With Bob On Our Side


I'm not in the habit of reading Ann Althouse's blog, but apparently she set off one of those blogospheric mini-tempests by writing this:

To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.

Now she's written a long post defending herself against her critics. Here's the only part you need to read:

My observation is that [Dylan] was, at heart, a great artist, and it was not possible to do what was needed to be a good lefty, which would require a strong focus on group goals and communal values. He certainly wasn't switching to right wing politics. He was getting out of politics.

I'm calling that right wing.

I now return to my usual habit of not reading Ann Althouse's blog.

For a whole website devoted to right-wing appreciations of Dylan, go here. For Dylan's most right-wing lyrics, go here. For Dylan's most anti-right-wing lyrics, go here. To see Dylan declaring "give me a thousand acres of tractable land & all the gang members that exist & you'll see the Authentic alternative lifestyle, the Agrarian one" and denouncing "war dominated by finance (lending money for interest being a nauseating & revolting thing)," go here.

NEXT: Transcendental Bloviation

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  1. Well sure, you can call Dylan whatever you want and prove it, if you redefine all the words you’re using first!

  2. “..it was not possible to do what was needed to be a good lefty, which would require a strong focus on group goals and communal values.”

    Apparently she’s never heard of “lip-service”.

    But really, this is a pretty stupid post. Most artists are ego-manicial assholes, the good ones anyways, which is a non-partisan trait in my experience.

  3. I’m going to redefine a word right now.

    Reason server: a snot-demon black hole pussbucket.

  4. Dylan is neither Left nor Right. He’s always been a free thinker without a rigid political ideology. It’s a good thing he didn’t let those commie folk singers indoctrinate him as his music would’ve suffered. Watching the Scorcese documentary I got the impression that being a part of the anti-war folk scene in the 60s meant being as conformist as the small town Dylan grew up in. Perhaps Dylan also noticed that.

    BTW I’m not familiar with Ann Althouse. Is she a neocon “conservative”? I ask because given their treatment of conservatives, libertarians, and liberals opposed to their foreign policy agenda neocons are the last people on earth in a position to condemn the conformism of others and to praise individualism.

  5. Most artists are ego-manicial assholes, the good ones anyways, which is a non-partisan trait in my experience.

    Agreed. Or, at least it used to be. It makes one wonder when that sort of selfishness became elevated to some sort of high political ideal. Oh, wait…

  6. “but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.”

    That’s only half of it, dimwit…and even that is not a trait that is inherently right-wing.

    “Right-wing” is, in principle at least, somewhat about “taking responsibility for your place in the world”, but another part of “right-wing” is dictating, often with an iron fist, what others’ place in the world should be. That necessary condition for right-wing-ism is most assuredly not met by all or even most artists.

    If personal responsibility is the trait that all great artists share, as Althouse puts it, then, I’d think of libertarianism before I ever thought of right-wing-ism. But, like linguist noted, you could label Bob Dylan a turkey club with a pickle on the side, just so long as you change the definitions along the way.

  7. “needed to be a good lefty, which would require a strong focus on group goals and communal values.”

    This sounds like a good excuse to keep sitting around on your ass and thinking victimization.

    If you want to do that, fine. At least blog here on H&R.

  8. I will confess to broad ignorance of the details of the ’60s lefty movement. I never could get past the pictures of that filthy nekkid guy dancing at woodstock (Is it the same guy? It looks like the same guy …)

    I enjoyed the PBS Dylan special they’ve been airing recently though. It was interesting to me what happened at the folk festival when he broke out with electric instruments and the hippies all went insane. They certainly seemed to think some sort of betrayal was afoot.

  9. Maybe it’s like the Bible. You can pick whatever you want out of it to rationalize whatever you want to rationalize.

    But yeah, when I think Delay, Hannity, Robertson, I think Dylan.

    Reminds me of the various attempts to make Johnny Cash a republican. Not to mention Jesus. That battle seems to be over for the time being though. As the McMegaChurch down the street sez: “Vote Jesus!”

  10. That’s only half of the trick, Linguist. She doesn’t just redefine “right wing,” she tries to distinguish “right wing” from “right-wing politics.” What the hell?

  11. I’m a big Althouse fan, but this series of statements — “He was getting out of politics.
    I’m calling that right wing.” — just seems to defy logic.

  12. I’ll let Bob have the last word on what to call him:

    You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,
    You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,
    You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray,
    You may call me anything but no matter what you say

    You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

    Doesn’t sound too libertarian to me. Maybe one should refer to Lennon’s response “Serve Yourself”.

  13. “You’ve not experienced Shakespeare until you’ve read him in the original Klingon.”-spoken by a Klingon in a Star Trek movie

    You’ve not experienced Bob Dylan until you’ve listened to him in the original Rightwingese.

  14. She says in her defense that to achieve greatness, artists need to have a right wing mentality, not beliefs. Dylan’s rejection of the folk scene and the leftys who embraced him were the righty, independent qualitites she’s talking about. I’m no Dylan expert, but I thought he was experimenting with other musical styles and breaking with tradition. Couldn’t that just as easily be interpreted as a left wing mentality.

    And why does she limit this requirement to “artists”? Wouldn’t greatness in any field come with the same mentality? Should Republicans now praise Karl Marx for his independence and right-wing attitude?

  15. She meant BEING an artist was individualistic and thus right-wing, not that artists don’t hold left-wing beliefs.

  16. For instance, consider if Dylan was forced to sing what was “good for society” as determined by the gov’t, rather than what he wanted to sing, and was paid no more than any other singer, rather than whatever the market dictated he was worth.

  17. (Dumb question here. I don’t know much about Zimmy; why, other than a new album [right?] is he so ubiquitous lately?)

  18. man, you leave the internet for a few minutes and it gets all stupid on you.

  19. If we can have a Klingon Elvis…

    Why not a Klingon Dylan?

  20. Wait. . ‘communal values’ are left-wing? Someone tell FotF quick.

  21. Yeah, remember when he wrote…

    “come senators, congressmen/
    please heed the call/
    don’t stand in the doorway/
    don’t block up the hall”

    …about the Bolton nomination?

  22. Dylan was before my time, but I remember my Woodstck-generation parents and their friends waxing rhapsodic about how Dylan was so “unconventional” and “breaking away from traditional” whatever. When did breaking tradition and being unconventional become associated with the right wing?

    I would love to see a Republican convention filled with people singing “Everybody must get stoned” in unison, though.

  23. Yes, we all know that Andres Serrano is a right-winger for sure.

  24. “group goals and communal values”

    Sounds like things an evangelical would be in to.

  25. “She meant BEING an artist was individualistic and thus right-wing”

    Sure, individualist = right wing. Like the family values crowd. Or the military. Or corporate America.

    Jeez, if Dylan had put down his guitar and become a stock broker, would Applebaum be calling his a leftist?

  26. Most artists are ego-manicial assholes, the good ones anyways, which is a non-partisan trait in my experience.

    I strongly disagree, and it pisses me off when artists get a free pass for being jerks. It’s a myth. Unfortunately many artists believe it to be true, so it becomes somewhat self fulfilling. And ones who become great don’t necessarily realise that they could have taken a different path, and not only have succeeded but perhaps even more.

  27. “want,” not “make.” Oopsie.

  28. It took me a while to figure out who Dylan was. (Bill Clinton’s favorite poet Dylan Thomas?)

    Since art generates its own world, it takes responsibility for everything it does, which is sort of right wing. You may, however, be a raving lefty nevertheless.

  29. this really is idiotic. i suppose it’s refreshing to see right-wingers take credit for creativity and claim that all creative people secretly agree with them, since lefties have been doing it for a while (the ones I know anyway).

    that is, refreshing the way that Britney Spears is refreshing after hours of listening to Christina Aguilera. (i’m blaming them on nazism.)

  30. Two apples fell not far from the Woody tree:
    Arlo and Bob.
    Does anyone suspect “sibling” rivalry, or has it been kept hush hush?

  31. Always lovely to see the libertarian reputation for tolerance, free inquiry, and thoughtful reasoned consideration of other’s opinions being upheld in the publications associated with it.

  32. another part of “right-wing” is dictating, often with an iron fist, what others’ place in the world should be

    Liberals are right-wing? Who knew.

  33. Lonewacko: In These Times had a really funny piece back in the ’80s called “How you can tell when the Communists have won.” One of the signs was “Pete Seeger sweeps the Country Music Association awards for the third year straight.”

  34. Bob Dylan claims he was never political and his lyrics were misunderstood. But the classic Subterranean Homesick Blues captures the spirit of the 60s and this is the kind of stuff that made Dylan a political figure, even though he denies it.

    Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine
    I’m on the pavement thinking about the government
    The man in the trench coat, badge out, laid off
    Says he’s got a bad cough, wants to get paid off

    Look out kid, it’s something you did
    God knows when, but you’re doin’ it again
    You better duck down the alley way, lookin’ for a new friend
    The man in the coon-skin cap, in the big pen
    Wants eleven dollar bills, you only got ten

    Maggie comes fleet foot, face full of black soot
    Talkin’ that the heat put, plants in the bed but
    The phone’s tapped anyway, Maggie says that many say
    They must bust in early May, orders from the D. A.

    Look out kid, don’t matter what you did
    Walk on your tip toes, don’t tie no bows
    Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose
    Keep a clean nose, watch the plain clothes
    You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows …

  35. Paul Wolf,
    That was a lot more “cutting edge” than anything Arlo Guthrie ever did, eh?

    Where is Jane Fonda? Has she started the ballyhooed tour on her soybean/fart powered bus yet?

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