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Roger L. Simon

Reclaiming the Culture

December 6th, 2012 - 12:16 am

People on the right spend a great deal of time and energy excoriating Hollywood, Broadway, and the music industry. Entertainment has become the province of the Left and is hugely biased.

True enough — but it’s been that way for some time. And with all the complaining by conservatives and libertarian-types it may even have gotten worse in recent years. Certainly, it hasn’t gotten better. Whining, it must be admitted, hasn’t helped.

Many say the answer is to boycott Hollywood — some already have. But when you do that just realize that you are turning your back on the culture and that can have, in fact already has had, drastic results.

As the late — and increasingly lamented — Andrew Breitbart pointed out repeatedly, “Politics is downstream from culture.”

Just how downstream we saw in this year’s election. Virtually every accusation made by the left toward Republicans and conservatives (sexism, racism, greed, etc.) was prepared and nurtured in the realm of culture. That was the earth in which the lies grew and prospered. And those lies, more than any facts or policies, were responsible for a liberal victory in a year — with unemployment at 8 percent and a deficit at 16 trillion — that should have been a Republican rout.

Put simply, give up on the culture and you lose forever. (It’s hard enough with the media and the educational system rigged the way they are.)

So my point is quite simple. Quit bitching and start doing.

Sean Penn and Oliver Stone are going to do what they are going to do. Conservatives and libertarians have to do the same thing — but better.

Sorry about the better, but that’s just the facts right now. Bias exists and you’re going to have to overcome it. The best way to achieve that is by aesthetic excellence. And the only way to achieve that excellence, assuming you have the basic talent, unfortunately is hard work. It all comes down to the old tourist query joke about “How do you get to Carnegie Hall.” (“Practice, practice, practice,” for the twelve people who don’t know it).

Whoever said it was going to be easy? And making it more difficult is that conservatives tend to be out of practice where cultural endeavors are concerned (except perhaps in country music, which is important). When you disdain or ignore something, the skills wither.

I’m talking in generalities, of course. Plenty of great conservative artists exist. But the number needs to be extended considerably in order even to come close to parity and level the artistic playing field to some small degree. Cultural institutions (movie studios, theatres, philanthropies etc.) must be built as well because you can do terrific things but, without the means of distributing them, they are the proverbial trees growing unseen in the wilderness.

Paramount in all this too — particularly for storytelling artists in fiction, theatre, film, and television – is that art must come before ideology. If it’s not pleasing, it’s worthless. The goal should be to make the reader or audience forget their biases and live the experience of the characters and their story. This is the method to “reach across the aisle” and actually make an impact, to change the atmosphere.

Liberals often think of themselves as “liberals” because they like the image and the connotations of the word itself. But their actual thinking and certainly their behavior are more conservative. Those people can be reached through art because their guard is down, especially if the artist is engaging in his or her presentation.

But hiding behind a plot and characters presents challenges of its own because we are all heavily branded in this society. Everyone knows who we are or can easily find out. It’s hard to sneak by. It will be interesting to see how David Mamet’s new work is received, now that he has “come out” as conservative. Will the audience dismiss what he has to say merely because of that? Undoubtedly some will.

Sheryl Longin and I face a similar challenge with our new play, The Party Line. The culture has reached the point where many of us have the deck stacked against us because of the new party line. But we must persevere and ignore this soft censorship. Whining, as I have noted, is useless. And we have also reached the point in our history when we must try and succeed in reclaiming the culture. If we don’t, we are in danger of losing everything else, if we haven’t already.

 

Also read: It’s the Culture, Stupid: Facing the Long Road Ahead.

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