Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2003 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
American culture war takes a surprising jog to the right
"We're not losing" isn't much of a battle cry,
but an article in the policy magazine City
Journal with that modest message is
attracting a lot of attention. The article,
"We're Not Losing the Culture Wars
Anymore" by senior editor Brian Anderson,
argues that the left's near monopoly in the
entertainment and news media is "skidding
to a startlingly swift halt."
Much of Anderson's
evidence the rise of
Fox News, talk radio,
bloggers is familiar,
but the article argues
that a corner has been
turned and the culture
war is a far more even
struggle now. This
news may come as a
certainly a shock to
Tim Noah, a liberal
commentator at Slate.
Noah read Anderson's
article, watched as the Reagan miniseries was pulled, then wrote glumly that
the right has won the culture wars.
Hardly. The liberal worldview still dominates the news business, the arts, the
entertainment world, publishing, the campuses, and all levels of schooling.
It's the media and educational status quo. But five years ago, CBS probably
could have gotten away with a cheap-shot miniseries on the Reagans. Now it
can't. This is partly because of market forces, as conservative columnist
Robert Bartley and liberal columnist Richard Reeves both pointed out.
Reeves called the miniseries "commercially insane." Large conservative
audiences no longer accept many liberal products, so those products are
adapted or abandoned. The other reason for the ditching of the Reagan
miniseries is that the conservative media world is now good at gang tackling.
From Matt Drudge's Drudge Report (which framed the issue of the miniseries)
to Fox, the bloggers, talk radio hosts, and the columnists, everybody piled
on. New York Times columnist David Brooks touched on this point some
time ago, writing that the new conservative media have "cohered to form a
dazzlingly efficient ideology delivery system that swamps liberal efforts to get
their ideas out." For liberals, this is an ominous development.
The unfamiliar part of Anderson's article is the rising conservative impact on
pop culture. In comedy, it's not just Dennis Miller, the first major comedian
fully identified with the right. On cable, conservative humor or at least,
antiliberal humor pops up all the time. Colin Quinn, like Miller a veteran of
Saturday Night Live, skewers liberal pieties regularly on Comedy Central's
popular Tough Crowd. I once asked a thoughtful liberal friend: "Why does the
message of the left seem to penetrate the whole of pop culture?" His
answer "We make the culture; you don't" doesn't seem so obvious now.
New paradigm. The showpiece of antiliberal humor is one that appalls a
good many conservatives: South Park, Comedy Central's wildly popular
cartoon saga of four crude and incredibly foul-mouthed little boys. The show
mocks mindless lefty celebrities and takes swipes at the gay lobby and the
abortion lobby. Some examples: Getting Gay With Kids is a homosexual
choir that descends on the school. And the mother of one South Parker
decides she wants to abort him ("It's my body"), despite the fact that he's 8
years old. The weekly disclaimer on the show says it is so offensive "it
should not be viewed by anyone." This is a new paradigm in pop culture:
Conventional liberalism is the old, rigid establishment. The antiliberals are
brash, funny, and cool. Who would have thought?
Some of the new conservative success is
due to the rise of a large crop of
commentators the left has not been able to
match. Mostly young and often very funny,
they include Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg,
Michelle Malkin, and Jeff Jacoby. But most
of the conservative gains have been in new
media. Fox News's large audience skews
young, and half its viewers are either liberal
or centrist. So Fox isn't just preaching to the choir. It's exposing
nonconservatives to conservative ideas.
As mentioned here
several times, the
world of Internet
strongly to the right.
Bloggers like Andrew
Sullivan, Mickey Kaus,
and Glenn Reynolds of
instaPundit have a
heavy impact. No
excess of the liberal
media seems to
escape their attention.
Among other things,
they have mercilessly
Krugman, the New York Times columnist and idol of America's angriest
liberals. It has been an amazing and, I think, largely successful campaign of
It was obvious that the democratization of the media would bring new voices
into the field, but who knew that so many of those voices would be
conservative, libertarian, or just cantankerously opposed to entrenched liberal
doctrine? The conservative side is far from winning the culture wars, but the
debate is broader and fairer now. The near monopoly is over.
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