Dropping out of culture isn’t an option for conservatives and others on the right if we ever want to see cultural renewal, argues Mike D’Virgilio.

Victor Davis Hanson is no Luddite. A classics scholar, he appreciates culture in the health of a society. But he’s had enough. He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore! So tune in? Turn on? Nah. Drop out. Many of us can relate. The crassness of American culture that at every turn contradicts and ridicules our deepest held beliefs is hard to take.

Of course this has been going on a long time. And the basic response of those on the right has been what? Whatever it has been for the last 50 years obviously isn’t working very well, because we don’t see much improvement and things appear to be getting worse. Sure there are flashes of light here and there, but generally the hegemony of the secular left in professions of cultural influence is almost absolute.

His response?

I have some confessions to make, not because any of you readers are particularly interested in my views; but rather because I think some of you are in the same boat: Have you stopped reading, listening, watching, and paying attention to most of what now passes for establishment public or popular culture? I am not particularly proud of this quietism (many Athenians did it in the early 4th century BC and Romans by the late 3rd AD), but not really ashamed of it either.

This is unfortunate, because the battle for the soul of America and American’s souls is not politics, as the right has concentrated on almost exclusively for decades. It is culture, and the ubiquity of popular culture and it’s all pervasive influence means it is something we cannot afford to ignore, write off or simply criticize. We need to engage.

But what does that mean? We’ve started an organization to address just this question. It is called The Culture Alliance. Our conviction is that the right can no longer afford to think that some election or candidate or public policy initiative is going to change the fundamental direction of American culture. As important as those things are, they are simply not sufficient. Fifty years of evidence should be enough to convince even the most committed political animal.

Unfortunately Hanson hasn’t come to that conclusion:

A final, odd observation. As I have dropped out of contemporary American culture and retreated inside some sort of 1950s time-warp, in a strange fashion of compensation for non-participation , I have tried to remain more engaged than ever in the country’s political and military crises, which are acute and growing. One’s distancing from the popular culture of movies, TV, newspapers, and establishment culture makes one perhaps wish to overcompensate in other directions, from the trivial to the important.

This is sad. Culture, including these areas he’s mentioned, as well as education and academia, are anything but trivial. They determine the very worldview of the American people, their assumptions about what is important, their choices as to what is moral and right and good, as well as what is evil, bad or corrupt. It also determines the American people’s political choices.

How could we ever write off something so important, so influential, and so determinative of the essence of a people?  I’ll tell you how. Spend 50 years on the outside criticizing culture as if it had some life of its own. Primarily take an adversarial role toward something we feel we have no power to influence. That’s how. All that criticizing and critiquing, and look what we have to show for it. Squat! I’m outta here: an understandable but tragic response.

Let’s think strategically about culture, as we have obsessively done about politics, about how we can influence those professions of such profound influence. Simply that means more journalists, screenwriters, authors, teachers, academics, artists, actors, directors, studio executives, school superintendents, and you get the idea, who appreciate, embrace and proclaim America’s founding values. If we leave the cultural influence professions to the left we shouldn’t be surprised at the results.


–Mike D’Virgilio