David Mamet, the playwright and screenwriter, is among my favorite writers. (My other favorite to pull off that particular daily double is Tom Stoppard.)

In 2008, Mamet wrote a piece at the Village Voice entitled “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’.” In it, he described the beginning of his journey away from conventional liberal beliefs.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I’d observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

Today, of course, to view America as a pretty darn good place to live, and boy howdy aren’t we lucky that we do, is to the Left heresy.

In 2011, Mamet wrote a book entitled The Secret Knowledge in which he shared in his inimitable way where his intellectual journey had taken him in the intervening three years. The book was a collection of essays and in them Mamet summed up his effort to reconcile what, as Leftists do, had been assumed to be default and correct political views with what he observed.

This is the essence of Leftist thought. It is a devolution from reason to “belief”, in an effort to stave off a feeling of powerlessness. And if government is Good, it is a logical elaboration that more government power is Better. But the opposite is apparent both to anyone who has ever had to deal with Government, and, I think, to any dispassionate observer.

It is in sympathy with the first and in the hope of enlarging the second group that I have written this book.

This year Mamet published Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch. Like The Secret Knowledge. It too is a collection of essays, many of which had appeared in the National Review. Many were written during the times when Covid policies ravaged what the disease had left untouched. Mamet recalls observing “a family of four, on mountain bikes, at five thousand feet, climbing an empty road in northern Nevada, all wearing masks.”

Here are a couple examples of his insights.

But the question occurs to me again: Why are Jews liberals? And I have come to a new answer. I used to think we voted for Democrats out of a millennial biblical occupation with justice, compassion and generosity. I no longer think so.

J.S. Mill wrote that give a man a choice of two tasks, one that will bring him renumeration if he works at it and the other that will pay him regardless of his effort, he will choose the second, take the free money, and employ his energy seeking additional benefits. We see Mill’s observation at work in welfare, unemployment, and other government subsidies. No amount of oversight will keep a recipient from taking the stipend and then finding a way to improve his lot off the books

Similarly, we Jews have two political choices: conservatism, counseling individual initiative; and liberalism, promoting statism, which is to say passivity and government support. But we Jews do not need help or direction in embracing self-reliance; it’s been all we’ve had for two thousand years. It’s our party trick. We’ve always been on our own.

Liberalism was attractive because it offered Jews something we did not have and for which we’ve always longed: the promise of inclusion, which is to say anonymity.

And this sister thought,

Observe that every conservative who employs the preface “This may not be politically correct but” is not only acknowledging but aiding the forces of thought control. These forces do not need to be acknowledged, and whether or not they are opposed, they must not be strengthened.

Napoleon said that if we want to know our opponent’s fears, we need merely observe that with which he seeks to terrify us. Leftists are terrified of exclusion from the mob and see, everywhere, the exclusion’s cost. Imprisonment, vituperation, bankruptcy of conservative opponents, the severity of their punishments fit not to the degree of their deviation (to the Left there are no degrees) but to their persistence, having been threatened and warned, in any deviation.

He recognizes the ugly face of Leftism because he lived it. There could be no better prophet. (For a typical reaction to Mamet’s apostasy, see here. Someone needs to change their sheets.)

And so, like King Lear, the liberal Left “decided” to grant “some” of the power they supposedly had to more “worthy” recipients – that is, those from whom it had been supposedly stolen.

But, again as with Lear, we see that the generous assignment of some of one’s power inevitably inspires its recipients to usurp the rest. Hitler ran a bluff on France in 1940, and the Bolsheviks could’ve been stopped in the suburbs of Moscow by a squad of police (see Minneapolis). King Lear thought himself generous and was beggared by those to whom he bequeathed his power.

Now our country is being eviscerated by the Marxist Left. Each battle they win emboldens them to escalate their activities: shaming becomes blacklisting; picketing becomes destruction; demonstrations become riots. Just as with taxes, all they want is all we got, and who could stop them? Enter Donald Trump.

He looked at the Left and informed us that he knew them of old: they were the same thugs, thieves, cheats and whores with whom he’d been doing business all his life. He was formed by the construction industry.

The Left wet the bed.

29 thoughts on “Recessional

  1. Nice post, Jeff. Mamet asks the question that I have asked for years; why are Jews Democrats? Sadly, those Jews are Democrats first and foremost, then Jews.

    Of course, the moron that had an issue with it, is an art critic.

  2. Sigh… Mamet’s descent into reductive reaction is a tale as old as time. As an artist gets old and ossifies in thinking, the shift begins to looking back and regressing to intolerant reaction and conspiracy, as the world passes him by. From Dostoevski to Wagner to Steinbeck to present-day Mamet, we see it again and again. As Mark Twain so rightly observed, “The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopt.”

    Oh well, we will always have the gifts Mamet gave us of American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross, and sadly, Oleana was an early tell of his right-wing lurch that started more than 30 years ago. What would his new hero say about his turn? “Sad”.

  3. ^^no actual criticism of the actual words of Mamet quoted by Kouba in the post.
    Some day I will find a Lefty who knows that snark is not an argument.
    But not this day.

  4. ^ I saw his appearance on “Real Time,” and he seemed confused, seemingly contradicting himself. Mamet is a wealthy, successful playwright and author of several books — goes on dozens of popular talk shows to complain about the death of free speech. If only he had a platform to speak his mind.

    I’m sure someday I’ll encounter someone who refers to ideas they don’t like who isn’t an insufferable tool.

    But not today.

  5. rAT Emery blurted: I saw his appearance on “Real Time,” and he seemed confused, seemingly contradicting himself.


    I’m sure someday I’ll encounter an insufferable tool who isn’t completely lacking self-awareness…

    But not today.

  6. ^ That’s big of you rAT. A lot of nitwits would resent the continual, brutal, intellectual beating you take, but you always come back for more.

  7. On the same day that Emery claims that Mamet has no grounds to complain about the death of free speech, Jordan Peterson is Twitter banned for referring to a biological woman as a woman, and Dave Rubin is banned from Twitter for referring to Peterson’s twitter ban.
    You aren’t doing yourself, or your side, and favors by pushing nonsense comments on SITD, Emery.

  8. MP, WIDR, what is it about “low IQ, complete lack of self-awareness & self respect” you don’t understand?

  9. I gotta ask. You regular SITD commentators, are smart, successful guys. MP worked in a highly technical field, JD is, well, a JD. Nerd is a highly accomplished engineer, Ian works in engineering and NW is a smart guy.

    Why do you guys pose serious questions to a guy who is a proven liar, a guy who clearly is out of his intellectual depth, and is incapable of introspection or cogent thought, and then express surprise when you get the only answer a guy who is a proven liar, a guy who clearly is out of his intellectual depth, and is incapable of introspection or cogent thought is capable of giving?

    To paraphrase Dennis Green, rAT Emery is the idiot we thought he was.

    Use your intellectual talents to mock him. The comments will improve 100%.


  10. Well, Blade, I think that Emery’s goal is to saturate the comment section of SITD with bizarrely bad anti-Trump and anti-conservative comments. The purpose of this is to turn conservative Mitch’s blog into a leftist blog.

  11. Talented and self-indulgent. With Bill Maher last April, Mamet seemed in need of a mental evaluation. He was confused to say the least. Maybe it was jet lag. Some of his work is unquestionably brilliant. He is entitled to his opinions. I am entitled to question his reasoning.

  12. And why is it that you are so condescending about it, Emery? I mean your buddy Pedo Joe has been far worse that Mamet for the last 8 years, yet you’re willing to bend over for him at every turn.

  13. “I am entitled to question his reasoning.”

    Go ahead. It’d be nice to read a thoughful analysis. Be especially helpful if you would quote passages from his work and explain why they’re wrong.

    Will you be posting it soon, do you think?

  14. ^ Funny how just about all MAGA people insert “Pedo” into their comments — go with what you know. I guess it’s the 2022’s version of soci@list or communist.

  15. On the subject of Jews and liberalism, I think that Mamet is too close to the forest to see the trees.
    Historically Jews have been a despised minority in the nations where they have lived. They survived not just by self-reliance, but by gaining protected status from a government (usually a monarchy) which suppressed populist elements within that nation.
    Jews are therefore suspicious of both R wing and L wing populism.
    The Democrats are the current anti-populist party. The Democrats have a system of “super delegates” that is meant to counter populist elements within the Democrat Party when it comes to selecting a presidential candidate.

  16. I wonder when Mamet will start being referred to as a philosopher? His rhetoric sure fits the mold.

  17. “If there’s no community control of the schools, what we have is kids being not only indoctrinated but groomed, in a very real sense, by people who are, whether they know it or not, sexual predators,” ~ David Mamet

    For someone who deals in language, if you unpack this statement — is it nonsense or sense?

    In what sense are indoctrination and grooming occurring by people who do not know they are doing it? What does Mamet say is the mechanism(s) that makes this happen in K-12 setting or anywhere?

    This is nonsense…further what would community control possibly do to intervene in this alleged “grooming” process when people don’t even know they are doing it?

  18. justplainangry on July 6, 2022 at 3:32 pm said:
    MP, then how do you explain Tlaib and Omar?

    I don’t know how much support from Jews Tlaib and Omar receive, JPA. TI imagine that there is a lot of crossover between the Jews who support Tlaib and Omar and the Jews who support the Palestinian cause.
    The Democrat Super Delegate system seems designed to keep a L wing populist like Sanders from becoming the Democrat presidential nominee.

  19. Here’s the full quote from the linked article:

    Speaking on the hot-button topic of community and parental control in schools, Mamet said: “We have to take back control. If there’s no community control of the schools, what we have is kids being not only indoctrinated but groomed in a very real sense by people who are — whether they know it or not — sexual predators. Are they abusing the kids physically? No, I don’t think so, but they are abusing them mentally and using sex to do so. This has always been the problem with education, is that teachers are inclined, particularly men because men are predators, to pedophilia. And that’s why there were strict community strictures about it, thank God. And this started to break down when the schools said, ‘You know what? We have to teach the kids about sex. Why? Because what if they don’t do it at home?’”

    I’d bet you a brand-new nickel this is a transcript of unprepared remarks made by Mamet, not a rehearsed speech or one of his written opinion pieces. Read a trial transcript sometime, it’s astonishing how poorly people speak in real life.

    More importantly, criticizing the delivery of the remarks does not refute the content of the remarks. “He’s a poor speaker” is not the same as “His ideas are wrong.”

    Teachers who sexually groom students are enablers and accomplices-before-the-fact to pedophiles and sexual predators, whether the teachers realize it or not. Can’t fault that conclusion. Wish I’d said it.

  20. JD, when you do not have the intellectual ability (you have to have intellect for that) to address the issue, you pile on anything tangential, like the delivery. Let me give you an example: Gettysburg address was crap because Lincoln sneezed during delivering it. See how horrible, snotty and diseased the Gettysburg address was? Now you try it, it’s easy.

  21. Regarding Mamet’s comments about the schools, my next door neighbor and a bunch of others were molested by a teacher. Now guess how my next door neighbor–my babysitter at the time–acted out what he had “learned” from the teacher?

    If you guessed “He gave you an age inappropriate sex ed lesson”, go to the head of the class. We can quibble over whether the teachers are technically “grooming” with the intent of molesting students themselves. However, what is not so debateable is the reality that students exposed to this age inappropriate sex education are indeed being conditioned to think that this sort of thing is common and appropriate.

    And thus when a predator who DOES want to “touch” the students comes around, he finds that HIS grooming process is much quicker because these kids already have been talking about these topics for years with authority figures.

  22. (BTW, the end of the story for my brother, my babysitter, and I is that all of us were “dumb” enough to tell our parents what we’d experienced, and our parents were “dumb” enough to believe us and take action. So that abuse stopped, though the police did not move forward with indictments–the story I’m told is that since the police wouldn’t do anything, my neighbor’s dad more or less got the volunteer fire department together and offered the offender the choice of leaving town and never working with kids again or a blanket party. He left town)

  23. I’ve seen a few interviews with Mamet. He tends to speak elliptically. Also he writes his non-fiction stuff elliptically.

  24. The important question is “who, and at what age, should be talking to your child about sexual intimacy?”
    Liberals, like Emery, seem to believe the answer is ‘public school teachers, at age five and up.’
    This is insane.
    The complaint I hear from real, actual parents is that if elementary school teachers screw up a kid, that teacher doesn’t have to live with the consequences of bad parenting. They push the kid along, it’s just a job to them.
    Parents do have to live with the consequences of bad teachers.

  25. “If there’s no community control of the schools….” ~ Mamet

    Schools are controlled by school boards.
    School boards are elected by the community.
    Screamers and book-burners who show up at school board meetings are only a small part of the community.

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
    I have found that people who protest about certain social ills are usually caught in their embrace and use their protestations to blind themselves to the reality that they themselves are what they are protesting about.

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