Resetting A Moribund Culture

Mark Steyn explores the default position of popular culture:

Liberalism is the default mode of the culture — to the point where the left-of-center position is so pervasive it’s no longer a position at all, but rather something uncontentious, received wisdom, part of the air we breathe. In several of the examples Jay cites, I’ll bet the musicians involved would be stunned to find that there was anyone in the room who would find the message remotely disagreeable.

In these conversations, one should distinguish between the activist types — the Sean Penns and whatnot — and the far bigger number of actors and musicians who don’t think about politics terribly much and for whom a passive allegiance to the only recognized party of the entertainment state is just the easy option. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a one-party state, and I’m slightly taken aback by the number of bigtime Hollywood stars who’ve said to me sotto voce in the last two years how much they agree with my book but please don’t mention it to anyone. But Andrew Breitbart gets to what’s really at stake:

If conservatives don’t figure out popular culture soon, the movement will die a deserving death.

I think that’s right. If the non-political sphere is permanently left-of-center — the movies, the pop songs, the plays, the sitcoms, the newspapers plus the churches, schools and much else — it’s simply unreasonable to expect people to walk into a polling booth every other November and vote conservative. The culture is where the issues get framed and the boundaries set.

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In a column in a recent edition of National Review “On Dead Tree” (subscription required), Steyn wrote that President Bush missed an enormous opportunity to reset the overculture that pop culture operates within, during the immediate aftermath of 9/11:

It is already the dreariest of tropes in this transition period to compare President-elect Obama to Franklin Roosevelt: FDR had the Depression, BHO has the, er, collapse of Lehman Bros, etc. But the real FDR moment — the seismic event that a canny politician seizes as a pretext for transformative change — was surely 9/11. A few weeks after the attacks, Bush had the highest approval ratings of any president in history. But he didn’t do anything with them. And the greatest mistake of all was his disinclination to take on the broader culture that, in the wake of 9/11, looked briefly vulnerable — in that moment when Americans opted for “Let’s roll!” over the desiccated Oprahfied chants of “healing” and “closure” and the rest of the awful lifeless language of emotional narcissism.

Bush had a rare opportunity to reverse the most poisonous tide in the Western world: He could have argued that Western self-loathing is a psychosis we can no longer afford. He could have told the teachers’ unions there was more to the Second World War than the internment of Japanese Americans and it’s time they started mentioning it to our children. You can’t hold the 90 percent approval ratings forever, but, while he had them, George W. Bush could have used them for a “teaching moment”: If ever there’s a time for not being mired in civilizational self-abasement, wartime is it. Yet the president figured he could fight a long existential struggle against America’s enemies in a culture that teaches its children there are no enemies, just friends whose grievances we haven’t yet accommodated.

So, by the 2004 campaign season, he was the 50 percent president again, relying on a get-out-the-vote operation in selected corners of purpling red states to put him over the top against a weak, tone-deaf, elitist buffoon who voted for the war before he voted against it. It shouldn’t have been like that.

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With the overculture thus still firmly in control of Old Media and Old Academia, Andrew Breitbart’s new Big Holywood site is an attempt to begin to reset the dominant mode of one of the chief purveyors of pop culture.

With posts from Orson Bean, Andrew Klavan (the author of the book that was the basis of Clint Eastwood’s True Crime), Power Line’s Scott Johnson, and numerous others, and editing by John Nolte, the film maker best known in the Blogosphere as the irrepressible “Dirty Harry“, that’s all the more reason to stop by today.

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