Is there a conservative counter-culture in bloom? According to The Federalist, there is one indeed—and it desperately needs advice.
Fortunately for this apparently existing movement, there’s only five principles it needs to follow to reach the cultural promise land.
A Free and Open Marketplace of Ideas
Individuality over Identity
Advocacy of American Values
Now the last two aren’t too bad as they would serve well for any cultural trend outside the prevailing orthodoxy. But the first three reveal a staggering misunderstanding of the way organic culture forms and thrives. But more importantly than its flawed principles is the concept of a right-wing counter-movement, a subculture for those out of line with the liberal orthodoxy.
Analyzing this idea will shed light on what we can do to formulate an Identitarian counter-culture.
But before tackling that, there is the problem with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: what is the conservative counter-culture? The author is short on details and only alludes to small meetings assembled by conservative non-profits and points to the films American Sniper and Juno as examples of right-wing filmmaking.
From what I can gauge, this doesn’t constitute a “counter-culture.” First off, the films that the writer, David Marcus, considers conservative aren’t really conservative. American Sniper is maybe conservative in the fact it positively portrays a soldier, but that’s not really a feature limited to the right. Rather, it’s more of an American war film for the post-patriotic age. As I pointed out in my review:
Unlike patriotic war films of the past, such as Patton, Sniper does not portray Kyle as a living embodiment of the nation. He is simply a man who snipes fellow men—that’s it… The men he kills will not come across as enemies to the audience, but as threats to the soldiers deployed nearby—no more. The reason Kyle gives for killing is not—except for the brief moment flirting with his future wife—for “our freedom”, but for his immediate comrades. He always justifies the people he shot with the understanding that he saved Marines, not Americans in the abstract or his country.
The “sheepdog without a flock” theme doesn’t mix well with the standard strain of conservativism. It’s an uncomfortable thought to imagine American soldiers not serving their country, but the interests of a narrow few.
The only conservative element of Juno is that the protagonist doesn’t abort her baby. Besides that, the film makes a mockery of traditional families, sexual abstinence, sacred femininity, and other things conservatives love. The film is thoroughly drenched in the values of the liberal orthodoxy, and even the pro-choice crowd wouldn’t find it insulting—unless they’re fully committed to feticide. Which they’re not.
The only other example given is small conferences hosted for artists who produce culture only for a few. Thus, this whole thesis that there is a “rising counter-culture” seems implausible.
Those set aside those facts though and imagine that the advice this writer gives is intended for a rising movement in the future. What then about these principles he speaks of?
For the first one—“A Free and Open Marketplace of Ideas”—Marcus urges conservative artists to have faith in the free market to carry their works into the public sphere. He argues that the reason that right-leaning work has been excluded is due to the domineering role non-profits play in the world of high culture. Marcus explains:
[T]he works themselves should compete without the overbearing influence of these funds—not only because free markets are conservative, but because they produce the best products. As the Progressive arts entrench their narrative and play to smaller and smaller groups of sycophants, conservative artists should be focused on work that pays for itself. This doesn’t mean work that makes the most money is the best, it means the work that attracts the most participation is. Participation can always be monetized. In popular work we will find our strongest messages.
“Because free markets are conservative”? And they “produce the best products”? Has he listened to the radio lately? The free market produces shit for the lowest common denominator in order to make the most profit. Period. If you think free markets produces superior quality products, then I’m assuming you believe Iggy Azalea is superior to Beethoven. That’s why high culture has to depend on non-profits to survive. Even Ludwig van had to depend on the support of wealthy patrons who cared more for his music than earning an profit off it. The free market is one of the primary reasons for the decline of high culture. Profitability plays more of a role in what reaches the public than artistic quality. That’s why the average American foregoes theater in favor of Transformers.
The only people who are going to consume high culture in this country are ostensibly liberal folk. Most American conservatives are philistines—they’re not going to see a play even it’s a tribute to Ronald Reagan. Not only that, but most intellectual conservatives seem to enjoy the leftism that comes with modern-day art. Just check out this glowing review in The American Conservative of a “great American lesbian musical” for proof.
So if the average consumer of “high” art (or what passes it for it) prefers it with a leftist bent, that is the divine figure of free market economics at work. As you can see, this faith in the free market to spur conservative creativity seems like an invalid point.
The second principle—Individuality over Identity—sounds like an anti-Identiarian mantra. But the author’s argument is that art should not focus on the identity politics of minority groups and whether an artwork conforms to those rigid standards, but judge it solely on merit. A fair point and an understandable to call to appreciate art for art’s sake. Unfortunately, this sentiment also undermines the idea that art acts as the expression of a collective people. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum where there’s only “individuals” and all that matters is “content of character.” The creators and purpose of art should play in a role in its judgment. For culture doesn’t transcend identities, it reinforces them.
The third faulty principle is a little bit easier to dismiss. After just saying we should atomize art, Marcus then calls for the emerging counter-culture to advocate for “American Values.” What are these values though? That’s left unanswered. But since the main thrust of American life seems to be the pursuit of individual satisfaction, that doesn’t seem like much of a value to rally around. The great couch potato doesn’t make for a good film script. I also don’t think much culture criticizes basic American “values.” Only a true counter-culture stemming from the authentic right would go that far. So this seems like another misguided principle, even though it does fit within the theme of “Individuality over Identity.” Is that a subtle hint that there’s no longer an American identity?
However, the last two principles are sound. Open sources allows for more content to be created outside of mainstream institutions. All great art requires a degree of courage to realize.
But to create a true counter-culture, there’s a desperate need for a better understanding of its purpose and what it takes to make it a movement.
In Marcus’s opinion, “politics flows downstream from culture.” The point of a conservative counter attack is to influence society and change its politics. But Marcus seems primarily concerned with culture ignored by the larger population and only enjoyed by a small minority of NPR listeners. Not only does it seem unfeasible that these people will embrace conservative art, it also seems highly unlikely that it will influence anyone.
If you want to influence people, you’re going to have to venture into the culture they actually enjoy. Yes, that dreaded popular culture—just like the original counter-culture. Considering the demographic that consumes the most entertainment and is most influenced by it is the youth, you have to create your work with them in the mind. Thus, hoity-toity theater productions should be out of the question.
Fortunately for us, there’s already Identitarian and Traditionalist strains within many elements of popular culture. Take heavy metal music for example. I know many readers may scoff at it and prefer music of the Romantic era, but they should understand how it is a healthy format. The music stresses White masculinity and utilizes the mythology and history of Europe for lyrical inspiration. Certain sub-genres are significantly influenced by classical music and traditional folk, thus introducing thousands of young people to these kinds of music. And unlike most popular music, it’s very un-Black in its rhythm and structure. More importantly it acts as an outlet for many youngsters who feel there’s something wrong with the world to be introduced to the concepts and ideals of the Identitarian Right. I know many who got involved in our politics through metal, myself included.
Sure there’s some degenerate aspects of the music and some of the fans represent the worst elements of society, but dwelling on that comes at the expense of seeing its positive side. As Gregory Hood once wrote:
Whatever the political opinions of the artists involved (if they even have any), metal belongs to the Right. From the most simplistic party sing alongs to the highly complicated creations of serious artists, metal repeatedly stresses themes of conquest, self-overcoming, strength, and conflict… Metal is about seeking glory and excellence–Wagner for the working man. Even a leftist who tries to channel metal will find themselves presenting an image of strength, vitality, and self-glorification.
The main point is that there are already parts of the culture that have Identitarian elements, thus there’s less of a need to create a framework out of thin air. It’s already there. What would make it to a counter-culture is for there to be large groups of people united by their shared interest in these mediums. The most memorable facet of the 60s counter-culture was not its music or its films, but the youth movement that was built around it and shared in its experience. That’s what led to its iconic moments, from Woodstock to anti-war protests, and allowed it to become something much more than fandom for psychedelic rock.
This is the fundamental flaw of Marcus’s thinking in that it places conservative works over the people it would bind together. In order for it to constitute a counter-culture, it has to be a culture, not a hodgepodge of little-seen plays and hardly-read novels. It has to be organic, not a superficial construct. It has to be more than mere entertainment, it has to bring people together. For Identitarians, we already have a significant amount of culture amenable to our beliefs. We, of course, could use more songs that make for better group singing and probably more literature with explicit Identitarian leanings. But those are things that will likely come soon.
The currents are already afoot in our society, we only need the movement to put it all together.