A conservative critic can locate a fascinating ideological subtext in several articles in the Weekend Arts I section of Friday’s New York Times.
That subtext is that the Left’s warnings about impending corporate fascism are forever timely, even as they are wielded by dead Communist screenwriters, 75-year-old hippie folk singers still nostalgic for Vietnam, '70s rock singers who had wrote anthems for the Sandinistas, and cool-tempered crackpots from MIT.
Let’s begin with the 75th birthday concert for Joan Baez, and Times music critic Stephen Holden praising over the peace-loving diva’s magnetism. Her all-star concert of duets will air on the PBS series Great Performances, a typical display on the taxpayer-funded sandbox for leftists:
Mr. [Jackson] Browne, playing the piano, sang his prophetic ‘70s anthem “Before the Deluge” with Ms. Baez, who glumly observed that “as we head into the abyss” this expression of apocalyptic foreboding is even more relevant today than when it was written. A weary sense of impending doom was a persistent undercurrent throughout a concert that tried and mostly failed to conjure up a ‘60s-style inspirational fervor.
“Prophetic” Browne thought the Sandinista Marxists were the wave of the future in central America. Oops. Then there was film critic Daniel Gold hailing the Great Chomsky:
Requiem for the American Dream is a timely 75-minute teach-in by Noam Chomsky, the M.I.T. linguistics professor who has been a leading leftist political analyst, critic and writer for six decades.
None of these perspectives are new to, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign staff (though they might be startled by Mr. Chomsky’s opinion that Mr. Sanders “doesn’t have much of a chance” to win). But citing Aristotle, Adam Smith and James Madison, among others, he melds history, philosophy and ideology into a sobering vision of a society in an accelerating decline. He never raises his voice in this easy-listening jeremiad. “There’s nothing surprising about this,” he repeats gently in describing what he sees as a 40-year trend of government bent to the will of the superrich at the expense of everyone else. “That’s what happens when you put power in the hands of a narrow sector.”
The film’s opening titles say these constitute Mr. Chomsky’s “final long-form documentary interviews,” but this well-paced and cogent seminar spotlights a man who, now 87, seems at the height of his intellectual powers.
Even the ads in this section are touting the timeliness of the Left’s concerns. A large ad for Trumbo sells this pro-communist movie as “intensely timely,” according to Newsweek, the less-than-weekly publication that’s far past its prime. They didn’t note Nina Burleigh’s rave review was still headlined “Terrific But Fated to Flop.”
It’s an intensely timely film, coming on the heels of the spectacle of the Benghhazi [sic] hearings and the 11-hour grilling of a former secretary of state by a bunch of -- let’s face it -- know-nothings from the provinces. This movie reminds us that all this has happened before, on a grander scale.
Times film critic A.O. Scott doesn’t say so explicitly, but he concluded his review of Rabin, The Last Day -- a new documentary about the 1995 assassination of Israeli leftist prime minister Yitzhak Rabin -- by noting how it matches today’s times, in that we may be living in a toxic atmosphere here that threatens violence toward our black American president:
Still, there is a haunting dimension to the film that is only obliquely related to the particulars of its setting. Mr. Gitai conducts an inquiry of the consequences of political extremism, a case study of how inflammatory language can sow the seeds of violence. Rabin shows a democratically elected leader not merely criticized and disrespected but demonized, depicted as a dictator and a monster, a traitor, an alien and an enemy of his people. The kind of rhetoric aimed at Rabin, including from the floor of the Israeli Parliament and from members of the opposition party, will hardly sound unfamiliar to American ears. We have been lucky so far. But it would be a mistake to view this troubled, troubling movie simply as an inquest. It’s also a warning.