Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How To Win The Culture War. . .

Yesterday, I tried to point out why it’s so important that conservatives “take back” the culture. If we leave things as they are, we will continue to face a massive uphill battle in getting conservative ideas put into practice. As the culture now stands, our views are ridiculed and mischaracterized by media outlets; movies, books and songs instill a fundamental pro-leftist/anti-conservative theme into all of our entertainment, to the point of making such beliefs a reflex response; and the constant assault creates a visceral anti-conservatism. This must end.

How to end that is the question. Before we discuss that, however, let’s talk about what our goals should be.

Many argue that because the left controls the levers of cultural power, we would be best served creating an alternative, “conservative” cultural structure. Presumably, the conservative product turned out by that structure would appeal to so many people that the current structure dominated by leftists would collapse.

I think this plan works for newspapers and it works for political publishing, because people today look to the news and political books largely to have their own views confirmed. But this won’t work to change the culture. In fact, I think this would be dangerously counter-productive.

Indeed, while replacing leftist propaganda with conservative propaganda has a certain appeal, it’s still propaganda. It is a fact of human nature that when someone with a stated bias makes a statement, we dismiss their comment as being shaded to reflect that bias. Affirmatively creating “conservative work” would run headlong into that wall. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that people would consider “conservative work” to be any better than what comes out of Hollywood now. Even worse, so long as the establishment continues to insist that they aren’t political, this new “conservative work” might even find itself rejected for being the only “real” propaganda out there. Thus, at best, this approach leads to an unhelpful “he said, she said” situation (which gives the left an equivalence it does not deserve). But, more worryingly, it also runs the risk of ending up in a “we-biased, them-not” situation that could prove disastrous.

Secondly, this is a war over credibility. And frankly, I doubt that there is sufficient conservative talent to create an alternative structure that could generate product that is on a par with what is currently being produced by the leftist establishment. First, they have access to resources that would take us decades to duplicate, and they have the advantage of existing contractual relationships with retailers and distributors (often exclusive relationships). Secondly, it’s fairly obvious that leftists far outnumber rightist in the culture industries, not to mention that with the likely blacklisting of anyone who associates with this new conservative alternative, it will be a huge risk for talent to shift over. Thus, we will be hard pressed to find talent. And that lack of talent is likely to lead to poor product, which will only strengthen the damaging stereotype that conservatives have nothing to offer when it comes to culture.

As I said in one of the comments, if you lined up the talent that would be available to the right against the talent currently available on the left, it would appear (using a military analogy) that the left is the United States military and the right is a local police force. That’s a battle we can’t win, nor should we try -- a poor start could permanently damage credibility, leading to a destructive downward spiral. Instead, we need to fight asymmetrically.

So what do I recommend? Well, for starters, I think the problem isn’t the lack of conservative product in the culture, the real problem is that our culture is too political.

For thirty years now, the left has struggled to make everything into a political issue. There aren’t enough women bosses on television? Protest. Kids shows don’t have positive gay stereotypes? Protest. Do you ever wonder why the only people who can be made fun of in advertising are white males? It’s because white males are the only interest group that won’t flood the sponsor with angry mail. It’s all about path of least resistance for sponsors. Do you want to know why a collection of 32 mostly-Republican NFL owners made it clear they didn’t want Rush to own an NFL team? It’s not that they don’t like him, but they feared the protests they knew would come.

Ok, so what does this mean for a solution?

First, I think it means that our goal should be to “de-politicize the culture,” meaning we should strive for a balance, where the political left and the political right can both do their advocacy pieces, but with the vast majority of cultural product remaining apolitical. In other words, we should strive for a world where the political is clearly marked as such, and the rest is silent on political issues.

How do we do that? Well, that’s the interesting part. While these industries are dominated by leftists (who don’t tolerate dissent), they are all public corporations with shareholders (who don’t tolerate poor economic performance). That gives us a range of options:
1. Stop spending money on product with leftist messages. If a movie or television show includes leftist messages, don’t pay to see it, don’t buy it, and don’t buy any associated merchandise. It if becomes unprofitable to include these messages, the moneymen who run these companies will put an end to them.

2. Attack the sponsors. Let every single sponsor of these shows or movies or magazines know that this is unacceptable. Be vocal. But be clear in your complaint. Explain to them exactly what you object to. Make it clear that you will hold that view against the sponsor’s product and will extend your boycott to that sponsor. And band together for maximum effect.

3. Support products that don’t include these offending messages. I’m not talking about products that also include conservative ideas (or what someone claims is a conservative idea), I’m talking about supporting only products that entirely disclaim leftist propaganda.

4. Start looking at the idea of minority shareholder suits. The left has been attacking corporations for years over anything they haven’t liked. If a company uses animal testing, supported South Africa, or didn’t do enough leftist charity, the left organized minority shareholder suits to attack those policies. Do the same.
In this regard, it might even be smart to set up a conservative boycott network where conservatives can identify which products to support and to boycott, and the reasons for that. This could help average conservatives know what products to avoid -- just as the left passed the word to avoid things like dolphinated-tuna. This could also help people refine their complaints. Many people simply don’t know how to construct a criticism that will make sense and be effective, and if you can’t tell a sponsor exactly what you didn’t like, they won’t know how to correct their behavior in the future. This network (particularly if it's on line) could also serve as a warning (guidance) to potential sponsors.

However, I would give two words of caution in the creation of such a network. First, it needs to avoid the confrontational boycott style pursued by many church groups. That only boosts the public’s interest and can be exploited by producers to improve the marketing of their products. I would suggest specifically declining all interviews intended to address individual products. Secondly, whoever runs such a network must really understand when something truly deserves to be criticized. Too much criticism these days is reflexive (aimed at undeserving targets) or heavy handed (turning molehills into mountains) or scattershot (hitting so many targets that it comes to appear paranoid). Some people mistake conservative messages for liberal ones (and vice versa) and others confuse their own tastes with conservative principle (see my article on conservative films to see what I’m talking about). That needs to be carefully controlled to keep the message from being muddied. Less is more in this instance.

Finally, I would also say that conservatives as a group need to change their thinking about culture. Infiltrate my friends, infiltrate:
1. Conservative creative types need to learn to network and to help each other out. That’s the oldest recipe for success. Follow it. And work to change the industry from the inside, even if you have to pretend to be a liberal to do it.

2. Hone your craft. Too many “open” conservatives rely on the public’s thirst for conservative material to get away with producing crap. Shape up or shut up.

3. Conservative moneymen need to start investing in conservative creative types, even when they aren't working on overtly conservative projects. Remember, networking is about long term gain.

4. The rest of us need to drop the idea that somehow the culture is insignificant or unworthy of pursuing as a profession. We need to encourage conservative kids to go into culture just as much as we encourage them to go into business or science.

5. Finally, reject the people who offer criticism after proudly proclaiming their ignorance. "I ain't never seen a movie, but here's what I think. . ." only discredits our cause.


Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - why do you suppose so many artists are lefties? Conservatives are seen as old white men fighting to retain the power they have exploited from everybody else. Maybe the issue is to try and paint ourselves as the new outsiders, no?

Unknown said...

Andrew: Sounds like a plan. Tennessee's right about too many people seeing us as old white men fighting the power they have exploited from everybody else. But that image could be changed. Maybe I'll get my son to reactivate his band--The Screaming Yellow Weenie Heads (long story).

Opus #6 said...

One major project in re-taking our culture has to be getting leftist curriculum out of the schools. Or at least getting a balanced curriculum, with ACCURATE history. They barrage our children for years with their message and we wonder why the young people fall for a snake-oil salesman like Obama.

Why did the CA teacher's association give 1 MILLION DOLLARS to defeat Prop 8 (protection of marriage). There is something VERY wrong in the school system and in the teachers' unions.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think the reason that artists tend to be leftists goes back to the short-term, long term thing.

To become a star, you need to run off to a place like Hollywood and hope to be discovered. That makes no sense to long term thinkers. They understand that the chance of success is minimal, so they look at that like wasting time -- they see it as going to Hollywood and wasting time for some period versus starting a career.

But the short term thinkers see it differently. They don't worry about the long term (the career). To them, it's just a simple choice between working where they are or working in Hollywood with the chance of becoming famous.

Thus, short term thinkers are much more likely to head to Hollywood to become stars. Thus, they are much more likely to become stars.

Since short term thinkers tend to believe in liberal ideas (for reasons previously discussed), Hollywood gets populated with liberals.

It's adverse selection in action.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think that changing the image will take (1) the Republicans no longer selecting ancient white guys as their candidates, (2) a collective effort to stop associating our side with people who love to proclaim that they will have nothing to do with the culture, (3) dropping the rhetoric about "real Americans" not living in the urban centers, and (4) a series of successful conservatives within the industry.

AndrewPrice said...

Opus 6, Schools are a different issue -- this post would have been way too long for me to go into that as well. But you're right, we really need to address that as well. That goes to issues of unions and education departments.

Writer X said...

One of the issues taking hold in the country/culture right now is the overboardness of political correctness, highlighted by the Fort Hood murders. To steal Jed's idea about becoming the new outsiders, I think anyone who challenges PCness in Hollywood, art, books (although it is easier to get away with it in books)could attract an eager, hungry following, perhaps even a mixture of conservatives, independents, and democrats. I think all rational-thinking people have had their fill of being PC. Maybe that's a way of gaining a foothold and starting a revolution in revamping the culture.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I think that the recent success of conservative films and books has shown that there is a market for these things. I think that has gotten the attention of the gatekeepers with the money.

Now we need to exploit that success. That requires the concerted effort I've talked about in the article. If we don't have people in the industry, if we don't continue to show that we will support these efforts, if we don't start rejecting leftist fare, then they'll just pay us some lip service to placate us and then it will be right back to where we were.

ScottDS said...

I admit, while I totally understand, I'm not the biggest fan of boycotts. Take NBC for example - someone doesn't like Keith Olbermann so, in theory, they boycott ALL of NBC's networks... which means perfectly apolitical shows like Community and The Office and right-friendly shows like Chuck (and even Burn Notice on USA) can suffer.

Of course, that's a whole network. Better to boycott Keith's individual sponsors...?

Also, as we have observed, people are quick to judge... and that all goes back to what makes a movie conservative (or liberal). A character whining about how George Bush helps cause global warming... okay. A character simply recycling a bottle... not exactly Gore-style eco-propaganda... but I bet there are some who'd change the channel at the mere mention of something like recycling at this point. (Just an example.)

Besides, try as we might, even apolitical movies and TV shows will go through the ringer in today's politicized, Twitterized, 24/7 news culture. Sad but true for everyone involved.

ScottDS said...

One more thing... it seems there are really two factors at work... left-leaning entertainment and left-leaning creators of entertainment.

From reading BH (again, just an example), some might boycott a certain movie because of its political plot... others might boycott an apolitical movie because of the actor who's starring in it.

Take Lost for example. People seem to dig it but the minute Matthew Fox says something even remotely offensive (he hasn't, this is just a hypothetical situation), certain people will then refuse to watch the show. Inversely, if an actor turns out to be right-leaning, some folks will flock to their latest POS movie!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's why I caution that less is more, and why I think some sort of organization would be best.

By grouping together, you not only increase the power of a boycott, but also tend to control the worst instincts of the crowd, because the leaders (usually) understand that they need to pick only genuine targets so that they send a clear message.

As for your concern about a film being punished for selecting an actor who says offensive things, that's the point? If producers know that they will suffer if their lead actor goes on a political tirade, then they either won't allow it or they won't hire that actor again.

And if you think that's unfair, substitute the word "racist" for "offensive" in your question and see if it still bothers you that people would be punished for hiring that person.

ScottDS said...

Andrew - I know that's the point, I was merely pointing it out. :-) (And no, I don't think it's unfair - I guess I just feel bad for the good people who might suffer.)

I'll say this... if I were a producer on the A-list like, say, Jerry Bruckheimer, I would have it written in the actors' contracts: "Do not say anything to the media which can be deemed controversial either morally, spiritually, or politically." Some actors might play the 1st Amendment card but others would comply.

And that still wouldn't stop Letterman and Leno from asking questions like, "So, you have this new movie about robot vampires coming out... tell me, what do you think about the economy?" :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I agree that it's unfair to the good people who work on a project and have no control over content, but they also aren't likely to be hurt.

The people who will get hurt are the money guys at the top who choose to ignore the warning signs, and the actors who insist on saying offensive things.

The people you're talking about would still get their salaries. And I don't think this would result in fewer work opportunities either, because the demand for films would not decrease -- it would just shift from certain types of films to other types.

By the way, it tends to be implicit in most industries that they will fire you if you do something wrong or say something wrong. In some high profile professions, like sports and with endorsements, they include morals clauses that not only get you fired, but allow damages if you are fired for cause.

Tennessee Jed said...

So many good comments today on this excellent topic.

While thinking about them, it ocurred to me that one fundamental difference between a lot of Democrats and Republicans is how they see the role of government. Democrats tend to see big business as pretty intrusive and corrupt and see government as a force of good to hold business in check and help out "the little guy." Republicans tend to see government as something that limits individual freedom, self-responsibility, and is ultimately even more corrupt than big business. We just want kids to be able to hear and laugh at jokes about Democrats once in awhile, not have it all one way all the time. Or even better, get away from the heavy politics all the time.

Many of us grew up in a time where it was considered bad form to bad mouth people's religion and politics. That seems so long ago. But it is true, I really merely want the culture to get back to a more apolitical atmosphere. Or at least be honest in the depiction of "edgy" topics. On an earlier thread, I talked about J.A.G. One of the things that made that series so good is it would tackle tough issues, but without a specific agenda (usually leftist) that seems so prevalent in the industry. They actually examined both sides of the issue.

Scott, it is hard for me to boycott artists. Normally, it feels right to enjoy a person's art without examining their individual actions. Unfortunately, though, it does seem as if those who spoke out loudest against the Bush Administration were continuously rewarded with acting jobs. Was Janine Garofolo really necessary for "24" because of her acting skill? I would never boycott NBC strictly because of, say, Keith Olberman, but Jeffrey Immelt (spelling?) gives me more than ample reasons not to go out of my way to watch that network.

And it is hard to boycott on a number of emotional levels. Here I went and saw the Grateful Dead this year after they had gone out of their way to do fundraisers for Obama. Now these guys are hippies and of course they are communalists. But over the years they had pretty much maintained a relatively low profile in traditional politics. It seems counter-intuitive to support them knowing I am indirectly contributing to him, but I do love their music.

O.K. I slipped into evening stream of conciousness, here --sorry!

ScottDS said...

No problem, Tennessee!

(By the way, I responded to your question about actors in the open thread.)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Good comment. I think you put your finger on another huge difference between right and left, which explains how this situation got to where it is -- you are willing to tolerate people of different political stripes, the left is not. That's why it's so much easier for them to arrange boycotts and why they are quicker to complain to sponsors.

StanH said...

I know I’m late but, conservatism is natural or free, liberalism is unnatural or a kind of bondage, or chains to be broken. In my mind these two happen naturally sometime to the liberal writers amazement, like “V.” You look at the most successful movies of the past ten years, conservatism (freedom)is preeminent, even if the director didn’t mean it. The Passion, Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings, etc. All great movies have the element of freedom. Some movies use a sledge hammer to drive the point home like “The Lives of Others,” about East Germany behind the Iron Curtain. I’ve never heard even a Democrat, saying, “boy, wouldn’t it be cool to live under the East German Stasi,” moonbats excluded.

Boycott: This is our real power. He who controls the purse, the mind and ass will follow. Anybody who thinks that Boards and CEOs, CFOs, etc. don’t care what the stockholders or customers think, are inexperienced in business, they absolutely do. If this were a military campaign, and we did a quick perusal of assets, as an overall, conservatives win the money category hands down, (not the super rich liberal) but the middle to upper middle class, small business owners. If in some way we could organize we could stop the country. We could have businesses, the political class, etc. shaking in their boots. I’ll stop now.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I agree. We have a huge amount of power because these companies need us to spend our money for them to succeed. It's time to start exercising that power!

patti said...

one just needs to look to the country music industry to know it conservative culture can be done and that's there a buck to be made. the only downside is that we might run over our dogs and drink our way blind. but, given what awaits us now, i say pass the drinks and kiss your pooch goodbye...

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, That's a very good example of where conservatives do dominate part of the culture. Conservatives also are now strong in publishing

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