Art vs. Politics: Why I Have Stopped Watching the News & Political Commentary.

Submitted by The Good Student on Wed, 02/16/2022 - 22:32

Lukesmith.xyz has convinced me to stop watching the news, including "based news sources." It's not as if he said anything I didn't know already but I was ignoring it and so it was a good reminder of these points. Of course this means I'll stop watching Luke Smith's youtube channel too because since he has already found his perfect linux set up most of his new videos and live streams in particular are just political and social commentary.

The first reason he provides for ignoring the news is that if it's something actually important to your life then you will already know about the issue anyway, upfront and better than any journalist  could give it to you. For example you don't need to know whether a bunch of miners got stuck in a mine thousands of miles away. That information is useless for you. 

But if you live in a high crime area then you will already know about that and about its real causes. Listening to some talking heads on a screen yap on about it will change nothing except make you more and more depressed about it. It is also useless to say that you are merely looking into it out of curiosity, a purely academic interest, politics doesn't work that way and sooner or later you will feel emotions about events that you have no power over. You will be relegated to the audience like a man betting at a horse race. It's so easy to imagine in the heat of the moment that your feelings will bear an effect on the outcome, to imagine that internet politics is serious business.

Even from the perspective of "being informed" by watching the news/political commentary, after a certain point I realised it was the same issues and topics being recycled for another round of pointless exchanges of tired talking points, masquerading as debates. They call it the "news cycle" for a reason, it goes in circles.

How many times should I re-watch people having more or less the same debates about taxes, abortion, taxation, etc... before I know what I think about these things? If I watch these debates after I know what I think about these things it is a waste of time but also a degenerate bread and circus where people watch debates/arguments only so that they can cheer on their own side repeating what they already know, rather than to learn anything. It is politics as pro-wrestling, or " internet blood sports" if you will.

But it doesn't end there, once the insights that you can derive have run dry ,the pleasure derived runs out too, and you can no longer fool yourself into thinking you are learning something or "being informed," you will be faced with the realisation that the bloodless blood-sports were just a lukewarm talking shop, a containment chamber for your thoughts and affection, a delicate bubble of self-importance that will spew venom at you for the slightest hint of derision or self-reflection. Or in other words, just another "literary circle" or in plain language, a book club.

It is a good lesson — though it may often be a hard one — for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world’s dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized, and to find how utterly devoid of all significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at.
—Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Scarlet Letter

A lot of "based online political commentary" amounts to frothing at the mouth in righteous indignation, it does not matter under how many layers of bookish sophistication, fake detachment, and layers of irony it is hidden, the seething is there.

Many may be fooled into thinking they are hearing something they haven't heard before when it is repeated to them in a more sophisticated manner but in that case they were ever only interested in hearing people say what they thought in a sophisticated manner, to live vicariously through those speakers. The topics are political ones just so to create an illusion of high stakes, not to effect any change, but to allow for their narcissistic fantasy of escapism.

What better way to hide your escapism by pretending that you are dealing with "the real issues" of the day. You are not like those nerds who get excited about the latest nintendo game or anime, no you are better than that because you get excited about some event in the news thousands of miles away which you had no input over or better yet about some distant tradition in the past.

Every news story or event is hyped up as "the thing which will change everything," and a great many fools will get excited by this or will barely contain their excitement, following every little step of the story and then getting hyped about the latest "thing which will change everything." It's a bit meta because you are observing people observing events that neither of you have any influence over.

The Randian/Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff argued that "philosophy is the motor of history." Well, how convenient for him since he is a philosopher. Experts in every field have a tendency of arguing that the thing which they like and have devoted themselves to is the most important thing ever. In a sense he is correct, certain ideas lead to certain actions but I am beginning to suspect that it works the other way around too, that certain actions lead to ideas more often. Or in other words after a certain change has been done on the ground ideas will emerge to justify it. But then what are we, who do not have the political power to act, supposed to do other than idly talk among ourselves, make noises and then call that "ideas," "political analysis," and "philosophy"?

At any rate this is what the followers of Ayn Rand have done for decades now. Set up little talkiing shops and foundations and whatnot. How much political power does Objectivism have? I would say that their influence simply decreased from the point that Rand ceased to be. What was it that she had that her followers do not?

Many attempts at mental gymnastics have been made to circumvent the political impotence I have described above. The chief above them is to devise some kind of narrative by which the victory of one's political is destiny, fate, and so any setback can be dismissed as temporary. Wish-thinking comes by easily when you are out of power and so all factions do sort of have this story, for example Marxists will talk of the Historical Inevitability of Communism, Liberals about the end of history where-by they can pretend liberalism is organic and that any set-back is just taking a longer road to the same destination of the liberal democratic borg. Perennial Traditionalists may believe in cyclical theories of history which allow them to believe that all the liberalism around them will be undone inevitably so they can believe things will get better no matter how worse they get, that "progress" will be undone and there will be a "return to tradition" inevitably. The book of Revelations may also fall into a similar line of thinking, because no matter the philosophy, the intended effect is to ward off any doubt or at any rate to instil faith in the idea at the time it seems like it is losing against other ideas. It all sounds a bit Darwinian. A kind of last line of defence against the current reality, set in a future possible reality. 

The future is uncertain so there is no reason to assume that the current situation will continue indefinitely but by that same reasoning because it is uncertain, there is no way to know whose prophesy if any will come true.

To sum up what I said so far, news and political commentary, analysis are all escapism and like any escapism it doesn't actually let you escape reality. The real world of your day to day will catch up with you, so you might as well live in it, and be sad and happy about things in your day to day.

It's just that realistically you can only ever be a passive consumer of the news and  politics no matter how "critically" you think about it.

Sometimes I am tempted to feel that the ordinary man on the street has got more sense in him by living in ignorance of all politics. Still my distrust of "common sense", of majority opinion, stops me from going all the way. After all "common sense" has a tendency of shifting in whatever way it makes it easier to live under the current ruling class. 

Where does this leave us? The desire to "get involved" with politics, to give yourself to it comes from a desire to feel part of something bigger, to put it bluntly to feel important, which doubtlessly appeals to many terminally online people.

In a sense the pre-internet generation who had only television were free-er because there was only one narrative on the table for them, so they could accept it and move on with their lives without hesitation, more or less depending on their wits rather than second-guessing themselves constantly about whether their actions were in line with whatever tiny philosophy they were hooked at that moment.

Then again I am being baselessly optimistic about the past, as people fell into and out of all sorts of trends all the time.

A lot of international politics analysis amounts to essentially role-playing as the US president or some other such powerful figure, political analysts often talk as if they lived double lives, one life in the real world as ordinary people, plebs if you will, and the other life in their heads as selfless heroes of justice. One quick way to prick this bubble is simply to ask them "What should be done?" and watch them fumble around for a roundabout answer because there is nothing they can do. If they were honest what they would be doing is asking how they can useful to those in power because they do not have any power themselves even though they act like they do.

It is not as if the ordinary man on the street does not feel these urges, after all the political analyst, if he is honest, must know that he is honest with himself, must know that he is as ordinary a man as it gets, in fact if he is doing political commentary as a living, then he is less than an ordinary man.

A lot of the degeneracy and other social problems may be caused by the instinct which a lot of ordinary people have to live out their lives as if they were protagonists of some soap opera, as if they were extraordinary, and reality would bend to give them the glamourous life which they desire. Needless to say a lot of people who get into political commentary is because it is glamourous, people will look up to you because you have "something important to say."

It is true that these "public intellectuals" (i.e. political commentators) have a tendency of looking down on the ordinary, and essentially basing their entire personality on liking unpopular things, but looking down on the ordinary is very ordinary. So don't be fooled by that, you are not escaping the monotony of ordinary life or something by subscribing to this or that niche philosophy, you are not "better" than most people who don't care about this stuff. Political commentators can criticise things and people's actions from a distance without any real consequence, or in other words like most critics, they are all talk, they are not actually doing anything because they are just hype-men.

What is the answer to politics? The answer is always art. Politics robs you of your agency and your identity as an individual, you become nothing more than a cheerer for your "side" in a demented sport. Art empowers you, but only if you create it. Art critics, all those video essayists on Youtube about video games/anime and whatnot are no better than the political commentators criticising the actions of others without creating anything themselves, in other words political commentators are no better than video-game/anime video essayists. They are equally worthless hype-men who will repeat to their audiences what their audiences already think because they are no better than the audiences that look up to them because their audiences look at them only because audience members see  themselves in these youtubers but only in a more glamourised fashion, youtubers (especially political commentators) are the real self-insert protagonists, especially when they complain about self-insert protagonists in fiction ("you shouldn't self-insert into Kirito, you should self-insert into me dear viewer, donate to me at patreon.com/shill9000, also this anime is just a soulless cashgrab.)"

Political commentary can also be art, but only if you agree with it already, usually that's how it is. So don't bother. It is very hard to create good art and harder yet to create good political commentary as art, because the latter puts "the message" before any considerations of beauty, and because if the audience doesn't agree with the message then he'll pretend to reject your art on aesthetic rather than moral basis. Creating art is better than consuming politics, and remember that you can only ever consume politics unless you are in a position of actual power, and if you are reading this, then you probably are not in a position of (political) power. The personal is not political, but it can be aristic. If you think your personal life is of political importance then you may be suffering from USI and may require urgent medical treatment in the form of a blunt object, likely a baseball bat or an ash tray, being repeatedly, violently hit on your head, in minecraft of course.

I don't know maybe I am just overreacting but I feel like politics has become merely entertainment which reduces people to snarky passive observers and larpers and the like whereas art has a potential of being something more than merely "intellectual," something actually actionable in this world, in this moment, not just an hypothetical of "if we do this and that then in 2000 years we will win the political game guys, step 1. Clean your room and write an "academic" blogpost (read: opinion piece, that's just what the marxists did guys and now they are in power, no wait aktchually a conspiracy got them in power), step. 2 ?????, step 3. World Domination." The more honest, usually Christian ones will say "just have faith guys, don't worry about anything, it will be alright" which is closer to the truth. The truth being, only time can tell.

Politics is a second-hand experience, and a third-rate one at that. Politics weakens you and art empowers you if you so choose, can I be any more direct? Yes, I can. What I have been trying to avoid saying in many words is this: "Anime is Real and Politics is Fake." Or at least Anime is more real than Politics. I would have used that as the title but then only those who agreed, if any, would have read as far here. A lot of "political analysis" and for that matter anime analysis is just hype. My only worry is that I too may remain nothing more than a hype-man because it is easier to be a pundit constantly criticising other people's actions and creations than it is to create a work of art. I have heard a theory that nostalgia critic became a film critic who hates on the movies he watches, and what he is, because he couldn't become a movie maker himself. All political commentators on youtube and other video sites are but nostalgia critic clones, I am not saying that like nostalgia critic these political coomentators became mere commentators constantly criticising politicians because they couldn't become politicians themselves but I kind of am saying that.

Comments

Nice article I guess my only comeback would be to say that most major political action comes from higher up and is not decided by smaller government such as local councils. For this reason a way of thinking about politics on the national level is required to aquire at least a chance at understanding what is going on. Someone only concerned with their immediate area would gain a more granualr knowledge and would live a freer life (as you defined it) but wouldn't be able to explain why the police cars have rainbows on them. For a time online politics has been effective, but in the two major examples (Trump, Brexit) these populist changes were also heavily augmented by elites in various parts of government and public life. I will say that I've been trying to find a commentator who is genuinely curious and wants to go on a intellectual journey as gay as that sounds but so often I've instead found an incredible amount of ego and pompey. The best one can hope for is to find a specialist channel who will talk about a small number of concepts with a high level of accuracy as far as finding the truth through commentary is concerned.

I've probably misunderstood what you were saying but I hope this response is acceptable anyway.