Ed Driscoll

Third Great Awakenings Then & Now; Audi's Gorewellian Super Bowl Ad

At the Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez writes, “The Left doesn’t want to govern, it wants to rule given the chance:”

It is as always willing to leave its own Big Tent behind at the decisive moment. The continual calls from the Democrat Left for Obama to “grow a spine” are really coded calls to say that the moment is now; that the President must ‘’seize the day, seize the hour.” It’s not as [Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics] imagines, a call to compromise. It’s a call to say that the time for compromise is over. They can drop the mask; they can hoist the Jolly Roger.

What’s the counterforce to that? In the Washington Examiner, Glenn Reynolds writes that “Nashville Shows Tea Party Is America’s Third Great Awakening”:

I attended this past weekend’s National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and I came away feeling that I had seen something important.  The Tea Party movement is part of something bigger:  America’s Third Great Awakening.

America’s prior Great Awakenings, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, were religious in nature.  Unimpressed with self-serving, ossified, and often corrupt religious institutions, Americans responded with a bottom-up reassertion of faith, and independence.

This time, it’s different.  It’s not America’s churches and seminaries that are in trouble:  It’s America’s politicians and parties.  They’ve grown corrupt, venal, and out-of-touch with the values, and the people, that they’re supposed to represent.  So the people, once again, are reasserting themselves.

Most of the attention focused on this weekend’s convention seemed to involve the keynote speaker, Sarah Palin.  But though Palin wowed the crowd with red-meat attacks on overspending, weak national defense, and broken promises, the key phrase in her speech was this one: “All power is inherent in the people.”

And the biggest action item that she presented the crowd with wasn’t to support Sarah Palin, as most politicians would have asked, but to challenge incumbents in primary races.  Primary battles aren’t “civil war,” she said.  They’re the kind of competition that produces strength in the end.

This seemed to resonate with what I heard from conference attendees. Over and over again, I heard from Tea Party Activists that they were planning to take over their local Republican (and, sometimes Democratic) party apparatus starting at the precinct level and shake things up.

The title of Glenn’s piece calls to mind Tom Wolfe’s epochal 1976 New York magazine article titled, “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening.”

The first, and much better remembered half of Wolfe’s title refers to the theme of the 1970s: narcissism intermingled with nihilism. That’s essentially what replaced the New Deal-era liberalism after the latter movement burned itself out in rapid succession with the deaths of JFK, RFK, and MLK, and the disillusionment on the left for the Great Society and South Vietnam and Democratic party elites turned punitive.

The second half of the title of Wolfe’s article referenced the religious revival that was occurring in the American heartland in the 1970s, even as liberal America was becoming increasingly secular. Nearly 40 years later, it seems fairly obvious that the Tea Parties and the growth of America’s religious revivalism are very much intermingled. They stand in sharp contrast to radical environmentalism, what Charles Krauthammer dubbed in 2007 traditional religion’s successor.

Which brings us to the other highly talked about ad during the Super Bowl. While some are questioning the satiric tone of Audi’s “Green Police” ad, Michelle Malkin writes that based on the press releases that Audi issued to accompany the ad, the car manufacturer has learned to stop worrying and love Big Green Brother — for many of the same reasons that big business has historically embraced corporatism in general:

[youtube Wq58zS4_jvM]

As the saying endlessly, if erroneously attributed to Chesterton goes, “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.”

And it seems safe to say that the Third Great Awakenings — both of them — can coexist well as a counterbalance to such assaults on reason.

Update: Literally five minutes after writing this post, I found via Google News that Jonah Goldberg comments on, as he calls it, “Audi’s Gorewellian Super Bowl ad” in the L.A. Times. Though Jonah himself is writing on the other side of the country — the suburbs of Washington DC — buried under an avalanche of newly-fallen global warming, with another foot on the way, and trapped in “the GFISZ (that’s Goldberg Family Ice Station Zebra).”

From inside the GFISZ, Jonah writes:

Some eco-bloggers disliked the ad because it reinforces the association of undemocratic statism or PC bullying with environmentalism. Perhaps that’s why the New York Times dubbed it “misguided.”

Meanwhile, some conservatives didn’t like it because it makes light of what they believe is actually happening. After all, in America and Europe, the list of environmental crimes is growing at an almost exponential rate. The ad is absurd, of course, but not nearly as absurd as Audi thinks.

What was Audi’s intent? Presumably, to sell cars.

“The ad only makes sense if it’s aimed at people who acknowledge the moral authority of the green police,” writes Grist magazine’s David Roberts on the Huffington Post. The target audience, according to Roberts, are men who want to “do the right thing.” He’s certainly right that the ad isn’t aimed at people (whom he childishly mocks as “teabaggers”) who worry that their liberties are being slowly eroded.

But the message is hardly “do the right thing.”

To me, the target demographic is a certain subset of spineless upscale white men (all of the perps in the ad are affluent white guys) who just want to go with the flow. In that sense, the Audi ad has a lot in common with those execrable MasterCard commercials. Targeting the same demographic, those ads depicted hapless fathers being harangued by their children to get with the environmental program. MasterCard’s tagline: “Helping Dad become a better man: Priceless.”

The difference is that MasterCard’s ads were earnest, creepy, diabetes-inducing treacle. Audi’s ad not only fails to invest the greens with moral authority, it concedes that the carbon cops are out of control, unjustly bullying people and power-hungry (in a postscript scene, the Green Police pull over real cops for using Styrofoam cups). But, because resistance is futile when it comes to the eco-borg, you might as well get the best car you can.

Yes, paradoxically, despite its out-of-control battalion of eco-cops, the Audi ad is definitely a much softer sell than Mastercard’s otherwise equally Orwellian effort:

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