Mamet's new work: Why I am no longer a brain-dead liberal

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The Independent Culture

The left-wing literati of London and New York were surely in a stew last night after one of their leading and most loyally liberal lights, David Mamet, confessed that advancing years have given him a greater appreciation for things conservative.

"I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind," the playwright and screenwriter informs the readers of the venerable (and reliably left-leaning) Village Voice.

He cites as reasons for his epiphany his recent readings of such conservative thinkers as Paul Johnson and a sudden, even visceral, frustration with NPR, America's cosily liberal public radio network.

In the article – "Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal" – Mamet questions everything from his past faith in government to his worship of John F Kennedy. In fact, there is one line that will make many of his former political allies jump clean out of their sandals. JFK, he daringly suggests, was just as worthy of our disdain many decades ago as George Bush is today.

"Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh."

You wonder if such expressions of outright heresy might lose Mamet friends, notably in Democrat-loving Hollywood where he has done most of his best-known work on films including House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross and The Postman Always Ring Twice.

But if readers surmise he has crossed to the dark side, he is not about to argue with them. "Aha, you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism."

Mamet reflects, for instance, on his past attachment to the dogma that government is the citizen's friend. He wrote: "Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow."

He credits his awakening – his acknowledgement that the political beliefs he once clung to no longer fitted with his day-to-day existence – in part to his wife and her ability to read his mind.

"We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. '?' she prompted."