Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why does Andrew Bolt admire Lady Gaga?

I should begin by making clear that there are things I admire about Australian columnist Andrew Bolt. He doesn't follow along timidly with political class opinions, but is willing to go out on a limb on a range of issues. In doing so he has helped to shake up the left-liberal orthodoxy in this country.

But it has to be said that he is nonetheless a liberal in his politics. What matters for him is that we self-determine our own individual identity. Therefore, he believes that it's wrong for people to have predetermined national or ethnic identities.

I've given examples of Bolt arguing for this previously. For instance, Bolt once criticised a group of Aborigines who wanted an historic artefact returned to them on the basis that the Aborigines were forgetting:
The humanist idea that we are all individuals, free to make our own identities as equal members of the human race.

Bolt has also related the story of how he once, as a Dutch migrant to Australia, attempted to identify with his Dutch heritage:
Later I realised how affected that was, and how I was borrowing a group identity rather than asserting my own. Andrew Bolt's.

So I chose to refer to myself as Australian again, as one of the many who join in making this shared land our common home.

Yet even now I fret about how even nationality can divide us.

To be frank, I consider myself first of all an individual, and wish we could all deal with each other like that. No ethnicity. No nationality. No race. Certainly no divide that's a mere accident of birth.

That is a radically liberal, rather than a conservative, position to take. He is only allowed to identify with himself rather than with a communal tradition. It is his own self-determined, individual identity that is allowed to matter, rather than a predetermined one that is treated negatively as "a mere accident of birth".

One of the problems with taking this liberal view, that what matters is that we are autonomously self-determined, is that a whole raft of other positions logically follow on.

Bolt himself this week provided a small example of this. He has expressed his admiration for Lady Gaga on this basis:
Lady Gaga’s music is irrelevant. Her real art is in reinventing her identity, and for that alone I like her.

As a boy I moved from town to country to town, and learned how powerfully liberating it could be to define afresh who you were.

Gaga has demonstrated this possibility to millions.

There’s her personal story – of going from a bullied loner at school to the brash superstar.

And there’s her professional guises – tramp to vamp to sophisticate, costumed from the barely there to the heavily lacquered.

With every change, let the critics complain, Lady Gaga would be who she pleased.

What matters to Bolt is not whether Lady Gaga is virtuous, but that she is adept at being a self-creating individual. Freedom, asserts Bolt, is an ongoing act of self-definition - and doing and being what you please.

Bolt is supposed to be the leader of conservative opinion in Australia. And yet what we've ended up with is the idea that we should admire those who do whatever they please in order to define their own individual self.

There's no sense here that people might be oriented in a stable way to an objective good, or that our deeper sense of identity is tied to things we don't invent but that are given to us (which then means that those who trangressively reinvent themselves over and over might be thought of as disconnected rather than as liberated).

One of Bolt's readers left this comment:
“As a boy I moved from town to country to town, and learned how powerfully liberating it could be to define afresh who you were.”

With all due respect, you’re not a true conservative, AB. I too moved from town to town as a child because of my father’s employment, but I always longed for the stability and rootedness that I saw others had, even more so now, 40 years later. Conservatism is rooted in the stability of place, family, community and religion, and it transcends the Right/Left paradigm, knowing that the modern Right can be as destructive of community as the Left can be. Read Russell Kirk or Wendell Berry. No, you’re not a conservative, you’re more a reactionary modernist. Anthony of Toowoomba

That's well-observed by Anthony of Toowoomba. And yet for all that Bolt still manages to be a voice in opposition to the main current of left-liberal thought in Australia.


  1. The idea that we should invent and re-invent ourselves perpetually based on whatever we choose at the time is not only death on inherited features of identity such as gender and race, but also on chosen aspects of identity such as chastity and integrity. If your identity is blank other than what you choose today, there goes your reward for not having prostituted yourself, literally or metaphorically. What remains is the material and social rewards of your past actions, or your failure to possess such rewards, and only that.

    It's no accident that the queens of self-invention are noted for artificial personalities heavy on the crass exploitation of sexuality, shock value and commercialism.

  2. "Lady Gaga..."

    The very name conjures up notions of self-refutation. It literally translates as a Woman Baby. The perpetual self-creator is always in the position of refuting their last self-creation. The idea of being something in particular is abhorrent to the radical autonomist. But in this case, we see the process taken to its MANUFACTURED extremes. We see the radical autonomist attempting to get both the benefits of being a "Lady" and the benefits of going, "gaga." Lady Gaga is the very epitome of the "feminist" movement and its desire for radical autonomy.

    What is more radical than simultaneously being a Woman and a Baby?

    Being a "Christian" and a pro-choicer?

    Being an atheist and a scientist?

    Being a homosexual "man?"

  3. Old Bolta claims to be conservative, yet I believe he'd probably fall within the Australian definition of Social Liberal Conservative. Being Bolta is keen on assimilation, radical self autonomy, favours neo con foreign policy...

    It's mainly a gimmick of the right liberal brand of politic to fold in the true conservatives into voting for the coalition.

    We need a genuine Conservative party, it would be the mirror image of what The Greens are towards Labor. Perhaps even force the coalition towards a more traditional right polotics.

  4. Bolt is not a Dutch migrant. Rather, his parents were.

  5. "The Right to Soil is the absurdity that is to say that a horse is a cow because the first was born in a stable." - Montesquieu, "The Spirit of Laws" (1748)

  6. "Lady" Gaga is no lady. She resembles a horror show. But perhaps that is why she calls herself a "lady"? Perhaps she thinks that ladies are horrible, freaky and freakshows? Unfortunately, ladies are not bad. She is the one who is bad.

  7. Lady Gaga deliberately acts in controversial, perverse and degenerate manners. In her attempt to express her individuality she is rejecting long held taboos and encouraging others too as well. All of this is destructive to the individual and society. These people aren't heroes, eg Amy Whinehouse is not a hero for rejecting social norms and becoming lost in drug abuse as a matter of personal expression and choice. These are terrible examples to be avoided. We shouldn't have to relearn the lessons of our ancestors that personal abuse and degenerate behavior will lead to destruction. Nor should such rebellious personalities be encouraged or idealised.

  8. So if I paint my nails a new color I should be applauded?

    Fashion, Beauty, Cosmetic Surgery, Materialism

    Very sad indeed.

  9. Andrew bolt needs to be smacked around the head a bit.

    Joining the Lynch Mob against Alan Jones was a step too far.

    Screw him and the horse he rode in on. You can't be half a traditionalist, as he seems to attempt.