I often wonder what sort of person, making what sort of argument, is most able to convince those who start out disagreeing. My mentors Ben Rogge and Deirdre McCloskey exemplify the attitude that impressed David Mamet in the passage quoted below. (On the other hand, Murray Rothbard, Karl Marx, and Ayn Rand convinced a lot of people, and each of them could sometimes be strident. I wonder still.)
(p. A11) . . . I received a galley copy of the playwright David Mamet’s “Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of Free Lunch,” published Tuesday. The book is a collection of essays written over the past two years on an array of cultural and political topics: pandemic zealotry, Donald Trump, terrorism, California’s punitive tax code, Christianity and Judaism, Broadway and the movies. The essays are by turns witty, insightful, affecting and cryptic. What struck me most about the book, though, was how superbly out of place its author must be in the eminent environs of his chosen industry.
. . .
Mr. Mamet announced a turn to the political right in a 2008 essay for the Village Voice, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,’ ” but he was a black sheep long before then. His 1992 play “Oleanna,” for instance, features a male academic whose life and career are ruined by a calculating female student’s spurious accusation of sexual harassment.
Was there a moment when he decided to break ranks altogether? “I met a guy at my synagogue here maybe 20 years ago,” he says. “He was talking about Milton Friedman and [Friedrich] Hayek and Thomas Sowell. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I was impressed by his attitude. He wasn’t strident or arrogant. It was that guy’s attitude that impressed me.”
The man lent Mr. Mamet some books by these authors. “I said to him, ‘Good, I’ll read them. But,’ I said, ‘when my friends come over, I’ll have to hide them.’ He said: ‘I don’t.’ And that changed my life. What was I saying? Did I really think I had to hide books from my friends? How sick was I? It was a Road to Damascus moment.”
. . .
Woke signaling, blind compliance with public-health authoritarianism, deference to theater critics and tyrannical city officials—Mr. Mamet doesn’t play along. I’m reminded of the line spoken by Richard Roma, the aggressive and highly successful real-estate salesman in “Glengarry Glen Ross” played by Al Pacino in the 1992 film adaptation. “I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion,” Roma says. “If everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way.”
For the full interview, see:
Barton Swaim, interviewer. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; A Defiant Scribe in the Age of Conformity.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 9, 2022): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date April 8, 2022, and has the title “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; Opinion: David Mamet Is a Defiant Scribe in the Age of Conformity.”)
Mamet’s recent book, mentioned in the interview above, is:
Mamet, David. Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch. New York: Broadside Books, 2022.