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November 24, 2003

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Charles R. Williams

The Culture Wars may not be won; but I think Brian Anderson is onto something. The left-liberal secularist point of view does not enjoy the monopoly it once had over public discourse. This, I think, is his point.

KH

A little bit yes, a little bit no...it's certainly true that we didn't have Rush and Fox and NRO and blogs 10 or 20 years ago and that is a vast improvement. However, the other side has sunk so far, so fast and it's pulling our culture along with it. 10 or 20 years ago, we didn't quite have the utter depravity all around us, insinuated in just about every movie, every TV show, every song, every magazine...it's so pervasive you can't avoid it.

Nance

Yeah, KH, it is pervasive -- and how much of it is brought to you by our good right-wing friends at Fox Television?

Ono

Conservatism cannot win culture wars because of its nature. Conservatives, as the term implies, fight to conserve or preserve and so the mental picture one has is that of a fortress. It may withstand liberal advances for a while, but it eventually has to give way. For good or for ill, that's how things tend to happen.

Also conservatives have to contend with the fact that there are always a bevy of specific examples of rights and freedoms that would be deprived of minorities if liberals did not push to change things. That in itself is generally a signal to young people that a different paradigm than that of the conservatives should be adopted. Which is why, for instance, less younger people see gay marriage as an issue.

I think if conservatives went on the offensive, i.e., becoming less conservative but hold on to your values, they can get ahead of the curve and control the culture instead of always reacting to it.

When it comes down to it, conservatives are not necessarily fighting for the moral thing, they are fighting to keep things the way they've been. That's a tough case to sell: that preservation is better than change.

tso

Ono - then why are so many conservatives fighting for change with regard to Roe v Wade? Conservatives aren't interested in conserving what is bad.

KH

Sorry, Nance, to clarify: I watch Fox for their news, not their sitcoms or whatever other boring filth they dabble in. It's the lesser of the evils (ABC, NBC, CBS - who also do a fine job of contributing their own sleaze into the airwaves)

Nance

Yes, but Fox has always led the headfirst plunge for the gutter, and has alwaystaken advantage of loosening standards by pushing them as far as it could. "Married With Children," anyone? "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire"? Which is why I've always taken right-wing handwringing over the "coarsening of the culture" with several barrels of salt. When they start walking the talk, give me a call.

Ono

tso-I'm talking about the principle. Conservatives tend to preserve, both good and not-so-good. Not every change is good; not everything about the past or present is worth saving.

Celine

Nance is right. There is nothing countercultural about Fox -- or Fox News, for that matter. True, Fox News at least gives an even break to the prolife cause on issues like abortion and Terri. But how can its constant warmongering and regime-pandering be viewed as a positive by Christians? It is more repugnant than "Married With Children" ever was.

Peggy

Fox broadcast and Fox News Channel are two different products that the NewsCorp promotes to different consumer markets. NewCorp is in the information/entertainment business. They found a niche in offering a conservative cable news channel that was entirely missing in the marketplace. On broadcast, they have chosen to appeal to the least common denominator in the culture for entertainment viewing along with the other broadcasters. I would not say that NewsCorp (or ABC, CBS, NBC) are necessarily political at the corporate level, though if moving too far left costs them viewers and ad revenue, corporate suits may look at the news content or entertainment programming twice. The cable news channels have been more responsive to including conservative ideas b/c they know they are getting hit hard by Fox News. The question is who is going to put more family-friendly programming on broadcast channels to force the alphabets to take action. I noticed that NBC is airing "Queer Eye" on broadcast. The problem is that the population, generally speaking, appears to want to watch this trash.

I don't think the culture war is near over. I don't think we've won anything. We make a little headway here and there and keep keeping on.

kyle

Ono is either playing a semantic game here or genuinely does not know that there is as wide a spectrum of opinion among conservatives as there is among liberals. There are many different meanings to the word "conservative." The definition primarily in play concerning the culture wars is what we typically call socially conservatives - people who, far from trying to preserve the status quo, want to change the status quo on a set of issues - abortion, the pornogrification of television, illegitimacy, rampant divorce - as well as preserving things like the traditional definition of marriage. This group, as TSO pointed out, does not fit Ono's rather narrow definition - social conservatives do not, as a rule, "tend to preserve, both the good and the not-so-good." Even if 95 percent of the country supported abortion on demand, I would still be pro-life.

Many Catholics who would easily be classified as social conservative because they are pro-life and anti-gay-marriage do not like the status quo on the death penalty, for instance, or the status quo of free trade. Etc.

Unless we are to believe that anyone who believes anything is true and worth protecting - say the Nicene Creed - is a conservative, in which case that definition ought to include every Christian. But I don't think that's what Ono means.

Christopher Rake

When it comes down to it, conservatives are not necessarily fighting for the moral thing, they are fighting to keep things the way they've been. That's a tough case to sell: that preservation is better than change

This is nothing but wordplay, sorry; an unserious non-argument.

c matt

That's a tough case to sell: that preservation is better than change.

I don't know, I'm sure there are a few extinct species that would disagree with you. Liberals don't preserve - they prefer change? Then what's all this fuss about saving the environment?

kyle

c matt - Don't forget saving Medicare and Social Security.

Mark Wyman

Ono is also quite wrong if she thinks that history is one monolithic movement towards more progressive thought. Greek and Roman cultures were depraved in many of the same ways as we are now in their upper classes (casual sex, homosexuality, violent displays, etc). Their vision of morality certainly "regressed" or became more "conservative" as Christianity grew up and as the Barbarians moved in. Think of a Europe where 33% of the population is Muslim (a definite possibility in 10-15 years) -- ya think that they'll still have the same legal, "progressive" laws on the books. Doubtful.

Neil Dhingra

Speaking as someone who very much appreciates conservative thought, I think that there is something really unfortunate about this tendency in today's conservatives to always imagine themselves as being unfairly persecuted by an intolerant liberal majority. Neither Anderson nor Goldberg's pieces are about ideas; neither contain a single coherent intellectual argument about the relevance of conservatism. They seemingly don't have to argue for their positions - they merely have to give those positions the moral self-righteousness that comes from being martyred at the hands of the "hysterical complaint and angry foot stamping" (Anderson) of the "bitch and moan brigades of American liberalism" (Goldberg). This moral self-righteousness, the posture of the victim, immediately makes conservative arguments seem daring, bold, heroic, and virtuous. One really doesn't need then to patiently construct nuanced arguments - the sheer ridicule of South Park is good enough.

I'm not saying that conservatives are not sometimes unfairly treated, although one should note that more people can probably recognize Ann Coulter or Matt Drudge than any union leader. The danger is that once you imagine the public sphere as a continuous Passion play in which you inevitably play Jesus to the Left's Pilate, you slowly lose the disciplines of self-criticism and humility.

It would be unfortunate if what Goldberg calls the "remarketing of American conservatism" did that to a movement which once included minds like those of Voegelin and Strauss.

Best,
Neil

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