Suzanne Fields
Here's a resolution for one and all as we slide down the fiscal cliff (or not): Beware of fakery in popular places. Fakery, particularly in the culture both high and low, bubbles up from the media, affecting the way we see everything -- even, for example, politics.

Roger Scruton, the public philosopher and conservative commentator, writes in Aeon magazine, a provocative digital magazine of ideas and culture, how fake ideas, fake criticism and fake emotions have come to dominate public conversation and marginalize thoughtful appreciation of beauty, truth and honest debate. His initial concern is about the collusion of critics and artists to fake what's significant and authentic in high culture, but what he says applies to political conversation, too.

The elevation of "faking it" relies on a belief system, as contradictory as this may sound. In art, it's a belief that "what's new" is the only guarantee of quality, requiring a stamp of approval from an illusory expert whose credentials are backed up by those for whom faking it is a shortcut to the hard work of understanding. We once got validation through intellectual tradition, which included religious cohesion, and were graced with great artists and composers, such as Titian, Rembrandt, Bach and Beethoven. We didn't need to know what they believed to believe in what they created. We didn't expect a push of the envelope.

The shock of the new, he writes, brings celebrity and big bucks to an artist, such as Damien Hirst winning acclaim for pickling a shark or a cow and hanging it in a gallery, or composer John Cage sitting on stage in concert dress and never playing a note. This kind of art relies on no standards, for an audience flattering itself for "getting it" without the hard work of examination. The audience is "faking it," too, luxuriating in a fellowship protected from the uninitiated slobs who don't know what's going on and aren't clever enough to pretend they do.

Scruton's main point is that elite powers who anoint the so-called artists for stardom aren't even aware they're replacing judgment for attitude. That's the real danger.

This phenomenon extends to politics, too. The assumptions may be different, but the fakery isn't. One striking example is the media reaction to the appointment of Rep. Tim Scott, a black Republican, to fill the South Carolina Senate seat of Jim DeMint, who is retiring.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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