Sunday, July 27, 2014

time to take the razor to the arts


In the 2014 Budget the Abbott federal government made some small cuts to arts funding. The Australia Council budget of $222 million annually was cut by around $10 million. While it’s pleasing to see cuts being made this really is a pathetically timid and inadequate beginning.

The issue the government needs to address is whether the government should have any role at all in the arts. State-subsidised “art” is almost always dire and more often than not the results are not art at all but political propaganda. This might have seemed like a great idea in the heyday of the Soviet Union but it is hardly appropriate in a free society.

State subsidies to the arts have the effect of enforcing political correctness in the arts. Any writer, artist or film-maker hoping for a government grant knows that even the smallest trace of political correctness, even the faintest hint of independent thought, will be enough to ensure that they miss out on a grant. The arts cannot possibly flourish in such a Soviet-style system. 

The reality is that a great many people who currently describe themselves as artists or writers are merely deluding themselves. If you cannot make a living from your art that probably means your art isn’t any good. If no-one wants to buy your art then the obvious conclusion is that you should start looking for another job. You should not expect the taxpayer to support you in luxury for the rest of your life. We also need to ask ourselves how many artists and writers we actually need. If a large proportion of these people can’t support themselves from their art then it is likely that the art and literary markets are suffering from a serious over-supply of artists and writers.

Government subsidies for the arts are nothing more than welfare payments to a self-appointed elite of spoilt parasites. It’s time the arts gravy train was cancelled.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

fighting the mass media addiction


In Addicted to Distraction Bruce Charlton argues that “the mass media is evil - indeed in modernity it is the very source and focus of evil.” He believes that the only way to deal with mass media is to avoid it, and that “the most dangerous delusion is that you personally can filter the Mass Media, decode and see through its biases, selections and lies to discern the truth of the situation.”

He tells us that overcoming this addiction will be unpleasant in the short term but that the long-term rewards make the effort worthwhile.

I have myself tried, reasonably successfully, to break my addiction to the mass media. I do not watch any contemporary television. I do not watch any movies made within the past thirty years, and very few made within the past fifty years. I do not read contemporary fiction. I avoid newspapers. I cannot say that I have broken the addiction entirely but I think I can say that I have gone a long way towards doing so. And it is worth doing. 

I have to admit that my own cure has been a partial one. The difficulty with going cold turkey on mass media is to find a substitute. I’m not the sort of person who enjoys gardening or going for long walks. I’m the sort of person who avoids exercise like the plague. I have no interest in sports or games. My own solution is to immerse myself in the past. 

I still watch television; I just don’t watch the television of today. I still watch movies but the movies I watch are generally movies made seventy or eight years ago. I read novels, but I confine myself to novels written prior to the Second World War. I do not lack for entertainment. In fact I find myself facing an embarrassment of riches. Not only do I still get entertainment - the entertainment provided by the popular culture of the past is infinitely superior to that provided by the dreck that constitutes modern popular culture.

I’m not sure that Bruce Charlton would regard me as cured. He might well think that my cure is a bit of a cheat. I still consume popular culture even if I limit myself to the popular culture of the past. I have to admit that my approach is something of a compromise but then life is very often a matter of accepting compromises. 

My own view is that the mass media is certainly toxic, and that it becomes more toxic with each passing year. By confining my exposure to popular culture to the popular culture of the past I at least avoid the more virulent strains. There is still a good deal of propaganda in the movies and television of the past but opposing viewpoints do occasionally get a hearing. The propaganda is less strident, and not so remorseless. It is easier to avoid the more extreme propaganda. In the past there was still room for dissenting voices.

Avoiding mass media altogether is unquestionably a desirable goal. Those unready to take such a drastic step might find that my approach has something to recommend it. 

I have found that the more I focus on the past the more rewarding it becomes. My enthusiasm for the books, movies and television of the past has led me to create several blogs devoted to these subjects - Vintage Pop Fictions (devoted to pre-1960 genre fiction),  Classic Movie Ramblings (dealing with the movies of the past) and Cult TV Lounge (television of the 50s, 60s and 70s).

My main motivation in starting these blogs was that almost every existing blog and website I’d found devoted to these subjects had a leftist bias. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

the liberal jihad


It is only when you understand that modern liberalism is not a political ideology but a religion that you can comprehend the liberal attitude towards dissent. To modern liberals, dissent is not dissent. It is heresy. It is sin. To disagree with liberal dogma is evil.

This also explains why modern liberals want to control every aspect of our lives. They live in constant fear of falling into sin. The only way to avoid sin is by constant vigilance. And sin is regarded as an infectious disease. If one person is allowed to maintain a sinful viewpoint or to live a sinful life is a threat to the entire Church of Liberalism. It is not enough for heretics to be marginalised and harassed - heresy must be utterly exterminated. The suppression of heresy is a religious duty. When liberals seek to destroy freedom of speech, when they seek to destroy academic freedom, when they force dissenters to conform to liberal orthodoxy, they are acting out of a sense of religious obligation. To show tolerance or mercy would be to betray their religious faith.

If liberalism were really a political ideology liberals would not be concerned by the existence of dissent. As long as a political party or movement can command the majority vote the existence of a dissenting minority is an irrelevance. But that’s not how liberals see it. Any dissenting minority must be extirpated or forced into conformity. The survival of even one heretic is an affront to religious truth. Every single heretic must be forced to recant.

Liberalism as religion also explains the attitude of one of the leading liberal sects, environmentalism, towards science. They tell us that as far as global warming is concerned the science is settled. The notion that science can ever be settled is a fundamentally unscientific and anti-scientific notion. It is a religious notion. There is no need to look for scientific evidence. Global warming is a revealed truth. It cannot be questioned. It is not subject to doubt. All that is required is faith. And religious discipline.

Liberalism today is more like a jihad than a political ideology. It is a war on unbelievers.

liberalism and intolerance

From Damon Linker's article How liberalism became an intolerant dogma: "What makes libertarianism a dogma is the inability or unwillingness of those who espouse it to accept that some people might choose, for morally legitimate reasons, to dissent from it. On a range of issues, liberals seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life — and sometimes coerced into compliance by the government."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dirty Harry revisited

Dirty Harry was one of the more controversial Hollywood movies of the 1970s, and four decades later it can still provoke very heated responses. What made it controversial was not so much the subject matter, or even the stance taken by the movie, but the fact that the movie was clearly intended to be deliberately provocative.

I hardly think it’s necessary to spend too much time on a plot synopsis. This is a movie that is well and truly, for better or worse, part of our cultural fabric. But for those who may somehow have contrived to miss this movie, here goes. Inspector Harry Callahan of the San Francisco Homicide Squad is no stranger to unpleasant cases but he is about to face a case that will take him to the edge. A serial killer who calls himself Scorpio, has demanded $100,000 or he will kill a random victim every day. There are no obvious leads and all the police can do is to increase surveillance - the killer favours shooting his victims from the rooftops of tall buildings so the police are trying to cover as many rooftops as they can and are putting considerable reliance on helicopter patrols.

These routine precautions are very nearly successful, but this killer seems to have uncanny luck in being able to slip away from neatly impossible situations. After almost being killed by the police Scorpio decides to up the ante. He kidnaps a 14-year-old girl and doubles his demand for money. Callahan gets the very unpleasant, and very dangerous, job of acting as the bagman when the City decides to pay over the money. Callahan and his partner are almost killed, Callahan is viciously beaten, but Harry gets his man. Or at least he thinks he’s got his man, until the DA informs him that he infringed the suspect’s civil rights and that Scorpio will walk free. Harry knows that this is not the end of the case, that guys like Scorpio go on killing because they enjoy it, and that sooner or later he will get his chance to nail the killer. The question is, will more innocent lives be lost because the DA allowed Scorpio to walk free?

Dirty Harry was greeted by howls of outrage from liberals in general and from liberal film critics in particular. What really fueled the outrage was that the movie was a very deliberate and calculated assault on certain cherished liberal beliefs. Harry Callahan does not see criminals as victims and if he has to choose between the rights of a suspect and the rights of a victim he has no hesitation in ignoring the rights of the suspect. He is quite unapologetic about it, and the movie is equally unapologetic about it. It’s important to note however that the movie doesn’t suggest that the rights of suspects should be ignored; it merely suggests that it’s a delicate balance and that the balance may have shifted too far. The movie also points out the unpalatable truth that the rights of suspects and the rights of victims of crime are in some cases absolutely irreconcilable. Whether you agree or disagree with the movie’s stance there’s no doubt that it’s an effective statement of that stance.


What gives the issue particular bite is the fact that the bad guy, Scorpio, is very much aware that the legal system is stacked in his favour. He knows how to play the system and he does so ruthlessly. He uses this to taunt the police.

Some critics at the time took their opposition to the movie to remarkably silly extremes. When people (as Pauline Kael did) start throwing the word fascist around it’s always a bad sign. 

I usually try to avoid becoming bogged down in overtly political interpretations of movies but in the case of Dirty Harry there’s really no way of dodging the issue. 

There’s also a sense in which Dirty Harry can be read as film noir. The Scorpio case will plunge Harry Callahan into a nightmare world in which he scarcely knows which way to turn. He is both physically and psychologically beaten to a pulp. He tries his best but he always seems to be too late to save anyone. Whether his descent into the noir nightmare world is the result of his own character flaws is something that can be debated. Maybe he could have handled some situations more effectively, but the fact is that any police officer faced with a case such as this one would come up against the same problem, a criminal who knows how to use the system. Harry becomes increasingly obsessed and perhaps his sanity is even threatened. Harry has never questioned his own moral code but now it seems that knowing what’s right isn’t enough. By the end of the movie he’s an embittered man, his faith in the system hopelessly shaken.

This is an exceptionally well-crafted and stylish movie. Don Siegel was a great action director and he is in top form. The first half hour of the movie takes place mostly in bright California sunshine but then it all starts to get very dark, with lots of night shooting with absolutely minimal lighting. 


This is the movie that made Clint Eastwood a true cultural icon. The role had been offered to various other actors, including Steve McQueen and Robert Mitchum. Frank Sinatra was actually signed to do it at one stage but had to back out. 

Mention must be made of Andy Robinson as the psycho killer - it remains one of the most disturbing performances of its type.

Dirty Harry has lost little of its edge. It can still push people’s buttons and it’s still a stylish and effective crime thriller. And it’s one of those movies you just have to have seen. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

the never-ending spiral in energy prices

So we got a letter today informing us of yet another huge increase in electricity prices.

My prediction is that the Abbott Government will not win a second term unless it does something to halt the insane spiral in energy prices. A spiral driven entirely by the deluded apocalyptic fantasies of the green moonbats.

The disastrous Budget may have already doomed the Abbott Government, a budget that did nothing to address the real issues of insane government spending. The ABC is to be permitted to go on wasting $1.4 billion a year of taxpayers' money. Arts bludgers continue to live off the fat of the land on their arts grants. Money is still being wasted on environmental silliness.

If this proves to be a one-term government they will have nobody to blame but themselves.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

freedom of speech and dangerous ideas

Uthman Badar, a spokesman for Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was to given a lecture at the Sydney Opera House as part of the so-called Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The subject of his lecture was to be "Honour killings are morally justified" - certainly a provocative enough title. After predictable howls of outrage the lecture has been cancelled

What depresses me about all this is that many conservatives are expressing delight that the lecture has been cancelled. None of those who reacted with outrage to the proposed lecture know precisely what arguments Mr Badar intended to use at his lecture. The furore that erupted had nothing to do with the lecture's content. The title was enough.

The problem with this is that we can't have it both ways. Conservative speakers are frequently silenced by the same methods used against Mr Badar - a campaign of hysteria in the media, and more particularly on social media. If we as conservatives truly believe in freedom of speech we have to be consistent, and we have to recognise the rights of people to express views that we may find extremely repugnant. That's what freedom of speech is all about. Freedom to express opinions that may offend, outrage, anger and provoke many people. You either believe in freedom of speech or you don't. If you do then you have to see the silencing of Mr Badar as yet another infringement on freedom of speech.

It's quite likely that, given the opportunity to hear his arguments, I would find myself disagreeing very strongly indeed with Mr Badar. No having been given the opportunity, I can't say for certain. No matter how strongly I might disagree with him I still believe he has the right to be heard.

It seems that freedom of speech is still the most dangerous idea of them all.