Friday, May 11, 2012

Liberal Chic

Tom Wolfe once wrote a piece called "Radical Chic," in which he satirized a cocktail party given by Leonard Bernstein for the Black Panthers back in the sixties when a lot of liberals flirted with radical causes. I used to be a fan of Tom Wolfe before he turned to writing novels, and I remember enjoying the piece, which cleverly juxtaposed the hosts who fussed over their decor and their caterer against the guests who came from a somewhat different environment. But Wolfe's article had an unfortunate effect, which I remember being reported on at the time: it dried up a lot of fundraising for liberal causes. It seems that donors to worthy charities that helped the poor and minorities were a little embarrassed and reluctant to face the kind of ridicule that Wolfe was offering. So organizations like the NAACP and the ACLU had a harder time obtaining contributions in the wake of Wolfe's article. Maybe that was his intention. I don't know.

 Steve Lopez wrote a similar piece yesterday in his LA Times blog making fun of George Clooney's friends who raised $15 million for the Obama campaign at a party at Clooney's house last night. Although Lopez recognized that only a third of that money was contributed by wealthy Hollywood liberals, while the remainder came from small donors who contributed for the chance to attend the party, he still found it reprehensible that all this money was being shelled out for a political campaign, which at least gives the taint that these Hollywood liberals are buying an unfair amount of influence over the administration. Lopez finds it hypocritical that these big spenders are willing to pay so much to rub shoulders with Hollywood royalty, while they supposedly neglect worthy civic causes like libraries, rec centers and parks. (Do they really? So how come I keep seeing schools, hospitals and libraries with celebrity names plastered all over them?)

Anyway, what I want to tell Steve Lopez (what I did say actually in a comment on his piece) is that the best way to save the parks, the libraries and the rec centers is to make sure that Obama is re-elected. That means raising whatever it takes by any and all appropriate and legal means. There are some very powerful people on the other side who have no interest in parks, libraries and rec centers and they are contributing boatloads of money to Romney's cause. Obama needs to raise a lot of money to win. There is no avoiding that harsh reality. So it is not helpful to causes that Steve Lopez claims to support to make fun of Hollywood liberals for doing the right thing. Criticism such as Lopez is offering can only have the effect of discouraging liberal donors, while emboldening conservative donors. The people who contributed to this fundraiser have good intentions. The small donors know that they have little chance of going to the party, but contributed mainly because they want to help President Obama get re-elected. And most of the rich Hollywood liberals who attended have no need to brag about hobnobbing with George Clooney. They are stepping up to give serious amounts of money to the same worthy purpose. It might be fun to make fun of Hollywood phonies, but it's a cheap shot, and all that kind of criticism can do is assist the causes of selfishness and conservatism.
 
Hey Steve Lopez, don't rain on our parade!

8 comments:

  1. To be clear, in the last sentence, are you referring to the traits of selfishness and the attitudes of conservatism? Or did you mean selfish conservatism?

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  2. Sorry if I wasn't clear. What I meant to say was that if you make fun of people for charitable or political giving of any kind, you discourage giving, i.e., you encourage selfishness. And if you make fun of liberals for giving, you discourage liberals from giving, and that helps conservatives.

    It works with conservatives too. A few weeks ago the Obama campaign publicized some information about Romney donors (nothing wrong with doing that, by the way, the names of donors are public information). But Romney supporters started screaming about how unfair that was. And that's because campaign donors do not like bad publicity. Exposing them and mocking them is probably the best way to discourage them from giving. Which is why I have to wonder what the hell Steve Lopez was thinking.

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  3. Do you think conservatism is selfish?

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    1. My short answer is yes, because these days conservatism is based on an every man for himself, greed is good, philosophy. My long answer might have some qualifications in it, but I don't have time for that right now.

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    2. Is conservatism based in bigotry?

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  4. Is it okay to expose donors and mock them or not?

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    1. Somebody said politics ain't beanbag, or something like that. It's a pretty rough and tumble sport, which means most kinds of mocking and exposing are perfectly ok. (Lying is not ok, but mocking is fine.) But what Steve Lopez did seems counter-productive to the causes that he himself says he supports, so I would say that while he was perfectly entitled to express his opinion, and while there are some valid things that can be said about money in politics, this article is pretty stupid, and Lopez might not have thought through the negative consequences he is creating. In other words, it's ok for Lopez to say what he said, but it's also ok for me to say that his article is a terrible piece of work.

      All hail free speech!

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  5. Of course it is okay for you to write views opposed to Lopez. All hail free speech!

    It sounds like he was doing his job. And his job is not to campaign for the President. As well, the private dick going through Mr. VanderSloot's divorce records is not campaigning for Romney. You almost sound betrayed.

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