Thursday, January 3, 2013


Daniel Pipes is an expert on the Middle East, which means that when he tries to say something correct about that part of the world, he gets called all sorts of nasty names. That would be what we call an occupational hazard, like carpenters getting splinters, or hockey players losing teeth.

He occasionally writes on other topics, about which he's usually just as correct, and this week he wondered aloud just why the Republicans managed to lose an election running against an inept president and his groaning platform of destructive policies. He came to a conclusion that's hardly new, but which probably sums up the whole mission statement of this blog:
Myself, I subscribe to the "politics is downstream from culture" argument. While conservatives sometimes prevail in policy debates, they consistently lose in the classroom, on the best-seller list, on television, at the movies, and in the world of arts. These liberal bastions, which provide the feeders for Democratic party politics, did not develop spontaneously but result from decades of hard work traceable back to the ideas of Antonio Gramsci.
I'd never heard of Gramsci until - surprise, surprise! - college, and what I understood I didn't much like, but presumed that it was worth ignoring, as it had little relationship to life as it seemed to be lived. Another thing I was wrong about; while upbringing and temperament made me largely immune (in the long run) to Gramsci's project of cultural denaturing, other people - something like a majority, or so it would seem - weren't so protected. As Guy Somerset wrote this week, in a column about things to worry about in the new year:
Why does anyone care what Al Sharpton or Shaneequa at the supermarket thinks about their racial beliefs? In some cases such as employment, it’s obvious; but to say most people are obsequious in order not to get fired is a canard. Most are simply indoctrinated. They would rather be raped than be racist. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, until recently it wasn’t this way.
One of the sobering spectacles of my adult life is watching people act against their own self-interest. When you're young and confused, it's hard to divine just what your self-interest is, particularly. Time and common sense eventually make it self-evident, but the shocking moment comes when you look around and see people actively, proudly agitating for causes nakedly inimical to their livelihood and beliefs, like feminists supporting Islamists, Catholics voting for Obama (twice!) or rich people endorsing Marxists.

It takes a while to realize that these people have come to the conclusion that there is no other option, and you start wondering just what they were taught that made them believe that they have no alternative except to invite into their house the person who has said that they will betray their confidence, conspire against their liberty, and even make them a pauper.

Nobody reads Gramsci, but his ideas have had an influence utterly out of proportion to their popularity. Like so many ideologies we consider either sinister, ridiculous (or both,) we've ignored what were once outlying sensations on the academic left like Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, even as they slowly became the mainstream there and spread into the arts, where they're considered self-evident truths by people who have never heard of Theodore Adorno or an obscure Italian communist.

I doubt if William F. Buckley ever thought to take on Adorno or Gramsci with the same fervor that he used to debate Gore Vidal. I don't imagine Gramsci's name ever appears in five decades of Buckley's writing, though I may be wrong. It's only now that conservatives have realized just how deeply these arcane, usually ill-expressed ideas have penetrated the culture, and have begun fighting what is, I'm afraid, a wholly defensive, rear-guard action.

(HT: Blazing Catfur & 5 Ft. of Fury)

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