Opinion: Culture Is a Matter of 'Show, Don't Tell'

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

I mentioned in my piece Wednesday night the Instapundit entry by Ed Driscoll, an editor at RedState sister platform, PJ Media. His “News You Can Use” was well-named; I used his trivia about Hattie McDaniel there, but another news bit also caught my attention.

Driscoll shared a vignette from a post published at Ricochet.com, that recalls Disney+ removed an episode of “The Simpsons” last year that involves Michael Jackson — when, as blogger Tom Garrett notes, the streaming platform advertised all complete seasons would be available.

Garrett wrote:

Most interestingly, producer James L. Brooks said of the controversy: “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

I’m not here to defend Michael Jackson. I use this example to point out that even content that is considered substantively “permissible” may be deleted from existence because of an association. I also get pretty nervous when someone unironically says, “I’m against book burning, but . . . “

Which brings me to my topic.  I’d argue that the events of the past few weeks and months, from Wuhan coronavirus quarantines to calls by some on the Left to abolish police departments, have – unquestionably – left many of us on the Right nervous, too. But it’s not just the roller coaster of politics I’m talking about. Deep down, there’s a feeling that the culture is rapidly devolving out of our reach. People are asking: how can I begin to navigate a place I don’t recognize anymore? Or as a Twitter follower asked this week: “Where do we even start with that though? They’ve won the culture war. They control just about every aspect of it. Conservative Hollywood is quiet. Video game industry is liberal. Same with television. Silicon Valley….etc etc… We can’t even get a foothold.”

It’s a question that caught me off guard. Has the Left won the culture war? Is Hollywood completely the domain of progressive messaging? Have conservatives lost? 

I don’t (and can’t) believe that we have. The tweet the follower replied to was the kind I normally don’t put out in the Twitters world: an open-letter subtweet.

I wrote: “I chose to write an upbeat story today, and I’ve gotten more virulent, negative comments on it than *any* other story I’ve written for RedState. It just means there’s more work to do.

Then: “Despite what you may have been told, conservatives can’t win over the long term with only political arguments. We have to reach people where they are, and that means talking about culture.”

It was something I felt I had to say, after I wrote a completely non-political, inspirational piece about Antonio Gwynn Jr., a young man making life better for his community — just because it was the right thing to do. It was the thing his late mother and the others in his life taught him to do.

Some of the reactions were less than positive. And not just from progressives.

You’ll hear people talking about “winning the culture war.” That’s fine. But when most people talk about culture, it isn’t just about the Second Amendment, abortion, or popular entertainment like movies and television and books — though it is about that, too. What I’m suggesting is another way to loosen the Left’s grip. It could be as simple as  re-taking the meanings of words, like “community.” “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31

Antonio knows what the word means to him, and he’s not fighting the culture war. Do you see what I mean?

So, while every tv network – even local Fox affiliates – drop their regularly-scheduled programming to air the latest George Floyd memorial service. Or we see parts of American cities taken over and renamed as “autonomous zones.”We can’t let our courage falter.  And we can’t cancel Batman. This is our culture, American culture, that’s our birthright. What we need to do is to dive down deep and reflect examples of Americans acting like Americans know how to act. People like Antonio in Buffalo. It’s like the lesson we all learned back in English composition class, “Show, don’t tell.”

h/t: @Beregond