Magazine | August 27, 2018, Issue

L’art pour l’état

(Mike Segar/Reuters)

The young lefties who moan about capitalism hold two ideas in their heads — and there’s a lot of room above the neck, it seems.

White people are stupid and racist and oppressive.

Also, tiny Scandinavian countries with homogeneous populations as pale as a carload of chalk are the model for our future.

Why? Socialism! It’s a keen new idea all the kids are talking about.

Name something, and socialism does it better. The latest sug­gestion for our bright egalitarian future, which will be totally awesome and not have any guillotines at all: free movie passes.

Perhaps you’ve heard of MoviePass, one of those things that reveal a peculiar optimism in the investor class. You’d pay $9.99 a month to see as many movies as you liked. It was like Outback Steakhouse selling a five-buck all-you-can-eat steak ticket, but it’s running out of money, so now you can eat only three per month.

Leave it to our new socialists to solve the problem, though. In an essay for, Carmen Petaccio made a rather counterintuitive proposal. Let us first understand her perspective:

The reason MoviePass has always seemed too-good-to-be-true is that consumers have been trained to perceive too-goodness through a very specific lens, the defeatist lens of a market that conditions most of its participants to accept an insufficient, exploited existence as more than enough. Smashing that lens can begin with the end of MoviePass. 

Just to remind you: The “insufficient, exploited existence” that we’re trained to accept, in our “defeatist” state, is a pass that let you see unlimited movies for $9.99 a month. So what shall we have after this is smashed?

“We should let the privately owned MoviePass die, so a nationalized, public MoviePass can live.”

Nationalization! The go-to solution for dreamy Westerners. Once something is wrested from the hands of the overlords and given to . . . well, different overlords, it’ll be better. Their government is never anything but kind and generous, and think of all the jobs that will be created! Especially in the golden-goose slaughterhouse.

A government-owned money-losing movie pass is hardly outside the realm of American political discourse: “Unless your economic philosophy falls to the right of libraries,” the author writes, “universal access to art programs are [sic] neither novel nor radical.”

“To the right of libraries” makes sense only if you are giving directions to someone. Perhaps she means those wacky libertarians who oppose any sort of shared public work that requires taxation. They exist, but “Down with libraries!” isn’t the stem-winder phase in a libertarian stump speech. Even Ayn Rand would roll her eyes and say, “Focus, my boy, focus.”

Just to recap: If you support libraries, then you’ve no argument against making movies free. It’s like saying “If you support food banks, you should believe that restaurants shouldn’t charge anyone.”

The author bemoans the high cost of books and art. “What parents are willing to drop $100 to take their kids to the Met?”

The Met’s website says, “For New York State residents and New York, New Jersey and Connecticut students, the amount you pay is up to you.” Perhaps she’s referring to the Metropolitan Opera, where no kids want to go ever because it’s just old people yelling in wiggly voices.

But let’s get back to movies. “One of the strengths of a publicly owned MoviePass would be the scope of its appeal, the ability to elicit support from the radical leftists at Sorry to Bother You as well as the corporate fascists at Avengers: Infinity War.”

Yeeeahh, well, one of the problems with a publicly owned MoviePass is the people who insist that theaters not show the products of “corporate fascists.” You’d have a series of dreary spinach movies. Star Wars would turn into Star Negotiated Settlement with Reparations for Historical Injustices.

The author proposes using the power of the state to compel every taxpayer to pay $120 a year, and in return we would be “granted” one free movie per day. Who could complain? Perhaps people who haven’t the time to see a movie every day and wonder why they should pay for someone who obviously has enough time to earn money for his own damn ticket. But if you think like that, you fail to appreciate the role movies have played in assuaging communal anxieties.

“As the stupefying horrors of our shared reality mount,” she writes, “our collective need for art rises along with it.”

This will be fun. Citizen, here is your bill for the National Arts Collective Project. Pay, or we will take your house. “Why do I have to pay?” Because of our shared reality. It has horrors that both stupefy and mount. “Oh, okay. Do you take checks?”

The “collective need for art” will be quickly redefined as “art, for the collective,” and it will be expected to hew to whatever the state requires. The very people who hate Trump want to give Trump the power to greenlight movies — except of course it won’t be Trump but some enlightened figure whose brilliant rule ensures that no Trump shall ever rise again. The author wants the nationalized MoviePass to cover all art, of course — “libraries, concert venues, museums, the entirety of recorded music.”

You can almost see the author typing “and Netflix should be free, too” but thinking “No, too soon” and striking the line. She ends the piece with the sunny confidence of everyone who grew up believing the gains of Western civ are a happy accident and its sins a poison poured into the mouths of perfectible humanity: “Let all good things come to an end. Replace them with something better.”

That always works out well. At least you get full employment — for guillotine-blade sharpeners.

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