Almost two weeks ago, the famed American playwright, David Mamet, pronounced his intellectual Declaration of Independence by writing in the Village Voice (quite a prominent liberal publication), that he’d had it with American liberalism, a political sea change he explained carefully and with verve. As did many in the conservative blogosphere, I welcomed him aboard, having made the same journey myself, although earlier and, given my incredible ordinariness, without fanfare. Significantly (I say that now), I titled my post: “When a huge liberal tree falls out of the forest, will anyone listen?” Then, with my typical knack for having a short attention span, I neglected to track whether anyone did, in fact, listen.
Fortunately, even when I fall down on the job, others are there, doing their work. In this case, the one doing the heavy lifting is Daniel Henninger who provides the answer to my question: nobody listens. Thus, he writes
One would have thought that David Mamet saying bye-bye to liberalism would have launched sputterings everywhere. But not a word.
As I think Groucho Marx once said, either no one reads the Village Voice anymore or my watch has stopped.
That one of the language’s greatest living playwrights would say this in our hyperventilated political times was news worth noting in most of the English-speaking world. Commentaries appeared the past week in England, Canada and Australia. But there’s been nary a peep about Mr. Mamet going over the wall in what some call the Mainstream Media.
Matt Drudge put news of the Mamet essay at the top of his Web site the day it appeared, so it was hard not to notice. Yesterday the Los Angeles Times printed an op-ed piece on it by the crime novelist Andrew Klavan, welcoming Mr. Mamet. For the most part, though, this is being treated in liberal drawing rooms like a favorite uncle gone suddenly dotty. A reporter for the Times of London put the apostasy to actor Kevin Spacey, now appearing there in Mr. Mamet’s “Speed the Plough.” “I didn’t pay it much attention,” said Mr. Spacey.
Which raises the question: If a liberal falls in the liberal forest and no one says they heard it, can you say it didn’t happen? Mr. Mamet must feel like the guy in a mob movie who knows the hit is coming but has to sweat through to the bullet. (Emphasis mine, because my ego feels obligated to point out that Henninger uses precisely the same concept I voiced a couple of weeks ago.)
Henninger kindly points to the fact that liberals are dealing with other problems (good progress in Iraq, the Wright stuff, superdelegates, etc), and simply may not have time to tackle the Mamet defection. I don’t know. I suspect there’s also an element of “maybe if we ignore it, no one will notice,” which is probably a more useful approach to a problem like Mamet than trying to attack head-on his intellectual conversion — something that will drag liberals into a theoretical political debate they might have doubts about winning.
Henninger also shows optimism when he thinks that Mamet may be the tip of the iceberg (notice how nicely I glide from forests to the Arctic here), with other truly smart liberals examining their shabby political shibboleths that have provided their intellectual Muzak for so long also bending their minds to the real issues and reaching a conservative conclusion. I’m not so optimistic, simply because I know it takes an enormous amount of strength to break away from your faith.
BTW, here’s the link to Andrew Klavan’s very nice opinion piece, which Henninger references.