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Media, SSM, & Cultural Change

From the mailbag, this from a college student in Minnesota:

I just read your article on the BBC’s website about the inevitability of same-sex marriage and feel compelled to tell you that it’s the most insightful piece of information I’ve ever encountered on the subject. I don’t understand conservatives. I’m not saying that in an exasperated or belittling way–I literally am unable to process how they think, and it has puzzled me since I was in my early teens. I feel as if you’ve just turned on a lightbulb and now I can see not only how conservatives come by their strong beliefs, but also how my own convictions as a young liberal have been so deeply influenced by the changing shape of American culture and media that I am unable to find logic in anything else because I simply have no context for anything else. I’m not usually inclined toward cynicism, but I think far fewer of us are truly independent thinkers than we’d like to believe. Thanks for the great article.

If I’ve helped her understand how conservatives think, she’s helped me understand how conservatives have failed as culture-makers. Similarly, reader PeterK sends along this report from NPR:

In one of the most talked-about moments from the hit TV show Glee, Blaine declared his love for Kurt and then — they kissed.

Glee is just one of many popular shows on television right now that feature gay characters. Those characters aren’t just entertaining us, they’re changing Americans’ attitudes toward homosexuality.

In five separate studies, professor Edward Schiappa and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota have found that the presence of gay characters on television programs decreases prejudices among viewers.

Culture precedes politics. Contemporary conservatives have never understood this. We think that electing more Republicans is the answer. Now we get to the point where the Republicans are backing away from cultural conservatism. 

Something else conservatives don’t really get about media and culture: the media rarely tells us what to think; the way media bias — or, more neutrally, influence — works is by setting the parameters for thought and debate. When is the last time you’ve seen or heard a character on TV, or a person on the news, making an articulate or otherwise respectable case for traditional marriage, or anything culturally conservative?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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