More details

The Dissident Artist: A Case Study in Failure

Cosmo Senex

The Dissident Artist: A Case Study in Failure

Much has been written on cultural revitalization. While most of it has come from well-meaning dissidents trained in politics, history, and philosophy, it does not offer much specifically to those who wish to pursue a career in the arts. This guide is largely directed at actual artists and is based on anecdotes from fellow travelers.

Before the specific steps are enumerated to begin to achieve success in the arts, a brief accounting is necessary to highlight a critical misconception right-leaning artists must expunge from their being: financial and promotional support from the conservative or libertarian movement.

You will not receive it from donors. You will not see it from Trump. You will not see it from Heritage, Fox News, nor the “culture war” rackets like TPUSA or Daily Wire. That money does not exist for you. It will never be your money. They will not promote your magnum opus. They will not read your novel. They will not attend your dance recital.

This means you have no allies. It means you have no friends. The legions of leftists with whom you are forced to collaborate, would not think twice about having you killed, if they could exercise such power, or knew you were unvaccinated or contributed $5 to Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal fund.

You must know what it means to hold dissident views and pursue a career in the arts: You are a bitch’s bastard.

Countless absurdities have been relayed to us concerning the behavior of conservative or libertarian donors when they made past attempts to participate in the arts. One of the worst cases is Dinesh D’Souza, who on multiple films blew through millions of dollars of Rebekah Mercer’s cash, never turning a profit despite the headlines, and certainly not convincing anyone under the age of 83 that “the Democrats are the real racists!” After substantial financial losses on multiple films, the spigot was finally turned off.

Small donors are not exempt from criticism either. Nick Loeb used his public battle over the frozen embryos he had with his former fiancée, Sofia Vergara, to crowdfund hundreds of thousands of dollars off of lovable-yet-ignorant rank-and-file pro lifers. The film he made featured Loeb as writer, producer, director, and lead actor — this quadruple red flag is the first sign that a film is in trouble. Whether the film was a product of extreme narcissism or incompetence, it is not a shock to anyone in filmmaking that it suffered headline after headline highlighting production woes, and yielded a 14/66 critic-audience Rotten Tomatoes score.

Sometimes, our donors outright fund our competition. Rex Sinquefield directly supports a concert pianist who openly promotes Black Lives Matter. In 2020, Koch pulled a large annual gift from a conservative organization charged with the duty of developing like-minded artistic talent in Hollywood. It paired aspiring artists with successful mentors and funded their projects. They had a high success rate, including one short film they funded being nominated for an Academy Award in the student film category. That organization no longer exists, leaving young artistic conservatives without any specific talent development. Koch of course still gives to the Lincoln Center, which these days exists largely as a place to strip canonical art of its original meaning and reinterpret it to shame white people. Even an institution like Hillsdale College, which purports to be a bastion of traditionalism, has a music department run by a soy-face crypto-Marxist incel. You can hear his absurd post-modern noise music, performed at Hillsdale College, on Youtube.

What about billionaire Trump mega-donor Ike Perlmutter, the recently-ousted CEO of Marvel? Has he ever lifted a finger to fund, develop, or advance any right-leaning artist ever? On the contrary, isn’t nearly every single Marvel cast member outrageously leftist? Absolutely. The truth is, there are thousands of actors who could do what Mark Ruffolo or Chris Evans do. It’s the case with most Hollywood actors for that matter. One of the best places to observe their true lack of star quality is to go back and look at their home videos from spring 2020, when they were locked inside singing out of key, looking like hell because they couldn’t CGI their eyes brighter or fix their nasty skin blemishes.

VERY rarely, a good artist secures a gig from a politician or conservative organization under the auspices that there is some creative work to be done. Note the emphasis. The paymasters in nearly all cases will change and censor worse than the most dunder-headed Hollywood executive you can imagine. Remember, on these jobs, you are a cog in the wheeling vision of some talentless politico. You are hired to build their (stupid) vision, not yours.

Does the promotion of Steve Penley’s slop, given a seal of approval by the biggest conservative politicians and media personalities, inspire confidence in the artistic taste of our side? If presented with a giant splattery American flag or a sculpture by Fen de Villiers, are we confident the vast majority of these “tastemakers” would identify Fen’s work as displaying categorically superior command of the craft? We don’t know the answer, which means we cannot count on praise or patronage from those of our philosophical and political persuasion.

This should help the aspiring right-leaning artist understand that the cavalry are not coming. There will be no air support. You are on your own. Peter Thiel is not going to wave a magic wand and make you the next Elvis, even if you are the next Elvis.

There are two ways forward depending on your particular discipline. Both begin with something extremely important in how you identify yourself: cross out “dissident” and just be an artist. There are important reasons for this.

One, the art must come before politics. Politics, especially as it is presented in contemporary society as a form of entertainment subsisting on evoking outrage, is a total distraction. Friendly media, generally speaking, has become very good at accruing rage clicks and encouraging rage posts. We are all guilty in our participation. We all know in our hearts a lot of it is a complete waste of time.

Second, the best art speaks for itself, and does not need an explanation, as its power to inspire should supersede any descriptive words. Going by “dissident” will almost inevitably lead to prejudgement by patrons and audiences, or give you undeserved credit by pockets of anons that can impede growth. Leave the labels to the commentariat — your job is to create. Their job is to analyze, criticize, demonize, scandalize, categorize, summarize, publicize, and theorize.

Past this initial step of not putting yourself in a box, Hollywood-centric artists (actors, directors, screenwriters, directors of photography, studio musicians, rappers, pop artists, dancers, comedians, etc) need to take this statement seriously: shut the fuck up and keep your head down. Your only chance at success, given the reality I’ve just outlined, is rising through the existing leftist system, and once power/influence is accrued, changing that system. The obvious caveat of course, is if you are not good in the first place, you will not rise until you get good. If you pivot into politics before you are good, like Gina Carano, you will be permanently relegated to outrage-posting on social media and will only be able to work on crappy movies. This is NOT the life you want. Do not cancel yourself before you can get to a place where you can cancel evil people. Be smart.

For solo artists (novelists, painters, sculptors, composers, poets, etc.), steps should be taken to curate your public persona to mitigate potential blacklisting. Take the MAGA hat photo down. It is one thing to write a based collection of short stories. It is another thing to have a picture of you in a MAGA hat which may instigate a slew of negative reviews from a bot swarm. What you should be signaling from your promotional outlets is the art, not your personal views on the debt ceiling fight. However, branding yourself as an artistic reactionary (against postmodernism, for example) is prudent in many cases. This path is about producing spectacular work, and once that is finished, executing clever (non-political) marketing.

Ejecting politics from your creative endeavors helps you avoid turning your life into performative art. This fashionable performative form of expression was introduced as “high art” 100 years ago by the moderns has since been commercialized by Hollywood and MTV, then scaled by social media. Now everyone’s “life is their art” on social media. It is advisable to expel any tendency to participate in this nonsense. This is not WWE wrestling. Standing at a lectern in front of a banner that states “Culture War” and yelling that there are only two genders is an absolute waste of time for an artist. Consuming that content is an absolute waste of time for an artist. If you find yourself scrolling spicy memes for 3 hours instead of putting pen to paper, or instead of consuming masterpieces of the Western canon, you are failing. An artist should be gazing at Goya, studying Street Car, absorbing Aristophanes, pouring over Pushkin, and learning from Lawrence of Arabia.

Obviously, drawing inspiration from politics or the cultural melee is perfectly valid. In fact, one of the most exciting movements has been the primitive, indigenous output from what is known as “Frog Twitter” and 4Chan. It is an untapped goldmine of fresh insanity from which to draw. The key distinction here is that the tangible creation (the script, the painting, the musical, etc.) as a result of that inspiration, and taking on the character of “culture warrior” in your digital life, are two very different things. Don’t confuse drawing inspiration from politics with producing naked propaganda. Daily Wire, Dinesh D’Souza, Nick Loeb, and the entire catalog of Pureflix are a cautionary tale. Even a truly based artist can fall into the trap of making horrible BAPist knock-off realism (which in terms of aesthetic value is no different than Steve Penley). Remember that “Let’s Go Brandon” song that hit #1 on iTunes? 14 months later, nobody cares.

Michael Anton wrote an instructive piece called “The Tom Wolfe model.” Anton asks a powerful question: Why has this absolutely absurd regime we pejoratively refer to as the Globalist American Empire (G.A.E.) not produced a single realistic novel in the vein of Dickens, Twain, Balzac, Lewis, or Steinbeck? This is largely because of a lack of craft, but also a lack of courage. One must have the courage to sacrifice short/medium-term financial stability and stable relationships with others — even a stable relationship with oneself. Most aspiring artists cry uncle before they are 30. A handful are delusional, talentless, and literally die trying. Some are tortured by demons and self sabotage. Some like Andrew Klavan choose the path of victimhood and decide to join the political commentariat lamenting they could have made it “if it weren’t for liberal Hollywood!” To reiterate, your first job as an artist is to create, not complain on Twitter why we don’t construct beautiful buildings anymore.

To stay focused on creative output, an artist needs to be in a constant state of consuming art, honing the craft, living in the world as it is, and actually making art. Consuming art (real art, not junk) develops taste. Honing the craft equips one with the tools to render art with maximal aesthetic clarity. Living in the world, just being a human interacting with other humans or nature, keeps the artist connected to reality and is a source for inspiration. Finally, actually making the art is the sum of all this. In the course of a day, ideally an artist would zigzag through these activities. The artist should set up a quasi conservatory program of study for themselves.

The most obvious objection to this, of course, is how do I live this life without making any money, or having any conservative donors as underwriters? But these arguments are akin to leftist ones about being able to afford contraception — if you do not come from means, are we really supposed to believe you cannot afford a pencil, paper, and an internet connection? What else do you need to write a novel, poetry, or a sonata? The Improv 1 class, or the Introductory Comedy Writing class at Second City is $400 — that’s too much money, but dropping $150k on a stupid-ass econ degree from some state school isn’t? Stella Adler’s two books on the playwrights are mandatory reads — they are $15 each. If this hybrid autodidactic lifestyle is too scary for you, go raise goats in Hungry with Rod Dreher.

Artists can be haunted by feelings of doubt and writers block. Parents, relatives, and friends will not give you the validation you need when you are still developing your craft, which adds to the anxiety. An excellent book to combat this is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a mental health program that has pulled many successful artists out of a creative slump. Do not mistake its childlike approach to be hippy-dippy nonsense — the system works if you let it work on you. The “morning pages” exercise can be an absolute game changer.

On the topic of attending a conservatory/art school, a young violinist who is accepted into Juilliard should probably just go to Juilliard. Ditto USC Film School for an aspiring director. Be wary that you’ll still be surrounded by dipshits wearing masks. You may even be required to wear a Pride ribbon. Do not go if you cannot play the game. Know though that it is indisputably the case that attending these schools is not necessary for a career in the arts. 100% of the information you will learn there is available on Youtube and in books (especially books written 70+ years ago). Private instruction is as easy as contacting those whose work you admire, and then paying them. More or less all of them teach private lessons. When considering a second-choice school, the answer is simple: don’t waste your time or money. The network sucks, the peers are hacks, and the professors don’t know what they are talking about.

This is probably a good place to bring up a major problem in dissident artists’ storytelling: exposition. Twitter raconteur Lomez recently promoted a film being made, which had sides available for those who wanted to audition for a role in it. The dialogue in the sides was terrible largely due to it being rife with exposition. (Part of the reason for this is that conservative writers are trying to inject their political views. You know what is super boring? Political views.) Do an internet search for “how to avoid exposition in writing.” Buy the Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet masterclasses (but skip the chapter on Mamet’s directing, it’s garbage). Read their plays and screenplays. Read Tennessee Williams. Do not go out and raise funds before you have a strong script. You need to be ready for prime time. Get private instruction.

In terms of where to live as an artist, if this was 1980, the two indisputable cities would be Los Angeles or New York. Now, you absolutely don’t have to live in either of those shitholes. Actors, directors, costumers, makeup artists, etc. should consider states that have film tax incentives: Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas (pending legislation), and Minnesota. The tax incentives in these states require that a certain amount of “local” positions to be hired. Take advantage of this before some pot-bellied knuckle dragger from CATO convinces the retarded hillbillies in the state houses that there is no economic advantage to these incentives, and they cancel them. Also, if you have a drop or more of minority blood in you, do not list yourself as a white person. The Academy and Screen Actors Guild have all this DEI bullshit that puts straight Caucasians at a disadvantage. Play the game.

Solo artists (painters, poets, composers, musicians, singers, novelists, etc) should live where they can best draw inspiration. Maybe that is Miami, or maybe it is Nashville. It could even be some blue-state shithole. The point is that it is a place where basic needs can be met, culture is happening, and where work can be done.

Courage is probably the virtue in the shortest supply in West these days, most notably from our politicians, but also from the artistically inclined on our side who decide they want to quit and go make money. Yes, our side does not value artists. Yes, the artist stereotype is one of misery and starvation. It does not have to be that way. Pay diligent attention to the details of your craft, immerse yourself in the masterpieces of Western Civilization, experience all that life has to offer, work tirelessly on creative pursuits, and expel distractions of politics or other drugs. The only thing that will prevent your ascension, if you have talent, is quitting. Cultural revitalization begins with you, the artist. Start now, get better, and do not give up.

1200 630

Man’s World in Print

MAN’S WORLD is now available, for the very first time, as a high-quality printed magazine. Across 200 glorious pages, you’ll find everything that made the digital magazine the sensation that it was – the best essays, the most brilliant new fiction, interviews, art, food, sex, fitness – and so much more.

Man’s World in Print

MAN’S WORLD is now available, for the very first time, as a high-quality printed magazine. Across 200 glorious pages, you’ll find everything that made the digital magazine the sensation that it was – the best essays, the most brilliant new fiction, interviews, art, food, sex, fitness – and so much more.

You must submit

Want to write for
Man’s World?

Here at Man’s World, we’re always looking for new contributors to dazzle, inform and amuse our readership, which now stands in the hundreds of thousands. If you have an idea for an article, of any kind, or even a new section or regular feature, don’t hesitate to get in contact via the form below.

Generally, the word limit for articles is 3,000; although we will accept longer and (much) shorter articles where warranted. Take a look at the sections in this issue for guidance and inspiration.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
I have an idea for a