There are three branches of government:
Significant overlap exists between them all, branches two and three in particular, but for my purposes I define “entertainment” as “cultural products which provide an escape from the so-called real world, oftentimes transmitting cultural values of great importance,” and “distraction” as “the government’s ability to set a narrative, shifting public attention on Happening A at the expense of Happenings B through Z.”
Artists and creative types partake heavily in the second branch of government. Artists and creative types also have a bloated sense of their own importance. I say this as an artist and a creative type.
I have no intent on giving readers whiplash as I swerve from discussing the impact that art has on culture, and culture has on politics, to saying that it’s all a bunch of nonsense. That’s because I am not saying that it’s all a bunch of nonsense. I am, however, trying to add a little nuance to the whole “politics is downstream of culture” mentality held by many artists, writers, actors, musicians, and others in the creative arts.
Looking at how ostensible comedy shows like Saturday Night Live and nighttime talkers including the spectacularly unfunny Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel parrot government- and academia-approved talking points. I can’t help but wonder if they are driving the culture sua sponte, or if they are driving the culture with directions given by someone further up the food chain.
I think it is safe to assume that, given the coordinated assault from the entertainment branch of government that somehow seems to march in lockstep on every single issue form healthcare to international relations, that they themselves are downstream from some other source. Perhaps the idea of “politics” needs further refinement, and we should call it “retail politics,” the kind that Americans and other people living in representative democracies get all hot and bothered by every two, four, or six years when the time comes to cast votes in what is little more than a national popularity contest.
So in that case, yes, retail politics is certainly downstream from culture. People vote for who is the best-looking, the funniest, the tallest, or who the funny man on television tells them to vote for.
But who tells the funny man on television whom they should shill for? Who gives the marching orders to the entertainment industry what causes need to be promoted in their movies and books and video games? That is the important thing to consider, and where a lot of artists and cultural creators lose the plot.
If politics is downstream from culture, culture is downstream from academia, and academia, I would argue, is downstream from philosophy, with philosophy finally being downstream from religion.
I often say that “If you want to change the world, go into entertainment.” And that is true. But it is changing the world, in many cases, as the middleman and not the primary driver. The kooky ideas that Hollywood crams down our throats, and that woke capital seems to hop on board with, aren’t generated by Hollywood or woke capital. Hollywood does what it does because it, like the music industry and so many other facets of culture and entertainment, are funded with government money. Woke capital does what it does because it’s greedy and will do whatever it thinks is popular to chase a buck.
So let’s look at the religion piece of it. Our putative betters get their worldview from their beliefs, the same way we all do. You might not be Christian. You might not be Jewish. You might not be Muslim. You might not be Hindu. You might not be a pagan. You might not think you believe in anything.
That’s irrelevant, because the people in charge sure believe in something. And that, in turn, informs their values. It helps that much of the cultural sphere shares these elite beliefs whether they know it or not.
I didn’t forget academia. Academia is important even though it represents a tiny slice of the population, and only a tiny slice of that tiny slice actually reads, listens to, imbibes, and otherwise cares about the product of this academy. But here’s the thing: the slice that does care about academia is the slice that matters. They are our aristocracy, our noble class, and they’re the ones whose opinions and beliefs matter. So the opinions and beliefs of the people they listen to are the ones that matter, even though a gigantic percentage of the United States, or whichever state you want to talk about, either don’t agree with academia or aren’t even aware of what they think and believe.
You can fight a culture war by creating and controlling culture. But the answer is to look further up the food chain. You really win by creating and controlling that which informs the culture. Most of our officially approved artistes and auteurs don’t have an original thought in their head. The ones who do have to be very careful not to be fully ostracized from the system that pays them.
If you think I am making yet another paean to the glories of independent creators, you are absolutely right. This is a part of it. On the writing front, Brandon Sanderson and his recent, hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, have shown how fragile the world of traditional publishing is, and the potential for a neopatronage model sans gatekeepers.
But what if you’re not an artist? What if your strengths lie elsewhere? What can you do?
You can do something that we’re told time and again by feckless, limp-wristed conservatives without chests tell not to do, almost as vociferously as they tell us not to go into the arts: go into academia.
If you can stomach it, get into the education game at any level you can. Get on your school board. Go for a teaching degree. Try to get tenure. Do what it takes to get into these positions, to force or sneak your way into the elite, upper-class circles. We need a critical mass, substantial enough to effectively counter the things we decry, so we can promulgate our ideas among the people whose opinions and beliefs matter (maybe we can start electing some too!) and give the culture creators marching orders that comport with how we would like to see the world.
Of course, you should also be getting spiritually strong regarding the first stop on our chain of causation. Do you worship the Good, the Beautiful, and the True? Or do you worship whatever foul thing our current crop of leaders swear fealty to? This stuff is important, so if you haven’t thought about it before, now is the time.