To Damascus: David Mamet's Conversion Tale

David Mamet made a splash a few years ago for his essay "Why I Am No Longer A Brain Dead Liberal," which described how he became, maybe not conservative, but definitely was no longer a man of the Left. Now, the Weekly Standard has given Mamet the full cover story treatment, allowing him to expound at length on his intellectual journey. It began in 2004 during the Bush-Kerry election when everyone around him (presumably snobby jerks in Hollywood) was going on about the evils of Bushhitler. Mamet wanted to investigate further, but ran into a problem
“I’d never met a conservative. I didn’t know what a conservative was. I didn’t know much of anything.
Luckily, Mamet knew a Republican - his rabbi - who began peppering Mamet with reading material. Anyone who has "moved right" can relate to what came next

One of the first was A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution. In it Sowell expands on the difference between the “constrained vision” of human nature—close to the tragic view that infuses Mamet’s greatest plays—and the “unconstrained vision” of man’s endless improvement that suffused Mamet’s politics and the politics of his profession and social class.

“He came back to me stunned. He said, ‘This is incredible!’ He said, ‘Who thinks like this? Who are these people?’ I said, ‘Republicans think like this.’ He said, ‘Amazing.’ ” (emph. added)

Finley piled it on, from the histories of Paul Johnson to the economics of Milton Friedman to the meditations on race by Shelby Steele.

“He was haunted by what he discovered in those books, this new way of thinking,” Finley says. “It followed him around and wouldn’t let him go.”

"Who thinks like this," indeed. You also have to love Mamet's "Amazing." Turns out conservatives aren't all snake handling mouth breathers.

Mamet's story points to one of the biggest gaps between liberals and conservatives. While liberal ideas and literature are easy to come across - they are virtually all you see or hear in the public arena - conservative lit is an unknown country for everyone outside of the right wing. It's virtually impossible to graduate from an American university without reading Marx, or Derrida, or a million others (if you read anything at all). On the other hand, it's very easy to get through college without reading any Hayek, Sowell, Burke, or anyone else you could name. You literally have to seek it out or have it handed to you. But, when you find it, it can hit you like a ton of bricks. I remember being shocked when I first read Parliament of Whores, shocked because it had never occurred to me that (1) a conservative could be funny and (2) liberalism could be the subject of so much savage humor. While conservatives know at least something about liberalism, whether they like it or not, liberals are pathetically ignorant about conservative writers.

It's no wonder there's an unspoken cultural embargo of conservative books. If more people like Mamet read Thomas Sowell, rather than chuckling over the latest "Palin = Dumb" joke, the political character of the entertainment industry would change overnight.

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