Artblog.net Turns Twenty
Post #1922 • May 5, 2023, 11:30 AM
Post #1 at Artblog.net went up twenty years ago today. I won't link to it. It's a trifle. But I look back on the posts observing the blog's tenth and fifteenth years of life and feel some melancholy. There's good old John Link (1942-2021) in the comments, congratulating me both times. "Just like the argumentative rag-tag bunch at the Cedar Street Tavern," he wrote at the latter, "we were all part of the same thing and you ran the tavern."
This was regarding the mid-2000s era of the blog. When the Golden Age of Blogging ended in 2008 and the attendant social activity decamped all at once for Facebook, I regarded it as the way of the world. Now some of the few remaining journalists in existence (designated by behavior, not job title) have revealed Facebook's recent history of censoring true information on behalf of the Biden White House, the Merrick Garland FBI, the Surgeon General, the CDC, Pfizer, the UK Department of Social Care, and the Jacinda Ardern administration in New Zealand, among a sickening number of other autocrats. If this is the way of the world, then I am against the world.
I stand by the thesis in my 2021 paper Art After Liberalism that a large number of powerful actors are working to establish progressive dictatorships in the decreasingly free countries of the West, and these would-be dictatorships have the support of most of the art world. No force opposes that trend except an equally postliberal conservatism, which is far less established and playing catch-up. Postliberal progressives regard postliberal conservatives as fascists. But if fascism has a general form (John Lukacs did not think that it does), it is the merger of state and corporate power to impose a societal order of just outcomes as measured in terms of identity. That description fits the postliberal progressives far better than the postliberal conservatives. The latter are more or less mere traditionalists, though the extremity of the former means, for instance, that the position that a biologically female lesbian ought to be allowed her intimate preference for another biologically female lesbian is now considered reactionary.
It might be more accurate to say that postliberal conservatives lean harder towards Mussolini-style fascism, which emphasized national identity, while the postliberal progressive project more closely resembles Hitler's, which held a conception of good citizenship based entirely on the racialized body. (The art world has followed suit. I'm now obliged to examine opportunities for whether their principals are awarding them to men of my phenotype. They frequently are not.) I'm a libertarian and I find both prospects revolting. But if push comes to shove it's obvious which one I'm going to have to join. I am aware of Christopher Rufo's trenchant criticism that libertarians do not have an adequate theory of power. Furthermore, Jeremy Kauffman was not overstating things when he pointed out recently that libertarianism barely exists.
Twenty years ago politics had not so thoroughly saturated the cultural sphere and I enjoyed not having opinions about it. Now I worry that the postliberal progressive regime under which we live is going to respond to the next recession by issuing relief denominated in a central bank digital currency, which the regime will use to cut off its opponents from money without the inconvenience of forcing the banks to do it for them. Or if not that scenario exactly, then something equally odious.
Twenty years ago I was the newest adult generation. Now the newest adult generation despises free speech and capitalism. Maybe they'll grow out of it, maybe they won't. Either way the liberal order of tolerance, equality, individual rights, and market economies that has provided the best lives that humans have ever seen on this planet is vulnerable.
Twenty years ago John and Darby were still around. Nothing has replaced their silenced voices.
I miss the sanguinity of that twenty-years-younger fellow who knew that he was out-of-sync, but believed that all would turn out well if he made his art and stood by his truth. No, the price of standing by truth is sometimes high and occasionally ultimate. But it's either that or lie to yourself and adapt to circumstances you know to be wicked. For better or worse that fellow had no talent for such things, only a bit of talent for art. I hope that I have the opportunity to update this blog in 2043, and report that he didn't turn out so badly.
[This post is linked from another at Dissident Muse Journal. Please direct comments there. - F.]