During my absence from True North, I’ve studied the intersection of politics, culture, society, and the facets of these things that bounce off one another. This isn’t something others haven’t considered. I have no new insights and I’m no wiser than I was. However, I have gained a different perspective in these past few months. Conservatives are getting their asses handed to them for one reason or one reason or another. We don’t GET the cultural part of the equation when battling the issues of the day.
“What?” you may ask. Here’s my response. We don’t GET the importance of cultural influences on the subconscious of the social American mind. Let me see if I can explain my idea.
Why would an influential cultural institution like Hollywood create bizarre narratives like “Sister Wives” and “Big Love” if not to alter social perceptions?
There is no reason to inject this kind of wild inoculation of distaste toward a small isolated religious group than to poison the mind of the larger audience. This isn’t a strange conspiracy I’ve conjured up. This is what the progressive/socialist left does to sell its product to others. When they can’t engage in thoughtful discussion resulting in broad appeal and success, they resort to using propaganda to twist the narrative.
Again, this isn’t a new and novel idea I’ve dreamed up. But, I’ve come to appreciate how powerful these strategies are in changing people’s minds. Most people aren’t engaged in the individual arguments that occur daily in politics or policy. Most Americans live their lives believing that the interplay of culture and society are simply stories or thoughtful expressions that have little to do with their everyday lives.
Nothing, in the age of social media and the politicization of everything, could be further from the truth. We are influenced from day to day by the things we watch, the jokes and comments we hear, and the iconic narratives pursued by the media and artists around us. This means culture matters and we do change our ideas as a result of the cloud of concepts permeating society.
Our first reaction may be to shut it out. Stop listening. Decry those ideas and move on. Problem is that doesn’t work. It isolates us further. If we aren’t part of the culture, we are outside it and that makes us look weird. Conservatives seem out of place, and for good reason. We are out of place, the place the everyday person mingles and interacts with others. Let me explain it this way.
Our culture helps mold us, but it doesn’t recreate us. As David Mamet observes in his book ‘The Secret Knowledge on the Dismantling of American Culture’ notes:
“Not only will the audience endorse what it chooses irrespective of cajolery, but it will communicate its preferences instantly and without apparent intervention of traditional forms of discourse or of cogitation. For the audience reacts preconsciously; it will laugh, cry, fall asleep, gasp, or leave, without reference to reason, as a conjoined entity making its decision in an unpredictable fashion, according to unstatable goals.” Page 20.
In other words, the audience isn’t as compliant as the propagandist would like, if there are other stimuli to influence it. We can present a better case and a better outcome if we want to. But, that means getting out there and presenting a case in a way that speaks to others powerfully. Mamet is a playwright and he knows that audiences aren’t sheep; however, they are willing to be influenced.
If we want to make a difference, we need to do so culturally. We can’t do so merely with argument and rhetoric because that doesn’t reach enough people. We need to do so by speaking to the broader audience’s deepest desires.
Easy enough for you to say. Lots of people have spoken about influencing culture and the pervasive influence of Hollywood and the mainstream media. What new understanding do you bring?
Glad you asked.
We can create an alternative political media and argue the issues of the day, but if we don’t reach the larger audience, our voices become moot. Therefore, we must engage the subjects and remind others of the bigger picture that speaks to everyone. We must make cultural influences the focus of our talents to bring the whole scene into focus. It is the propagandist’s secret that limiting other voices is the key to brainwashing others. If we create a body of work that distracts from the narrow minded viewpoint of the left, we will win.
Andrew Breitbart got this. He just died before he could bring his vision into full fruition. From ‘Righteous Indignation’ he says:
“The army of the emboldened and gleefully ill-informed is growing. Group-think happens, and we have to take it head-on. The Frankfurt School knew that – that’s why they won the culture war and then, on its back, the political war. We can do the same, but we have to be willing to enter the arena.”
Breitbart believed that meant engaging the left on television and other forms of political media. But, I have come to believe he wasn’t entirely correct. He identified the problem but his solution wasn’t complete. It is only by engaging the larger questions culturally that we can win this intellectual battle. We have to engage the bigger social questions of the day to make our case.
For example, I have been reading an enormous amount of gay fiction over the past few months. For the most part, the themes inherent in this suggest that our families and religion are enemies. Government is the savior of all that is good and right in the world. These stories argue that if we just have “friends” in places of power, we can “make” others respect us.
Really, quite a load of poppy-cock and drivel but it caters to the audience. As Mamet suggests, the audience will suspend its disbelief and believe if it wants to. If the only themes inherent in our culture are the savior of government, eventually that idea will win out. When we abdicate the fight, it is presumed we have no case.
For this reason, I’ve started writing gay fiction. Yeah, I know. Lame. Or is it? I have written stories about how family and friends, and not government, are there to make our lives better. I have written about the power of an individual voluntarily caring enough to help their fellow man. These are important ideas because it undercuts the leftwing ideal that government is our salvation, our only hope. It isn’t. It is merely a tool in our arsenal that most of the time doesn’t really work very well.
What I’m doing is presenting another aspect of conservatism. I invoke themes of caring for one another without government trying to “fix” our every need. This does several things at once. First, it lays out the importance of our other institutions like religion and family to our basic needs. Second, it builds the groundwork for larger themes like voluntary interactions and independent thought. But, the most important thing it does is create a positive case for conservatism. I continue to be thrilled by the reactions I get when people discover a gay person can be a principled conservative. They display a mix of shock, frustration and confusion that makes them rethink the entire progressive narrative.
We can’t just argue, cajole or criticize our way to influencing others. We must create a body of positive cultural work that converses and doesn’t lecture our ideas to others. This isn’t something that can be done in a week or an election cycle. We’ve let this go on too long for a quick fix. We won’t get society to recognize the deficits of Neo-Marxism in a news story or a Tweet. But, we can begin to mold a case going forward.
I realize this is a strange tale to tell. I know that many see creating cultural narratives as superfluous to the needs of our current political disaster. But, it’s what I’ve come to realize and it is my own small personal solution for the long haul. It is only when good people do the small but necessary things that we see minds change. I believed for a time that I could achieve goals by making precise and powerful arguments. I’ve since changed my tune.
By creating another, more positive narrative that reflects our better angels, we can move the ball forward. It is over the dinner table and in our most inner thoughts that we begin to see truth. Rarely do epiphanies change our modes of thinking without the necessary groundwork first. Usually these changes are gradual until all of a sudden we wake up and say, “That’s ridiculous” or “Makes sense.” I think that is the greater ideal inherent in Breitbart and Mamet’s suggestions. By creating cultural suggestions that respect facets of society other than government, we can wean the kneejerk tendencies of the populace.
Dwight Schrute from ‘The Office’ stated you must “present” the “money beets” to make the sale. I think we may need to take his advice. We need to highlight our cultural case in the best light. We must do so without the political or partisan baggage that distracts from the topic. Perhaps, we can grow an understanding that government isn’t the final solution to our problems. It is only then, we will begin seeing more questioning of the left’s narrative.
That doesn’t mean the rest doesn’t matter. Of course we need to question the inexplicable arguments and the falsehoods that are presented. But we also must put the “money beets” up front. We need a cultural revolution in our thinking and our planning. It is only when that comes to fruition we will see actual changes in perception. At least, that’s my working thesis.