Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Guardian view on female conductors

Just when I was wondering what I could post on today, the Guardian, as so often, comes through. Yes, they are beating the identity politics drum once more. This is perhaps the most interesting passage:
On Wednesday, Simone Young, until recently the head of the Hamburg Opera and a far too infrequent presence in British music, will conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It is the only time in its 12 appearances at the 2016 Proms that this taxpayer-funded orchestra has been directed by a woman.
 The Guardian presents this as an entirely uncontroversial view and indeed, there is a kind of vague public consensus that if there are equal numbers of women in society there should be equal numbers of women in every segment of society. Only a bigoted mossback would even question this.

But the reality is just a tad more complicated than that. Identity politics, currently a political fashion in the West, are a development ultimately stemming from cultural Marxism. The basic method of Marxists and socialists generally is to achieve power and control of society by playing different groups off against one another. A good Marxist or socialist politician says to the voters, yes, I know you are being treated unfairly and oppressively and I know whose fault it is: them! The "them" is whoever looks like a good scapegoat: the ruling class, Jews, middle-aged white males, Easterners, foreigners, whoever. The actual facts are not the issue, but the method of always finding someone else to blame is.

The prize in the cereal box is that the solution ALWAYS involves giving the politicians more power to right the supposed wrongs. There ought to be a law! And there have to be hosts of bureaucrats and police to enforce the law. And the law will correct the wrongs. But the long-standing principles of the rule of law, that is, the foundation of most successful societies, state that justice and punishment are enforced on the individual, not the group. If one individual oppresses another individual, that is cause for punishment. But this is insufficient for the political purposes of the socialist: he must win the votes of the oppressed by promising to punish the oppressors as a group. Guilt is no longer individual, but collective. If you are a middle-aged white male, you are guilty of oppressing everyone else. This is not only absurd and false, it also runs directly opposite to the rule of law where everyone, regardless of identity or origin is treated equally by the administration of justice. This is why the statue symbolizing justice is wearing a blindfold:

There is a precise analogue for this in the selection of players for symphony orchestras. After complaints that certain candidates were favored in auditions because they were friends of the selection committee, or relatives of the conductor or disfavored because they were women or a racial minority or for whatever reason of perceived unfairness, nearly all symphony auditions these days are done with the candidates playing behind a screen so the committee cannot see the identity of the performer. This is simple justice, of course. Over the course of the last few decades, more and more women have chosen to audition for symphony positions and whenever they have won a position there has never been any question as to whether they deserve it.

But look at what the Guardian is implying in their editorial:
By the end of the BBC Proms next week, there will have been 75 concerts this season. Just eight will have been conducted by women, with one woman, Marin Alsop, in charge of three of them. Quite simply, it’s not enough, both in principle and at a time when women are playing in increasingly equal numbers in British orchestras.
Let's have a look at that principle, because, as is typical in this kind of piece, they simply do not state what principle they are talking about. Is it the principle of equal justice under the rule of law? In that case, every conductor would have to be chosen blindly, based on recordings or screened rehearsals. But what the Guardian is implying is that there should be women conductors equal in number to men conductors, or that there should be women conductors in proportions equal to the numbers of women in the orchestra. The threat they imply is that taxpayer funding could be cut if orchestras do not comply. This is a very real threat because these days, just about every politician is a bit of a socialist and very susceptible to socialist arguments.

Music is one of the areas in society least susceptible to political machinations because much of what is seen as success comes down to empirical facts like record sales, audience response, aesthetic evaluation and so on. Neither the Guardian nor anyone else is going around suggesting that the proportions of women divas vs male pop stars is out of whack. No-one is saying that the disparity in gender balance in, say, the Rolling Stones needs to be corrected by firing Keith Richards and hiring a female lead guitarist even though there are probably lots who are even better players than he is. But taxpayer-funded symphony orchestras are pretty much fair game. They should not be. There is absolutely nothing preventing anyone from starting up a all-woman symphony orchestra (and there are a few out there) or an all-minority symphony orchestra (and there is one of those in the UK). And the audiences will decide if they want to attend their concerts or not.

There is a name for what the Guardian is up to with articles like these: virtue-signalling. It is all about showing how they are on-board with the cause of the day.

Our envoi today is an easy choice. Here is a news clip of the British Women's Symphony Orchestra dating from 1934:


Patrick said...

Bryan - your definition of Marxist seems to describe Donald Trump. He blames immigrants for US problems. Would you say Trump is a Marxist.

Bryan Townsend said...

All politicians seem to sound a bit like socialists these days (if not actually Marxist), but no, I don't think Trump is a Marxist. Pretty much a capitalist!