Culture11

There a new political website, called Culture11, one many are calling a ‘right-of-center Salon’ that looks promising. It’s more youth-oriented (by which I do not mean Young-Republican) and it seems to cater more toward thoughtful and intellectual analysis than mere campaigning and propaganda.

Assuming the Republicans lose this next election – and the more I consider McCain’s VP pick, the more this seems likely – they should find themselves at a low enough point in which to rebuild themselves. They should tap into the growing sentiments toward libertarianism and traditional conservatism that seem to be present in the youth of today. The Ron Paul movement was largely fueled by the youth and was hardly a cult of personality. There are a lot of people on the fringes of the left and right, extremely dissatisfied with their parties’ platforms but mindful of the crackpottedness of the “Big L” Libertarians, who are eager to see ideas of individuality and freedom enter the mainstream.

The mainstream voices of the left and right have degenerated into mere advocacy of whatever is the platform of their particular party. Even in the NY Times, the “opinion” columns of Bill Kristol and Frank Rich are nearly indistinguishable from press releases from the parties. Intellectual vitality is lost to activism, and the readers suffer.

I’m a weird case, as anyone who has debated with me knows. I doubt the legitimacy of any government – I certainly deny the right of a government to detain, imprison, and even murder its own citizens – and I simply do not believe that any human being or organization has any dominion over another. Some would say this makes me an anarchist. However, I also try to be a realist. So, I recognize that as long as we do have a government, and are likely to for a long freaking time, they might as well keep us safe from harm – by which I mean in terms of health care more so than security. Considering my own medical, um, hijinx this might not come as a surprise, but many would say that this disqualifies me from the political right-wing. Add to it the fact that I am pro-choice, anti-war, soft on immigration, etc and you might think that you’ve got a bona fide Lefty on your hands. But, add to it that I am generally pro-business, pro-small government, pro-states rights, anti-hate crimes legislation, etc. and my readers (mostly Lefties likely) might be surprised. I have my reasons for all of these stances, reasons with which I could inundate you, given the opportunity, but mainly I value independence of thought. I like reading thoughtful articles and blog posts I disagree with, just as much as I do the ones I agree with.

When I first got into politics I only read stuff on the left. I was a fan of Common Dreams and Tom Tomorrow; now I can’t stand them. Stuff like that and The Huffington Post are utterly predictable. I might agree with a great portion of it, but if you only encounter agreeable material you will become intellectually stagnant. So, as usual via the loooong way, this brings me back to Culture11. I disagree with much of the opinions on the site, but I respect the thoughtfulness behind it.
For example this is from an article called They Doth Protest Too Much, about the DNC protests:

Perhaps it is true, as Susan Sontag posited in On Photography, that there is “an aggression implicit in every use of the camera,” but it is clearly not an aggression on par with the menacing gait, symbolic defiance and petulant attitude protesters attempt to co-opt into their faux insurgent chic. Admittedly, adopting a believable revolutionary stance must be difficult in a city where the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations publishes a helpful pamphlet on how to avoid arrest. Yet something larger is at work here. “As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure,” Sontag wrote. “Thus, photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: tourism.”

The essence of the infamous 1968 Democratic convention to the Recreate68ers tourists, it seems, was not philosophical, but cultural. The protesters aren’t really here to shake up the system or tear down the edifice of a decaying society. None, not even those designated to speak to the press and police liaisons, exhibit the kind of charisma or ambition necessary for something as grand as all that. The Zapatistas in Chiapas would surely accept their aid if these twentysomethings and younger wanted to trade their hovel in the ‘rents basement and an X-Box for a jungle bunker and war against the man. No, it’s more akin to the conceit of Total Recall: they paid the price to come travel to a city where, for a week, they can live an artificial — but lurid — version of a dangerous — but celebrated — time in history. They came to rub elbows with a story, to gain that “imaginary possession of a past that is unreal”; to be able to say, like the vets of SDS and the Weathermen Underground, “Hey, we were there when the s*** went down.”

See, most analyses of the DNC protests either hail them as cultural heroes or unamerican criminals. This article definitely paints them in a less-than-glowing light, but at least it is thought-provoking. You may disagree with it, but you can’t simply dismiss it with a snarky comment like most partisan commentary. Personally, I think that protest-culture is essential to the health of any society, yet damn, most of those motherfuckers are annoying and just as close-minded as the people they condescendingly condemn. And I’ve been one of them.

In short, we need more conservative voices at this level. Culture11 is coming at a good time, the market is dying for smart right-of-center voices. We’ll see how it develops, but I’m optimistic. Give it a read, it will probably piss you off a little, but whoever said that’s a bad thing?

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Culture11

  1. DJA

    But, add to it that I am generally pro-business, pro-small government, pro-states rights, anti-hate crimes legislation, etc. and my readers (mostly Lefties likely) might be surprised.

    I’ll ask what I always ask when this question comes up — “state’s rights” to do what? I mean, surely you are not against the 13th Amendement, or the Voting Rights Act, or the Civil Rights Act?

  2. Mafoo

    Ironically, the states-rights issues I care most about tend to be associated with the left, but to me they’re just matters of individual rights, for example: Medical Marijuana in California; Gay Marriage in Massachusetts; Euthanasia in Oregon. In California’s case, it has been Republican-led efforts of the federal government to override state laws allowing medical marijuana, leading to cases such as Charlie Lynch’s. This obviously shows the superficiality of the modern right’s commitment.

    Unfortunately, talk of states rights often conjures up the idea of slavery, which hid unjustly behind the idea for so long. But I’m a big proponent, especially given the harsh division in this country between red state and blue. A large part of me thinks that increased autonomy for the states would help to display ideology in action. Let’s see how a hardcore red-state such as South Dakota fares when they enact draconian arch-conservative, Christian-influenced laws; and for that matter how a blue state would fare under democratic-socialist style system, with “progressive” taxation and a larger beaurocracy. This may seem extreme (even cruel considering the likely oppression under a near-theocratic state government), but is it any less sensible than the stalemate we currently have in politics, where these rival philosophies are in constant battle, and really exist largely only in theory? And ya know, who knows what we would learn about what actually works and what doesn’t?

  3. DJA

    Let’s see how a hardcore red-state such as South Dakota fares when they enact draconian arch-conservative, Christian-influenced laws

    But of course, many of them have been doing that for decades, and it’s been catastrophic both socially and economically. The poorest states with the lowest standard of living, worst public school systems, etc, all tend to be deep red states. And these problems create a vicious circle — they are exactly the factors that most exacerbate inequality and ignorance.

    is it any less sensible than the stalemate we currently have in politics

    There’s no stalemate — people disagree. People have always disagreed. Those civil rights bills I mentioned, they were intensely controversial. They didn’t come about because of some magical mystical time of hand-holding bipartisan consensus. They came about because LBJ was willing to move quickly and decisively.

    And then Bush did the same thing in the opposite direction, and it’s been depressingly effective — especially when it comes to stuff that would have been unthinkable in the 90’s, the mainstreaming of domestic spying and torture and unlimited executive power.

    I do not detect this “stalemate” you refer to, merely a lack of will on the part of Democratic establishment to force through a progressive agenda the way FDR and LBJ did. But that is coming. Progressives are definitely taking over the pary. It’s just not something that will happen overnight.

    And ya know, who knows what we would learn about what actually works and what doesn’t?

    It’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t — take a look at the rest of the world. Policywise, would you rather err on the side of the country becoming more like Sweden, or more like Saudi Arabia?

  4. Mafoo

    I do not detect this “stalemate” you refer to, merely a lack of will on the part of Democratic establishment to force through a progressive agenda the way FDR and LBJ did.

    I consider our political situation a stale-mate insofar as progress has ground nearly to a halt, which I suppose you could argue is not a stale-mate, since lack of progress is a facet of the conservative agenda. But if you look at some of the acts of government that have contributed to substantial social progress – the Civil Rights Act under Johnson, the creation of the EPA under Nixon, the Department of Education under Carter – it all kind of ground to a halt with Reagan, and there hasn’t really been any major additions since. Clinton tried with his health care reform, but opposition from Republicans in congress blocked it. The only large governmental action I’ve seen since is the creation of the Department of Homeland Security under Bush. Yikes. I’d like to see a progressive state experiment with Universal Healthcare, the example of which would serve as a model for the country.
    Sidenote: I’d like to think that Obama will enact Universal Health Care, but it seems unlikely.

    It’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t — take a look at the rest of the world. Policywise, would you rather err on the side of the country becoming more like Sweden, or more like Saudi Arabia?

    I think it’s a mistake to think that what works in Sweden would work here, or what works in New York would work in Montana, etc. This is the essence of states-rights, the recognition that peoples’ cultures vary widely across the country. While we on the Northeast pull out our hair in disbelief at the erosion of reproductive rights in middle america, middle america rages about the relative unconcern over escalating divorce rates. Were the Democrats in the federal government to “force through a progressive agenda” there would still be a very large portion of the public who would fight it teeth and nail, just as 35 years after Roe, abortion rights are still hanging by a thread. I’m not try to get all cultural-relativist here, but attempting to enforce the exact same values across the nearly four million square miles of America seems futile (and kind of scary).

  5. DJA

    Hey Matt,

    I consider our political situation a stale-mate insofar as progress has ground nearly to a halt, which I suppose you could argue is not a stale-mate, since lack of progress is a facet of the conservative agenda.

    Right, exactly. But the way to break the stalemate isn’t to try to get the conservatives on board, it’s to beat them. We’ll never get the GOP to agree to, for example, single-payer health care. But we don’t have to compromise with them either. (They’ll just try to scuttle it anyway, as they did with the Clinton plan.)

    If he wins, Obama will have the numbers in Congress and the political capital to just do single-payer, GOP be damned. And then by the end of his first term, it will be untouchable, like Social Security.

    He won’t, of course, because he’s far too cautious to ever be a crusading reformer like FDR or LBJ. But he should, and he could… that’s basically the thesis of the (really excellent) Rick Perlstein piece I linked. (Did you check it out? I highly, highly recommend, it’s one of the best political essays I’ve read this season.)

    Anyway, I appreciate why you think that “states’ rights” could be a way to break Washington gridlock, but (for a variety of reasons) I don’t think that’s possible, nor do I think it’s desirable. Think of the horrible consequences if the Voting Rights Act had to be approved on a state-by-state basis, for instance.

    The US needs national single-payer, and the only way we’ll ever get it is if there is bold, decisive national leadership. The states are not realistically able to take the lead here. (Maine has tried and failed.)

    middle america rages about the relative unconcern over escalating divorce rates

    Again, dude, where are divorce rights highest? Not in blue states like Massachusettes, which has the lowest divorce rate in the country. It’s solid red states like Arkansas, Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho and West Virginia that have the really high divorce rates.

    A lot of this stuff is not actually based in principle or policy, most of it is just pure tribal resentment. Southerners will never, ever stop hating “liberal coastal elites.” If the feds let them criminalize abortion and ban the teaching of evolution in schools, they’ll just seamlessly move on to the next grievance, start crusading against birth control or the teaching of a heliocentric universe. (You think I’m kidding?) Red State resentment cannot be placated by giving them what they say they want. But Red Staters can and will learn to grudingly embrace programs that actually help them, like single-payer, just as they’ve (grudgingly) embraced Social Security. That won’t stop them from hating “liberal elites,” but it will make it more feasible for Southern Dems to run on economic populism.

    And sure, people will fight the progressive agenda tooth and nail, no doubt. That always happens — until the programs are actually implemented and people come to expect them and depend on them. Conservatives fought like hell against Social Security (and still do) — but even in the reddest parts of the country, there is zero support for dismantling it. People saw right through that “private accounts” bullshit.

    I think it’s a mistake to think that what works in Sweden would work here, or what works in New York would work in Montana, etc.

    Completely disagree. Policy isn’t wishy-washy, it’s cold hard empricism. Our current health care system is a complete disaster. Single-payer works far better, everywhere it’s been used. There’s absolutely no reason to think that Montanans are somehow culturally unsuited to enjoying more comprehensive medical coverage at a lower cost.

    How to frame/sell the policy, that’s another matter. But the policy itself is not mysterious at all.

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