The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, Where Exactly?

Another blog (Reach the Right) brought to my attention an article by Jonathan Chait (The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Is on Your Screen). It’s a good article that offers a detailed analysis, but I couldn’t entirely agree (nor could some other bloggers; for example, Erik Lundegaard).

In Reach the Right, I responded to the comment that “I think it’s an unusually difficult line of reasoning to argue with”. I didn’t find it difficult at all. Below is the reposting of my response.

I think there is truth in the article, but it also misses some of the context.

After many decades of narrative rule by conservatives, liberals are finally winning the narrative war. This more has to do with demographics than any effective strategy by liberals, demographics and overreach by conservatives, overreach that has turned away many Americans from the GOP. Liberals, or rather Democrats, have capitalized on this conservative overreach, but they can’t take much of the credit or blame.

The context, of course, has many factors.

It is true that what is deemed as ‘liberal’ has come to dominate much of the media. Then again, this so-called liberalism has come to dominate most of modern American society. Most Americans are liberal on many issues and becoming increasingly liberal. In fact, most Americans are more liberal than the MSM (and more liberal than the MSM portrays the American public) on many central issues such as the majority supporting pot legalization and being against overturning Roe vs Wade, just to mention two obvious examples.

The MSM, with much lag time, reflects the American people who are increasingly diverse — in terms of: races and mixed race individuals, interracial dating and marriage, ethnicity and culture, religion and atheism, etc. But the reality America has always been vastly more diverse than the conservatives would allow for in their vision of America. What is surprising is that the norm of the American people is seen as ‘liberal’ in the MSM. Liberalism in the MSM often just means a tepid middle-of-the-road position on issues, the real political correctness of liberalism is in between the right-wing and the left-wing, if anything favoring the former more than the latter in that you’ll see right-wing libertarians in the MSM more often than you’ll ever see left-wing socialists or anarchists (or even left-wing libertarians).

Anyway, why is it ‘liberal’ to portray gay people as normal people with normal problems and normal interests? In reality, most gay people are normal by all standards other than the standard of heterosexuality. Why is it ‘liberal’ to speak honestly about global warming? Truth knows no ideology. If certain facts and realities are perceived as liberal, that can’t be blamed on liberals.

America is an ideologically confusing and confused country. There never has been in America a tradition of traditional conservatism. What gets called ‘conservatism’ is too often just a variety of liberalism from the past such as classical liberalism.

This has caused liberalism to become conservative in many ways. Since, American conservatives often are against traditionally conservative positions, liberals have oddly taken up their defense. Traditional conservatives were at least against unregulated capitalism and for most of history supportive of non-capitalist economic systems, partly because capitalism destabilizes social order and undermines moral order. Traditional conservatives in particular were against usury which has become a major pillar of modern capitalism. Also, the precautionary principle is a core principle of any normal sense of conservatism, except of course American ‘conservatism’.

However, there are certain ways America is conservative and so is the MSM, especially Hollywood. American politics and media are obsessed with certain conservative themes such as good vs evil, us vs them.

Hollywood constantly portrays a conservative worldview with action movies that have men of action who are superior to men of thought and action movies that glorify (and otherwise normalize) war, violence and vigilante justice.

The genre of noir is an inherently conservative worldview (although more in the line of reactionary conservatism, rather than traditional conservatism). Noir can be found in the Dark Knight Batman movies, in Watchmen, Blade Runner, Dexter and in various gritty movies and shows that portray the world as fallen into darkness where a lone hero, usually a white male, has to fight the good fight, whether he wins or loses. In general, the conservative ideal of the white male protagonist still surprisingly dominates most of the entertainment these days.

Horror is another conservative genre. A popular horror trope is to show kids partying or somehow being naughty right before being killed. Like noir, horror tends to be about a fallen world. We live in a time of fear and uncertainty when the conservative worldview becomes attractive, although we are getting at the point when people are starting to want a new narrative.

Related to these, drug-taking and dealing is typically portrayed tragically. This is beginning to change some, but change has come slower in politics and media than it has in the general public. Obama laughed at the idea of taking seriously pot legalization, even though most Americans take it seriously. Despite all the negative drug portrayals or maybe because of it, drug use such as with marijuana has become more widespread.

No matter what one considers ‘liberal’, what interests me is that the media remains mostly closed off to the left-wing. As liberalism has become separated and distinct from the left-wing, conservatism has become aligned with or even conflated with the right-wing. This is largely why conservatives have turned away so many Americans and thus lost control of much of the MSM. It’s not so much that the conservative narrative has lost power, rather the conservative narrative turned into a right-wing narrative that has lost power. Most Americans want a moderate centrism which just so happens to be where liberalism is at the moment.

6 thoughts on “The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, Where Exactly?

  1. There is almost no “Far left” media. Truly. There isn’t. The spectrum of ideological difference in America is interesting: It’s both highly polarized and extremely shallow. I suppose that is sad for everyone involved and so going hunting for a vast left-wing conspiracy is a good hobby for reactionaries.

    I wish they were right that there was, the world would look very different.

    • I’ve often said that I wish that conservatives were right about a vast left-wing conspiracy. The world would be a more interesting place.

  2. Although I think you are wrong about Noir being necessarily reactionary. Capitalist realism is necessarily gritty. The Watchman is a critique of American variants of fascism (of which each character of any power is actually a different form of) so it’s only conservative if you miss the satire.

    Although to paraphrase Marx said about Dumas, sometimes the most reactionary authors pin things that are most provocatively left in its implications.

    • I wrote this quickly. I didn’t think out the nuances of the subject.

      You are right that Noir isn’t necessarily reactionary. Noir is a general worldview and set of genre tropes that can be used for a variety of narratives and ideological purposes. I only meant that the general worldview itself hits me as an expression of reactionary conservatism. But the Noir genre as a set of tropes can be used can be used for critique and satire.

      There is a major problem in ultimately determining if Noir or anything else is an expression of or motivated by reactionary conservatism. How does one determine the essence of reactionary conservatism other than it being reactionary? How does one even prove that something is a reaction to something else?

      I’ve observed how reactionary conservatives will see other varieties of reactionary conservatism as not being conservative at all. Action movies are totally reactionary conservative with their men of action, vigilante justice, and simplistic good vs evil; but many conservatives would claim that this glorifying of violence is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy. They see it as undermining Christian moral order, not realizing that it is an expression of the conservative Christian worldview. I’d argue that Protestantism, particularly Evangelicalism, is part of the trend of reactionary conservatism replacing traditional conservatism, especially when one considers the historical connection of prosyletizing and capitalism.

      You are probably also right about capitalism being necessarily gritty, at least in practice. Noir seems to take it’s cue from this. I haven’t fully thought out my thoughts on Noir and capitalism. I’ve increasingly become fascinated by Noir. It can be a compelling worldview when handled well. Understanding Noir is centrally important to understanding American society.

      I noticed there is a book about Noir that connects it to early 20th cent American politics. I’ll buy it and see if the author has some good insights.

      • There are a lot of good books on that. I suggest a book called Capitalist Realism published by Zero Books, and whose name I forgot.

        But yes, the mythic culture of American film is only progressive in a thin sense: it is still a mytheme builder with a conservative or every reactionary myths .

        I think you’re right though about the Action film is jingoism and reaction writ larger and even infantilized.

        • Thanks for the book recommendation. I just skimmed some reviews of it. It looks enticing. There are two books that relate to genres and conservatism, neither of which I own but would like to:

          Dark Borders: Film Noir and American Citizenship
          By Jonathan Auerbach

          Gumshoe America: Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism
          By Sean McCann

          American entertainment media is moderately socially liberal in that sex and violence sells, but that is about it. Mainstream TV still doesn’t show even breasts, much less overt sexuality. It is very tame, almost prudish. I guess it depends on what one is comparing it to.

          I just don’t see that as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. The important part is that it sells which, if anything, means it is ultimately part of the vast capitalist agenda. I would agree that capitalism is undermining of traditional conservatism, but that hardly makes it left-wing in the sense of being somehow controlled by the left-wing movement.

          Exactly how did anti-capitalist left-wingers take control of all the transnational media corporations and run them as effectively and profitably as any other capitalist-run corporation? And why does Murdoch of Fox News fame also participate in the vast left-wing conspiracy by producing the socially liberal shows of the Fox channel? Is Murdoch only pretending to be a pro-capitalist right-winger while in reality being the secret leader of the vast left-wing conspiracy?

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