Art for politics’ sake at the Washington Post

If you think (as I do) that the Washington Post’s news section too often manifests liberal bias, you should probably steer clear of the arts, entertainment, and letters portions of the paper. The news section’s high profile produces limits as to how far reporters typically go to express such bias. Those who write in non-news sections are less constrained.

That’s why I refer to these pages as the Washington Post’s id.

Take movie critic Ann Hornaday. Writing about the movie “Miller’s Crossing,” she says “if I weren’t so amused by the fact that Newt Gingrich and I agree on something, I might have made this one No. 1” among the Coen brothers’ movies.

Hornaday, no doubt, was having a laugh. However, dragging Gingrich into her film criticism, even as a joke, is noteworthy. Clearly, politics is never far below the surface when she’s thinking about movies.

This may well explain why she (and one of her colleagues) took a jaundiced view of “13 Hours,” the film about the Benghazi attacks — preferring “Truth”, Hollywood’s fictitious rendering of Rathergate, and calling for a movie extolling State Department envoy Brett McGurk and the team that negotiated with Iran.

Or take Carlos Lozada, the Post’s liberal nonfiction book critic. Today, he reviewed an art history book by Victoria Coates called “David’s Sling: A history of Democracy in Ten Works of Art.”

Coates holds a doctorate in Italian Renaissance art from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the national security adviser for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

The title of Lozada’s review, in the paper edition, is “Art history from a Cruz adviser.” The online version title similarly highlights Cruz.

The review itself mentions the Texas Senator seven times. It also discusses Cruz’s views on foreign policy. And it concludes with this condescending nugget:

I do hope Cruz reads this book. He might develop a more expansive vision of how democracies are made and nurtured — or perhaps just reverse his plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.

Coates is a serious art historian. She deserves to have her book reviewed without reference to presidential politics and without cheap shots at one of the candidates.

Lozada tries to justify his approach by noting that Coates herself says working for Cruz “has greatly enriched” her book. But a book stands or falls on its merit; the many life experiences that may have influenced it are largely beside the point. A reviewer shouldn’t fixate one such experience and make it a prominent part of the review.

There’s no excuse, then, for (to use Lozada’s description of what he’s up to) “parsing [Coates’s] artistic and historical interpretations for insights on [her] day job as the senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz. . .who has vowed to ‘carpet-bomb [the Islamic State] into oblivion’ and find out ‘if sand can glow in the dark.’”

In a way, though, Coates has caught a break. I very much doubt that Lozada would have reviewed her book at all without the Cruz connection, which gives him a chance to express his contempt for a leading GOP presidential contender.

For the left, no field of knowledge or human endeavor is outside the dominion of its politics. We see this manifested most starkly on college campuses. And we see how the mindset undermines freedom of expression and thought at precisely the places where they should be most robust.

The same mindset, usually in a more subtle and gentle form, has spilled into our culture and the media. It isn’t undermining our freedom yet, but it is making life less pleasant.


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