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Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t generally seek political analysis from trained monkeys responding to the commands of talented directors and screenwriters.

– Samizdata commenter ‘the other rob

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29 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • the other rob

    Yay! I don’t think I’ve had SQOTD since the last Presidential Election!

    While it could apply to any actor, it was written in the context of a specific one and, in fairness to Mr. Affleck, I should acknowledge that it was later pointed out to me that he is also a talented director.

    I still won’t be seeking political analysis from him, though, or most of his compadres.

  • Paul Marks

    People (especially the young) are influenced (to some extent) by what they see and hear.

    Culture, including film, is important (just as education is important) and “practical” people who think that film and so forth are not important are mistaken.

    The left do not make this mistake.

  • Alisa

    Well, FWIW I wouldn’t seek political analysis from most people – including engineers, bakers, or doctors. But then and for some unclear reason, actors do seem to be the most eager to share their political views with the rest of us – strange, really.

    That is very true, Paul. But I am not talking about stuff they say in movies, but stuff they publiclly say off screen.

  • Chip

    Affleck accusing Sam Harris of being a racist on the Bill Mayer show revels all you need to know about his IQ.

  • Eric

    The human brain wasn’t designed to deal with mass media. People have a false sense of intimacy based on emotional responses to characters the actors play, and that carries over to pronouncements actors make off screen.

    Sadly, Paul is right – it shouldn’t matter, but it does.

  • it shouldn’t matter, but it does.

    No it doesn’t. If it did, Brexit would never have happened as the overwhelming chorus of luvies were telling us to vote REMAIN. So how did that work out for them, eh? I strongly suspect most people share “the other rob’s” view on that subject.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    I sometimes wonder about this ‘influence’. Did Dave Cameron gain an unintended advantage simply because his name resonates with the actress Cameron Diaz? Have you noticed how there are no Adolfs in public life anymore? (Dolph doesn’t count!)

  • Eric

    Perry, I hope you’re right. Still don’t believe it, though. Maybe the Brexit vote wouldn’t even have been close without the celebrities.

  • Alisa

    Thinking about it some more, actually most of us are eager to share our views on politics with others, not just actors – but most of us don’t get the microphone stuck in our face.

  • Paul Marks

    I agree with Alisa – X number of celebs making boring speeches does not matter. But what they produce in their films (and so on) does matter. Culture forms what Perry calls the “metacontext” – and to pretend that it does not matter that the young get a constant diet of “boo-hiss the rich” and “boo-hiss big business” (but subtly presented in films and television fiction shows – as well as the education system) is just wrong.

    It is not all as crude as John “it is all the fault of the Americans and the Jews” Le Carre, some of the fiction is actually well done (very entertaining) – but it is poison.

  • bobby b

    “It is not all as crude as John “it is all the fault of the Americans and the Jews” Le Carre . . .

    ??

    In my readings of Le Carre, he has Americans and Israelis trying, somewhat naively and hamhandedly, to do the right things.

  • Alisa

    and to pretend that it does not matter that the young get a constant diet of “boo-hiss the rich” and “boo-hiss big business” (but subtly presented in films and television fiction shows – as well as the education system) is just wrong

    No one here was pretending any such thing, Paul – the comment quoted in this post was made in response to another comment on an earlier thread, regarding stuff Ben Affleck says off-screen.

  • Mr Ed

    You should only take your politics from a celebrity if you would also take from that celebrity your dentistry. Either way, you would get what you deserve.

  • Jacob

    “I don’t generally seek political analysis from trained monkeys responding to the commands of talented directors and screenwriters.”

    So you do seek political analysis from “talented directors and screenwriters”? Such analysis wouldn’t be different from the one offered by actors.

  • Jacob

    What Alisa said (8.38 a.m.). Everybody likes to preach, and has the right to do it.

  • Watchman

    Jacob,

    I’m not so sure on the assumption that directors and screenwriters would have the same analysis as actors. The requirements for success in either of those trades are markedly different from those for actors (for a start, they can contort their faces as much as they like when they talk – not that my school drama lessons traumatised me or anything…), so there are likely to be different views. It is worth noting that whilst most directors are probably liberal in the US sense, there are less of the Ken Loach or Oliver Stone types than of their equivalents amongst actors.

  • the other rob

    So you do seek political analysis from “talented directors and screenwriters”?

    Not generally, no and I don’t think that the statement implies that. Though I’d probably listen to what Clint Eastwood had to say, especially if it included “Dying ain’t much of a living, boy.”

  • NickM

    “In my readings of Le Carre, he has Americans and Israelis trying, somewhat naively and hamhandedly, to do the right things.”

    bobby b is maybe half right. Post WWII as the UK declined in hard power the great myth has been reinforced that the USA might have the muscle but we have the brains. You see this all over. Bond is often a prime example.

    It is of course nonsense but it is a metacontextual given.

    A given that the USA is a sleeping giant (a golem perhaps) that has the brawn but needs the brain…

    And this all leads sometimes to very bad things. How come the USA can afford all this loud stomping if they are so thick? This sometimes leads to our old friend… It’s the Jews!!! Zionism, Israel yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Of course Israel has had to deploy smarts when numbers were not an option. Obviously. It gets twisted of course into a conspiracy because Israel can deploy stuff Hamas couldn’t tighten the screws on so this is “cheating”.

    Might I bring this back to Westerns…

    From “Unforgiven”…

    Little Bill: “Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!”

    Will Munny: “Well, he should have armed himself if he’s going to decorate his saloon with my friend.”

  • Alisa

    there are less of the Ken Loach or Oliver Stone types than of their equivalents amongst actors

    I’m not sure there is a reliable way to determine that. My guess is rather different: most people working in Hollywood lean to the left politically, regardless of their particular occupation – just because of the “bubble” effect, i.e. it is a relatively small and closed community, that over the years and for one reason or another has gravitated towards a particular world view. That is why most views expressed by people from that community tend to be leftist. The fact that most such expressions come from actors rather than directors or screenwriters is due to the former being interviewed much more often (because presumably they are of more interest to the public, being “the face” of the industry, and often a very good-looking face at that).

    Screenwriters OTOH are seldom asked about their views, and are seldom even interviewed at all (for obvious reasons), but my impression is that they tend to be just as leftist as actors – judging simply from the scripts they write (see the obligatory evil capitalists mentioned here earlier). One reason for that may be that they are heavily unionized, and have been for very many years.

    Directors are, again, different – in that although they are more celebrated by the media than screenwriters, they still much less so than actors are. That fact still gives them fewer opportunities to express their views on politics and related issues compared to actors, while at the same time their line of work gives them fewer chances to inject such views into their work (unless they also write their own scripts – but then see the previous para, or unless they are among the few who are widely known by the general public, nearly as widely as actors – see Stone, Scorsese, and a few others).

    Ken Loach is not in Hollywood, and is subsidized by the UK taxpayers – or am I mistaken?

  • Alisa

    A given that the USA is a sleeping giant (a golem perhaps) that has the brawn but needs the brain…

    Very true, Nick, and very stupid on the part of those who think so.

    And it’s always the brain that counts when it comes down to it. Always.

  • Watchman

    Alisa,

    Directors are probably less dogmatic than actors and screenwriters, simply because most of them are effectively running businesses with themselves as the major asset – actors can afford flops, but directors can’t (apart from a few with good track records already in place), and so more aware of the need to be commercially successful.

    To be fair to the Hollywood bubble, there are plenty of conservative or libertarians floating around it – it is not homogenising in the way it might be – and the studio executives and sound engineers and graphic artists and all the other bits also feed in. I am not sure actors’ bubbles don’t come more from celbrity rather than industry.

    Loach is a UK director – not sure of his taxpayer-subsidy status (for all I hate his views and dislike his work, he is quite plausibly self-funding since he is critically liked, and I have met fans of his work – and I doubt it is pirated much for some reason).

  • Alisa

    All fair points, Watchman. Note though that this whole business of people expressing their opinions on matters not directly related to their particular occupation (politics and similar) is about such opinions as reported, if at all – which was my main point to begin with. All kinds of groups of people may be holding all kinds of similar/different views – but we rarely hear about those, if at all, save for a few.

  • Laird

    I agree with Alisa’s comment at 8:38 am (others too, come to that). We all have political opinions and we all tend to share them, it’s just that celebrities (of all sorts, not just actors) have more of a platform from which to shout. My platform is rather limited: the occasional letter to the editor, a rant at the city council meeting, pontificating at the office, posting on blogs. Had I a higher profile I could shout louder.

    Celebrities are right to take advantage of the opportunities given them; we all use whatever tools we have. It’s up to the rest of us to provide countervailing arguments. I, like others, occasionally sneer about listening to the uninformed and arrogant bloviating of paid scriptreaders who have never had an original thought, but the truth is that some of them are actually quite intelligent (if misguided or underinformed). If they are ignorant on some subject, say economics, and thus express simplistic or erroneous nonsense, well that applies to about 95% of the comments you read from non-celebrities, too. So while I sneer at the idiocies expounded by such as Sean Penn or Barbra Streisand (and they truly are idiocies), I don’t fault them for expressing their benighted views. I just consider the source.

  • An actor talking about oil pipelines probably knows very little about oil, or pipelines. Why pay attention? On the other hand, an oil baron does know oil and pipelines – but is prejudiced and tainted with self-interest on the subject. Do you trust either of them? 🙄

    I don’t want to sound like a technocrat, but listen to the engineers. Don’t bother with the scientists or the politicians, the plutocrats or the ideologues. :mrgreen:

  • NickM

    Alisa,
    I dunno about Loach but dollars to donuts he got a leg up from the state.

    As to Stone. Where to start? So much bell-endery he should’ve been in Frankie Vaughn. JFK is up there with the worst movies ever made. When Costner is at his blackboard going on about “magic bullets” I just wanted to stick it blunt-end foremost up his clacker.

    And it is full of selective drivel.

    Of course the Hollywood left goes back to Charlie Chaplin. Can’t goes much further back than that can ya? The red flag is carried into this century by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio who private jets around the World to lecture us on not using too much.

    And I hate his facial hair.

  • NickM

    Ellen,
    Yes… But… Within their sphere scientists are worth listening to. Within their sphere and with caveats as to vested interests such as funding*.

    But (and this impacts on Laird’s point) I think with power comes responsibility. At least an understanding that the potential to use influence doesn’t mean every word you say is right just because you are rich and famous. I am neither but I know there is a lot of stuff I don’t pontificate upon because I am no expert.

    Even the most brilliant can go badly wrong when they stray from their field. Feynman had some wacky ideas about re-jigging written English to make it phonetic.

    Folks have to realize that expertise is not universal in scope.

    *Climate science has seen funding go through the Kuiper Belt over the last twenty years. This would not have happened with a message of, “It’s OK out, might take a stroll…” Not that I am saying scientists don’t ever exaggerate the importance of their work… That never happens.

  • bobby b

    Why do people listen to actors who spout off about . . . anything besides acting?

    Might as well ask why so many more people can identify Kardashian than Keynes.

  • Alisa

    I’ll take Kardashian over Keynes any time.

  • bobby b

    Google “perfectly elastic curves”, and I bet the majority votes with you.