Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2003 / 10 Kislev, 5764
'South Park' has unlikely audience tuning in
What the heck is City Journal doing praising the crude, raunchy, potty-mouthed cartoon "South Park"?
The conservative quarterly is universally applauded as the country's most thoughtful source of "urban intelligence for concerned citizens and policy makers alike."
Put out by the folks at the Manhattan Institute think tank, City Journal's typical articles focus long, hard and interestingly on fixing the many things that are always collapsing in cities finances, schools, basic services, etc.
For example, the fall issue offers "Chief Bratton Takes on L.A.," Heather Mac Donald's lengthy look at whether the police chief, whose modern management techniques and crime-fighting methods jump-started New York City's sharp 1990s crime drop, can repair Los Angeles' very broken police department.
Another piece "Who Runs New York?" explains how political bosses have lost most of their power to public-sector unions and nearly 4,000 taxpayer-funded social-service organizations.
But enough of that serious urban policy stuff.
Why are long passages of dialogue from "South Park," complete with many f-words, being quoted approvingly not to mention hilariously in City Journal's cover story, "We're Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore"?
How can that politically, socially, culturally and civilizationally incorrect weekly Comedy Central show which every parent, preacher and person in power hates but 3 million kids and young people watch religiously have any appeal to a bunch of social conservatives who love Bush almost as much as they hate Rosie?
Because, as writer Brian Anderson proves in his excellent roundup of the revolution in media that has ended the liberal monopoly over news and opinion, "South Park" hates liberals a whole lot more than it hates conservatives.
Conservatives have always railed against "South Park," naturally.
But, as Anderson shows, it is relentlessly and bipartisanly anti-PC, whether it's mocking people in wheelchairs, gun-lugging rednecks or worshippers of rain forests. It focuses much of its ridicule on leftwing sacred cows and buffoons multicultural sensitivity, sex education in school, pontificating celebrities.
"South Park" is just one Molotov of the conservative-libertarian revolution that has been led and fed in the past 15 years by the new media of talk radio, cable TV and the Internet.
Rush Limbaugh started it. Since then, everyone from the Drudge Report and Fox News to born-again conservative comedian Dennis Miller and scores of Web sites such as National Review Online and popular non-liberal bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan have changed the news-opinion equation. Even conservative book publishers now get rich tapping a vast, un-liberal market that was underserved and ignored by snooty liberal publishing houses.
The old liberal news elites the New York Times, Time magazine, CBS, etc. still are bigger and in many ways more powerful.
But, as Anderson shows in his entertaining R-rated piece, the growing conservative revolt has forced the East Coast dinosaurs to defend their liberal ideas and behave more honestly. That's made them cranky, but it's done wonders for broadening the national political and cultural debate.
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald