Fascism vs. Artistic Expression | THE STAKES

by Alexander Quaresma | @SavageSteamboat


Though there is a disturbing trend of PC policing coming from the left that is threatening various arenas of intellectual discourse there is also the danger of those who'd seek to turn this into a left vs. right issue. This comes from people who are typically coming from the right who'll ignore where they themselves fall short on such matters while also remaining blind to the bigger picture at hand.

Artists are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. When we stop singing, it’s a sure sign of repressive times ahead.
— Theresa Bayer, artist

In the United States the moral right often likes to find cracks in social paradigms the left seeks to establish. They are generally the first to tell you that all of this PC fascism that we're seeing pop up on college campuses and the Internet is coming from the left. And while it is ultimately futile to turn this into a right vs. left debate, on these isolated matters the right is absolutely correct. These are essentially trends that have their origins in leftist political agendas.

While the conservative right in American politics salivates at the idea of having an opportunity to be on the correct side of an argument for a change, which in this case they are, they might want to temper their outrage somewhat and take a look at what goes on coming from their echo chamber at the same time leftist PC fanatics are patrolling academia and certain sectors of the Internet. 

While the right points out the hypocrisy involved in the left's agenda to conform everyone's social experience, most particularly via the way in which we're seeing how language is becoming restricted, that same moral right likes to speak out against various forms of art they deem offensive. If a work of art is guilty in their eyes of having not achieved a level equal to their standard of aesthetic beauty, or makes a statement about the world they don't like, they will attack it. They will attack it no different than a leftist SJW will attack someone who uses language in a way they don't like.

If you try to explain to someone on the right the significance of a Jackson Pollock painting at best they'd simply roll their eyes at you at finding nothing you say of interest to them. But there are scenarios that can be far worse if such people are given room or cause to impose their will.

The Carroll Dunham debate

A perfect example illustrating this primarily right-wing phenomenon I'm describing occurred during another Joe Rogan interview, this time with conservative commentator Steven Crowder. One of the main issues at hand during the interview was the rise of PC fascism coming out of the coddled American left. During the interview Crowder expressed his dissatisfaction with the left's attempt to dictate what forms of language are acceptable and what forms are not. One of the specific examples referred to during the interview is the new leftist initiative to impose the use of multiple new gender pronouns at specific colleges and universities. To a Steven Crowder, and the people who think along the same lines, it is unacceptable that Americans should have to conform to what others deem to be a new "politically correct" form or use of addressing someone. To a Steven Crowder people should be free to say or not say what they want. And while a Steven Crowder is not someone I'm in the habit of agreeing with on much, his position on this matter is hard to argue with, because he's not wrong. The hypocrisy, however, was soon to emerge.

During the same interview, at around the 2:09:00 mark, Crowder, champion of the individual's right to use language and maintain viewpoints in opposition to those of the PC fascists on the left, would go on to criticize the artwork of Carroll Dunham.  Carroll Dunham is also the father of actress and mainstream left-wing darling Lena Dunham.

As part of his criticism of the Dunhams, and the left in general, Crowder attempted to associate the art of Carroll as perhaps being a contributing factor leading to his daughter Lena's alleged molestation of her younger sister. Crowder makes a point to note that Carroll Dunham's paintings feature abstract and bizarre renderings of the female form, many of which are focused on the vaginas, nipples, and assholes of the surreal female subjects in his paintings.

While there is no doubting that Carroll Dunham's work is certainly "out there," it means very little constructively speaking. The great thing about the western world, thanks to an ethic the United States helped to establish, is that Carroll has, and should have, the right to paint what he wants without having to feel that he is guilty of contributing to anyone's degenerate behavior. A degenerate will likely be a degenerate whether he or she is exposed to modern art or not. But to suggest that it might have played a role in something as sinister as what his daughter has been alleged to have done is not fair. We've heard of the idea that the sins of the father do not fall down onto the head of the son. Well can we agree that the (alleged) sins of the daughter do not fall upon the head of the father in turn as well?

While reviewing Carroll Dunham's art Crowder makes the following statement: "You don't think some weird stuff didn't go on in that household?" Exactly what is he trying to imply? He also goes on to say: "You want to tell me this is a healthy balanced individual?" He then goes on to mock what Carroll Dunham's interpretation of his paintings might be. In his criticism of artist Carroll Dunham the conservative pundit Steven Crowder seems to be making a lot of gross assumptions.

Crowder never states that he is of the opinion that Carroll Dunham's work should be banned, but he essentially all but goes on to say everything he needed to without actually making the claim that it is "degenerate art." Degenerate art of course being any form of art that a fascist does not attain to his or her standards of what art should be; a concept the Nazis came up with. The real Nazis, not fake ones.

And while Crowder never calls for Dunham's work to be banned (at least in this interview he doesn't) Crowder represents the popular viewpoints of the American conservative right when it comes to a lot of modern artwork and art forms we see today. Conservative blogger for Breitbart Milo Yiannopoulos would be interviewed by Rogan a few weeks after Crowder. He too would go on to make claims that might lead one to believe that he is no fan of modern art that doesn't adhere to some form of a classical standard of beauty. I should also add that it is political leaders from the American conservative right where we've seen abstract modern artwork get attacked and banned before.

Mayor Giuliani straps on the jackboots

In 1996 artist Chris Ofili produced a work he titled The Holy Virgin Mary. Understandably many people found Ofili's collage extremely offensive as it featured an abstract portrait of what was presumed to be the venerated Christian icon encrusted in elephant dung.

Speaking personally I don't find anything of intrinsic value when I look at this work. In fact, I will admit that I did find the painting (or the idea behind it) somewhat offensive. Though I'm not particularly very Catholic, I do know that my grandmother is. My grandmother would bedeck her apartment with numerous images of the Holy Virgin mother as a means for her to find comfort. And though the image in the painting doesn't look anything like a traditional representation of the Virgin Mary, I don't think my grandmother would have appreciated Ofili's work very much. Knowing that I'm not the only person with a grandmother so devoted to the Catholic Christian faith and the Virgin Mother Mary, I was slightly angered that someone would go to the effort of creating such a collage. But I very quickly got over it.

Though it wasn't my cup of tea, one thing that I knew even back at that time was that it was great that we live in a society where such work is allowed to be produced, seen, debated, lauded, and/or scorned. That my grandmother wouldn't have liked it, or myself for that matter, was of little to no importance. Nobody was saying we had to display replicas of it in our homes.

In 1999 the work was exhibited in New York's Brooklyn Museum of Modern Art. New York's mayor at the time, the esteemed Adol- err, Rudolph Giuliani protested the exhibition by threatening to terminate the museum's lease with the city after he had already threatened to cut off the museum's city funding. This all over a work of art that, as the mayor so eloquently put it, was "sick stuff." To each his own, your honor. To each their own.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Mayor Giuliani's outrageous reaction to a piece of art sixteen years ago goes hand in hand with the modern conservative right's desire to control artistic expression just as the left seeks to do the same with language. I have very little doubt that someone like Steven Crowder, or most of the people that constitute his following, would not applaud a similar incident if next week an elected official grossly overstepped his or her bounds in an effort to suppress an artistic expression that stands in opposition to whatever it is that makes up their ideas of beauty and/or morality.

What Giuliani exhibited in 1999 was fascist behavior; cut and dried. If he had it within his power to throw the artist into an iron maiden, let alone jail, I don't particularly doubt he wouldn't have jumped at that chance.

So while the American right is so keen on attacking the American left for its PC policing of language and behavior, which they are right to do so, it must also be remembered that it is from their side that you find similar sentiment and rhetoric being depicted against artistic forms of expression. PC policing of language and behavior represents the same exact thing as the moral and aesthetic standard policing of art. There is no difference.

The Right vs. Left trap

In America we have to be careful (myself included) that the PC trends and attacks on artistic forms of expression do not get bogged down in the American brand of right vs. left thinking. The fact is this is a global issue. To frame a global issue within American left-right politics is likely to only cause more problems than it solves.

Yes, in America (and Canada), the PC brigades marching around college campuses are deep left wing ideologues. The American left has to begin to acknowledge that this is growing into a problem. On social media, however, they are likely a very mixed bag. I'd even be willing to concede that many people attacking Sunny Olivia and Kota_Morgue's performances were just as leftist liberal as they were conservative right. 

When you listen to a leftist philosopher like Slavoj Zizek speak about the totalitarian nature that PC culture is a component of in his "Big Think - PC is a more dangerous form of totalitarianism" video, Americans experiencing a sheltered political existence will begin to understand that the argument isn't so black and white in terms of trying to frame the debate within the traditional American argument of the liberal left vs. the conservative right. If you didn't know better, and all you did was read a transcript of the video, you might almost get the impression that Zizek is a right wing ideologue speaking somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line deep in the Heart of Dixie.

The New World Order- no, for real

One thing everyone everywhere has to, has to, understand is that this is not an issue related to American politics alone. The Internet has begun the process, for better or worse, of globalizing the modern democratized industrialized world. Going back to the Kota_Morgue myfreecams.com episode I discussed in Part 3- while the model "Kota" is an American, the model who spearheaded a lot of her criticisms was British. As for "Sunny Olivia," I'm not quite sure anyone even really knows where it is that she's from. She'd tell you it's "Oliviaville." Some people say Romania, others claim somewhere in Scandinavia, yet there are those who are sure she's an American. The point is that what's going on is global in scale.

Zizek's point that before the Yugoslav Republic fell into a civil war, one way Bosnians, Serbs, and Croatians would find common ground would be through the telling of crude, even racist, jokes at one another is something that should not be ignored. While I don't believe such humor would be recommended in every situation to every clash of differing ethnicities the point stands on its own. In some instances crude humor might be the only common ground differing people can find to break the ice with each other in so far as fostering a relationship based on understanding is concerned. That might mean some people get their feelings hurt, it is true, which is why it also shouldn't be assumed that these kinds of interactions should be the standard; they shouldn't be. But when you have mature adults, who can understand the difference between intent, humor, and hate there is no reason that anybody should seek to curb the range of potential discourse between peoples and ideas. And the very same idea that applies to language applies to the arts regardless how the art manifests itself.

We are seeing attempts by global entities such as the United Nations, a governing organ as out of touch with reality as it is corrupt, seeking to legislate acceptable speech on the Internet now. Their justification for such a drastic and unnecessary overstep is the idea that women need to be protected from cyber violence. This is the Trojan horse they're seeking to use in order to place restrictions on people's ability to express themselves freely and openly on the Internet. In case you didn't put two and two together this would also have a profound impact on all of the art we see on the Internet as well. And all the more ironic, as we've seen with web cam models "Sunny Olivia" and "Kota_Morgue," women on the Internet aren't the delicate little flowers seeking authoritarians to come in and protect them.

This insidious plot to control speech and artistic expression is not a desired goal of either the moderate left or right. Not if you asked them directly, anyway. However, those who would seek to infringe upon an educated globalized population's ability to openly and freely express itself will borrow the PC ethic championed by the left as a means to accomplish what these self-serving systems desire. The PC brigade attacking differing ideas, thoughts, and use of language - all for the sake of diversity (unfathomably ironic as that is) that's coming from the left is unfortunate. These well-intentioned bleeding hearts are essentially doing the legwork for the would be global hegemony seeking to position itself - by pretending to take up populist causes - to take the reins of power. This would happen once the world has literally become a global community, as opposed to the theoretical one we still have today.

When and if such a tragic state of affairs befalls collective humanity art diversity will be one of the first victims. Having used the generally left-leaning causes against themselves, and everyone else, from the bottom up, the hegemons will undoubtedly turn to the playbook of the right. They could very easily seek to impose restrictions on what art is considered to be as well as begin to classify anything they feel is degenerate (though of course they won't use that term). "Degenerate," in this theoretical sense, being defined as anything that doesn't conform to the hegemony's aesthetic standards or anything that questions, or even attacks, the hegemony's existence.

Final Thoughts

Anti-Semitism is one of the more vile aspects of humanity that we are still trying to eradicate. It's an uphill battle and I fear will be so for a long time. The people who sought to attack "Sunny Olivia" for performing as a Nazi were not doing so out of a desire to harm anyone - they were doing so because they saw themselves as sticking up for an ethnicity that suffered a horrific genocide due to a monstrous perversion that occurred in Western culture during the middle of the twentieth century.

Those who sought to attack Kota_Morgue for her obscene "abortion" costume-show didn't do so out of pure malice. They were shocked and appalled that someone would simulate something so dark that might otherwise cause pain to anyone who has had to suffer from a pregnancy that ended badly. The model who led the charge in the attacks on Kota was in all likelihood doing so with the intention of standing up for people who've had to deal with that kind of pain.

That people are willing to stand up for the oppressed, victims, or the suffering is a good thing. In fact, it's encouraging. Even the idea of being "politically correct" doesn't come from a bad place. It can even be argued that to be a politically correct society is better than some of its perceived alternative opposites. We do need people who will stand up for the suffering, the oppressed, and the marginalized; there is no question. However, the problem that then arises is that there is no existing consensus regarding who the suffering, the oppressed, and the marginalized are. If you ask someone enrolled at NYU it's likely going to differ than what someone in Wheeling, West Virginia is going to say.

Because there is no cross-educational, cross-class, cross-religious consensus on such matters we must be extra careful who it is we do attack as a result of someone engaging in the act of freely expressing themselves. This applies to Internet-based performance artists, stand up comics, musicians, painters, poets, video game designers, etc.

It is not to deny the power of art as some innocuous peculiarity of human activity; not in the least. With art there exists all kinds of potential to transform, transfigure, and perhaps even destroy; but are we supposed to blame the authors of the Gospels in the first and second centuries for the blood spilled during the Crusades a thousand years later? Are we really supposed to blame Jean-Jacques Rousseau for the rise of the Russian and Maoist Revolutions in the twentieth century because in the eighteenth he wrote the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality? And are we really going to lay blame at the feet of Martin Scorsese for the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981 because in 1976 he made Taxi Driver (1976)?

Though regrettable things can occur in history as a residual byproduct of poetry, essays, film, etc., so can unbelievable positive change. One or the other will always occur, even if a work only makes one smile or simply hurts someone's feelings. 

Recognizing art for what it is and leaving the artists and their art alone is something we should all agree upon from the top on down. If we can, which there really is no reason why we shouldn't, we will assure ourselves of never having to deal with a tyrannical hegemonic fascist regime micro-managing our activities. It can't take hold if we won't allow it to. Like any mythological vampire it has to be invited in. It is incapable of coming to power on its own, such a hegemonic program simply wouldn't have the strength to do so; so long as we don't give it to them. So why should we? Rather than quarrel with ourselves over what should or shouldn't be allowed we should leave the art to the artists and empower ourselves rather with it rather than play into the designs of an unseen and as of yet non-existent enemy. 

We should consider it a built-in safety net designed in the machine- or perhaps even as a weapon of the intellect to use as a means of eradicating the fascist programs attempting to control language and behavior. So long as we accept art in any and all of its forms, from the beautiful and the sublime to the abhorrent and the disgusting, we assure ourselves of never needing to worry about collectively slipping into a fenced in pen by the barking sheepdogs of conformity. They can bark all they want; they're sheepdogs after all, that's what they do. They come as part of a package deal with the terrain. But if we just all agree to allow art to proceed on down its own course of action we will always have the entire valley meadow to graze in- not as mere sheep waiting to be shorn, but as majestic golden fleeced rams where any and all possibilities are allowed to be explored.