader pattern of historical propaganda about intergenerational conflict. I have been wondering lately if it is true, as you age, you become a curmudgeon, viscerally rejecting and unable to accept change, and unable to discern whether change is good or bad. Is the common belief that you become a fuddy-duddy as you age true, in other words? After some thought, I am pretty sure that to the extent this is true, it is a modern phenomenon. In any pre-1800 society, to be sure, there was always some conflict between young and old. After all, the young are impetuous and ambitious, desirous of making their way in the world, and the old are more cautious, due to experience and the desire not to lose what they have.

But there is a crucial distinction between demands for energetic action and demands to change the framework of society. In the pre-modern past the young did not see the ideas, the principles, the morals, the values of the old as stagnant. Young and old accepted the same things, usually; the differences arose from choosing tactics to achieve common ends, and the young expected and desired to mature into the old. If you read about the history of Venice, for example, there are none of these demands by the young for necessary change, or resistance by the old to it. Instead, everyone evaluated proposed actions from his perspective and with the wisdom he had. Examining history, it becomes clear that creating conflict among the generations about the basic values and morals of a society is yet another poisonous fruit of the Enlightenment, created by the fantasy that society must always change and move “forward”—that new emancipations must always be discovered, and new supposed oppressions therefore laid at the feet of the old. The good news is that like most Enlightenment ideas, this one is coming to its inevitable end, along with the destruction wrought. In a post-liberal society, under Foundationalism, the young will cooperate with the old; it will look more like the Venice of 1400, in this respect, than any modern Western society.

Well, that was another long tangent. Ahmari wrote this book when he was still living in London, so all the art he directly profiles is there. He begins with the ruination of the Shakespeare program offered at the restored Globe theater, citing the insane and creepy things that the new director, Emma Rice, appointed in 2016, did and said in the few months she was in charge before the book was published. All revolve around identity politics; all are dumb, from making A Midsummer Night’s Dream about homosexuals to mandating that male characters must be played by women in order to achieve 50-50 “gender parity.” Ahmari accurately and insightfully compares it all to Socialist Realism—art in the service of politics, not transgressive, just “drearily conformist.”

What Ahmari could not have known is that Rice was fired in April 2018. The cover story given was that the Globe’s board didn’t like her use of “sound and light rigging.” That’s obviously not the real reason; presumably the theater, which as Ahmari notes caters primarily to “tourists and students,” had lost money when it moved away from traditional enactments of Shakespeare’s plays. But maybe not—the Globe immediately hired another woman, Michelle Terry, who also insisted on “gender parity,” and promptly staged a version of Hamlet—with herself as Hamlet, a man far taller than her playing Ophelia, and a tiny woman playing Laertes. Or maybe the board, in thrall to woke capitalism, just couldn’t bring itself to hire a normal person who would offer plays the audience actually wanted.

Talk about Shakespeare is windup. The “New Philistines” of the book’s title are the critics and other art “professionals” who evaluate art purely on the basis of the politics of the hour. They, and especially the insider’s magazine Artforum, are Ahmari’s main target. Much of what Ahmari is trying to do is simply explain to normal people the thought processes and vocabulary used by these professionals, who form a deliberately insular yet highly influential group, “artists” who reject all beauty and all traditional purposes of art, yet are massively funded both by government largesse and private handouts. Ahmari notes that Artforum, and all its ilk, are basically “a mix of radical feminism, racial grievance, anti-capitalism, and queer theory.” (A glance at their website at this moment will confirm that nothing has changed.) Ahmari does us the favor of explaining what queer theory is, to the very limited extent it is coherently explainable. He also talks about the buzzwords always found jumbled with queer theory, such as intersectionality, visibility, and legibility, all of which of course are merely kaleidoscopic cant used by those untalented and unproductive to demand they receive unearned and undeserved power and money. At some level, it’s all so boring, or would be, if it wasn’t so destructive and evil.

We end the book with Ahmari travelling around London to art galleries, narrating the various worthless garbage he finds. All true, though not really all that new. Normal people paying even the slightest attention to contemporary art have known for decades exactly what our betters are doing, often with our money, while showering contempt on us. What does Ahmari propose in response? That is where things get interesting.

Bizarrely, given his current political stance, Ahmari’s 2016 prescriptions sound like Jonah Goldberg. Ahmari has more style, but what he wants here is the same ineffectual pleas that loser conservatives have been pushing for decades. More (classical) liberalism! More Enlightenment thought! (He even quotes the odious Lionel Trilling, who used to be famous but now, like most Baby Boomer idols, is mostly forgotten, about how awesome liberalism is.) Invocations of “individual rights,” “popular sovereignty,” and the like, we are told, are the cure for identitarian power politics, whose advocates are anti-liberal, opposed to a beneficial universalist culture that has no particular values. All we need is more tolerance for all. John Stuart Mill is not mentioned, but might as well be. Ahmari even claims that the market will ensure that, while this degradation has a trickle-down effect, most popular entertainment will stay “immune to the politicisation exerted by the New Philistines.” You know whom the Ahmari of 2016 sounds exactly like? You guessed it. David French.

Perhaps part of why Ahmari has, this year, changed his tune is because he realized that he had not understood his enemies. In this book, he naively attributes their actions to ignorance or incoherence, not to the malice that actually motivates them. “It escapes the identitarians’ notice that their embrace of absolute relativism makes hogwash of all their pretensions to social justice: why should their measure of morality, aesthetic value or justice stand, if all such measures are contingent about history, institutions, and power relations?” As I have discussed at length elsewhere, such coherence is far less important to most ideologies than some combination of money (which flows in massive quantities to the identitarians, and not only in art), the sweet feeling of transcendence and meaning, and, most of all, the luscious feeling of having both moral superiority and power over others. Ahmari wonders why creators of identitarian “art” don’t see they bring no joy, and that the masses still flock instead to the older art available (for now) in galleries. There is nothing to wonder about; for Ahmari refuses to draw the obvious conclusion—they have no interest in joy, only in feeling superior to, and lording it over, others, while profiting handsomely.

Change his tune he has, though. As I say, the details of that are a topic beyond this review, but one I have addressed at some length elsewhere. It is all part of the ferment on the Right from which something will arise, and that right soon. Talking about art, however, has made me want to turn to two related topics about which I have been thinking for some time. First, why is it that in modernity, art is associated with the Left, whereas that is not the historical pattern? Second, what will art look like under Foundationalism, my own prescribed post-liberal system?

By art being associated with the Left, I mean that today it appears that the vast majority of those earning their living from creating art are personally leftist and frequently overtly use their art to support leftist causes. At the same time, those who, on any significant scale, support artists with money or other benefits are also all leftists, equally eager to further the use of art to achieve political ends. The result is that today determining where art ends and left-wing agitprop begins is very frequently impossible. Much neutral art exists, of course, but very little in what might be considered high, or more accurately, high-publicity, art. And zero right-wing artists or right-wing art of any relevance or competence appear to exist. The result is that the vast majority of money paid to artists, both government money and private purchases or donations, flows to leftist artists, creating a self-reinforcing system of leftist dominance of the arts.

Why, though? In the pre-modern past, this was not true at all. I think it is because high art has always been a reflection of the ruling class, and we in the Western world for many decades have had a terrible ruling class rapidly getting worse. It is not a coincidence that art became degraded in parallel to the rise of the Left to dominance in the twentieth century, which is itself the natural end-state of Enlightenment thinking. Unlike Ahmari (or at least unlike the Ahmari of 2016), I think all twentieth-century modern art is essentially just as worthless as the degraded pseudo-art of our own time, and that the degradation of art began when such art acquired traction. As far as I can tell with my admittedly limited knowledge, art declined along with, and in parallel to, our own society, throughout the twentieth century, accelerating since the 1960s.

This is not, therefore, a problem with government funding, as French-ite conservatives have it. Rather, it is a problem of social rot. Until quite recently, the government did not support artists directly in any meaningful way, so all funding was private, and mostly in the form of payments for artworks, not handouts to support artists in general (though after World War II such handouts dramatically increased). Thus, long before the government started shoveling money at artists to create degraded works, private individuals in the ruling class used their money to ensure the ascendance of leftists creating degraded art. When exactly this began I am not sure. I cannot tell you, for example, what high art was actually produced and valued in the Europe of, say, 1910. Since the New Philistines control discussion of art, we are always told that the first decades of the twentieth century were a march toward modernist art and away from all the art that came before. I suspect this is a largely falsified history and that Modernist art was mostly ignored by the ruling classes until well after World War II. (James Stevens Curls’s Making Dystopia covers this as applied to architecture.) In any case, what we have today is the ruling classes endorsing nihilism as art, and using their control of government to leverage support for art as agitprop, for no more complicated reason than that those ruling classes are awful. The result is uniformly leftist artists and art, and a vicious circle, as right-wing artists can never even get started, so adopt a different career path, or themselves drift left under pressure.

A possible counter-argument, made plausible by an apparent mapping to reality, is that those on the political left tend to be more open to new things as a personality trait, and that art is in large part the creation of new things, so therefore artists tend to be more left. That would not explain the total dominance of the Left of art, but it would explain some degree of imbalance. But this confuses the creation of new art with the creation of something qualitatively new, different from what came before, change for the sake of change. Great art is new, by definition, for it is not copied, but it has the qualities of beauty driven by talent, as all great art always has. When it leaves those behind for simple newness, as those “open to experience” may desire in the restless search for novelty, it does not become better art, rather most likely the reverse. And, of course, this counter-argument buys into the Left’s caricature of the Right as being primarily interested in avoiding change. It is an implicit suggestion that all art that is not qualitatively new is mere copying, which is obviously false. The caricature is not honest analysis, of course; it is a weapon, like almost all leftist speech, a rhetorical device used disingenuously to insist that any resistance to, and even more rollback of, Left victory is inherently irrational and illegitimate.

The exact interplay of the ruling class and art, historically, is complex. The ruling class to some extent wants art, the art for which it pays, to reflect its prejudices, desires, and ideologies. Today’s Left is no different in that. On the other hand, great patrons of art, from Augustus to the Medicis, usually preferred to fund the best artists, figuring (correctly) that in its reflection they would show themselves off in the best light. The Left, of course, has abandoned this approach. But what follows is that if we change our ruling class we can change our art and the approach of artists. Defenestrating this ruling class is my goal, so let’s turn to Foundationalism, and the role of art and artists in that future political structure. There are really two parts to this—getting to Foundationalism, and flourishing under Foundationalism.

As to getting to Foundationalism, I distinguish art in the sense we are using it today, high art, from persuasive art, which has a strong element of propaganda. Foundationalism is most definitely not a democratic system, but as José Ortega y Gasset noted, force follows public opinion; Julius Caesar and Augustus both cultivated public opinion assiduously. And in the modern world, technology and mass culture have made persuasive art essential to cultivating public opinion. Yet the Right has always done a terrible job of it (though certainly the National Socialists and the Fascists did a great job of it, as Wolfgang Schivelbusch discussed in Three New Deals, so it’s possible for the Right, broadly viewed, to be very persuasive through art). The first thing I’m going to do when launching Foundationalism is to hire a world-class set of artists to create persuasive art. Any takers? (I mean truly world-class; I have come to understand that in any endeavor, even of those who do well and are outwardly successful, only a tiny fraction are truly the best, and they stand apart, not on a continuum.)

But that’s different from high art. Under Foundationalism, since our current ruling class will have been entirely replaced or reformed, through, among other devices, lustration and confiscation of ill-gotten gains, a new ruling class will by definition form. It will not be Left. That doesn’t mean artists have to be right-wing under Foundationalism. In fact, Foundationalism anticipates similarity to pre-modern political systems, in which most people were apolitical about matters beyond the local sphere, both because they will have no say in such matters, and because subsidiarity will be the order of the day, or rather of the future centuries. And the ruling class will generally seek objective excellence in art, not agitprop. Thus, artists will mostly be apolitical, like everyone else, and their art also mostly non-political, though tending to reflect the themes of the ruling class. Say, the Solar Imperium and the rebirth of Christianity. We’ll see. What it won’t have any connection to is the trash covered by this book.

That brings up the obvious question—will leftist art be directly suppressed, since no doubt there will be many shiftless leftist artists around for a while? Since their art is objectively not high art, but garbage, they will find no place in a system that rewards excellence in art. And because their funding sources will dry up, most of them will probably have to turn to honest labor to earn their bread, or change their political tune. Thus, there will be no need to suppress leftist art, because nobody will care about it anymore, and it will wither naturally. Leftist art collectives can have all the exhibitions they want, if they can afford to. The rest of us will return to the days when art was a joy, inspiration, and comfort to everyone, and forget that any of this unfortunate detour in art ever happened.

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  1. Marcus says

    “The identitarians know, too, that their ideology can’t supplant the pure joy we take in the energetic brushstroke, in the playful line, in shape and colour, in the nobility of the human form, that is beside the point: what aesthetic or cultural purpose is served when our art is so overtly politicised?”

    One of my favorite quotes from the book; Sohrab Ahmari pares down the problem with music festivals, awards shows, literary events, and anything else broadcast to the ‘unwashed peasants’.

  2. Austin says

    *_Is the common belief that you become a fuddy-duddy as you age true, in other words?_*
    In the past couple of years I have been thinking a lot about the influence of postmodernism on popular music, and in particular the ability to deconstruct the act of musical performance with the aid of computers. It has become ragingly popular to do this, but not without consequences. Rick Beato makes a very well put set of arguments about those consequences.

    *_Ahmari wonders why creators of identitarian “art” don’t see they bring no joy, and that the masses still flock instead to the older art available (for now) in galleries._*

    And ditto for popular music. The Beatles’ _Abbey Road_ was re-released two weeks ago in a lightly-remixed form intended to bring out the clarity of the original tracks using today’s recording technology. It’s currently charting at No. 3.

    *_…the fantasy that society must always change and move “forward”—that new emancipations must always be discovered, and new supposed oppressions therefore laid at the feet of the old._*

    Soundgarden are one of the few “post rock” bands I have time for. They draw on the 70’s progressive and heavy rock that I grew up listening to, and they are skilled and inventive musicians. Where the “post rock” influence comes in is their intentional use of dissonance, and lyrics with anti-hero themes and disjointed metaphors: _When the forest burns along the road / Like God’s eyes in my headlights / When the dogs are looking for their bones / And it’s raining icepicks on your steel shore_

    They get away with it because rock music has never relied too greatly on meaningful lyrics, and they stay just on the right side of tunefulness and innovation. But it’s just a hop and a skip away from this:

    The comments section is comedy gold, and one comment nails the principle of aesthetic beauty: “Sad how your brain tries so hard to push it to where it’s actually supposed to be”. You can’t hide the value of real art from the masses.

    In the anti-hierarchical world of the lunatic left, there is no qualitative difference between this abomination and the original track.

    • Charles says

      I think good popular music, and popular art, is also important. It is not clear to me in the modern world if the old distinction between ruling class art and popular art can even be maintained, between mass media, technology, and the masses driving tastes with consumer dollars.

  3. Austin says

    The first thing I’m going to do when launching Foundationalism is to hire a world-class set of artists to create persuasive art. Any takers?

    I imagine your first candidates in the music field would look something like the band Vulfpeck. Stellar musicianship untainted by computer trickery, and they sold out last week’s Madison Square Garden show without any “help” from a manager or label. Find them on YouTube or Instagram.

    (And let’s see if I nailed the formatting tags.)

    • Charles says

      I’ll check them out! I was thinking graphics, not music, but you’re right—I’m going to need a full-spectrum panoply.

  4. Charles,

    When will you write more about Foundationalism? Either as a set of articles or as a book.

    • Charles says

      Ah, a question I have been thinking about quite a bit. Thoughts:

      1) A “set of articles,” or the seed of them, is already aborning. So, for example, the Space piece I wrote was explicitly centered around one of the to-be pillars of the Foundationalist enterprise, as abstractly conceived and delivered (with the understanding that Foundationalism is an organic thing, not an ideology, and thus variations are inevitable and to be expected). And other pieces have more explicitly started referencing Foundationalism.

      2) These articles and references are meant, in part, to develop my own thought. Therefore, they are not complete; they are building blocks. In the background, I maintain other writings, and structures, into which these are being fit. There is a more coherent whole, that is, than is evident, but it is not complete, nor explicit in many instances.

      3) I could certainly sit down and write the whole book, and I flatter myself it would be excellent and useful. Right now, though, very few would notice or care. There is a limited market for such writings. But I expect the market will grow as the time of troubles looms. Therefore, I want to push the book out as close to social turmoil as possible, in order to, um, “enhance” that turmoil, and such that it will be topical enough, without being ephemeral in its focuses. The world is shifting, and timing is all, as Lenin said.

      4) The biggest single reason, though, is that I expect to roll out the book along with some broader program relating to Foundationalism, as my mentions of, for example, artistic propaganda, imply. The parameters of this I am not completely sure of. But generally, if I liquidate my businesses, I will have a great deal of money—probably enough money to put me in the top ranks of those with an interest in post-liberal politics. It won’t be Peter Thiel money, to be sure, if you think he’s post-liberal, but it’ll be enough to be relevant. It helps to be a big fish in a small pond. Thus, I would like to, if I choose to, make myself relevant at one fell swoop, rather than piecemealing it. Circumstances will dictate if any of this happens, of course.

      • Fair enough. However, I would suggest that you continue to put our more articles which contain ideas you see as part of Foundationalism. This way the readers on this site can provide their input and perhaps add to the over-all value of Foundationalism. Perhaps point out some inconsistencies or another angle for you to consider.

        Waiting for the sh*t to hit the fan is almost like waiting for the stock market to implode. We know it happens and will happen soon-ish, but your guess is as good as mine is as good as the next man. So I would start to get more of your stuff ready, even if not published online, so that it can launch relatively quickly when the kaka finally hits the fan. Just my two cents.

        Oh and thanks for this website, I am enjoying the book reviews, a number of which I have read or have on my to read list. If you are looking for any book recommendations I can provide some as well.

        • Charles says

          Thank you, and you are welcome. Yes, there will be more such articles . . . .

    • Charles says

      That is interesting. Although, as usual, Yarvin is pulling his trick of stating total historical falsehoods with great confidence, presuming nobody will know enough to contradict him (or maybe he believes the things he says about history). But as far as the importance of art for regime change, he is probably on to something, even if he ascribes over-much casual effect to art.

  5. Uncompliant says

    I enjoy your articles. Thank you for taking the time to write and express yourself and inform us, your readers. I am one of your fanboys.

    But … not to give too much offense … but, this particular article is not good. If you will allow it, I think I can help.

    First, let us dispel some of your learned self-doubt. You state that your “… own discernment and insight [about art] is close to zero.” From what I can see and read, this is false. Language use is a form of art. You certainly CAN discern a good book from a bad one and, obviously, you are able to create good artistry with words. Maybe you are not skilled at understanding paintings, but I bet you can tell a good video game from a bad one, a good billboard from a bad one, a good movie from a bad one, etc. Learning how to interpret paintings is a skill. I also bet you can discern good music from bad. Maybe you do not like Mozart; but how about Beethoven’s Ninth? Moreover, who is performing classical music matters. Maybe the Mozart you heard was ACTUALLY made for elevators. Plus, I bet you enjoy certain types of music and can easily discern good exemplars of that music from bad exemplars.

    More importantly, your self-doubt is manufactured — purposefully — by the communist libtard elites that are intent upon destroying Western Civilization. Likely, you believe you have “zero discernment” because your eyes and ears tell you that contemporary high art is ugly, vapid and depressing. But the libtards around you are “ba baa ba-ing” their praise. They are praising the ugly sh*t because they are sheep (part of the lazy Ortega “masses”). Therefore, maybe, you seek to escape the peer pressure of the sheep by retreating to the claim: “I have zero discernment.” Then, you do not have to have a stupid argument about whether a blank canvas is “good art.” That is easy, of course: it is art and but not “good art.” Arguing about it is a waste of time and time-wasting is something that brings joy to the dark hearts of the libtard disciples of destruction. However, if I may suggest, instead of responding that you have “zero discernment,” respond by saying that you do not find the blank canvas to be useful, beautiful or uplifting. Beyond that, there is no point in arguing. Sheep will be sheep.

    Here is what “art” is all about.

    The first puzzle piece: in every age and epoch, art and creativity is ubiquitous throughout the society. It is in the weaving, the tool making, the sowing, the hunting, the wood-working, the home-building and in everything else. Art and creativity lies everywhere in the “ground” of society. Art is a form of competence.

    This is true today. Right now, there are literally — literally — tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of artists creating art on this planet. Let’s say 100,000,000 of the seven or eight billion people on this planet. That is not a particularly large proportion. As some evidence, check out the sales of retail outlets that specialize in art and hobby materials or check out state-run or city-run websites for local artists. Go to a local art fair. Literally, thousands of artists will be shown and that is duplicated across the country. Art is everywhere and includes memes — Pepe The Frog is art — songs, comic books, regular books, advertising, product design, website graphics and copy, movies, television, video games, robots, cars, youtube videos, paintings and the decorative arts and on and on.

    Once your eyes are lifted, it is easy to see that rightist artists are everywhere creating art that is beautiful and inspiring. Indeed, there is plenty of beautiful Christian art still being produced. Look beyond the West and this is plainly obvious. A quick glance at current non-Western art shows that beautiful and ennobling art is thriving and abundant everywhere else in the world — just not in the galleries of London and New York. In the West, as explained below, none of the inspiring and beautiful rightist-created art comes to prominence in the communist-controlled propaganda media. But it is there.

    The second puzzle piece is this: Some of the massive amount of art and creativity that is in the “ground” of society is elevated to a higher status — plucked from obscurity — to serve the purposes of the leaders and elites. Think of art and creativity as an ever-bubbling ecology. From this strata of creation, some art is raised up by elites. Historically, these elites have been kings and cardinals (to use Western identifiers). Recently, Captains of Industry were added to list. Now, it is anyone with money and influence. As an aside, when you bring your Foundationalism to actuality, you will discover that all of the artists you will need are already in existence. You will be an elite; pluck your “truly great” artists from obscurity.

    The third puzzle piece: the historical purpose of art has been to encourage obedience to the elites. Most men follow leaders. Most leaders must be impressive in some manner. What better way to impress your followers — to command or persuade their voluntary obedience — than to adorn your castle walls with beautiful and expensive art or to display painted depictions of your great and powerful ancestors? Classical and medieval art helped preserve the power of the kings and priests; that is, encouraged submission to authority. Soviet, Nazi and Maoist art served the propaganda purposes of the regimes; that is, encouraged submission to authority. Art under capitalism serves the profit motive; that is, encourages submission to authority, which, under capitalism, is the demand that you purchase and consume. In general, this type of art is beautiful and uplifting and always has been. Consumers do not consume that which is ugly, useless or depressing. Who wants to obey and follow a man who displays ugly, stupid, ineptly-created or dreary art?

    The fourth puzzle piece: in today’s world, a vast array of national and world elites are intent upon destroying Western Civilization. THOSE elites are plucking from obscurity art that is meant to be corrosive of traditional Western virtues. This type of art is ugly, vapid, useless, badly done, depressing and drab. Think of installment “art” that is a simple table and a pile of trash. The purpose of such art is to demoralize the viewer, the listener, the participant. Demoralization is part of the destruction of the West. Art generally inspires; but communists and libtards do not want anyone in the West to be inspired. Destruction of the old order is further accelerated by promoting art which depicts deformity — like a badly painted depiction of a naked obese fat woman sitting on a couch or casting weirdly shaped actors in a Shakespeare play. To destroy the West, art must also depict non-whites — like versions of classic paintings replacing Napoleons with black men. To serve the purposes of the libtard globalist elites, art must show the “rainbow of humanity” who are, of course, the pet victim castes and classes of the libtard elites. Likewise, art that shows up in galleries and museums must corrode traditional Western gender roles. Art must fight against the hetero-normative patriarchy and no art is allowed that encourages toxic masculinity. Demoralization is further enhanced when regular folks are persuaded or coerced by peer pressure to publicly acknowledge that something is “art” even though it is plainly ugly, ridiculous or seems to be made by a child. Many avoid the ritualized self-humiliation by retreating to: “I guess I don’t understand art.” That, too, is ritualized self-humiliation. In truth, we instinctively understand good art when we see or hear it. Good art is beautiful, noble, inspiring or teaches us something worth learning.

    From this perspective, Ahmari’s book provides a copious set of examples of libtard-promoted contemporary art. Every example demonstrates the corrosive purposes of the art that is plucked from obscurity by our current elites. A similar book could be written about woke movies, woke television shows, woke comic books, woke video games and on and on.

    Again, thank you for writing and producing this blog. I look forward to your future posts.

    • Charles says

      Thank you, and no offense taken, certainly! I have no problem saying that modern art, or blank canvasses, etc., are ugly. That’s not really what I mean by zero discernment; I think you have to lack human nature not to see that. What I mean is that I really can’t find anything that thrills me about any Mozart, or Beethoven, etc. I can recognize it as talent-filled and beautiful (I think, though that may be conditioned), but little or nothing beyond that. Same for painting, etc.

      I do like your analysis, and it seems accurate. I don’t think we disagree that it’s the ruling class that matters; perhaps I am too pessimistic that a better ruling class could easily find great artists. But I think I said in the original piece that I expected that process to take place; if it happens faster and easier, so much the better.

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