The Left Are Throwing Everything They’ve Got in the Counter-Attack to 2016.
Andrew Breitbart coined the dictum that politics is downstream from culture. The left might sneer at Breitbart for being a wicked conservative who founded the right-wing nutjob fake news hub that bears his name (conveniently forgetting, of course, that he also co-founded the Huffington Post), but they are determinedly putting his aphorism into action every day.
Barack Obama’s own speechwriter, Jon Favreau, explicitly endorsed Breitbart’s dictum, when he wrote that “every election is a competition between two stories”. It’s not the policies, the platforms or the promises that really matter: it’s the stories each side sells its constituents. Because, frankly, many people don’t form their political opinions by scrupulously analysing policies. They vote with their hearts and their gut.
And why wouldn’t they? Most people have far more interesting stuff to occupy their leisure time than politics. Television, video games, music, knitting, church, school, sport…all that stuff’s more fun. Normal people prefer to fill their precious free time with cultural pursuits – and it’s those which shape their politics. Young people especially derive their values (and hence, their vote) from cultural sources: social media, pop stars, actors and memes.
So, like it or not, most people vote with whatever their cultural milieu frames as the “correct” choice. They vote for what they think is attractive or cool. Most importantly, they tend to vote like their friends. Especially young people. Youngsters are herd beasts. Peer approval is life and death stuff for teenagers and it takes a long time to grow out of it. Certainly long past university, sometimes entire lives. As Naomi Woolf said, people who express aloud the “wrong” (i.e. conservative) opinions don’t get invited to the smart dinner parties.
And that’s why the left were winning the Culture War: They fight dirty.
Too many in the centre or on the right thought that we could all settle our differences politely. They even, hilariously, believed that we could thrive on difference. Haggling, passing barbs back and forth like laying down tricks in a card game, maybe winning, maybe losing a particular round, but the game ending with everyone still being friends.
Oh, you poor, deluded fools.
The left don’t play by those rules any more, if they ever did. The left operate on the brutal social logic of the Code of the Schoolyard. As Homer J. Simpson reminds us, the Code of the Schoolyard is an iron rule: never say anything unless you’re sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do. Thanks to the success of the Long March, the left have come to rule the roost in almost every corner of the cultural schoolyard. Conservatives are the dweebs who keep saying the wrong thing and getting mercilessly mocked and beaten up.
Then along came a cocky, swaggering conservative who was willing to stand up to the bullies.
Milo Yiannopoulos shocked timid conservatives and bossy leftists alike because he didn’t give a toss about the Code. He wasn’t afraid to give the leftist bullies a whole lotta sass and a slap on the face where they deserved it.
Milo laid down the gauntlet to leftists, but more importantly, to conservatives. He told conservatives in no uncertain terms that politeness will get them nowhere. Playing nice is a loser’s game in the Culture Wars.
Which is why the conservative establishment loathed Milo (and, by extension, his “Daddy”, Trump) even more than the left. Conservatives dad been conditioned by decades of leftist cry-bullying into a default position of cringing subjection. The slightest show of assertiveness from anyone outside the pale of right-on leftism was instantly hammered with the “far right” gambit. Practically the entire conservative establishment had succumbed to a collective Stockholm Syndrome.
So the Culture War slow-burned as a more-or-less Cold War for most of the last six decades, with the left stealthily but relentlessly occupying more and more territory and the right simply giving up and ceding it without a fight.
Milo, the Trump presidency and Brexit changed all that.
Contrary to all their expectations of final victory, the Long March left found themselves suddenly having to reckon with defeat. Their first reaction was screeching fury and wailing disbelief. Their next move was to marshal their forces for an all-out Culture War blitzkrieg.
If the Trump election and Brexit were the Battle of Britain what followed was Operation Barbarossa. The left threw everything they had into a brutal, do-or-die battle to wrest control of Western culture for good.
Cancel Culture, the wave of statue-toppling, banning of iconic films and television shows and the career-ending of celebrities and journalists, the non-stop Trump Derangement of the mainstream media, the relentless march of the “Waffen-SSM” (as the brilliant Australian cartoonist Bill Leak dubbed them), the gender wars: it was all the cultural equivalent of the massive war machine Hitler unleashed in 1941.
And so we find ourselves in 2020 and the opening salvos of the Culture War’s Operation Overlord. The first beaches have been stormed, but the enemy is marshalling for a counter-attack.
We can only hope that history repeats.