Right-Wing Political Correctness, Ch. 356

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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36 Responses

  1. Avatar Ian Dosland says:

    You make a very valid point. I see this a lot, especially in the arts. I like where you’re coming from and would really like you to post on my website! Great article! -IanReport

  2. (Reminder to all reader-bloggers: the surest way to get a link from me is to write about right-wing political correctness).

    So noted.Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Good post Mark. Have you read Julian Sanchez on this yet? Here.Report

  4. I concur with your critique of the Right’s general tendency to make everything political and to wallow in perpetual victimhood. Yet, I want to push back a bit on the whole PC-ism of the 80’s and 90’s. I was an undergrad during those years and I was also VERY conservative. So I bought into the whole anti-PC stuff. But with the benefit of time and experience, I really think most of the alleged Political Correctness was really made up bullshit. Did some folks in the liberal arts push for greater diversity in curricula? Sure, and some of their selections may not have been up to par. But most of the bloviating came from revanchist rightwingers who feared that THEIR (dominant, hetero, white, Christian) culture might be challenged by any outside group.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Justin_Anderson says:

      Bingo. Except for a few small things.

      I was a mom of two children attending public schools in Brookline, MA in the 1990’s. Schools where 40% of the students were born in other countries; where there were dozens of native languages and many differing calls to worship.

      I saw an evangelical parent flip out when a kindergarten teacher did a segment on night terrors, (common to the age,) during Halloween, culminating in building a shadow box of their own ‘nightmares;’ he condemned the teacher for teaching devil worship. I saw a Jewish parent sue when his children colored Santas in the afters-school program. And at Christmas, I saw decorations for Kwanza, menorahs, etc., but never a Christmas tree, Santa, or (Heaven forbid,) a cross.

      The varied student body and liberal-elite parent body certainly made this PC ground central; and I agree with much of your interpretation; most of ‘PC’ was about helping children see the world as the the kind of multi-cultural environment these schools lived every day; and these were very good places to go to school because there were so many kinds of people there.

      But there were many with liberal PC mindsets and victim mentalities that were horribly offensive; and they were just as silly as the characters Mark describes.Report

  5. I am the last person to defend busy-body conservative moralists, and this dwindling group is the only group of conservatives I can think of who fit this characterization. What baffles me is that recently I’ve read several of these posts – I just can’t figure the motive for this sudden concern for a dwindling group of conservatives who are poltically irrelevant. I know lots of conservatives who don’t give flying fig what others view on tv, appreciate in art or wear or who they sleep with, as long as government stays out of their business. Perhaps I’m missing something — can you lead me to some evidence of the widespread problem of conservative PC? Otherwise, this seems to lack relevance. I hear a lot from the left about how people should live and what should be prohibited, but not that much from the right, except that government should stop spending so much money and regulating so much of the economy. Surely I’m missing something.Report

    • I’m not talking about conservative moralists here; I’m talking about the self-victimization that seems to lead conservatives to think that they (and their way of life) are constantly under attack. Things like the War on the War on Christmas; the blogospheric freak-out when Sesame Street lampooned Fox News (in the same bit as it lampooned every media outlet, by the way); the freak out over Meghan McCain and/or Rachel Ray wearing something that kinda sorta might have been a keffiyeh and thus might possibly somehow have been interpreted as support for terrorism; the freak out over an Absolut ad only displayed in Mexico; the adulation heaped on a guy who tore down a Mexican flag hanging on private property; and so on.Report

  6. Avatar Trumwill says:

    I agree and disagree. No argument that conservatives tend to believe art that represents viewpoints to which they are opposed is bad while the opposite is good regardless of actual artistic merit. At the same time, though, it’s difficult to ask what the difference would be if the shoe were on the other foot because there really is very little “conservative” entertainment for liberals to accept or reject on its merits. There are no real conservative counterparts to Boston Legal, The West Wing, and so on. All there is are shows that are generally non-political shows embraced by the conservatives and shows like 24, which feel the need to temper their conservatism with liberal plot-points (the enemies aren’t really the terrorists – they’re being directed by white guys in suits! Who work for Big Oil! And the defense industry!).

    That being said, a whopping good portion of the blame for this falls on the shoulders of what you might call the “PC Right”. As you point out, they don’t embrace art for art’s sake. When you make it all about the politics, you end up with something that doesn’t have the things that made The West Wing and Boston Legal work for people that aren’t in the choir. They are their own worst enemy in this regard.

    My main complaint in all of this is not so much that I have conservative views that are not adequately represented. In fact, I would like to see the conservative views I disagree with just as much as the ones I do (just as I enjoyed The West Wing when it was advocating positions I don’t agree with). My main problem is that it often makes the shows predictable and it leaves a lot of potentially interesting television shows and movies unmade. Unfortunately, conservatives don’t seem as interested in that as they are in pushing their viewpoint.Report

  7. “Unfortunately, conservatives don’t seem as interested in that as they are in pushing their viewpoint.”

    So, what makes you think this? You mean, it’s a bigger problem than liberals wanting their viewpoints pushed? The problem is that the “liberal” (I said I wasn’t going to use this word anymore since it’s been defiled, but “statist” seems to upset people) viewpoint is main viewpoint in art, so it seems like the normal viewpoint. It’s like the white viewpoint being the dominant viewpoint in entertainment. I think most people simply want more diversity, something that represents the diverse viewpoints in reality. The views on West Wing represent a small, white, liberal, northeastern perspective. I think this is the biggest problem, not that people want conservative, or black, or female, or hispanic, or Peoria entertainment, 24/7.

    There is absolutely no libertarian representation in entertainment. I’m not whining or trying to be PC, simply stating that entertainment reflects the liberal views of the entertainment industry. That’s boring.

    Art for art’s sake went out when every artist started making a political or social statement with art. I don’t think conservatives from Bainbridge Ga started this trend. This concern over Conservative PC is a tempest in a teapot.Report

    • “There is absolutely no libertarian representation in entertainment.”

      I disagree strongly with this. To the extent there is any right-of-center representation in the arts at all, it is almost exclusively of the libertarian variety, and I can think of quite a few Hollywood types with libertarian leanings – Ron Paul fans, Ayn Rand devotees, etc.

      “Art for art’s sake went out when every artist started making a political or social statement with art.”

      Then art for art’s sake never existed. Good art is inherently expressive in some fashion, and it’s impossible to divorce one’s political, social, or religious beliefs from one’s art. If you want art that is purely aesthetic and not at all a political or social statement of some sort (even if unintentionally and subtly), then you’re pretty much left with a blank canvas.

      The Wire isn’t good art because of its politics, even though its politics are inseparable from the show; it’s good art because it’s well directed, well acted, and vividly written. Similarly, The Incredibles wasn’t a good movie because of its unabashed libertarianism; it was a good movie because it was well-written, amusing, vividly animated, etc. George Carlin wasn’t a great comedian because he was a fairly unabashed liberal; he was a great comedian because he understood comedy, was creative, and had impeccable comedic timing.

      And creativity’s the big thing when it comes to art. Otherwise, you’re just stealing the same old stuff that’s been around for years, decades, centuries, or even millenia and repackaging it for your own purposes.Report

      • then why expect conservatives to love art for art’s sake — that’s what some were arguing?Report

        • There was a time when conservatives were able to sit back and enjoy a movie with an open mind, without feeling the need to prioritize how it portrayed their political sensibilities, when conservatives were able to say “I don’t agree with the movie’s message, but it’s an entertaining flick that raises some interesting points, is beautifully scripted, and a lot of fun.” Nowadays, when conservatives criticize art, the only thing that matters is the political message portrayed (Sonny Bunch and Peter Suderman excepted, of course). See, e.g., the Curb Your Enthusiasm fooferaw.Report

          • You don’t feel uncomfortable talking for all conservatives? I would. I have no idea how conservatives enjoy art and entertainment today — the curb your enthusiam episode was controversial and bound to offend Christians, but I wouldn’t say all conservatives reacted the same way. The few who spoke out aren’t representative of conservatives. I believe you’re overstating your case. there’s really no way to know what conservatives think about art and entertainment unless some sophisticated, comprehensive, objective survey was done — I’m not aware of any.Report

          • Most conservatives I know enjoy liberal entertainment. Most of the pushback you see is from people that are professionally aligned with the conservative movement.

            That being said, it can be difficult to really enjoy a television show that is contemptuous towards your views and, to an extent, your way of life. Is it really that surprising that people get irritated when Hollywood goes out of their way to ridicule them? Or is utterly indifferent to the fact that some people think differently than the creators of the show do?

            I’d imagine that if there were more conservative shows, you’d see a lot of it from the other side. We don’t even have to imagine, just take a look at how liberals tastemakers generally respond to country music.

            That doesn’t make the response right. A lot of people are too closed-minded about a lot of things. But it’s hardly something unique to modern-day conservatism.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Trumwill says:

              “liberal taste maker”???? huh I would love that job, where do I apply?

              For one thing “Hollywood”, as you and many other people use the term, doesn’t actually exist. The entertainment industry is made of many different companies all pursuing profit. So it is not possible for “Hollywood to go out of its way” to piss people off. This seems like the oversensitivity of conservatives that Mark was pointing to. “Hollywood” is an easy bogeyman for conservatives to blame stuff on since it is far away and different. Hollywood makes a great “other.”

              It does seem like country music exists just fine without being all liberal and such. Good old conservatives like Willie Nelson…..oops he apparently went out of favor with current country music biz due to being accused of being liberal. I’ll have to let my liberal GF know that the country music she listens to is conservative. I’m not sure she knew that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                It’s probably mostly merit-based.

                Could you go head-to-head against Tim Gunn?

                For the record, I have no illusions that I could.

                I could probably win in a Giant Cheet-o eating contest against him, however. I’d beat the crap out of him.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Last time I checked the list of liberals who secretly control the world, Tim Gunn wasn’t on the list. Of course I had to google him to find out who the hell he was, so maybe I’m just out of the loop.Report

              • Avatar JosephFM in reply to greginak says:

                Yeah, definitely out of the loop. I think that Bravo-era Project Runway was the only reality show worth watching. Ever.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill in reply to greginak says:

                I would love that job, where do I apply?

                Your local newspaper is a good place to start. Some have achieved success on the Internet. Most are jobs as art critics of one sort or another, though getting creative jobs in a major media center such as Hollywood or New York could serve the same end. The big thing is to get a job where it’s your job to decide what is and is not good. You don’t have to be liberal to get the job, though they are jobs where most of the applicants are liberal.

                (Relatedly, I am not among those that believe that conservative individuals are being locked out of the industry. I think that those conservatives that do embark on such careers face a bit of an uphill climb because that’s almost always the case when you bring an alternative and unpopular perspective into a group that is populated with people that hold different views. But I believe the main reason that liberals dominate entertainment – outside Nashville! – is that conservatives are less interested in that line of work.)

                So it is not possible for “Hollywood to go out of its way” to piss people off.

                It is quite possible for shows and movies coming out of Hollywood to go out of their way to piss people off. Hollywood may not be a singular being, but it is a collection with a high concentration of like-minded individuals.

                Good old conservatives like Willie Nelson…..oops he apparently went out of favor with current country music biz due to being accused of being liberal.

                If you want to argue that Nashville has a conservative bias, you will get no argument from me. Nashville is another collection with a high concentration of like-minded individuals. It’s more anti-city and pro-rural than overtly political, but one strongly influences the other.

                And you’re right, country music does get along fine. It has managed to establish a system where they do not need approval from the coasts. If I were a conservative looking to establish a studio that catered to conservative audiences, I would strongly consider a Nashville-like setup in Louisiana or Texas or some other film-friendly state. The problem for TV, that does not apply so much to radio, is that you still need to get a network based out of New York City or Los Angeles to actually run the program. Or if you’re making movies, you need nation-wide publicity to get theaters to run it and you can’t rely as easily on word-of-mouth. So they’re a bit more constrained.

                Right now, though, no such conservative establishment exists in film unless you could the Christian entertainment industry. However, they tend to make a(n inferior, IMO) product with little appeal to people outside their niche. My concern with conservative entertainment as conservatives want it is that they would relegate themselves to a similar dead end. It needn’t be so, but it’s what would happen if the desire to advance to conservative perspective trumped the desire to make quality entertainment.

                Liberal shows like The West Wing succeed because their primary goal is not to influence people but to create a quality program. Any conservative counterpart would need that to be their priority, too. I don’t think that they’re properly in that frame of mind these days.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to mike farmer says:

      “There is absolutely no libertarian representation in entertainment.”

      Hrm. Do box sets or dvds count? I’d say that Firefly/Serenity probably counts as libertarian representation (I never watched it but there was reason to believe that Buffy had libertarian sympathies).

      When it comes to movies, Live Free or Die Hard was kinda (note: kinda) libertarian as well. (Many “action” movies involve regular private individuals stepping up when the situation demands.)

      While nobody *I* know listens to it, I have heard rumors from the lower classes that “Country/Western” music has a libertarianish streak if we’re not talking about those Dixie Chicks.

      And when it comes to those paper things, I’d say that Harry Potter is probably *THE* most libertarian series, like, ever. (Read number 5 again, the order of the phoenix one. It’s, like, Rand except it’s *GOOD*.)

      My problem with most of the crap on television is not that it has a bad political ideology but because it’s crap. I’m pleased that such a sweet chunk of many of the critically acclaimed things from the last decade or so are libertarian-inclined. (Children will be reading Harry Potter for decades. This is a very, very good thing.)

      The problem ain’t the ideology of the left in entertainment. It’s the crap. It’s not that it tells the viewer that their betters ought to make decisions for them, it’s that it tells the viewer than Flavor Flav’s romantic foibles are something worth devoting 20 hours to. I’d *INFINITELY* prefer people watching liberal programs like The West Wing and M*A*S*H to “Reality Cleavage Show #8”.

      I can argue with the former.

      Can’t do nothin’ with the latter.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        well i agree with Jay and Mark on this. but one other thing. The entertainment industry is one of the most aggressively capitalist industries in the world. anything that sells will be produced and copied in any way legal with little or no evil government intervention.

        and one more thing, this apparent desire to find conservative or libertarian or liberal influences in movies and tv shows completely misses the strong tendency of said movies/tv to just copy whatever sells. making money is the key not sending messages. if we wanted to sit around and go real crazy we could find whatever influences in whatever movie or tv show we want. especially if we start to widely define our terms and ideas ( like action movies having a kinda libertarian streak because people act on their own)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          Hey, I specifically mentioned the Die Hard kinda movies.

          I’m not talking about crap like “SWAT” or “True Lies” or “Armageddon”. “Imagine how many villains we could kill if only we had more government funding!” movies are *NOT* under the libertarian umbrella, thank you very much.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill in reply to greginak says:

          <i.The entertainment industry is one of the most aggressively capitalist industries in the world. anything that sells will be produced and copied in any way legal with little or no evil government intervention.

          You know, I hear this off and on, but I don’t really believe it’s true. Hollywood has a good track record of putting out stuff that it believes in with marginal profit and failing to capitalize on profitable things that it is not really excited about. I say “good track record” because in a lot of cases I believe this is honestly a good thing. It’s responsible for a show of marginal popularity but critical success like The Wire to continue to be produced.

          But it also leads to blind spots. During the height of jingoistic, conservative politics in the early decade, how many shows were developed trying to exploit this theme? How many movies were made about our great military hunting down and demolishing Muslim terrorists? It’s unlikely that there was no market for such movies, but for a variety of reasons they didn’t even want to go there (even with 24, which to date has only had one season in which the main villain was a Muslim terrorist). How many anti-war movies with marginal box-office results were made? Those movies were made because they were what the writers believed in.

          I’m not saying that money isn’t really important in Hollywood. It is. However, there are other motives as well. They want awards (even if they don’t bring in massive profits). They want to make shows and movies that their peers will appreciate. Further, the movies and shows that are most likely to get the green light are going to be movies and shows that they can personally appreciate.

          The result is that no, you can’t really say that because Hollywood is making this or not making that it must be because that’s where the profits are. This is not a complaint. A good portion of the time, my tastes are closer to theirs than to the alternative. But it’s there.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Trumwill says:

            have you ever heard of Chuck Norris??? he already made plenty of jingoistic conservo movies.

            One of the silliest parts of this kind of debate is people mention the shows they like as if that represents “entertainment.” there have been literally hundreds of movies that use the standard Die Hard template. why? because is sells. why are there so many reality tv shows, because they are cheap to produce and people watch them. Now i admit i watch very little network tv so don’t know nothing much about these Boston Wire and Law and Wing shows you people are talking about. but there if far, far, far more to the entertainment industry them a handful of tv series.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill in reply to greginak says:

              It’s not just that I can point to The West Wing and Boston Legal as two relatively high-profile cases of liberal television shows. It’s that there are no similarly high-profile shows coming at it from the opposite direction. Even the ones that people cite is borderline.

              Chuck Norris more-or-less stopped making movies after 9/11. Die Hard and its ilk can be considered “conservative” if looked at through a particular lens, but I cite TWW and BL because they are incontestably liberal. Thus far, no one has cited a show as incontestably conservative. Instead, I’m being asked to consider shows as kinda-sorta-maybe conservative.

              Both liberal and conservative entertainment are constrained by the need of studios to make money. But conservative entertainment is further constrained by having to make its way through an atmosphere dominated by liberals. So that even when you get a show that could be essentially conservative, like 24 or The Unit, the conservatism gets tempered by rather standard liberal plot points in a way that liberal shows are far less regularly modified.

              I consider The West Wing and The Practice to be great shows and Boston Legal to have been a good one. My issue is that I have liberal views and I have conservative views, but I am tired of seeing only one of these sets of views challenged by the entertainment that I consume.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill in reply to mike farmer says:

      Art for art’s sake is not mutually exclusive with the expression of political points of view. That The West Wing represents a relatively small spectrum of views is not a problem because it represented those views in the context of great stories. Further, because it was a Democratic White House, it more-or-less had to advocate most strongly from a particular point of view. One side needed to be the “good guys” and another the “bad guys”. But that didn’t stop it from having good characters, great dialogue, interesting storylines, and so on.

      The problem is not that The West Wing and shows like it advocate primarily the liberal point of view over the conservative so much as that there is no conservative equivalent. But if a show such as that were developed, I fear that the conservatives would be far more interested in scoring political points than on the show actually being entertaining to non-members of the choir.

      Liberal shows, when they are working at their best, are shows that intend to be good first and advocate their political point of view second. There were a lot of things that The West Wing could have done to more forcefully make its points, but since that wasn’t the objective of the show, they didn’t go there. Contrast this with Law & Order, where the insertion of political themes is proving to be a distraction. L&O is being political for the sake of being political. What I gather from conservatives is that they’re more interested in a vehicle for their point of view than a good story that happens to have a conservative foundation.

      This is speculation, but it’s something that I have put a lot of thought into because, for a variety of reasons, I am a would-be writer who incorporates quite a few conservative themes into his work.Report

      • Avatar mike farmer in reply to Trumwill says:

        You really can’t have looked at entertainment in the last 10 years without coming to the conclusion that the liberal point of view is overwhelmingly dominant — this is the real issue, not the varying levels of quality.Report

        • “this is the real issue, not the varying levels of quality.”

          ….Which is exactly my point (and Dreher’s). In the cultural world outside of politics, quality is all that’s really supposed to matter. The notion that politics can, should, and does pervade and predominate over everything is a recipe for creating an insular and deeply isolated self-segregated culture.Report

          • I agree, and when the political message outweighs the art, then it’s a problem, and this might be the conservatives’ point. An example is Boston Legal, at first one of my favorite shows. The more they caricatured Denny and went heavy on the poltical message, the less the art value. The Wire merely presented reality in Baltimore, whatever political message was there was a reality in Baltimore — therefore, artful.

            When conservative parents send their kids to school to be taught art that is explicitly political, and when their kids watch show after show with a political message, the art becomes secondary because the political is outweighing the art. It’s not that conservatives are insisting on political messages over art, it’s that the liberal/statist political message from liberals is outweighing the value of the art.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to mike farmer says:

          A lot of the stuff coming out in the last 10 years is very much like the 10 years prior.

          Love stories involve people meeting cute, something happens to keep them apart, they overcome it, and love conquers all.
          Action stories involve a bad guy (or bad inanimate object) getting ready to destroy something that has people in it, and just ONE MAN (or a handful of people, whatever) can prevent it.
          War movies involve war being hell and meaningless and mostly about the feelings of the soldiers involved without any real reference to historical context of the battles they’re fighting in.
          Drama movies involve people from the love story mentioned in the first example a couple of years later and they are trying to deal with the fact that the foibles of the person they married are not, in fact, as cute as they thought they were when they were awash in pheromones and hormones and all other kinds of moans.
          Historical Drama stories involve someone associated with the holocaust on some level feeling really, really, really bad about it.

          It’s been this way for more decades than the last two. I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill in reply to mike farmer says:

          Err, I never said that liberalism wasn’t over-represented. I did say “[The problem is] that there is no conservative equivalent.” I want to see such a program. But I do think that one of the main barriers to this is a would-be conservative audience fixated more on keeping score than on telling good stories. I fear that if Hollywood ever really pursued this track, it would be the equivalent of The Half Hour News Hour because conservatives often fair to really understand what it is that makes liberal entertainment successful. It’s not unlike liberals when they tried to replicate Rush Limbaugh without understanding why it was that he was successful (and it wasn’t just because he was conservative).Report

  8. The few examples you can stretch to call libertarian are nothing like presenting libertarian ideas in an art-form — today, there is no such thing that i can see. Perhaps some entertainment could be seen as implictly libertarian if you turn your head the right way, and wiggle your nose, but there is no explicit libertarian message joined with good art and entertainment. Unless you count John Stossel and Glen beck as art and entertainment.Report

  9. Much of the great art, appreciated by art lovers who are intellectually attuned to art, is art for art’s sake — any social message has to be interpreted subjectively — it’s not the purpose of the art.Report

  10. Avatar mark says:

    Re: the original post: And the parallels continue: Ideological purity checks were indeed a feature of the Left in the late 60’s and 70’s – few people remember this, but the phrase ‘politically correct’ started life as a non-ironic way to describe fellow Lefties of whom one approved. It just seems to be part of the crash’n’burn trajectory – when something terrible (losing power) has happened, folks look for someone to blame, and the opposition party, being a constant, doesn’t really suffice.Report