As we know, and as I’ve said here ad nauseum, the battle for the soul of America is the culture, not politics, as important as politics is. The only way America could ever elect a Community-Organizer-in-Chief is because Americans have been brainwashed for 50 plus years by their entertainment, media and education to buy what he was selling. I think conservatives (as I always say but wish I didn’t have to, broadly speaking) are finally getting what I argued for in a recent post, it’s the culture, stupid!
Which brings me to Greg Gutfeld; the dude is awesome. In case the name doesn’t mean anything to you, Gutfeld, as Wikipedia puts it, “Is an American television personality, political satirist, humorist, magazine editor, and blogger. Gutfeld is the host of ‘Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld’ on the Fox News Channel.” Red Eye is a talk show that airs at 3:00 in the morning, and somehow has found enough viewers (thank you DVR) to make it a bit of a cult hit on the right. The show shows that conservatives can do sarcasm, cynicism and satire every bit as well as modern liberals, only liberals don’t have the truth on their side.
Gutfeld has a new book out. In his review at Amazon, Jonah Goldberg says of Gutfield, “The funny thing about Gutfeld is that he’s really funny. But this fact obscures the other funny thing about Gutfeld: He’s really absurdly smart. This is readily apparent to anyone who picks up The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage.” In a piece he wrote at Big Hollywood, Gutfeld says that Conservatives Must Fight the ‘Tyranny of Cool’. Really a must read. Here is a taste:
The Joy of Hate focuses on the hypocrisy of modern tolerance — that it thinly disguises a growing, acceptable intolerance for the things that made America super-awesome. The origin of this phony intolerance springs from one source: the desire to be cool. Everything done in life these days springs from a fear of dorkiness. I called this “dorkophobia,” and every time you use it, I get three dollars. Despite the fact that it’s the uncool who make the trains run on time, it’s the cool to get the cred. The definition of cool: mass popularity without much achievement. It’s how Obama got elected. Ask anyone who voted for him, “Why did you do it?” and the convoluted, wide-eyed answer will ultimately be translated into: “He’s cool and that other guy wasn’t.” The media pushed this to the hilt; and much of the public bought it; giving stuff away is cool — especially when it’s others people stuff — and perceived as philanthropic.
Then he points out how really uncool the reality of modern liberalism really is.
It’s exciting to me that in 2012 entertainers and commentators like Gutfeld are becoming pretty common on the right. A long time ago, way back in the 1980s before there was much of a conservative media, it was only liberals that got to make fun of their political/cultural opponents. Then came Rush Limbaugh who actually mocked and made fun of liberals! Can you imagine, he actually laughed at them, thought they were funny, in fact absurd!
What? Came the incredulous cries of the self-righteous left-wing cultural elites; this cannot stand! This must not be! We cannot allow it! And of course they rolled out the old tropes; he’s a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, you name it. We’ll discredit this fat slob (yes, libs often used his weight to slam him) so no one will take him seriously. But something funny happened on the way to Rush becoming an institution: he won! Il-liberals and modern il-liberalism (I’m tired of them stealing that find word—thank you FDR) can’t take a joke, because after all, they are all about the serious business of running our lives. As Gutfeld might say, government bureaucracies, now that’s cool! Not!
I have a larger point here. As awesome as Gutfeld is, he’s basically condemned to the conservative media ghetto, at 3:00 a.m. no less. Of course in the Internet age, one’s influence is no longer determined completely by their time slot; but it matters. There are no Greg Gutfeld’s on Saturday Night Live. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, although having a relatively small audience, has the mouthpiece of the mainstream media to echo his faux-coolness, and very uncool ideas. The fact of the matter is that Gutfeld’s mockery of the left will never in the current cultural environment make much of an impact on the larger culture. Nonetheless, it is a good sign that in time it can.
How? Well, the conservative movement must take seriously the need to engage, penetrate and infiltrate the culture, i.e. the professions that so massively influence the average American’s worldview: media, entertainment and education. Let’s say one day years from now you have the CEO and a good portion of the management of, for example, the Disney Company that are total right wingers. Some talent scout from the company hears of this talented and funny conservative satirist in the conservative media ghetto on a 3:00 a.m. TV show. They decide to give him his own prime-time show on ABC. He might have a bit more influence on the culture at 9:00 p.m. on ABC than at 3:00 a.m. on Fox News. You get the picture.
Even Rush admitted today that the right’s obsession with electoral politics has done nothing to change the direction of American culture. He realized, what sounded like for the first time, that we have to take the long view, as Andrew Klavan argued so well recently. And one of the keys to actually making a difference is that some of the humungous amounts of conservative dollars that go to public policy and electoral politics has to go to cultural pursuits, and it has to support not just thinking about professions of cultural influence, but ways that we might strategically penetrate and infiltrate them. Yeah, this is going to take a long time, but the only other option is, well, too terrible to contemplate. Insanity, as the famous cliché goes, is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Conservatives, finally, may be coming out of the psyche ward at last.