Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Culture 11's Postmodern Postmortem

I can't say that I'd hadn't heard of Culture 11 until it's demise. But check out Dan Riehl. He hadn't, yet he beautifully manages to pin down Culture 11's insignificance to the blogosphere:

But I've been knocking around the Internet for too many years to count and blogging daily for five on the Right. There are few if any major memes I miss, even if I don't blog on them.

I never even heard of this Culture11 site until I read that it was gone. If someone wants to know why it failed, extrapolate that out to other bloggers and web surfers, that was it.

Having never seen it, all I can conclude is that it really must have sucked.
The Culture 11 page is still up ... there's just no new commentary. For a lot of not-so-closeted postmods, it was "Oh, the humanity" over the news. The essayists at Ordinary Gentlemen were crying on each other's shoulders when the site went belly up. Of course, it went belly up for for good reason: Culture 11 wasn't conservative. You can call it "postmodern conservatism" or "liberaltarian," or what have you. But it wasn't conservative. Even conservatives who think Culture 11 was such a great place, can't figure out what to call conservatism. They hate it that much.

Anyway, I'm going on about this since Charles Homans has written a big postmortem on Culture 11, "
Culture Shock: What happened when one conservative Web site ventured outside the movement bubble." Homans' got a decent grip on what he's talking about, and the piece is a good read. But Washington Monthly is hopelessly progressive, and that helps explain why pomos like Andrew Sullivan, or confused libertarians like Daniel Larison and David Weigel, think its such an "important" piece. But read Homans' article in full (and the aforementioned pomo-liberaltarians cited herein, all found at Memeorandum). One of the sentences at the piece that captures the essence of the pomo-zeitgeist is from the discussion of Jonah Goldberg's commentary on today's college culture: Conservatives "have a problem with young people."

That's what everyone keeps saying? From
David Brooks to David Frum to Meghan McCain, it's all about, "Dude, you've got to attract the up-and-comers or you'll be the permanent minority." So what are conservatives supposed to do to prevent that? Join the progressive majority, of course. But first they'll have to off-load the "Christianists," although that might be hard, considering that these evil evangelicals make up about a quarter of the electorate, and there's little genuine support for the notion that faith-based voters will abandon the GOP.

"But that's not a big enough constituency for a minimum winning coalition," critics will say. "We've got to reach out the next wave of socially progressive voters." Perhaps. But in so doing conservatives won't be able to call themselves that anymore. Gay marriage? Pro-choice on abortion? Tax-and-spend for a "green economy"? You've got to be kidding me, right? The pomos should just join the Democratic Party? Andrew Sullivan's already mouthing the Obamacrats' social-policy talking points. It should be a no-brainer for these idiots. It's mind boggling sometimes, really. You'd think today's conservatives were never kids. I know college campuses. For the life of me I can't think of one liberal policy outside Pell Grants that will really help the life chances of today's young. I've got students in my classes who are fresh out of high school with kids in kindergarten (so some girls are having babies before they're 15 years-old). I've got inner-city students who've had their children murdered. Others didn't learn to speak English until first grade, as only Spanish was spoken in the home. And don't even get me going about academic skills. Decades of "progressive" education and the collapse of rigorous expectations for the disadvantaged have sapped whatever will to upward mobility we might otherwise see in poor and minority communities. Attend classes in any humanities and social sciences department nowadays and you'll have radical ideology rammed down your throat, contrary to
Michael Bérubé might say otherwise. Yeah, go to Berkeley or Harvard Yard and you'll get your Yglesias wannabes. They should move to Sweden.

There are untold numbers of young conservatives, and they're not all white Christians. I read hundreds of term paper assignments every semester, and I'm always pleased to see what's frankly a pushback among the "silent" faction that thinks Obamessianism is a joke. These kids think childhood pregnancy and liberal abortion policies are a disaster. Perhaps its religion or strong family cultures, but traditional values are not out of step with a large segment of today's young people. The meme that conservatives and the GOP absolutely must court young "progessives" is the big lie of the Daily Kos-David Frum-Andrew Sullivan new-left-pomo axis. While
the youth vote turned out in large numbers in 2008 for the Democrats, the results in the long run may be specific to the issues of this election and the charisma of this president. The suggestion that demographics-is-destiny for the GOP is thus time-bound to the extant backlash against the Bush administration in particular, and may be an ephemeral trend overall. The push to capture the youth vote assumes as well continued high rates of participation among the young, social progressive age cohort. But 2008 was a perfect storm of leftist-social activism, and it's a flawed determinism to suggest that the stars will stay aligned for future elections. Complacency at having achieved change, and outright revulsion at Democratic incompetence and totalitarianism, will turn off many younger Democratic backers as the euphoria of change wears off. And on gay marriage, the issue that seems to be a proxy for the pomo battle lines, polls in California and nationally show large majorities who favor alternative equilibria to full-blown same-sex marriage rights, and these findings are stable for the last year or so, at a time when gay rights activism has received unprecedented coverage in the press.

If conservatism is to mean anything, it's that society changes along with the forces of proscription and tradition. To push too rapidly is to court reaction. This is exactly what the No on H haters are doing, and we only have to
look to gay activists themselves for proof of a pushback to folks like Andrew Sullivan and the Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Culture 11's death was well deserved. And the folks now singing its praises ought to enjoy the good times while they last. The "emerging progressive majority" is anything but.


Anonymous said...

Never heard of it, either.

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

And as Culture 11 went, so will go the Republican Party if it does not return to the Conservatism that made it viable, made it tick, made this country have its liberty, and is leaving the GOP in lieu of pursuing a leftward leaning.

Anonymous said...

See www.parcbench.com

Grizzly Mama said...

I am so relieved to hear you say that many young people are holding fast to conservative values, that they are smart enough to see through the bullshit of the Left. It does my heart good to hear that. Although I have to say that my heart has shriveled into a sad little ball as over the years I have talked with teenagers who were just completely ignorant, socially inept, lacking basic mental math skills, unaware of the significance of history, unsure of themselves, spouting whatever it is they hear in their public school classes. Which, the majority of the time, is leftist crap. Not all of the time, though.

I think it is a mistake to think that the GOP must promote squishy middle-ness to attract votes. Huge mistake. They will certainly lose my vote, and they've only got me by a thread at this point. The RINO's are giving me gas.

BTW - I had never heard of this culture 11, either. So. They're gone, eh?

Flag Gazer said...

Well, I read Bill Bennett there, but NEVER go to the main page and he is still posting there at Nota Bennett http://culture11.com/blogs/notabennett/?from=blog - In fact, his piece on last night's babble fest is a great read.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of this except the description of Larison as a libertarian, which he is not. I frequently disagree with him, usually because his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy often spill over into the kind of criticisms of the American national character we see in the sort of libertarian you confuse him with, but that is not what he is. I can't stand that type either, but I do admire (even if I certainly do not always agree with) Buchanan. On the need to fight our enemies as we see fit with or without the approval of useless international organizations I am with the neoconservative view, but one point where I agree with the antiwar right and part ways with the neoconservative view is that I do not believe even a little bit in the democratic peace theory.

Conor Friedersdorf said...

In what world is Daniel Larison a confused libertarian?!