Conservatism & Cultural Antibodies
Disney has always been an explicitly morally instructive company; its characters were used as propaganda during World War II. Walt Disney’s original vision for Walt Disney World in Orlando was a model for a healthy civic society, among many other examples. Conservatives now simply disapprove of the corporation’s chosen morality, which includes commonly accepted progressive ideas about multiculturalism and personal identity.
The story of fighting back against that gradual, seemingly inevitable leftward cultural creep is more or less the story of conservatism itself. The incentives and pressures that have led conservatives on this particular quest, however — one that’s not only almost certainly hopeless, but that has led them into sinister rhetorical territory in referring to opponents of the law as “groomers,” or manipulative pedophiles — are quite modern, and reveal how much both our cultural and political landscape have shifted over just the past decade of American life.
“Sinister rhetorical territory” — right. The real problem is with people who call this stuff out for what it is. Anyway, let’s move on:
They now accuse notionally LGBT-friendly companies like Disney of “grooming” children — an astonishingly cynical rhetorical flourish that, by misappropriating a term used to describe pedophiles, manages to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia, profoundly disrespect actual survivors of child sex abuse by using their experience as a political cudgel, and invoke the specter of far-right conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” all at once. (The backlash has also predictably and depressingly caught sex education in its blast radius, which has been repeatedly proven as the most effective tactic to prevent sexual abuse.)
Oh for pity’s sake, really? Nobody is conflating homosexuality with pedophilia. Nobody thinks Douglas Murray, Andrew Sullivan, or Camille Paglia are a danger to children. What we’re talking about is the grooming of little children to accept radical sexual and gender identities (e.g., “pansexual”) at a time when these kids are putty in the hands of teachers and other authority figures. It teaches them to think of themselves as sexual beings, and their every desire as constitutive of their identity. Both gays and straights doing this are grooming kids into a highly sexualized culture — one that seems obvious to many of us to be headed straight for the literal sexualization of children, as in turning them into objects of sexual desire.
To pretend that objecting to this is being Anita Bryant is rhetorically dishonest, and maybe even sinister. But anyway, let’s go on. Author Derek Robertson has a point here, though:
Embedded in that effort is the recognition that when it comes to the core issues at hand — support for the racial justice movement and LGBTQ rights — the ship has sailed leftward and has been doing so since the 1960s, if not before.
Why does he have a point? Because the ship of American culture really has been sailing leftward for a long time. That is not always a bad thing. No morally aware conservative could possibly want to return to the days of 1950s Jim Crow, for example, or to the days when homosexuals were hounded out of employment for being gay. But Robertson’s piece is part of progressive mythology, claiming that the Grand March of History is inevitable, and conservatives can’t stop it. In fact, what the Robertson piece points to, whether he realizes it or not, is the power of culture-creating institutions like Disney to direct the culture in certain ways. Disney is a marker of the mainstream, but it has also created the mainstream. Watch those videos that Chris Rufo posted of all the senior Disney executives talking about how they’ve been quietly inserting LGBT ideas and characters into children’s movies and TV programming, and how they’re going to ramp that up. They understand the power they wield to guide culture in certain ways. It is absurd for Derek Robertson to claim that this all just sort of happened.
Nevertheless, Robertson also gets to a reason that I wrote The Benedict Option (and now, Live Not By Lies). We on the cultural and religious right really have lost this war. We absolutely have to wage guerrilla warfare when we can — that’s what Rufo is doing — but the deeper currents of American culture are moving strongly to the left. This is not something we can vote ourselves out of. Unless American conservatives can make these groomer woke capitalists afraid of us, nothing will change. Are there enough of us to do that? I hope so, and maybe there is right now. But it won’t be forever. As Eric Kaufmann warned, based on his research, the Millennials and Generation Z are the wokest generations ever.
Most Americans, I fear, are not even aware that there is something to resist in all this. There are almost no cultural antibodies left with which to fight the invader. Religion ought to have been leading the charge against the corporate colonization of our minds, but of course most American religion is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Few American churches are in any sense enemies of Mickey Mouse. Nevertheless, there are lots of people — Christians, Jews, Muslims, even some secular folks — who despise what is happening, and who just want to build communal structures in which moral sanity can thrive, and in which they can learn resiliency, and pass it on to their kids.
I like to think that I’ve identified this need. But I have no idea how to build. Do you?