The Monoculture comes for Sean Tatol.
The Monoculture is anti-anyone it perceives as a potential threat, and since it knows (at least deep down) that it is ultimately contrived and unnatural (or anti-human), it seeks to compensate for its inherent vulnerability by (over) reacting unnaturally. It's a totalitarian thing.
This has been a fun little debate to observe and having been previously unfamiliar with Sean Tatol and his “Manhattan Art Review”, it’s nice to see that bitching about art, while undoubtedly on life-support, isn’t completely without pulse. To Tatol’s credit, he’s willing to pull the trigger. But as someone who has had a sustained (but not very lucrative) sidleine in art writing for over a decade can tell you: the hit pieces are the easiest ones to fire off. And the most effective assassins inevitably become targets themselves.
Tatol’s essay for “The Point” sounds precisely like something I would have written when I was 33. Its full of big, half formed ideas, stated in a manner that suggests the author has uncovered some profound truth that someone else said better 50 years ago. It expresses a desire for a transcendent order of meaning and contains an almost imperceptible nostalgia for a culture and civilization that he missed out on. Reading it was sort of like seeing my current students wearing Nirvana t-shirts. Or perhaps like seeing me in 1994 when I was wearing Beatles t-shirts.
The first part of Davis’ response is, I think, a fairly nuanced take, and I largely agree with his sentiments. But it’s that bit at the end of the second part where it seems to go off the rails. The Jordan Peterson stuff is par for the course. But do I think the Monoculture is coming for Sean Tatol? No. That’s Ben Davis being Ben Davis. He needs something to write about cause he’s on deadline, and frankly Tatol’s essay is just too tempting a target. Its full of so many lines begging to be disassembled that even I’d be tempted.
The problem is the angle by which Davis is doing it. The temptation for writers on both the left and the right to go OMG ________ (insert your preferred Hitler) as a way to discredit by association, rather than coming up with considered rebuttal, is also, just too tempting. Davis could more reasonable assail Tatol’s positions on the grounds that Tatol’s notion of “the good” requires a transcendent God upon which it is predicated and that Tatol, by his admitted lack of religiosity, won’t go there, so his points are basically moot.
I understand that talking openly about metaphysics and by extension theology is too scary for most pundits because they would have to acknowledge that the reductive, materialistic conceits underpinning their world views are too limited a foundation upon which to base any theoretical framework, let alone one which attempts to penetrate notions as fundamental as beauty and truth. Suggesting someone’s ideas are “dangerously” patriarchal, neo-colonialist, neo-fascist or whatever as a way to dismiss or undermine them, reaffirms the accuser’s psychic sense of self while simultaneously buttressing their illusory, if cogent, narrative about how and why the world works the way it does.
But yes, a big part of the problem is a raging, burning, manic drive to be utterly and indisputably IN or "with it" as overtly as possible, which involves deliberately exhibitionistic flaunting of would-be virtue or "correctness." It would be pitiful if, like some fanatical cult dogma, it was genuinely believed and truly felt, but I expect the true believers are a minority, and the majority are simply contemptible.
Part of the problem is that the whole art system went off the rails a good while back, which made it increasingly susceptible to ever greater distortion, not to say perversion. In a sense, it has followed a logical progression, even if the logic is perverse. I knew the whole business was seriously off kilter, something amounting to fraud, well before it went overtly woke. We should not be that surprised.