The Corner

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“Culture Wars”


Do you remember when the culture wars were supposed to be over, and the liberal media was said to be a myth? I do. By denying our divisions, liberals implicitly declare themselves the winners of our culture battles. And deep sixing conservatism is a nice way to pretend that the media isn’t biased. How can the media be liberally biased if the country as a whole has accepted liberal wisdom, and conservatives are just a fading relic of history? The election put paid to all that. Surprise! Conservatives exist. As a marker of just how far we’ve come in this argument, Alan Wolfe, arguably the chief intellectual proponent of the “fading culture wars” school of thought, more or less retracted his “one nation, after all” thesis in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. In my own review of Wolfe’s Moral Freedom, I explained why I think the culture wars won’t end. Liberals have long seen the very existence of the gay marriage issue as proof that the culture wars are over. In “We’ve Only Just Begun,” an NRO piece from 2001, I explained why the gay marriage issue actually means that the culture wars are only beginning. (By the way, I think that piece was a pretty good foreshadowing of the election, three years before the fact.) When it comes to media bias, a few liberals are still in denial. But the tide has dramatically turned on this score as well. I remember how excited liberal pundits were when Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? came out. Now Alterman’s claim is a joke, and Bernard Goldberg is vindicated. I was particularly struck by this piece by liberal commentator Michelle Cottle in the latest issue of Time. Instead of declaring the culture wars over, Cottle pushes off the supposedly inevitable liberal victory into the future. But what’s interesting here is how casually Cottle invokes ideas about liberal media dominance to make her points. You know conservatives are making progress when a liberal argument in a mainstream organ like Time actually depends on the idea that the culture wars are not over, and that the media has a liberal bias.