Thursday, 13 February 2014

Andrew Klavan: the Right is the counter-culture now, and it’s time we started fighting back

Andrew Klavan
The conservative American fiction writer and cultural commentator Andrew Klavan has produced an excellent pamphlet on a subject close to my heart: in fact it’s currently the subject that I most often find myself brooding about in the early hours of the morning. “The Crisis in the Arts: Why the Left Owns the Culture and how Conservatives can Begin to Take it Back” makes a number of crucial points: we are the rebels now, and rather than disdainfully turning our back on modern films, books and TV shows because they’ve been impregnated with socialist propaganda by the lefties who seemingly have an unshakeable Vulcan death-grip on our culture, we need to fight back.

Klavan starts by pointing out that as long as the messages blaring at the public via the arts and popular culture are overwhelmingly left-wing, rational political arguments – no matter how correct or how well expressed - won’t make a blind bit of difference:
“…in the long run, all the good ideas in the world can’t combat the compelling narratives provided by the arts.  Bring out the charts that demonstrate a free market creates more and better jobs than do government programs, prove mathematically that the wealthy spread prosperity more effectively than socialism, write treatises explaining that conservatives give more money to charity than liberals, that many women yearn to leave the workforce to keep house and raise children, that capitalism helps minorities, that most veterans are perfectly sane — it will all count for nothing.  People already know that the rich are evil and the poor oppressed, all businessmen are corrupt, all conservatives greedy, all housewives are desperate, all soldiers go mad at the sight of war and so on.  They know these things because they saw them, again and again, at the movies.”
Any number of right-wing think tanks beaver away in American universities trying to get the contrary message across to young people, but, according to Klavan, not one of them focuses its efforts on culture. The result is that there is nowhere for conservative artists, writers and film-directors to meet for “fellowship and support”. The only mainstream forum that treats right-wing creatives fairly, apparently, is the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday Review section. Meanwhile, left-wing cultural outlets will invariably denigrate or ignore films, books and TV shows created by right-wingers:
“…while a brilliant leftist actor like Sean Penn can win the Oscars he deserves even though he’s a brain-dead supporter of Communist tyrants, outspoken conservative talents like actor Kelsey Grammer, TV producer Joel Surnow and writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh have all been snubbed, hounded or even censored for their political positions.  Nicholson Baker can write a novel imagining the assassination of President George W. Bush and win praise but if even a rodeo clown makes a rude joke about Barack Obama, he is chased out of the business.  You can’t get barred from a project in Hollywood or New York for being a left-winger; you can be quietly, and even not so quietly, excluded from many projects for being on the right.  Any artist who cares about his career knows which political side his bread is buttered on.”
Klavan’s message is straightforward: rich right-wingers should stop paying millions for wonks to devise conservative arguments and policies that have no effect: “Next time you wonder how our culture went so wrong that a corrupt mediocrity like Barack Obama could win a second term as president, remember:  it happened at the movies while you were giving your millions to political consultants.  Play the long game; support the arts.” In other words, the Right needs a TV channel, a film studio, a publisher – not to produce simple-minded propaganda or anodyne family-oriented films pushing conservative values, but to produce good novels and good movies and good TV programmes that just happen to be written and made by conservatives. It is, he believes, a way of beating the entertainment industry’s anti-conservative blacklist and of countering the wholesale left-wing rewriting of history (he lists some fascinating examples).

Well, it sounds like an excellent idea to me. The problem, of course, is that it has sort of been tried. Kelsey Grammer starred in Big Fat Important Movie (2008), a satirical attack on the Liberal hatred of American values in general and the odious Michael Moore in particular. It featured several out-of-the-closet Hollywood rightists, including James Woods and Jon Voight, and was directed by David Zucker of Airplane fame. Unfortunately, it stank. In 2010, Grammer fronted the launch of RightNetwork, a conservative TV entertainment channel. It folded within a year, due to lack of funding.

But those failures don’t undermine Klavan’s argument: he makes it clear that what conservative creatives shouldn’t be producing is crude rubbish like Big Fat Important Movie  – they should simply be producing art and popular culture good enough to compete with the liberal varieties. The other thing that’s needed is FUNDING – and if those sinister cabals of greedy, heartless, rapacious, fascist US businessmen who liberals see as the source of all the suffering in the world don’t think it’s worth spending what to them is small change on fighting the culture wars, they’re dumber than I thought.

Klavan’s long article is available online (here), and it's well worth reading in its entirety. I was particularly bucked by his theory that - thanks to the disintermediation (as we we Shingites used to call it) created by digital media - now is the perfect time to launch a counter-cultural counter-attack.

Of course, a cultural fightback would be easier in America than in the UK, because US conservatives don’t have the publicly-funded left-wing cultural behemoth that is the BBC to contend with. One small example of how liberals manipulate popular culture by lying about our past (one of Klavan's main concerns) is on display on BBC One tonight at 8,30. I’ve had occasion to feel the collar of ‘60s-set crime series Inspector George Gently before (here). Foolishly, I decided to give it another chance: I watched the new series opener last week, but lasted for just under 20 minutes of the 90 on offer. The message is always the same: every white heterosexual male in the past was wrong about everything – they hated immigrants, despised homosexuals, treated women like dirt, didn’t care about the environment, and didn’t have a clue how to bring up children: they were stupid, brutal, unevolved troglodytes.

"I think we'd better phone Polly Toynbee, son"
Inspector Gently – played by Martin Shaw, employing a seriously unconvincing mockney accent - escapes the corruption of London (where every copper is as bent as a nine-bob note, naturally) by relocating to the North East. There, Gently's role is to act as a symbol of the infinitely caring and wise therapeutic left-liberal state – he’s a sort of 2014 Guardian leader article made flesh: more specifically, his purpose in life is to turn his thoroughly unreconstructed young local sidekick (played by the excellent Lee Ingleby) into a smug, compassionate, sensitive, victim-hugging, tofu-chomping, politically enlightened, Prius-driving, modern-day Islingtonian. In terms of lmpm (liberal messages per minute) it may just be the all-time British TV winner: in terms of judging the past through the eyes of the present, it's definitely got the Gold Medal sewn up.

I’m sure Andrew Klavan hasn’t seen a second of Inspector George Gently (lucky man), but it sums up everything he objects to and wants the Right to counter. I wish him luck with his crusade, because, unless we win the Culture Wars, we really are buggered.


  1. I think main issue is what you've said...don't make it ideological and most of all don't make it crap. Left wing politics are not very's positive..action oriented. These people are victims of these mean people...there oughta be a law. Very ideological so it comes with easily defined categories and identity markers.

    It's much harder to demonstrate the benefit of negative, anti-ideological, ideas...but, not impossible and it's subtlety should produce better art.

  2. Excellent, thought-provoking post. Erik Bartlam's comment robs me - very concisely - of anything I could add.

    Instead, I offer two tired old quotes. Julius Caesar: "“Let me have men about me that are fat... Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much: such men are dangerous” and Tinker, Tailor etc : " Karla has a weakness. He is a fanatic which means he has doubt."

    We on the right must get energetic and prey on their doubts. Ideology is an excuse for not thinking, bopping up and down with placards and mindless chanting. Political or religious. "It is written..."

  3. I have nothing to add - I agree with both of you!

    I suspect the thing that's going to work best in this country is ridicule - there is no point in arguing with 'em.

  4. "He who runs in front of car gets tired.He who runs behind car gets exhausted."What Confucius may have been neally trying to say is that the left has won the battle of the 'hip' or 'cool' but for the right to attempt to chase the hip is deeply unhip.
    Ridicule is for sure a far better option-does anyone remember German goose-stepping soldiers marching to the tune of 'The lambeth walk.'Was it Pathe News?