No Politics Allowed

At National Review Online, Jay Nordlinger has been writing about “safe zones,” the idea that one should be able to attend a cultural performance without having it politicized. In Nordlinger’s case, it’s generally a classical musical concert, and the political commentary, needless to say, is always from the Left. Jay’s latest is here:

So, I go to cover a string-quartet concert at Weill Recital Hall (which is upstairs in the Carnegie Hall building). A string-quartet concert! What harm could possibly occur? Oh, there is always room for partisan politics — at any musical event. (But those politics are of the left-wing variety, only — make no mistake about that.)

Members of the quartet talked from the stage, talking from the stage being an epidemic of our times. And on the program was a new piece, by Kevin Puts. Before the quartet — the Miró Quartet — performed the piece, the composer gave a little lecture (bien sûr).

He explained that the Miró folks had asked him to write something optimistic about America — something lighthearted. But this was hard to do in 2007: because those were dark, terrible days. You remember, he said: like all days “before three days ago” (meaning, before the inauguration of Barack Obama). The audience erupted in a sustained cheer — just as always: in perfect, herd-like conformity. Not a dissenting mind in the bunch.

Or were there? There is always a minority at events like these, but their views and sensitivities are never respected, by the people I’m talking about. The majority just goes about its self-congratulatory, mob-like rituals.

Glenn Reynolds thinks the solution is to “boo loudly,” then “buttonhole them unpleasantly later and complain about ‘insensitivity,'” since “[t]hat’s how this sort of thing is done.”

Perhaps so. My only contribution to the discussion is to note that this is nothing new. Years ago, I attended many more cultural events than I do now. During the 1980s, I was a season ticket holder at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. Over time, I became deeply offended by the fact that no matter what the play, whoever put the program together would find a way to work in an attack on the Reagan administration. The last straw was when I went to King Lear at the Guthrie. It was an excellent production, but my enjoyment of it was ruined by the fact that the program was turned into an anti-Reagan tirade. I wasn’t even much of a conservative at the time, but the inappropriateness of the whole thing was too much for me.

I didn’t “boo loudly,” as Glenn suggests; I just quit going. I wonder how many millions of conservative and mainstream Americans have stopped supporting cultural organizations because of this sort of wanton left-wing politicization.

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