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Roger L. Simon
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25 Jul 2012
A Night at the Los Angeles Public Library

We live in times when the different sides in our country speak languages as far apart as Chinese and Italian. … Read More.

18 Jul 2012
Confessions of a Flip-flopper

Do not share this column with your friends, unless you really must. And, please, no Twitter or Facebook. It's … Read More.

14 Jul 2012
Birth of the Cool

Back when I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be cool. I endlessly played my Miles Davis "Birth of the … Read More.

David Mamet's Right Turn

Comment

With all the talk of Hollywood liberalism — the endless leftist blather from Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, the cozying up to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez by Oliver Stone and Danny Glover, the Iranian "peacemaking" by Annette Bening and Alfre Woodard, etc., etc — it's fascinating that the two leading playwrights in the English language (the smart guys), Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, identify as conservative/libertarians.

For Stoppard — born in communist Czechoslovakia — this was natural. But for Mamet — a Chicago Jewish child of the '60s — it was a longer slog. As he relates in his superb new book, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture," "I had never knowingly talked with nor read the works of a conservative before moving to Los Angeles, some eight years ago."

Mamet certainly made up for lost time. Barely 10 pages in, you know this man has read, and thoroughly digested, the major conservative works of recent times, from Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman and on to Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele. And he is able to explicate and elaborate on them as well as anybody.

Not that the playwright's political transformation is such a surprise. In 2008, he wrote an op-ed for The Village Voice, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead' Liberal." That article was somewhat more tentative than its title, which may have been added for dramatic effect by the newspaper's editors.

Not so "The Secret Knowledge." Mamet has come a ways in three years from a chrysalis bewildered by his new-found views to an author writing in white heat. The new book is a full-throated intellectual attack on liberalism in almost all its aspects from someone who was there, a former left-wing intellectual of prominence, a Pulitzer Prize winner even.

Mamet clearly has a polemical intention here with a specific target.

The book says to his former friends on the left, the ones who might pay attention anyway, I woke up — what about you? That makes it different from your normal run of conservative books that preach to the choir. Ann Coulter writes of the left to mock them. David Mamet's intention is to convert them — a far more ambitious enterprise.

He does this in a deliberately Talmudic style with footnotes at the bottom of pages that are often as interesting as the text itself. Sometimes the chapters turn in on themselves, repeating themes with variations. But all of them seem to echo the famous words attributed to the great rabbi Hillel: "If not now, when?"

If not now, when, indeed. It remains to be seen to the degree Mamet will be successful, but his work could not appear at a more pivotal moment. Western civilization is approaching bankruptcy, literally and spiritually. The welfare state has been revealed to be a self-destructive farce with no benefit to anyone but a small group of quasi-totalitarian elites.

Spain, Greece and Portugal are on the brink of economic collapse. Other countries are sure to follow. The optimism of the "Arab Spring" barely lasted longer than Warhol's 15 minutes. Israel, the proverbial canary in the coalmine, stands surrounded as never before. And America, in Mark Steyn's epochal phrase, is definitely alone ... and sinking.

How did this all come to pass? There are many reasons, obviously. But Mamet places much of the blame squarely on my generation and his:

"We were self-taught in the '60s to award ourselves merit for membership in a superior group — irrespective of our group's accomplishments. ... For we were the culmination of history, superior to all those misguided who had come before, which is to say all humanity."

"The Secret Knowledge" is a cry of "Basta!" Enough. Read this book. But, more importantly, make sure your liberal friends read it.

To find out more about Roger L. Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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