I have been thinking for a while that the Culture Wars are turning and that the pervasive “libo-progressivism” of our Kultur is moving slowly rightward, but several reports of the last few days have convinced me this is happening more quickly than I had imagined.
The first comes from a post by the Anchoress showing parallels between recent comments by Woody Allen and NYT columnist Tom Friedman. Both men seem to be suffering from a kind of nostalgie du fascisme as opposed to the better known and more bohemian nostalgie de la boue — yearning for the mud — popularized by Orwell and others. (I wish it were the latter).
Woody Allen told Spain’s La Vanguardia that it would be a good idea if Barack Obama could be dictator for a “few years” to overcome obstructionist Republicans. Just a few days later, Friedman fantasized, on Meet the Press yet, that the solution to America’s problems might be to be more like China.
These are liberals? Well, you might say, and you might be right (pace Jonah Goldberg), that this has been their unspoken attitude all along. But publicly, this is crazy stuff. It’s self-destructive. Okay, Woody’s career is close to over, but Friedman still has his spot on the NYT opinion page. Talking about emulating the butchers of Tiananmen, even in jest, makes him sound like a totalitarian nutcase. Why is he spouting this stuff? Why is the governor coming off his motor now?
I’m going to hold my explanation for a moment, though you are probably ahead of me, and move on to a report near the top of Drudge tonight from Real Clear Politics. Apparently, for the first time, those bastions of the most conventional liberalism in our society, the networks, are turning on Obama. Reason: BP and the oil spill. It’s supposed to be Obama’s Katrina. Of course, I no more blame Obama for the spill than I do Bush for Katrina. Nor do I blame either of them for the difficulty in cleaning up these disasters. Those are unfair accusations. There are plenty of things to attack Obama about — like the worst foreign and domestic policies since Andrew Johnson — without having to pin a drilling accident on him, bad as it is. But the media, that never vetted him and have given him a pass on virtually everything, are attacking him now. Why?
They sense — and Woody and Friedman sense with a different reaction — that the Culture Wars are turning. It’s partly the Tea Parties, but it’s more than that. It’s the zeitgeist. The times, they are definitely a-changin’. Liberalism, as we have known it for decades, is on the defensive. With the welfare state unsustainable, it has nowhere to turn and its adherents are turning tail in every direction. They are mad and they are, in many cases, unmoored. Lifetime ideologies are beginning to crumble. Personality constructs are at risk.
What will happen next? Well, nobody knows. We are living in an extreme version of the Chinese curse about living in interesting times. In the near term, look for more desperate remarks like Friedman’s and Allen’s and be grateful for them. They are signs of weakness and insecurity from their side.
Also, it is likely that breaches in the mainstream media will increase. The New York Times, of all places, has recently acknowledged that the European welfare state is in trouble and will have to reform. Could the USA be far behind? The Washington Post today called liberal icon Chuck Schumer “a media-addicted political monster.”
Breaches in the dike indeed. As I said, more to come.