The Roots of Pop Culture

Writing for, Mike Flynn opines that electoral defeat for conservatives is inevitable.  Mr. Flynn asserts that both culture and ethics precede politics.  Conservatives, having conceded the former two to the Left, have consigned themselves to ultimate failure in the latter.

Conceptually I agree with Flynn but believe he stops short of reaching the essential point.

The influence of culture on ethics and politics should be self-evident.  Hollywood support of WWII set a national tone of solidarity that drowned out opposition, so much so that 70 years later we forget there was any.  By the Vietnam era only John Wayne remained to replicate the effort.

A powerful example of the commitment to utilize culture to promote values or behavior – political or otherwise – comes from the Inklings, an informal fellowship that featured J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, among other.  Together they determined to reclaim some culture influence for tradition.  They beget enduring standard-bearers.

Flynn offers a dim view of conservative attempts to direct the cultural zeitgeist.  He fails to acknowledge the overt, sometimes ham-fisted, products of evangelicals, like Kirk Cameron, or the Randians behind the Atlas Shrugged movies.  Equally ignored by Flynn are those stories of individual heroism that are not intentionally political but can only be told with a deeply conservative bias as evidenced by Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

In comedy, music, and television, especially late night and talk formats, Flynn is correct.  The Right has vanished.  Yet, popular culture is but a branch off the trunk of national culture.  The roots that feed the trunk lay in education.

Rather than produce and promote alternative outlets conservatives need to take back lost institutions, notably higher education.  The academy is the well-spring of the broader culture and the training of K-12 educators.

The loss of an influential role in higher education is the focus of a new book by David Gelernter, a Yale professor of computer science.  In the unfortunately titled America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture, Gelernter analyzes the transfer/takeover of the institutions created by old guard WASPs to their ruin at the hands globalist intellectuals.  The title is unfortunate because it sounds like, and has been marketed as such, a shallow partisan rant; more like something from Michael Savage than a well-researched and penetrating critique.

The Gelernter book is a useful read in its description of a cultural revolution centered in the universities that ultimately transformed America from a patriotic, proud, self-assured nation, to Europeanized land of flexible morality, a disdain for tradition, and cynicism.  The real question, in light of the Flynn observation and re-election of President Obama, is what can be done?


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