The chattering classes rushed to defend convicted paedophile Roman Polanski from extradition to the US for long over-due sentencing. Tracy Emin says she is moving to France if New Labour go through with their plans to raise the tax rate for those with incomes over £150,000pa. To me it’s just two sides of the same coin in the argument that creative people are not like the rest of us and are worthy of special consideration.
Personally I don’t give a toss whether Polanski directed The Pianist or not; if he was an unemployed welder who had groomed and drugged a 13year old girl in order to have sex with her, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. If Tracy Emin, who bores at the drop of a hat about her working class roots, had built up a successful plumbing business that took her into the highest tax bracket nobody would suggest that she shouldn’t cough up like anybody else.
Funnily enough France features in both these stories. In the Polanski case because supposedly they take a more ‘lenient’ view of artists’ peccadilloes. In Emin’s case because supposedly their tax regime gives better breaks to the arts.
In fact we’re not talking about different cultural nuances of sexuality - paedophilia is no more legal in France than anywhere else. And we are not talking about subsidies to community arts projects in the inner cities, I’m sure young artists struggle in France much as they do everywhere. We are actually talking about whinging luvies that have now established themselves as very successful brands and celebrities and want some sort of special treatment.
This isn’t an argument for philistinism – I can admire ‘The Pianist’ or ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995’ (well actually I can’t but that’s another story) without reference to my approval or otherwise of the artist. George Orwell wrote about this in ‘The Benefit Of Clergy’ – in relation to Salvador Dali “a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being”. I agree with him - a talented arsehole is still an arsehole.