Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 22, 2003 / 20 Nisan, 5763

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


Much talent, little wisdom


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The first thing you have to do when hearing Hollywood stars make foolish comments is to avoid being surprised.

As a rule, over the last few centuries, artists have been more likely to be morally confused than members of almost any other profession (except academia).

Many, perhaps most, great artists are geniuses in one area and underdeveloped elsewhere in life. It seems that when G-d grants great artistic talent to an individual, that individual is given few other gifts, least of all moral clarity or wisdom.

That is why there is rarely any link between artistic greatness and human greatness. We should no more expect a great actor or composer or painter to be a great human being than we should expect a great lawyer, truck driver, businessman or athlete to be a great human being. Art rarely makes a person wiser or kinder, whether the person is a connoisseur of art or the creator of it.

Those of us who love classical music -- and as an occasional orchestral conductor, I am particularly involved in music -- have long had to confront the lack of connection between genius and goodness or wisdom. Richard Wagner, for example, was one of the world's greatest composers and a racist anti-Semite. Neither Beethoven nor Mozart was known to be a particularly decent human being. Herbert von Karajan, one of the most celebrated conductors of the 20th century, served as Kapellmeister under Adolf Hitler and never apologized for his support of the Nazis. The great African-American singer Paul Robeson passionately supported Joseph Stalin until the day that mass murderer died.

What is true among great musicians is also true among great artists in painting, dance, writing, and everywhere else in the art world. There have been moral lights like Arturo Toscanini and Pablo Casals, but they are extremely rare. More typical is Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Norman Mailer, who worked for years to gain the release from prison of Jack Abbott, a murderer whom Mailer and other literati considered a great writer. Mailer's efforts succeeded, and Abbott was released from prison. Six weeks later he murdered another man.

And today, music critics extol the virtues of "The Death of Klinghoffer," an opera (now a movie) by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams. The opera features singing Palestinian terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship, murdered American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer, and threw him overboard in his wheelchair. The opera's purpose, in the composer's words, was to show that "neither side is beyond reproach." More moral confusion from the art world.

Given the abysmal moral record of artists, it is not at all surprising that so many great actors and directors also should be morally incompetent. Jane Fonda, a great actress, saw goodness in communism and evil in America's war against it. Brilliant director-writer Woody Allen still sees nothing wrong in his having had sex with and marrying the young daughter of his longtime companion, Mia Farrow. The acclaimed director-producer Robert Altman proudly identified himself as anti-American while America led the fight against civilization's greatest threat -- Islamic fascism. Ed Asner, a fine actor, has supported virtually every communist regime America has opposed. The number of morally inane comments from Hollywood greats and mediocrities is almost endless. In the relation between artistic greatness and immoral ideas, Hollywood has quite a few Richard Wagners.

Only those who worship art should be surprised. And there are many of them. With the demise of the worship of God in Europe, secular Westerners began to worship new gods, most especially art and artists. This explains why so many people have asked how Germany, which produced Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, could also produce gas chambers -- as if producing great composers should in some way raise the moral level of that society.

So the next time you see "artists for" or "artists against" some cause, without reading any further, you can pretty much bet your mortgage that whatever it is they are for or against, they are morally wrong. While God may have granted artists little wisdom, He apparently did not skimp on hubris.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to visit his website and here to comment on this column.

Up


04/15/03: America the good
04/08/03: Dear Germany: Have you learned anything?
04/01/03: Saddam offered professorship at U.S. college
03/25/03: Grieve for Rachel Corrie's parents, but spare us the hagiography
03/18/03: Blame the Jews?
03/11/03: The Lone Ranger rides again
03/04/03: Dan and Saddam
02/26/03: Which will the world's future be: Muslim, European or American?
02/18/03: When have millions of Europeans ever been wrong?
02/11/03: Don't waste your money on an expensive college
02/04/03: What the world would like the president to say
01/28/03: How memories paralyze: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat, cont'd
01/21/03: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat
01/14/03: Why the Arab world hates America --- time to myth-bust
01/07/03: Conservatives have talk radio; liberals have everything else
12/31/02: If you believe that people are basically good . . .
12/17/02: Lott, Clinton, and the problem of the career politician
12/10/02: The healthiest and longest living generation of humans since the 900-year-olds of Genesis are being scared silly
12/04/02: Morally neutral reporting is dishonest reporting
11/26/02: Understand Nigeria and you understand the Islamic threat
11/19/02: James Bond meets his most fanatical foe yet -- anti-smokers
11/12/02: Conservatives need to be more compassionate on divorce
11/05/02: Of course, the great majority of Muslims are peaceful -- so what?
10/29/02: Nice guys finish first: Thoughts on the World Series
10/24/02: A Jew defends evangelical Christians
10/16/02: Bigot laureate well represents New Jersey
10/11/02: Why the Creator must always be higher than the Angels
10/02/02: Loudmouth "stars" are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel
09/25/02: Bob Greene is a good man
09/11/02: 9-11 made America better
09/04/02: What I learned at the Minneapolis Metrodome about liberals and homosexuality
08/28/02: Teach our college co-eds about Islam --- but teach them the truth
08/22/02: LET THEM EAT PEANUTS!
08/14/02: How the nuclear family became "controversial"
08/07/02: Every generation is tested by great evil
07/31/02: Those who curse the Jews and those who bless them . . .
07/24/02: Children should talk to strangers
07/17/02: Why my son's best friend is black
07/11/02: Why Hesham Hadayet may be scarier than al Qaeda
07/03/02: "Pro-Israel lobby" is not why America supports Israel
06/26/02: Why does the Left support the "Palestinians"?
06/19/02: The commencement address I would give
06/12/02: Why do adult children live with their parents? Because they actually like them
06/05/02: The stripper and the Christian school: Thoughts on what a Christian school should do when a parent is a stripper and on who the biggest sinner here is
05/31/02: Don't worry, New York, you are safe from a terrorist threat
05/15/02: A proud member of the world's two most hated peoples
05/10/02: What Israelis are saying
05/06/02: Thank Heaven for moral violence
04/29/02: Give back the Nobel Peace Prize: A letter to Elie Wiesel
04/22/02: Why so many students cheat
04/12/02: Is it 1938 again for the Jews?
04/05/02: It's the values, stupid
01/31/02: Smoke and lose your son
10/30/01: Why Arab/Muslim anti-Semites are worse than the Nazis

© 2002, Creators Syndicate