David Mamet's understanding of drama unlocked secrets unrelated to the theater.
During a lifetime of creative achievement, the acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and film director had seen how an audience could surrender part of its rationality for two hours in order to enjoy an illusion. But as he began reading and thinking about politics, he was horrified to learn how people also could surrender themselves into a mob. This epiphany was one factor in moving him from the political left to conservatism, a transition he expounds upon in his new book, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture."
Mamet's insights as a dramatist illuminate another puzzle. Why have Israel's efforts at public diplomacy been so ineffective?
Mamet explains how mob psychology nullifies any presentation of the facts in Israel's endeavors to defend itself in the court of public opinion.
"Love of the Victim is an attempt at a non-deist recreation of religious feeling," Mamet writes. News organizations sell the Middle East conflict as entertainment, and "there is something of the sadomasochistic" in the Left's love of the Palestinians, whom audiences are conditioned to see in the role of Woman in Jeopardy (e.g., "The Rape of Jenin").
The price of admission to the extravaganza is indictment of the State of Israel, which is condemned and scorned regardless of the facts of history, the exercise of reason, or the recognition of cultural affinity. In the West's abandonment of Israel, Mamet charges, the audience does not care that Palestinian claims are insoluble, exaggerated, unjust, or skewed. To care would require audience members to do something, which would end their enjoyable position as viewers.
"Just as in the movies we would resent the fellow in the next seat explaining the effects," Mamet writes, "so actual information about the Middle East conflict is considered an intrusion and a distraction from the spectacle. One has made one's choice (bought one's tickets) and would like to be left in peace to enjoy the show."
So it doesn't matter if Israel factually proves that Jenin wasn't "raped" in 2002 and that Israel allowed its young soldiers to be killed in the twisted alleyways of that Samarian town rather than level the terror nests with artillery or airpower. The insights of Mamet the master entertainer, the communicator par excellence, reinforces this reviewer's belief that in the end it's not about facts, or even about right or wrong, but rather about emotional engagement. It's about who you love and who you don't. It's about whose side you're on.
"The Liberal West would like the citizens of Israel to take the only course which would bring about the end of the disturbing 'cycle of violence' which they hear of in the Liberal press. That course is abandoning their homes and country, leaving, with their lives, if possible, but leaving in any case.
"Is this desire anti-Semitism?" Mamet asks rhetorically.
"You bet your life it is."