In Part One of this series, I brought up a question few are asking: what are the victory conditions of the Culture War?
The monopolistic control over mass media that progressives enjoy makes a conservative victory impossible, however you might define victory.
But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight.
Before getting onto the field, you should learn about the enemy, and one of the best primers for this is Andrew Klavan’s essay “The Crisis in the Arts: Why the Left Owns the Culture and How Conservatives Can Begin to Take It Back.” In it, Klavan describes the leftist stranglehold on art, what art is supposed to achieve and what conservative art looks like. Klavan also argues that we shouldn’t cede the artistic field to the left, and he’s correct.
Unfortunately, the piece is already dated, even though it was published in 2014. Events have outstripped Klavan’s sentiments in a way no one could have predicted, culminating in Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency and the mass media tantrum that followed. It’s scorched earth everywhere today.
Some sentiments have aged gracefully.
“If we stop worrying about the unpleasant actions and events that take place in some art, if we stop fanning our faces over the evil characters who live in some imaginary worlds…we begin to see that the real trouble we face in the arts is two-fold: blacklisting and lies.”
Fair enough. I can get behind that. I work so blue that I’ve gone into indigo. But it’s not a winning strategy. It’s a suggestion. There are no winning strategies. We haven’t won anything yet. Not a single carve-out.
The difference between a strategy and a tactic is time. A tactic is short-term. A strategy is long-term, and made up of many tactics. Your best tactic, the one that conveys the most satisfaction for you and does the most damage to the enemy, is humor.
The reason why progressives are so terrible at comedy, memes, or simply making normal people laugh today is because once you become the establishment, you stop being funny.
With control over culture, education, news media, and entertainment media, the progressive left is the very definition of the establishment. You can’t be funny once you start taking yourself seriously, and the left takes itself very, VERY seriously.
Your material can be clever, but your audience will see right through you. We can’t laugh WITH a finger-wagging scold, but we can laugh AT one. That’s the point of comedy.
What’s the one thing a scold can’t stand? It isn’t defiance. Scolds expect defiance.
In “God in the Dock: Essays on Theology,” C.S. Lewis said:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
So it’s not resistance that scolds can’t abide. What scolds can’t stand is being ridiculed. It drives them crazy.
Remember the NPC meme, when normal people mocked the progressive left for its robotic adherence to unexamined and contradictory talking points? Twitter suspended accounts that used the meme because it made progressives incredibly angry.
Other banned forms of mockery include saying “Learn to code,” at journalists. If it wasn’t a good tactic, social media companies wouldn’t ban it.
College campuses, where budding scolds go to learn how to become professional crybullies, no longer host famous comedians because students can’t take a joke. They get triggered and cry, they engage in protests, they write angry screeds online with the intent of getting people fired from their jobs.
Because someone said something that they decided to take offense at. There’s no difference in skin thickness between a snowflake college student and any other progressive leftist. Humor is hate speech.
That’s what makes ridicule the best tactic available. If the progressive left can’t stand being ridiculed, it’s your duty to mock them again and again and again. You don’t win a fight, a battle, or a Culture War by letting the enemy determine the rules of engagement.
When they show you that your technique is working, you do it harder.
Angry people make mistakes, so make them furious. They’re going to call you a racist, a bigot, a sexist and a Nazi anyway, so you might as well get under their skin every chance you get.
The more words they ban, the easier it is to get them to break their own rules. What have you got to lose?
The other tactic is opting out. It’s amazing what you don’t miss when you recognize you don’t really need it.
A growing number of directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors hold you in contempt, and have developed an unbelievable comfort level with expressing their scorn. Why would you give them your time and money in return?
No, I don’t care what Michael Shannon thinks about Trump voters, but when you reward him and all of his buddies with your money, you’re accepting his insults. You wouldn’t patronize a grocery store where the stock clerks call you an idiot, would you? Then why accept this?
In “Crisis in the Arts,” Klavan says, “The right’s response to the left’s takeover of the arts has been panic, red-faced outrage and stay-at-home philistinism.” You’re not a Philistine if you refuse to subsidize a star’s insulting rants. Staying at home when the next Brie Larson movie comes out isn’t ceding control of art to the progressive left; it’s a refusal to help pay her salary.
You have to decide where the line’s drawn, and if there’s anything an actor, producer, studio, or industry can do that would cause you to stop funding them. None of us want to sit there and make stupid political decisions about every little television show we watch, but we are right now living the consequences of not doing that.
We let the left take over the culture because we were too busy trying to make the economic case for conservatism, not the cultural one. We let the libertarians in conservatism set the agenda. That was a terrible mistake that will take decades to overcome.
You don’t have to watch what Hollywood puts out. You can decide that your attention is better spent doing a thousand other things. Or, if you must suckle the glass teat, go indie or foreign. If the culture is important to you, you’ll make choices that reflect where your priorities lie.
It doesn’t make you a red-faced Philistine. People, whether they’re children, actors, directors, or CEOs, get away with what we let them get away with.
You can unplug. You can decide that you’ve had enough, and you won’t participate in a system that seeks to incorporate poisonous progressive talking points into its raison d’être. Ease has made us lazy, me included. What, if anything, are you willing to give up?
Producing conservative art isn’t a bad idea, but it’s not the answer. Your favorite conservative author/director is terrific at throwing you red meat, but a couple of popular books and/or movies will not move the needle.
You know that. You know what we face. Laugh at them. Show them they have no power over you.
Is there really a “we” in the Culture War? Who are your allies? Who’s fighting alongside you? I’ll address that in Part 3, but you will not like the answer.
David Dubrow is a writer who’s tired of reading subtitles on foreign films. Check out his Armageddon trilogy of Biblical horror/fantasy novels and the Appalling Stories series. Find him yelling at clouds on his web site.