Politics & Policy

Against the Tide, Part II

I began this lil’ series yesterday, here. Just continue, without much recap, or any? All right . . .

‐When people say “to hold power,” they usually mean to occupy the White House, or to have a majority in the Senate — something like that. But where is power, really? Or where else is power?

The movies. TV shows. The media. Publishing. The schools.

Real power.

‐When Hillary Clinton said “It takes a village,” a lot of conservatives objected. The full saying is, “It takes a village to raise a child.” One can certainly understand the objections. But, in an important sense, it does take a village to raise a child. Children are shaped by everything around them: in the home and outside it.

‐Way back in the mid-1980s, Tipper Gore wrote a book called Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. Tipper and her husband were dabbling in a kind of social conservatism at the time. They dropped it quick — because all the cool cats, such as Frank Zappa (I remember him specifically), mocked and reviled them. Social conservatism is not the way to rise in the Democratic party. They rose.

Tipper, recall, wrote her book before “sexting” (texting sexual messages) and all that.

‐So, where does power lie? Who are the village elders, so to speak? What are the forces that shape men and women? Let’s do up a list again.

Primary school. Secondary school. College. Graduate school. The news media. The publishing industry. The movies. Entertainment television. Popular music.

Does the Left not hold sway in all these areas? Where do conservatives hold sway? I think of country music, talk radio, NASCAR — is it possible to go on?

‐I’d like to say a few words about secondary education. Pretty regularly, I get mail from parents complaining about their kids’ teachers and the textbooks their kids are assigned — the Left bias in the teachers and in the textbooks.

Do my counterparts at left-wing magazines get mail from parents complaining of a conservative bias in the schools? Maybe they do. But, you know: I doubt it.

‐A reader of ours is a teacher and a conservative, and he suspects that the teacher in the next room is a conservative too. But he doesn’t quite know how to find out without revealing his own conservatism — and that revelation could be bad, professionally.

He wrote me to ask, “Maybe I could tap on the wall? Is there some secret code for ‘I believe that Western civilization is, on the whole, a good thing’?”

‐Howard Zinn’s textbook, A People’s History of the United States, is not only Red, it’s read: having sold over 2 million copies.

‐A few words about colleges, please. Every once in a while, I’ll go to a school, and kids will tell me, “You’re the only Republican we’ve seen or heard from in our entire four years here.”

That can’t be right, can it? By that I mean, not that the kids are wrong: but that it is undesirable for such conditions to prevail.

‐I once went to a college and met with the College Republicans. Their faculty adviser was a Democrat. Reason: There were no Republicans on the faculty (as I recall). A kindhearted, broadminded Democrat agreed to be the faculty adviser, because the rules of the college required a faculty adviser (I believe), and this professor was good enough to think that the College Republicans ought to exist.

That can’t be right, can it? Such a situation is “unhealthy for children and other living things,” to borrow an old line — isn’t it?

‐For most of my adult life, I’ve been an editor and writer at conservative magazines. Therefore, I know who the conservative professors are, on the various campuses — on the leading campuses, I mean (and some of the non-leading ones).

Ask me about Harvard, and I’ll give you a few names. Ask me about Duke, and I’ll give you a few names. Etc. I can play this game all across the country.

No one on the left would ever play the game, right? Because naming the left-wing professors would be like reciting the entire faculty directory — right?

On the recent National Review cruise, I asked John Yoo whether he was the only conservative on the Berkeley law faculty. He laughed, saying, “Of course.” All the better law schools have just one, he said. Two would be too many — would throw off the balance.

‐I sit on the board of the Apgar Foundation. It was established by my beloved friend Martha Apgar. Our purpose, in a nutshell, is to support Western civilization on campus. We’re not trying to do anything too fancy. We’re not trying to get the young’uns to read NR or anything. We support Great Books programs, or Great Works programs: Locke, Beethoven, Rembrandt, and them. We think that the American Founding ought to be taught.

And, you know? You might be shocked at the resistance we get from administrators and faculty. They think it’s all a right-wing plot. And, in a perverse way, it is.

Beethoven? The American Founding? Right-wing? When did that happen? (Recently, is the answer: starting in the 1970s.)

Most of the stuff we back used to be normal college. Now it takes the outside efforts of a conservative foundation. That is bizarre.

‐In a speech a few years ago, Bernard Lewis, the Middle East historian, reflected on his field — and on academia in general. He said we are seeing “a degree of thought control and limitations of freedom of expression without parallel in the Western world since the 18th century, and in some areas longer than that.”

‐Every now and then, young editors and writers at NR will say to me, “Oh, Jay — lighten up. It’s no big deal. Sure, the Left dominates, but we turned out all right. Plus, it’s fun to be embattled! It’s fun to swim against the tide.”

It’s fun for some, yes — and inconceivable, or at least unattractive, for others. Most people go with the flow. It has probably always been this way, in every time and place. It’s unnatural to come out from the world and be separate. People like to think of themselves as rebels, with or without a cause — but very few are.

I was talking about this issue with my friend and colleague Mona Charen not long ago. She said, “Accepting what you’re taught is almost a definition of culture.”

‐Just a couple of words about Hollywood, please. As you know, Mitt Romney has had a business career, in addition to a political career. For how long have businessmen been villains in our movies? In the mind of Hollywood, a “community organizer” is a much better thing to be.

Don’t you think this gets transmitted, to one and all? Don’t you think this is in our mother’s milk, so to speak?

‐Romney co-founded a business called Bain Capital. During the recent campaign, the Left used “Bain” as a scare word, a bogey word: “Bain!” (Romney’s opponents in the Republican primaries did some of this too.)

Don’t you think that works, by and large?

‐Later this month, a new Matt Damon movie will come out. According to reports, it will portray hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as evil. The movie is bankrolled by Gulf Arabs — what a surprise. Fracking would be a boon to American energy, and is, to the degree it’s allowed. Don’t you think Damon & Co. should be embarrassed by the backing of Gulf Arabs?

But who would do the embarrassing? Who would shame them? The keepers of the culture are on their side, right?

The really depressing thing is, far more people will watch a Matt Damon movie than will bother to learn anything about oil production, including fracking.

‐Earlier this year, I went to North Dakota, to report on the oil boom there. Before I left New York, a musician friend of mine asked me where I was going, and why. I told him. “What’s responsible for the boom?” he asked. I said, basically, that it was a semi-miraculous combination of two techniques: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

My friend said, “But isn’t it bad for the environment?”

My friend is no left-winger, and, in fact, he’s not very political at all. He just exists in the culture. Who’s going to tell him anything positive about fracking — or about oil? The New York Times? NPR? Jon Stewart?

‐The briefest word about the news media — a further word. You may recall this year’s Al Smith Dinner. The tradition at these dinners is for the presidential nominees to crack wise. And here’s something that Romney said about the news media: “My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country, and their job is to make sure no one else finds out about it.”

Everyone laughed. No one said, “Gee, that’s weird. I don’t get it. What’s he talking about?” They knew. Everyone knows.

‐One more item, before I knock off for today — one more point, rather. I spend a lot of time in and around music. (I work as a music critic at night.) Every so often, musicians will “come out” to me. They will confess their conservatism to me. But they swear me to secrecy, lest they get in trouble — lest they lose their jobs, or otherwise be outcasts.

Why should this be? Why should politics matter in music? So what if an oboist believes in lower marginal tax rates, missile defense, or school choice? What does that have to do with oboe playing? What should her colleagues care?

They just do. If they knew, they would know she was a Bad Person. And she might have trouble keeping or getting work.

If you doubt me, you can talk to the people I’m talking about — or, actually, you can’t: because they would be afraid to open up to you.

I think this is a sick, sick situation — the power of this groupthink. I would like to think that even some on the left would agree — some people like that kindhearted professor, who agreed to advise the College Republicans, Democrat though he was.

See you tomorrow, dear ones, for the final installment of this series — in which I take up the (difficult) question, What to do?


To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.


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