Thursday, December 13, 2012

Liberal Says They Do Control Culture

So you think conservatives overstate the influence the entertainment industry has on our culture, politics, and American youth? I have to thank Rod Dreher for uncovering this amazing article by Jonathan Chait that appeared last August in the progressive magazine, New York. Chait provides an insight into honest liberal thinking as valuable as Lenin’s What is to be Done? into Communism, or Hitler’s Mein Kampf into National Socialism. Read; it’s long, but worth it, and much abbreviated from the full article:

the culture war is an ongoing liberal rout. Hollywood is as liberal as ever, and conservatives have simply despaired of changing it. [One sees] a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. . . the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee . . . The liberal analysis of the economic crisis—that unregulated finance took wild gambles—has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. . . we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures. . . cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. . . political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named “Tex Richman.” 

In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. 

Joe Biden endorsed . . . Will & Grace as the single-most important driving force in transforming public opinion on [gay marriage, confirming] the long-standing fear of conservatives—that a coterie of Hollywood elites . . . had transmuted the cultural majority into a minority. . . from the conservative point of view. . . large chunks of your entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once-uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that might be greeted with revulsion. 

from the outset[,] Hollywood was founded by Jewish immigrants who lived in terror that their Jewishness would make conservative America suspect them of abusing their cultural power. . . Starting in the seventies, popular culture thoroughly shed its postwar timidity and presented an image of America unrecognizable to those weaned on the pristine idealism of the black-and-white years. The moral signifiers that had defined popular culture have not only disappeared but been completely inverted, the heroes turned into villains. A 1991 study found that 40% of all murders on television were committed by businessmen. In Hollywood’s golden age, wrote the conservative film critic Michael Medved, “if a character appeared on screen wearing a clerical collar it served as a sure sign that the audience was supposed to like him.” By the seventies, religion had come to signify hypocrisy, or darker sins. 

we now have a far more precise sense of [the entertainment industry’s] power. . . researchers working for the Inter-American Development Bank [asked why] Brazil had, over the course of four decades, experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. . . The researchers[’ answer]: television. Television spread through Brazil in the mid-sixties. But it . . . expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to [TV] saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t[. What] caused this fertility drop [was] exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night[, each of which centered] around four or five families. . . usually small, so as to limit the number of characters the audience must track. Nearly three quarters of the main female characters of childbearing age in the prime-time novelas had no children, and a fifth had one child. . . a 2009 study. . . detected a similar pattern in India. 

Barack Obama attained such rapid acceptance and popularity in part because he represented the real-world version of an archetype that. . . has appeared in film and television for years: a sober, intelligent African-American as president, or in some other position of power. 

popular culture, in general, promotes liberal values and undercuts conservative values, especially sexual mores. . . If you ask Hollywood liberals [about their] social responsibility, they will happily boast about using their platform to raise their audience’s consciousness about racial tolerance or the environment or distrusting government officials. . . Making money is [the studios’] main goal, but they do blend profit with their artistic sensibility, which is heavily influenced by their ideological perspective.

The need to appeal to the widest possible audience generally drives film and television to avoid displays of overt partisanship, while still smuggling in a message. . . your television . . . is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident. 

[In 2008, Obama] mobilized younger voters by tapping into fears incessantly expressed in movies and television: cultural retrogression (Mad Men), greedy businessmen (The Simpsons), misbegotten wars (Syriana), environmental neglect (Wall-E). The right has no broadcasting device of comparable scope. . . This year. . . the cultural landscape [was] the same, essentially congenial place. 

This capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements. . . undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power. . . We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.

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