“Reality has a conservative bias” you’ve heard it and you probably hate it. How presumptuous! That accurate perception and accurate belief cosanguinate. “Reality has an X bias” more like it! Anyone with a truth claim necessarily has some belief in that truth and some starting proposition, some base perception from which they get that truth.
“Oh,” the conservative says, “but truth claims are conservative” and here we are.
If then Art with a capital ‘A’ seeks to get at or reflect, discover or illuminate a capital ‘T’ Truth then of course it too is conservative.
You’re angry, I understand. You don’t like the word ‘conservative’ and you don’t like the presupposition, the interior logic or the ultimate conclusions here. Could a self styled anti-conservative somehow, and dear reader I too am shocked to say this, accidentally further things that the conservative would term Good, True and Beautiful.
Well I’m here to say that all artists to whatever degree they are good, truthful and equipped to deliver beauty do just that and often intentionally as they perceive various truths in the universe around them.
An example, the ESPN documentary OJ: Made in America. In an interview with The Ringer/Channel 33 we hear from the director that he was dispassionate, strongly so, about the OJ trial. Through sheer will, craft and professionalism. Through the habits of docu filmmaking developed over a career and an awareness of the stakes, the weight of the interviews sitting down the road, and the audience built through the 30 for 30 series. Through these things we got something intensely truthful.
Good art is good. Of course I mean “well made” on the front end of that tautology. In accurate perception, the possibility, the suggestion of right belief about these things.
Earnest truthful art, no matter the source, is among one of life’s common graces.
Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, who as a Christian I say he was without the full spiritual revelation of the closed biblical canon, the artist through seeing truthfully, can tell truthfully. The limits of experiential wisdom are pretty well sketched in that old testament book. 10/10 highly recommend.
To digress a little about the wisdom literature and that ancillary effect of art, the moral imperative most obviously seen as The Very Special Episode. These episodes are clearly trying to teach something. But what if it happens by accident:
I wouldn’t be the first to note that Breaking Bad doesn’t have a glowing, triumphant portrayal of what the drug trade does to a life however maximally abstracted Walt’s place in it rests for most of the series. Let’s not forget that masterpiece The Knick from which I’ve learned much much more effectively about the personal thrill, boredom, crisis and crash of drug abuse (however high functioning) than all of those DARE classes.
So through all these rabbit trails we finally arrive at the most recent Netflix stand up comedy specials by Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle. While I’ve already gone on too long, I’d like to say something about the conservatism and the underlying theme of some of their hotter topic jokes.
That theme is violence. Chappelle ends a story about an almost certainly fictional transgender hollywood executive with that character throwing their excised member onto the table as a power move. C.K. goes on an extended riff about how abortion really is killing (though killing he thinks should be allowed). The underlying truths here, conservatives often painfully have to point out, convince and cajole.
The flowery language of identity cannot paper over the real harm, the hard chop choices of matching the biological with psychological.
Children with fingers and toes, little people who feel pain are literally ripped apart overwhelmingly for reasons of convenience.
There’s no debate about the physical truth of what’s happening. The observation is truthful, so the window for true belief gets just a little more open.