The new conservative media infrastructure is ideally suited to rapid-response punditry and rallying the base, but it’s not really an alternative to the major cultural institutions—the big dailies, networks, universities, and Hollywood studios. Talk-show hosts and bloggers criticize the mainstream media’s excesses, but rarely do any reporting of their own. Conservative think tanks provide a corrective to Ivy League liberalism, but aren’t in the business of actually educating undergraduates and churning out Ph.D.s [bold mine-DL]. The O’Reilly Factor can give a right-leaning movie a much-needed boost, but aside from a few outliers like The Passion of the Christ, it isn’t clear that Hollywood has become any more hospitable to conservative values and themes in the last decade or so. ~Ross Douthat

This is from a review of South Park Conservatives Ross wrote a few weeks ago last year.  His conversation with Henry Farrell pointed me to it, and this quote in particular struck me as being very right.  A few weeks ago I had made some similar remarks:

If anyone wants an explanation for why the academy is dominated by the left and why the youngest cohort of voters has gone even more overwhelmingly for the Democrats than usual, you need look no further than precisely this sort of professional cop-out, giving up on educating the next generation for the sake of the easy, cheap and ephemeral victories of politics.  Every conservative out there complains about the declining standards of education, the ruin of the academy, the politicisation of the classroom and on and on, but what happens when it comes time to step up and do some of the educating themselves?  They go to law school to get a “useful” degree, or go into politics or some other field where the “prospects” for the future are better, and then wonder how the media, academia, the arts and cinema have all been taken over by people who loathe everything they believe.   

The creation of these parallel institutions, such as they are, has had the somewhat predictable effect of reducing incentives for conservatives to persevere in the various hearts of cultural darkness and also has tended to make sure that conservatives are less relevant to much of the discourse today in any number of fields that were ceded and abandoned decades ago.  Were modern conservatives such great “theocrats” as some parts of the left accuse them of being, you would think that they would dominate the seminaries and divinity schools around the nation, but the opposite is usually the case.  Were conservatives in fact as medieval as their progressive adversaries believe them to be, you might think that they would dominate medieval history, but the opposite is usually the case.  History departments were once redoubts of reaction, and nowadays almost the opposite extreme is true.  This is perplexing, since you might think conservative-minded people would be very keen to learn about their history and traditions and so pass them down and reproduce them, but with baffling regularity they entrust the keeping of the faith and the preservation of memory to those who are less inclined to venerate traditional forms and those who may be more interested in subverting and debunking than understanding.  There has been a recent flurry of arguments in favour of reviving the study of military history, which is a very good idea, but even when that study revives there will not be many conservatives doing the scholarship, because the academy has already been deemed enemy territory.