It is always curious when left leaning artists, writers and musicians get in high dudgeon when the American people criticize them for their overtly political statements. These leftist artists often argue that the “integrity of the art” means that critics have “no right” to criticize them. But there is a great amount of hypocrisy in the art world over the issue of “artistic integrity” because these same people exert a good deal of peer pressure against any art that might have a conservative viewpoint. A recent L.A.Times Book section report on the works of Sci-Fi writer Robert Heinlein’s work is a perfect example of this attack of a conservative author’s work by the American left.

First of all, the “integrity of the art” argument does, indeed, hold some water. After all, in a free society an artist has every right to make his art in any manner he might wish. But even as artists may have the right to express themselves, that right has nothing what ever to do with any right of these artists to be heard. There simply is no such corresponding “right” for any artist’s work to be seen or heard by the public. Further, art consumers, whether they be filmgoers, art lovers, music fans, et al, have every right not to patronize the work of an artist whom they do not like or appreciate. Failure at the market place does not equate to any stifling of an artist’s rights.

The recent Times article by Scott Timberg titled, “Robert Heinlein’s future may be past,” is a perfect example of the left’s tendency to ostracize and rhetorically attack any art that evinces a perceived lean to the right. In his piece, Timberg has announced the death of Heinlein’s work, sure that it will soon fade away and the reasons that Timberg and those whom he interviews for his anti-Heinlein piece gave for this proclamation of the death of Heinlein’s legacy is instructive for the substance of the criticism. The reasons that these elitists are proclaiming the end of Heinlein is because his work isn’t “progressive” enough to suit their left influenced desires. So, here they are criticizing the integrity of Heinlein’s work and seeing no contradiction in that criticism.

Contrasting this anti-Heinlein position with the stance that entertainers and artists took over, say, the flak the Dixie Chicks took for their verbal attacks on the US and the Bush administration reveals a glaring contradiction.

The very first sentence of Timberg’s piece sets the table for why he thinks Heinlein is done for.

He was a onetime utopian socialist who became an assertive right-winger, a libertarian nudist with a military-hardware fetish, a cold warrior who penned an Age of Aquarius sensation with a hero who preached free love.

Notice Timberg began his piece detailing Heinlein’s personal politics? Then Timberg goes on to detail who has proclaimed their interest in Heinlein’s works. “He won admiration from Ronald Reagan,” Timberg ominously notes and then adds with a knowing wink, “and Charles Manson.” Obviously, Timberg thinks Reagan, beloved president of the United States, and Manson, the wild-eyed murderer and cult leader, are somehow comparable personalities.

Then Timberg gives us the indictment against Heinlein.

But Robert A. Heinlein, the California-based science-fiction writer who stood over the midcentury decades like a colossus, casts a different kind of shadow now, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, as his archives, held by UC Santa Cruz, are being placed online, making his work even more accessible to scholars and fans. Most of his work is in print, but opinions vary wildly about how important a writer Heinlein was: He’s both a life-changing inspiration and a “dinosaur” who exerts less cultural presence than, say, Philip K. Dick, the drug-addled oddball who was a footnote during the field’s golden age.

And there you have it. Timberg and friends feel that Heinlein is a “dinosaur” because he is an “assertive right-winger” who appeals to evil people like Ronald Reagan and Charles Manson. Timberg didn’t leave it just at that, either. The rest of the piece gives us a succession of complaints that Heinlein is “sexist,” that he is the “enemy” of liberals and leftist writers, and that Heinlein was a “symbol of all that was backwards to the new wavers.”

… as if those are bad things?

To cement the theme that Heinlein is an apostate to all that is good and progressive, Timberg finds a lesser known author to let us know that Heinlein is passé because he appeals to the wrong kind of reader.

Tom Disch, author of the respected critical study “The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of,” said Heinlein’s early work was often brilliant. “His great misfortune is the people who like him: It’s often old-fashioned, cantankerous, right-wing chest-beaters. He was a better writer than that would suggest. He had a gift for startling notions.”

And, finally, Timberg gives us the feelings of one Annalee Newitz, Sci-Fi columnist for several magazines, who has decided that Heinlein is fading because his characters exhibit too much “frontier optimism.” Further, she is hoping that there will never be a resurgent interest in Heinlein’s work in the future. “Maybe there will be a Heinlein renaissance,” Newitz said. “But I sure hope not.”

Timberg’s criticism turns out to consist of the fact that Heinlein’s characters are too manly, too strong, too sure, too optimistic, too old fashioned… all the things that fits the traditional American hero mold. Heinlein is to be pilloried because he wasn’t concerned about the PCist concepts of women’s issues, gay issues, pessimistic anti-establishment sentiment and left-wing causes.

So what is the upshot of this criticism? According to Timberg and friends, Heinlein isn’t a leftist and that is why he is to be eschewed. But, doesn’t that defy these same leftists who constantly go about loudly proclaiming that we must allow the artist’s vision to come through, that we should “respect the art” merely because that is how the artist wished it to be?

Of course it does.

Consequently, there is only one conclusion to make about that oft used argument in favor of the “artist’s integrity”: it doesn’t count unless that “integrity” conforms to the left’s ideals.

Go get yourself a copy of “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.” It’s a rip-roaring adventure that everyone should read. And, please, don’t mind Heinlein’s awful “frontier optimism.”

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