Art in service of politics

An artist setting out to advocate a political agenda has begun a perilous journey. Art makes its own demands, as the ancient Greeks understood in the concept of the artist as someone who listens to the singing of the Muses. Now I suspect that even in those days, creative people knew that there was a good measure of what our Supreme Court might call ceremonial piety involved, but the principle that a work of art is its own reality with its own rules and guiding forces is a sound one.

That being said, some of the greatest works of one branch of the arts, literature, were created with a strong political motivation. The Oresteia of Aeschylus drafts a tale from the Trojan War into propaganda in support of the Athenian city-state, and The Aeneid does the same for Rome. Casablanca is one of the classics of film, even while stirring our emotions against fascism.

The Muse can at times sign up for our causes. But she must be invited, not compelled. The Song of Roland hires an earthbound screecher in place of a heavenly singer, and John McTiernan’s version of The Hunt for Red October works much better than the book at letting the audience understand the problems of the Soviet system through suggestion, rather than hammering at it every few minutes as Tom Clancy does.

All of this preliminary commentary is to explain the problem with the proposed movement in literature suggested by the anti-gun organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, a group called the Everytown Authors Council.

The organization is Michael Bloomberg’s baby, his creation that he loosed upon the country in his desire to impose ever increasing violations of gun rights on those of us who do not serve in his personal protection detail. What does the Everytown Authors Council want?

“It is designed to harness the power of the literary community to amplify the gun safety movement. The group uses its collective reach and cultural influence to support commonsense solutions proven to save lives from the gun violence that claims 93 American lives every day and injures hundreds more.”

Everytown is careful to talk in such platitudes in their public pronouncements, making it especially pathetic to see authors selling their arts like modern-day temple prostitutes whoring in devotion of their little prince-god.

The literary arts exist to clarify and enlighten, but Everytown in its various incarnations employ faulty appeals to emotion, exactly what was recommended in Preventing Gun Violence through Effective Messaging, a document written by Frank O’Brien of OMP, a fundraising firm, and others in 2012. The advice therein tells people who are dedicated to violating gun rights that they should avoid getting bogged down in facts and instead stick to “stories with images and feelings,” while claiming “moral authority and the mantle of freedom.” In other words, as long as you keep your listeners weeping or cheering, you can get away with whatever lies you wish. And by careful avoidance of any detailed proposals when talking to ordinary Americans, you can get them stirred up enough to demand something, anything be done in the legislatures, where a long list of onerous burdens may be imposed.

Authors who play along with this perversion of our art will have traded Wisdom for the Whore of Babylon. Violence and guns are elements of many stories — my western character, Henry Dowland fires a few as he works through the plots I put him in, for example — but the story has to work for itself first, whatever themes it may carry along with it. And while the suffering that brings us to truth, as Aeschylus told us, is one lesson we learn in stories, being human also grants us the exercise of rights as the expression of our ability to act in the world, and stories that are true to the art will reflect this as well.

For more of my writing, go here.

Gee, Camp, what were you thinking? Supports gay rights, #2a, #1a, science, and other seemingly incongruous things. Books available on Amazon.

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