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Crazy Theory: This Year the Right Is Winning the Culture Wars

A perhaps-crazy theory, from the last Morning Jolt of the week.

Crazy Theory: This Year the Right Is Winning the Culture Wars

Allow me to throw out a theory, that I’m not entirely sure I believe myself. It came up in a conversation with Liz Sheld last night; think of this assertion as playing Devil’s Advocate: In 2016, the Right is winning the culture wars.

“How can you say that? There’s still filth on television! Everybody mocks Christians and celebrates depravity! Political correctness is on the march! Starbucks is still using plain red cups at Christmastime!” Six pieces of evidence…

1. Notice what Target stores just did.

Target Corp. said it will spend $20 million to add a private bathroom to each of its stores by next year, after customer protests of its policy allowing transgender individuals to use whichever restroom corresponds with their gender identity.

Most of Target’s 1,797 locations already have single-occupancy or unisex restrooms, but it will add the option to 277 stores by November and to about 20 remaining stores by March 2017, the company said on Wednesday.

Target’s finance chief Cathy Smith said the move is a response to feedback from customers voicing displeasure over the company’s bathroom policy. She added the customer discontent hadn’t had a material impact on sales.

You claim customer discontent hasn’t had an impact on sales, but you’re going to spend $20 million? I think customer discontent just did have an impact on your bottom line.

In a related development…

2. Caitlyn Jenner’s reality show ‘I Am Cait’ just got canceled. (Perhaps one could see this as Hollywood lashing out at one of the few Republican women celebrities willing to speak to like-minded audiences in Cleveland during the convention.) CNN summarized, “Season 2 of her reality show, which experienced a drop in ratings, largely focused on Jenner’s education on transgender issues.” The fact that Jenner’s show reached a second season suggests that viewers don’t reject Jenner or transgendered individuals entirely but that E! Network viewers don’t like being lectured to about this topic. Very few people do.

3. One can argue whether the all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot needed or deserved to be a cultural flashpoint. Those who were underwhelmed by the trailers contended that it was not misogyny that fueled their negative reaction, but the fact that what they were seeing was simply not that funny. But a good chunk of the Social Justice Warrior crowd saw the success of the movie as an important test of feminist cinema. A BuzzFeed article urged women to “make that theater as rowdy and supportive as a bunch of drunk girls in a bar bathroom, aka the pinnacle of supportive funtimes. [sic]”

Those rowdy, supportive crowds failed to materialize in sufficient numbers, despite the controversy and a major advertising campaign:

As of Aug. 7, Ghostbusters had earned just under $180 million at the global box office, including $117 million domestic. The film still hasn’t opened in a few markets, including France, Japan and Mexico, but box-office experts say it will have trouble getting to $225 million despite a hefty net production budget of $144 million plus a big marketing spend. The studio has said break-even would be $300 million.

A sequel is unlikely.

4. In the past year, hard-line Leftist activists appeared to win every fight on college campuses, demanding “safe spaces,” shouting down contrary voices, intimidating professors and administrators and generally turning universities into temples of Political Correctness, a twisted rejection of free expression and free exchange of ideas.

But the New York Times reports that the students forgot one key group that keep the wheels of colleges turning: alumni. 

A backlash from alumni is an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions of the last academic year. Although fund-raisers are still gauging the extent of the effect on philanthropy, some colleges — particularly small, elite liberal arts institutions — have reported a decline in donations, accompanied by a laundry list of complaints.

Among about 35 small, selective liberal arts colleges belonging to the fund-raising organization Staff or Sharing the Annual Fund Fundamentals, that recently reported their initial annual fund results for the 2016 fiscal year, 29 percent were behind 2015 in dollars, and 64 percent were behind in donors, according to a steering committee member, Scott Kleinheksel of Claremont McKenna College in California. His school, which was also the site of protests, had a decline in donor participation but a rise in giving.

Nowhere has the consequence of runaway student activists been clearer than at…

5. The University of Missouri, where the high-profile, racially-charged student protests gave the school a reputation that is deterring interest in potential students.

Enrollment at the University of Missouri is expected to decline by 2,600 students in the fall, aggravating a bad budget situation and making it likely the pain will extend for several years as the shrunken fall freshman class filters through to graduation.

Vice Chancellor of Finance Rhonda Gibler, in an interview ahead of a campus budget forum Wednesday, said campus divisions have been told to plan for 2 percent cuts to general fund budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 in addition to 5 percent cuts ordered for the year that begins July 1…

The latest enrollment figures point to a decline of 1,400 first-time freshmen, to about 4,800, and 1,200 other students, Gibler said. For every 100 fewer Missouri undergraduate students who are on campus, the university loses $1 million in tuition revenue. That rises to $2.5 million for 100 fewer undergraduates from outside the state.

Finally…

6. Gawker is shutting down. There are a lot of laments that the web site’s financial demise is bad for journalism, will have a chilling effect on investigative reporting, and so on. But Gawker had its day in court, and what the jury saw on those days in court was pretty chilling and repugnant:

A former Gawker editor told a court on Wednesday that the only situation where a sex tape would not be newsworthy is if it included a child under the age of four.

AJ Daulerio, who no longer works at Gawker, is a key witness in the $100mn lawsuit against the website brought by wrestling star Hulk Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, over a sex tape Delaurio published in 2012.

Do all sex tapes have news value? Is publishing one without consent of the parties depicted protected by the First Amendment? Call me crazy, but I’m comfortable living in a world where juries believe that sex tapes don’t have an inherent news value and publishing them isn’t protected.

Defenders of Gawker point to other, much less salacious work by the site, but the trial wasn’t putting the collective work of the site on trial; it was the decision making on the post that featured Hogan, that invaded his privacy.

Notice this is almost entirely in the cultural realm, not the political one, far from the battles of the elections. But perhaps 2016 will be remembered as the year where the Left advanced a bridge too far. 

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