New York Times Takes on David Mamet’s “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal'”


Today, the New York Times runs a lengthy essay about the marked lack of conservative viewpoints in ‘election season’ New York theater. The writer, Patricia Cohen, further makes the point that this problem extends far beyond New York:

If you think the one-sidedness is a result of the city’s generous supply of liberals, then look west of the Alleghenies, where, from Pittsburgh to Des Moines, on down to Austin, Tex., and all the way back up to Ashland, Ore., the absence is just as noticeable. Artistic directors of regional theaters and playwriting programs throughout the country are quick to point out that most American plays avoid politics altogether or cannot be easily categorized.

The problem, evidently: “It’s not that authors with those ideas cannot get their plays produced, but rather that they cannot be found.” As it happens—and as Cohen eventually points out—this isn’t quite the case. One prominent playwright, David Mamet, declared in these very pages his own latter day move towards conservatism. That piece, which Cohen repeatedly cites, can be found here. In part, it read:

As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. “?” she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as “a brain-dead liberal,” and to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.”

Mamet, evidently, couldn’t be tracked down for further elucidation, because, as his agent suggested, “he is writing.” Back in March, though, he asked: “But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?” His answer now may seem naïve: “I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to.” In light of recent events, and his failure to comment on a story that evidently hoped to make him Exhibit A, one wonders if even this newfound paragon of conservatism in New York theater may be, Christopher Hitchens-style, wavering a bit?