Klavan On The Culture

O'Sullivan's Law at the Movies: J. Edgar and Cultural Decay

Hoover Caught in a Moment of Blatant Bestiality

O’Sullivan’s Law says, in effect, that any organization that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. So it is with cultures too, I believe. And how could it be otherwise? All leftism is, really, is a form of decay, and all things made by man decay as time goes by. But if you ever wanted a glimpse of the mechanism by which that decay operates in our particular culture, the critical reception of Clint Eastwood’s latest film J. Edgar provides an invaluable insight.

A Hollywood icon, Eastwood has earned the right to make a bad film now and then and with J. Edgar he has exercised that right. The bio-pic of founder and long time head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover is a mess. The narrative’s garbled timeline is purposeless and confusing; the characters’ motivations are unrealistic and programmatic; even the make-up is terrible.

But most noticeably, the script by gay activist Dustin Lance Black — author of the hagiography Milk — opts to serve the gay cause rather than the truth of its subject and thus produces perhaps the one version of Hoover’s life least likely to have happened. Here is one already notorious example. After his death, Hoover, a lifelong bachelor, was accused by a very unreliable source of attending gay orgies in drag. This is almost surely a slander, but there’s one thing we can say with certainty: either it’s true or it isn’t. Rather than taking a stand one way or the other, Black’s script has Hoover dressing in his dead mother’s gown only once as a token of grief — as if to say, “Well, we’ll only repeat the slanderous lie a little bit, and give it a compassionate setting, so as to be fair.” Add to that a wholly fantasized punch-me-kiss-me scene between Hoover and long time friend Clyde Tolson that could have come out of some 60’s vision of screaming queenery like The Boys in the Band or The Detective, and the movie’s version of the man’s life — not to mention human life in general — becomes absurd.

But now, listen to portions of the movie’s review by Manohla Dargis of the leftist New York Times. “The tenderness of the love story in ‘J. Edgar’” comes as a shock.” “Mr. Eastwood, working from a smart script by Dustin Lance Black… takes a dynamic approach to history (even as it speaks to contemporary times…)” “[Eastwood’s] handling of Hoover and Tolson’s relationship… lifts the film from the usual biopic blahs.”

Okay, you may read this nonsense and say, “Ah, well, there’s no accounting for taste.” But I think a more plausible explanation for it is that Ms. Dargis is full of crap. I do not believe she found the tenderness of the movie a shock, or the poorly constructed script smart, or the antiquated handling of the story uplifting. I believe she said those things only to tout a film with a pro-homosexual agenda. (I say this as a gay-friendly libertarian.) The Times is infamous for this sort of thing, as documented in William McGowan’s book Gray Lady Down. The paper lies to its readers, in other words, to promote those cultural productions that support their favored causes.

Compare this to the work of my friends at Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, one of the most important conservative salients in the culture war. Editor-in-Chief John Nolte and his crew routinely lambaste conservative films on the basis of quality, never allowing their politics to get in the way of either their aesthetic judgment or their commitment to a writer’s first responsibility, the truth as he knows it. Even when he recently complained about the conservative failure to support pro-conservative movies, BH’s Assistant Editor Christian Toto confessed, “‘The Undefeated’ made a night spent watching MSNBC feel fair and balanced by comparison. ‘Atlas Shrugged’ raised the bar for stiff, unnatural acting. And ‘An American Carol’ delivered a fraction of the laughs from director David Zucker’s previous hits, ‘Airplane!’ and ‘The Naked Gun.’”

One cultural group committed to dishonest support of its agenda, another committed to honesty first, politics second. Over time, the natural result will be that artists, knowing they’re guaranteed praise and awards for their politics, will turn to the left more often than the right, for whom they have to produce quality work. As a result, the culture will, ala O’Sullivan, decay leftward over time.

And yet, despite this — and despite those conservatives who say we must become more like the left — more dishonest, more Alinskyite, more exclusionary — in order to win, win, win the fight against them, the fact is we don’t actually have that option. The very thing that makes conservatism what it is compels us to a different path.

Big Hollywood has it right.  Our only real alternatives are to expose them relentlessly, oppose them entirely, and fearlessly point with our words and actions toward our better and freer way.