Books & Culture

By News Alone?

We cannot win the culture war by responding to the Left’s narrative. We need to create our own narratives.

While attending CPAC last month as part of the John Batchelor Show’s panel, “Everything You Didn’t Know About Russia-gate But Were Afraid to Ask,” I had a chance to duck into the main room to catch part of a performance of “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers.”

Produced by conservative filmmaker Phelim McAleer, the play revolves around the text messages between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI counsel Lisa Page as they are read aloud by actors Dean Cain and Kristi Swanson.

After witnessing this tour de force performance, I recalled how at American Greatness I had previously written about the censorious Left’s attempts to stop the play from being performed. Heartened that this show had indeed gone on, I further reflected upon conservative-populism’s progress and prospects in the ongoing culture war.

It was less heartening.

First, however, the good news—literally. In the news arena, conservative-populists are having a much broader range of options than ever before, both on-air and in print. And viewers are responding in droves, tuning into these channels or logging into their sites. Akin to the early days of broadsheets and newspapers, conservative-populists are looking for news sites that support their philosophical worldview rather than ones that insult and demean it, all the while hypocritically alleging to be “objective.”

Yet, while having more options among conservative-populist sites, the attempt to curtail conservative speech on internet hosts is proceeding apace and justified with the bogus lines used on college campuses to deny free speech. Of course, one of the chief targets in this effort is the ability of these news sites to present ever more information to their viewers.

Further, there is fierce competition for the large conservative-populist news audience. Though large, this audience is also finite (as is every audience). Thus, while battling for an audience share, many of the conservative-populist news sites, especially the newer ones, face the reality that incremental increases in viewership will not constitute an adequate return on investment or sustain further operations.

But most importantly, the news is post-culture—i.e., occurring after the culture is shaped by the Left.

In the culture war, the late Andrew Breitbart was right when he said, “politics is downstream from culture.” As is the case with left-wing sites, by their nature the conservative-populist news reports political developments, offers political commentary, and selects stories through a political prism aligned with its audience’s.

Ergo, the Left’s news sites bolster the collectivist “narrative” already crafted and disseminated by the Left’s hegemonic cultural power. They constitute the Left’s coup de grace in driving a political message. On their part, then, conservative-populist news sites do not shape the culture; they respond to Left’s culture and its political consequences.

Yes, conservative-populist news sites are crucial to waging the culture war; but they are not by their nature capable of being the vanguard in changing the culture.

What conservative-populists need are the means to reach an underserved and ignored audience through the arts. The primary goal needs not to be to crudely push a political goal. That is propaganda, not art, and boring to boot.

The key is to create and disseminate art that respects the permanent things of faith, family, community, and country, rather than art that deliberately denigrates and reviles them. The success of the very few movies and television shows with such a subtext know their paramount goal is to entertain not proselytize.

And Americans do and will watch.

The Left knows this. It is why they tried so hard to stop “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers.” The Left has used entertainment to assail and shape the culture for decades.

By news alone, we cannot win the culture war. Only when conservative-populists finally have their own ability to create, produce, and provide entertaining content and attract this ignored mainstream audience—which will result in sustainable revenues and more—will the culture war truly be engaged.

But right now, with politics being downstream from the Left’s culture, conservative-populists remain up that creek without a paddle.