Conservative argument is no match for liberal art
Conservatives may be resurgent in Washington, but they have abandoned the arts. Liberal dominance of culture is undermining America's foundational values. When’s the last time Hollywood made a movie that portrayed a corporation in positive terms?
Colorado Springs, Colo.
I love music, good stories, and beautiful things. And so, I imagine, does everyone else. But I'm struck by the fact that the vast majority of musicians, moviemakers, novelists, and artists are liberals.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
This could be because the artistic temperament is inclined to be radical, but it is more likely because conservatives have abandoned the arts. This abandonment has profound implications for American culture. It will intensify society's long-term liberal reflexes, making it harder to sustain the foundational values – like chastity, faith, and free enterprise – that make America both good and great.
I recently browsed several conservative news and commentary websites in search of an arts or culture section. It would have been easier to find a parking spot the day after Thanksgiving. Shortly thereafter, I went to the websites of several liberal publications, and they all had a section dedicated to the arts – poetry and all. Conservatives are better arguers, but liberals are better artists.
MTV and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
I am not specifically referring to either fine art (if there remains such a thing) or popular art. It doesn't matter: Liberals control both. They have MTV, but they also have the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They have Rolling Stone, but they also have The New Yorker. They have Hollywood, but they also have Cannes.
Liberals understand that rooted deep in the human soul is a love of beauty, a fascination with story, and an intangible sensitivity to the singing of songs. That's why liberals have sought to control not only the Senate, but the symphony, the storybook, and the silver screen. Reason is a blunt instrument. It can smash with all the force of a hammer, but it is art that subtly serenades and seduces. When the conservative forms a coalition, the liberal forms a chorale, and it is the liberal who wins.
The liberal dominance of the arts is all the more influential because society is increasingly illiterate. By illiterate, I don't mean unintelligent. Rather, images and sounds are becoming the most common, and therefore the most powerful, mediums of communication. This is especially true among the younger generations, who are streamed a filtered reality via YouTube and iTunes. Society is thinking in pictures and in songs, and liberals are making them.
How do you compete with 'Avatar'?
There is no better example of art's persuasive power than the epic blockbuster "Avatar." Happily, most people will never read Al Gore's "Earth in the Balance," but millions have been deeply affected by this movie that shows a world of lush green beauty destroyed by the evil forces of capitalism. And in 3-D to boot. Now that is persuasive.
"Avatar" is, quite simply, stunningly executed environmentalist and New Age propaganda. The military, corporations – indeed, humans themselves – are depicted with one-dimensional scorn, while tree-worshiping pantheist aliens are held up as models of virtue and humanity. It's a theme Hollywood has used in countless films like "Dances with Wolves" and "Star Wars." When's the last time you saw a movie that, unlike "Michael Clayton," depicted a business positively, or acknowledged the progress capitalism brings?
All art, especially entertainment, is informed by ideas – it is never neutral. Art wraps ideas in a soul-stirring coat. It is so powerful because it takes an abstraction, an idea, a philosophy, and sends it smashing through the heart like a bullet.
Conservatives must produce art
Reason and rational argument will remain essential in the war of ideas. But if we conservatives are to succeed in our effort to uphold indispensable values like faith, freedom, and family, we must not only argue, but we must produce passionate and informed art. If we do not reclaim and redeem the arts, we will not ultimately reclaim or redeem anything. Simply, we will lose. We can continue to build our towering fortresses of impeccable logic and fierce rhetoric, but alone they will collapse like the proud and solid walls of Jericho – not under an assault but a song.
Sam Guzman is an essayist, columnist, and poet. He works as a grant writer for a nonprofit organization.