Marxist Revolution Delayed Again
Widgets and Sundries

No Refunds, No Credit Note (2)

Further to this discussion, and this one, here’s Kingsley Amis in 1985, describing the Arts Council

Grants and bursaries from this detestable and destructive body in effect pay producers, painters, writers and such in advance. This is a straight invitation to them to sod the public, whose ticket money they are no longer obliged to attract, and to seek the more immediate approval of their colleagues and friends instead… Thus an organisation created to foster art and bring it to the public turns out to be damaging to art and cutting it off from the public.

And not coincidentally, we have a situation in which the supply of artists dwarfs the actual demand and in which the supposed patrons – taxpayers – are being billed for a product they all too often don’t want and didn’t ask for. Because ostentatiously leftwing dirt relocation and the tearing up of grass, along with the state funding of buskers, hookers and non-existent poetry, is now regarded by some as part of the welfare state. It’s what some grown men and women aspire to do with their time. And with the money you had to earn.

As noted previously, many times, there’s an air of grandiose entitlement, an urge to circumvent indefinitely the preferences of the public, who are nonetheless expected to serve as patrons, albeit patrons with no say in how or on whom their earnings are spent. And no right to ask for a refund should things go badly wrong. And so despite the obligatory egalitarian blather, what comes to mind is a caste system, in which the lumpen taxpayer is forced to bankroll self-anointed Brahmins, our cultural superiors, who profess their modish leftism while extolling the virtues of a non-reciprocal and parasitic relationship.

Update:

In the comments Sam points us to the latest from Polly Toynbee, in which she ostensibly counsels against the disdain shown by her peers for the new culture minister. Yes, he’s a Tory, and from a working class background. Oh, the indignity. But needs must. And note that Polly’s objection to the casual snobbery of her fellow Guardianistas is merely tactical:

The arts world didn’t react well to the appointment of the former banker Sajid Javid. Several writers led the great rumble of artistic disdain toward the new culture secretary… This seems to me a mistake, more likely to have Javid reaching for his revolver than falling for the charms of culture. Worse, the public might think it smacks of a familiar elitism that suggests the mysteries of the arts are not for the uninitiated.

So perhaps Mr Javid can yet be saved by his betters, despite the heathen’s lack of an “artistic hinterland,” as determined by Ms Toynbee. Readers may be entertained by Polly’s trademark fumbling with numbers and reliance on the fanciful, often baffling claims of Arts Council literature. Though if you’re pushed for time, commenter Charlie Suet points out that the Guardian’s foremost columnist is essentially “asserting that because The King’s Speech made money, we should subsidise mime artists in Brighton.” 

Comments

Rafi

Because ostentatiously leftwing dirt relocation and the tearing up of grass, along with the state funding of buskers, hookers and non-existent poetry, is now regarded by some as part of the welfare state.

Yes David, but if our betters didn't take that money from us we'd only spend it on curries, beer and Sky sports. It's for our own good.

TDK

albeit patrons with no say in how or on whom their earnings are spent.

You'll get picked up on this by statists, who will point out, patrons get a vote.

Sam

Today's Polly Toynbee (short version):

The Tory culture minister is a philistine and likes Star Trek - but don't worry, the Arts Council will "make judgments" for him (and us, natch).

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/29/arts-embrace-star-trek-snootiness-sajid-javid

David

Today’s Polly Toynbee

Yes, a culture minister from a (gasp) working class background. Oh, the indignity.

And then Polly peddles her standard flimflam. She mentions the supposed multiplier effect of coercive arts subsidy - “every £1 invested yields £2” - a claim widely discredited, not least because it doesn’t take into account the (multiplied) opportunity costs – things not done, not funded, as a result of confiscation from the private economy. Presumably we’re to believe that the Arts Council - a committee of imperious, self-indulgent lefties that spent £50,000 on two office parties - is better at picking winners than private action and couldn’t possibly have a history of eye-widening profligacy and mal-investment. [ Cough ] West Bromwich arts centre. [ Cough ]

And note that Toynbee once again conflates subsidised installation art and poetry recitals with the “creative industries” and “creative economy,” terms that actually refer to creative enterprises run as profitable businesses, not as hobbies indulged by the Arts Council and funded by taxpayer coercion.

Anna

'Ministry of Culture'? We're still a democracy, right?

Nikw211

"… the Arts Council's evidence review, which finds that 60% more people who attend arts events report better health and wellbeing." (From the conclusion of Toynbee's article)

Errr … huh?

David

Nikw211,

Yes, the Arts Council infographic from which that Factoid is taken is quite peculiar.

Note how the Arts Council tries to use as leverage (and by implication, take credit for) all “arts and culture” – including all commercial, i.e., unsubsidised, cultural activity. Again, the same conflation of very different things, conveniently fudged as the “arts and culture industry.” It’s such sly wording. Like so much of the Arts Council’s promotional material, it’s full of tendentious or disingenuous phrasing, conveniently blurred categories and a disregard for causality. For instance, “Students who study arts subjects are more employable and more likely to stay in employment.” More employable than whom? All of their peers?

Rob

Kingsley Amis would definitely be branded a 'hater' for that these days, possibly a closet racist and even a 'denier'.

Anna

Because ostentatiously leftwing dirt relocation and the tearing up of grass, along with the state funding of buskers, hookers and non-existent poetry, is now regarded by some as part of the welfare state.

But we need more drumming workshops for the homeless.

Nikw211

Yes, the Arts Council infographic from which that Factoid is taken is quite peculiar.

Reading that infographic makes me feel like General Custer, or at least General Custer as he might have felt had he been standing by the Little BigStupid surrounded by idiots, not Crazy Horse, and that those self-same idiots were firing different types of dumb at his noggin … or maybe that's a tad hubristic?

Let's see … here's what Toynbee says:

    60% more people who attend arts events report better health and wellbeing. That's the eat-your-greens, arts-is-good-for-you case,…

There you go, she's saying, culture makes you healthier (isn't she?). But according to the actual infographic (thanks, David):

    ALMOST 60% of people are more likely to report good health if they've attended a cultural place or event in the last 12 months

Shome confushion of causation and correlation perhapsh?

I'm no scientist, but I've just started sneezing repeatedly – usually a sure sign that my bullshit detector has been tripped.

I mean … doesn't all that factoid actually point out is that university graduates and/or other skilled professionals are generally more likely to appear at cultural events than other people are?

Isn't it just saying that if you know what a sausage-and-bean melt pasty is and have eaten one then it's statistically more likely that you haven't recently visited a designated cultural place or event … but that if you know that linguine isn't a sports car and your breakfast sometimes consists of a Starbucks granola pot after a visit to the gym, it's possible, just possible, you are likely a wee bit middle class and so, who knows? maybe are more likely to visit at least one gallery or concert in any given 12-month period?

Is that even news?

MikeG81

"Yes, a culture minister from a (gasp) working class background. Oh, the indignity."

All for the working guy. Except when they're not.

Joan

The arts world didn’t react well to the appointment of the former banker Sajid Javid.

Because bankers (being evil) HAVE NO FEELS and therefore can't understand art.

svh

Toynbee says:
60% more people who attend arts events report better health and wellbeing. That's the eat-your-greens, arts-is-good-for-you case

Someone should tell the NHS about the magical healing powers of installation art.

WTP

David,
OT FYI...you're failing to load on Chrome again. Problem with the Amazon widget?

David

WTP,

you’re failing to load on Chrome again. Problem with the Amazon widget?

Possibly, not sure. Waiting to hear back from the bods at TypePad. Seems fine in Explorer, though.

Jeff Wood

A former client of mine is a painter, very fine in my opinion, with a masculine approach to Scottish land and seascapes.

For some years, he did very well selling his canvasses to, among others, banks and financial institutions. His sister has had, I believe, some success selling her more feminine works to the same people. Those evil bankers can have a good taste in art in my experience.

A late client, a composer, stumbled on another source of patronage. Serious artists were invited, around bonus time, to submit commission proposals to an investment bank. The papers were dumped on a conference table, the baby-eating thrusters looked through them to see which ideas they fancied backing, and left with the contact details. I know that my late friend composed a very fine piece or two on a ten grand here, ten grand there subsidy, entirely voluntary.

The well off, even the nouveau riche, can be positively Renaissance in these matters.

Dom

From Polly Toynbee: "... every £1 invested [in the culture economy] yields £2." And here I was all set to put money in your tip-jar when I had the investment opportunity of a lifetime staring me in the face.

Rob

I have just moved my pension fund to the South Bank ethnic dance troupe. If it doesn't double in value I'll sue Toynbee for every penny she has.

sackcloth and ashes

'The arts world didn’t react well to the appointment of the former banker Sajid Javid'.

The Secretary of State for Defence has since the early 1990s usually been a civilian all his life.

To the best of my knowledge we have never had a Home Secretary who has been in the police, prison service or Probation Service.

It is rare to have a Secretary of State for Health who has any form of medical or health-care background.

And if it's such a crime to appoint someone to run a cultural post who has no background in the arts, what the fuck was Alan Rusbridger doing in charge of the National Youth Orchestra from 2005-2012?

Actually, don't answer that question ...

Hal

I have just moved my pension fund to the South Bank ethnic dance troupe.

Oh, y'mean this guy?

James

Well, there's the answer to Britain's economic woes. Simply shift all government revenue to the arts sector and you'll be the richest nation on earth in no time!

James Johnston

Nikw211 has pointed out what the infographic actually shows (and how dodgy it is: "60% are more likely" suggests, perhaps, that of a sample of 60%, more than half tum-te-tum. But I nitpick, since I'm sure that the writer meant that 60% of a random sample tum-te-tum, the "likely" being mere incompetence.) What puzzles me is what la Toynbee thought she was saying, because her statement makes no sense at all. "60% more people"--than what? Maybe eight-thirteenths of the sample reported tum-te-tum and five-thirteenths didn't, which, to be fair, is nearly 62% of the sample. However, I would expect a large number to report ho-hum.
It seems to me that journalists in particular have no idea of the significance of numerical assertions, and say for instance that something has risen by 200% when all they mean is that it has doubled, not that it has tripled.

rxc

Your caste system comment made me think about the entire progressive movement, which ironically seems to want to return to a more feudal system of society, with smart leaders on top, supported by loyal fiefs of intelligensia, all taking care of a lumpen peasantry.

The academics are there, of course, serving the same function as the church, reading the bones for signs of truth (science) so that they can identify heretics to burn, while skilled workers are gathered into guilds where entry is controlled by the applicants/supplicants adherence to the ruling paradigms. Merchants and bankers who deal with dirty money exist in the same place as the evil Jewish moneylenders.

The artists you talk about are just another class of artisans for the patrons. The artists all think of themselves as the new Michaelangelos, just waiting for a pope/president to commission them to paint the ceiling of some grand public edifice.

The parallels just jump out and demand to be identified. Here in the US, when the Democrats lost the House, but kept the White House, they went apoplectic that the House would stand in the way of the President - after all, they had just elected him and his vision, and nothing should stand in his way. No acknoledgement of the role of the other branches of government, just the strong man who was their savior.

It is sad how the west is devolving back into this sort of society.

Charlie Suet

There is an odd fallacy of composition in asserting that because The King's Speech made money, we should subsidise mime artists in Brighton.

David

It seems to me that journalists in particular have no idea of the significance of numerical assertions,

Dear Polly – or Oh Dear, Polly – has never been a friend of numbers. One typical Toynbee blunder implied that 142% of the electorate was dissatisfied with Tony Blair. And then there was the time she spluttered in outrage against council tax benefit changes that she herself had inflated by a mere 5,100%.

John D

There is an odd fallacy of composition in asserting that because The King's Speech made money, we should subsidise mime artists in Brighton.

That, but louder.

Minnow

Kingsley Amis would definitely be branded a 'hater' for that these days, possibly a closet racist and even a 'denier'.

Kingsley Amis wasn't a closet racist, he was an out and proud racist.

Tim Newman

Those evil bankers can have a good taste in art in my experience.

My Dad worked for quite some time in a law firm in London that specialised in shipping reinsurance. I don't know if they still do this, but back in the '90s their corridors were decorated with oil tankers, backs broken, on fire and pissing oil everywhere. I rather liked that.

Nikw211

Kingsley Amis wasn't a closet racist, he was an out and proud racist.

Minnow,

I know very little about Amis (father or son) but was quite surprised to read your comment - all I can find from a quick Google search is a spat between Terry Eagleton and the Amis family.

Was it Eagleton's comments that you had in mind or something else?

Minnow

Kingsley didn't like the Jews. He made no bones about it.

Jeff Wood

Tim: Heh.

Nikw211

Minnow,

Do you have any more specific references?

I tried Google again (with Kingsley Amis + antisemitic rather than + racist) but all it seems to throw up are lots of assertions that he was a racist counterbalanced by lots of other people saying it was nonsense and he wasn't.

The accusations that he was seem to be coming mostly from Marxist sources, or so it seems at least, but there seems to be a lack of any actual evidence in the way of extracts from his writing showing definitively that he was. (In comparison, for example, to the charge that he was a misogynist for which I'm aware there's quite a lot of evidence that could be pointed to).

If you could show me some / point me in the direction of some I'd be interested to see it for myself.

(I'm mainly interested in this because one of my favourite writers is VS Naipaul and I get tired and frustrated by the way he is so often pilloried with all kinds of wild accusations whose only basis seems to be that they are made by people who have an intense hatred of his writing and ideas - I'm wondering if these accusations that you've heard about Amis Snr are an analogous to that situation or whether he really did in fact hold racist beliefs.)

Tom Foster

'Kingsley Amis wasn't a closet racist, he was an out and proud racist.'

You knew him well, did you?

Minnow

Nik, Tom, I didn't know him well but Martin Amis did. Check out his memoir Experience. In it, he recalls the day when he asked his father what it was like to be an anti-semite and Kingsley, being Kingsley, gives him a thoughtful reply. To be fair, though, Martin A also records that he was capable of being moved by descriptions of the murders of Jews, despite his feelings about them as a race.

Tom Foster

'In it, he recalls the day when he asked his father what it was like to be an anti-semite and Kingsley, being Kingsley, gives him a thoughtful reply.'

Yes, I've read Experience. I'll have to reread the passage in question, but I'm pretty sure he never said he was 'proud' of being mildly antisemitic. And the conversation with his son could certainly be seen in the context of Kingsley's well-known habit of deliberately giving offence to provoke people.

Here's his ex-wife Elizabeth Jane Howard's opinion. I believe that she, like Martin, also knew him well:

'I point out that even Martin Amis has admitted that Eagleton got one thing partly right - that Kingsley was mildly anti-Semitic, by his own confession. And the novelist Julian Barnes and his wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh - who grew up in South Africa - are unlikely to forget a mid-Eighties dinner at the Garrick Club with Kingsley.

'What was needed in South Africa, he informed them, was "to shoot as many blacks as possible". Pat is said to have fled to the loo in tears.

'Ah, says, Jane, she can only speak for the 18 years that she was with Kingsley. And, as for the dinner with Julian and Pat - "I think he was taking the mickey out of them a bit to see what they'd say, because I know that Pat toed a fashionable, liberal line, and he never liked that in people.

'"I wasn't there, but I know that they had a major row which resulted in no-speaks. He always enjoyed provoking people, particularly if he thought they didn't have a sense of humour. It was even more fun when they didn't, really. He was rude about everybody. No holds were barred."

'Even racist remarks, then? "I know he despised people who were racist. But, after I left him, I should think he probably did make racist and anti-Semitic remarks. Drink made him very nasty and capable of presenting a behaviour you wouldn't recognise."

'In all likelihood, she reflects, he wouldn't have meant his comments to be taken as racist or anti-Semitic, any more than he meant people to take him seriously when he talked about "a bloody Frenchman" or someone's "filthy dog".

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-490971/Kingsley-Amis-drunk-hated-racist-says-second-wife.html

Minnow

I don't think that Elizabeth Jane Howard is a very reliable witness there since she contradicts herself at least once. But even so, everyone is agreeing that Amis Sr was racist no? An anti-semite who also liked to make jokes about shooting as many black people as possible in apartheid South Africa because that is after all a very funny joke and people who don't think so just don't have a sense of humour.

Good to know that at least some people are brave enough to stand up against the 'fashionable liberal line' on apartheid and, you know, murdering black people.

Nikw211

Minnow,

Apologies for pressing you on the point earlier, but as it's not completely unknown for accusations of racism (sexism, homophobia etc.) to be made against people as a lazy way of discrediting them, their work and their ideas, I think it's reasonable to ask for evidence that someone was e.g. an out and proud racist rather than just accepting it on someone's say-so.

There's an extract from Experience in here and also some remarks made to Philip Larkin in private correspondence that include blatantly antisemitic insults here .

So on the evidence I've just seen, Amis Snr certainly made unambiguously offensive and racist remarks, though as they seem to have been made in private I don't know if that quite yet qualifies him as being on the same level as a Nazi or, indeed, one of these guys as the phrase out and proud racist more or less suggests (more of an 'armchair' racist if such a thing can be said to exist).

N

Minnow

No need to apologise, you've been perfectly reasonable. I agree that Amis's racism wasn't of the same kind as Eichmann's and doesn't put him on he same footing, but it was there and that is a bit of a pity.

David

As everyone’s being so civilised, here’s a dash of Valaida Snow.

Tom Foster

'I don't think that Elizabeth Jane Howard is a very reliable witness there since she contradicts herself at least once.'

Where does she contradict herself? She says he wasn't a racist, in her opinion, but that he did say some racist things in private to provoke a reaction. I'm well aware that in certain circles the mere fact that it occurred to him to say these things makes him a racist, whether or not he actually believed what he was saying. But there really is a difference.

'But even so, everyone is agreeing that Amis Sr was racist no?'

I'm afraid I still think the case is unproven. Perhaps because I regard racism as so heinous that I don't like to throw the charge around as readily as, say, many Guardian readers do, I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to people. (Particularly people I like, though I realise that may not be entirely logical.) But set against things like the private correspondence with Larkin, in which they childishly tried to outdo each other in offensiveness, there's the other stuff in the Mail piece Nik linked to, like his letter to the Spectator:

"It may be tedious and not with-it to say so, but anti-Semitism in any form, including the fashionable one of anti-anti-anti-Semitism, must be combated."

…and the fact that at his wedding, three of the four witnesses were Jewish.

…and another quote from EJH:

'"I can honestly say I never heard him behave badly towards Jews, and when he taught in America he was always angrily protective of blacks under pressure from the whites." How, then, does she account for the shocking observations in his letters? "You really cannot take them seriously because he enjoyed being rude about absolutely everybody," she said.'

So which views represent his 'real' opinions? You could perhaps compare the stuff he wrote in his letters about 'queers' and 'poofters' with the quote from Colin Howard:

'As for his alleged homophobia, Colin Howard, 73, points out that he was not only Kingsley Amis's homosexual brother-in-law, but "I lived with him and my sister for 17 years. During that time we became very close and affectionate friends".'

So did the remarks in his letters mean he was 'really' homophobic? Or is it more important when assessing his 'true' character and feelings to look at how he actually treated homosexual friends and acquaintances?

'Good to know that at least some people are brave enough to stand up against the 'fashionable liberal line' on apartheid and, you know, murdering black people.'

Sorry, not following you. What does this even mean? Who are you aiming your sarcasm at here? You do realise there's no evidence he genuinely wanted black people shot, don't you? And that nobody here, or anywhere else, thinks that not wanting black people shot is a 'fashionable liberal line'?

Smudger

Oh come on, everyone knows that all non-lefties have teh hate and want everyone but themselves and their rich friends shot.

Pretty sure I read that once in the Guardian. Or I might have dreamt it. Whatever. TEH HATE!

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