Home culture war recent Politics Killed the Culture
Home culture war recent Politics Killed the Culture

Politics Killed the Culture

“Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together,” Barney Frank once said. The sleazy former congressman was echoing Rousseau’s idea of the General Will.

To leftists, the state was the central unifying principle and the thing that brought us together.

But back when Frank said it, culture was still actually the thing we chose to do together. For three quarters of a century, our cultural industries had wielded mass media to craft a middlebrow common culture that erased the old distinctions between high and low, the opera and vaudeville, to bring us songs we could sing, jokes we could laugh at and stories that made us feel.

We were so good at it that American culture became the world’s culture. Hollywood’s movies, Broadway’s musicals, Tin Pan Alley’s songs, and Literary Row’s books spread everywhere. You can still see Coca Cola logos in far off lands and African kids wearing NBA t-shirts. Fiddler on the Roof has been playing in Japan for decades and country music is a hit in Zimbabwe.

America didn’t just become a world power by economic and military power, but culture. And when we were done, much of the world wanted to be an American, as it had once wanted to be Greek or English. We conquered the world without intending to or even realizing it.

That culture is mostly dead now except as a bunch of corporate properties being beaten to death. The machinery of mass culture is still there, but it has no soul. The $500 million comic book spectacles and the oversaturated autotuned payola music makes money, but much of it performs better around the world than it does in America. The days when it brought us together are long gone. Mass culture now reminds us of how little we have in common.

“Politics is downstream of culture,” was once true, but culture is now downstream of politics. Culture is politics and politics is culture. Politics has killed culture and what’s left is politics telling stories, singing songs and writing books about its imperatives, worldviews and agendas.

We don’t have movies, songs or novels anymore. We have propaganda, scolding, preaching, sneering, hectoring, and smirking by the elites who control the cultural machine. Politics is their life and they want it to be ours. They can’t conceive of anything important that’s apolitical.

A common culture springs from the things we agree on. What do we agree on anymore?

Motherhood, apple pie and the flag? Maybe apple pie. Maybe not.

Comedy was the first cultural casualty. All too easy to appropriate into a humorless political weapon, as Jon Stewart. Stephen Colbert and their legion of successors did. The soul of comedy is our ability to laugh at ourselves. The new comedy didn’t laugh, it sneered. It used the rhythms of comedy to hector, pontificate, scold and berate. Eventually everyone realized that there was no punchline coming. The only remaining joke was that comedy was dead. Ha ha.

But drama suffers just as much because it asks what people want and what drives them. Politicized, drama becomes agitprop, instead of exploring human nature, it offers a sham that suits its agenda. “Tar”, is hailed by the New York Times as a “great movie about cancel culture” because it validates it with a villainous protagonist who offers the familiar defenses of culture and condemnations of identity politics, and concludes triumphantly with her humiliation.

The politicization of drama, like that of comedy, takes art from an inward exploration of who we are, to an outward projection of hatred onto the political “other”. Politicized culture weaponizes art and robs it of its capacity to enrich and transform us. Instead of seeing ourselves in art, we can only see our enemies. Culture becomes just another means in a culture war with no end.

And that kills culture dead.

At the upper and lower ends, culture offers neither enrichment nor entertainment. All it offers is the vicarious pleasure of destroying stand-ins for Republican enemies to the 23% of the country that lives for nothing else. And the other 77% are starting to tune out.

There’s a reason that the customer base for entertainment products now appears virtually indistinguishable from the political base of the Democrats. Upper-class urban and suburban millennial white and black women are the targets of most television, cable and streaming programming. If you doubt that, watch a few commercials and see who appears in them.

Or just watch the shows themselves.

Theatrical releases still occasionally try to appeal to men with blockbuster comic book movies, but their targets remain narrowly confined to urban and suburban millennials of a certain bent. When a movie like Top Gun: Maverick gets released, it’s a breath of normalcy that brings in audiences while showing just how artificially claustrophobic the state of theaters has become.

The state of affairs in literature, art and music is far worse, having calculatedly left behind most of the country to wallow in their own incoherence, decadence and desperate insanity, high brow for the former two and lowbrow for the last, but riding their political obsessions all the way.

Culture hasn’t consolidated politics, instead politics has consolidated culture. Entertainment is just another adjunct of the Democratic Party. The producers, directors and actors don’t just finance the party, they make party-approved entertainment for party members. Our culture has become an echo of that of any Communist country’s agitprop entertainment. But there are no official censors or production boards, the industry took a knee and did it to itself with shareholders, advertisers and investors being taken for a ride or joining the party.

The mass propaganda power remains impressive, but so is a guy with a megaphone on a street where no one else has one. The power to project is not the same as agreement. And without some kind of consensus, there’s no culture, only volume and noise. The guy with the megaphone is shouting, but without meaningful interaction, he runs out of things to say.

Culture develops a dialogue. People build on the work of others and on the responses of audiences. Without a dynamic creative marketplace, the entertainment industry has become incapable of creating new things. Instead it endlessly reworks the old, updating its intellectual properties so that they match current political dogmas without adding anything original to them.

“Representation”, the entertainment industry vogue, reveals the underlying creative bankruptcy. Having run out of taboos by pushing everything to the edge and over it, mining nihilism, cynicism and contempt for everything they’re worth, the only thing left to do are identity politics remakes of everything from The Wonder Years to Superman with black protagonists.

What happens after the black Superman, the gay Superman, and the transgender Superman?

Totalitarian culture is boring. It has no imagination or vision. It’s stuck within the narcissistic loop of “Triumph of the Will” worship of the regime and the “Eternal Jew” demonization of the other. It’s not free to laugh, to imagine, to doubt, to believe and to become something more than it is.

Culture, at its best, low, middle and high, can touch the chords of the soul and find common ground in what it means to be human. That was the genius of American culture. Now it’s the one thing it can’t do. Americans are leaving behind mass culture for something and for anything else. Curtains are falling and lights are going out in theaters across America.

Mass culture, for all its flaws, convinced very different people that we had things in common. The politicization of mass culture has convinced us that we have nothing in common at all.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

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Thank you for reading.


  1. Anonymous13/11/22

    America had a common political culture that secured a common trajectory. That was the Constitution of the United States. Turns out that some people preferred the political cultures of the Old World instead and then set about to abuse the freedoms provided by the New World in order to subvert it. They presumed to call that 'democracy'. Well good luck with that.


  2. I am not sure how Steven Colbert; Jimmy Kimmel; Jon Stewart; David Letterman, et al ever got to be considered humorous escapes me. Just as the reputation for humor of Jim Carrey. Just smirking and mugging for the camera is not humor, it is not clever, it is not amusing.

    If they are supposed to be our culture, we no longer have one.

  3. Thank you for articulating so clearly what I and my family have been talking about for the last few years. Being movie buffs all... we have been in a kind of mourning.

  4. Thank you. It is not often you get to turn an idea upside down and it makes more sense.

  5. Anonymous13/11/22

    With the possible exception of a comic walking around with the bloody head of a president, the left has absolutely no sense of humor. They're angry. The go to bed angry and get up angry. Unchecked, anger is all-consuming, soulless. Media is used for programming and not programs. We are expected to walk into a local diner and be greeted by booths occupied by multicultural diners. In the next booth there are two gay HIV infected men kissing and talking about the newest medication. Black diners have white wives (I suppose a white guy with a black wife would smack of slavery to those with no sense of humor). These people have lost the ability to laugh, unless they're watching video of black yoots in NYC beating an Asian or white senior citizen. Somehow that's funny. The left has been successful with the Balkanization of the US. And you're right...there is no 'common' left. Moreover, I don't want to have anything in common with them. I don't have the cure, but no doubt the left will continue adding everyone to their Borg Collective.

  6. Anonymous13/11/22

    Well said good Sir!
    This divorce, or division of our country has been talked about for some time.
    The good news? It has already started! Ticket sales for these cultural abominations put forth are abysmal, theatres are closing, businesses are dying. Consumers have voted, and it is having an impact. The move now is to accelerate! Build our own studios, make our own movies, make our own banks, use Gab, not Musk's tax writeoff. Stop JooTubing, your eyeballs and clicks are their profit! You are giving money to your enemy, you realize?

  7. Holly Salassie13/11/22

    This is a brilliant article that completely reverses Andrew Breitbarts axiom , and sets the New Reality in place.
    It has to be all looked at again, using what you say here MrG.
    Soviet Realism is back, only rainbow primary colours allowed and only Fascist ends , using the cover of democratic law and judicial process.
    As decided by themselves of course.
    Thank God for you, Mark Steyn, Evan Sayet too.

  8. Anonymous13/11/22

    Maybe it's not all that bad. True; we used to
    have inspiring music, plays, movies, sports.
    They came from industries that have now been
    hijacked by High Priests of "The Message".

    But, wait. Our present vacuum of content gives
    us the opportunity for a paradigm shift. Instead
    of passively "consuming" content from others,
    we can proactively make any culture to our own
    desires. Play our own sports and music; live
    our own adventures; try nonfiction for a change.

    What could be more inspiring than actively
    exploring our lives and finding others on
    complementary trajectories? The degenerates of
    "Entertainment" have nothing to offer. Real
    life is at our fingertips, where it has always


  9. Anonymous13/11/22

    "Communists are...stuck within the narcissistic loop of “Triumph of the Will” worship of the regime and the “Eternal Jew” demonization of the other."

    Please try harder

  10. Anonymous13/11/22

    This was totally predictable though.

    Years ago, I remember asking people I knew "What are some of the defining characteristics of American Culture?" While jazz, Country & Western music, American football, Beanie Babies, and End Time Rapture are enjoyed by some, its a relatively small minority. Maybe that has to do with such a large population, it is very likely to be due to the Diversity Is Our Strength credo being realized. Nearly all of the time, no one could think of anything. My boxing coach suggested "Our Diversity", in that what is unique about American culture is that there is nothing unique about American culture.

    This sort of cultural vacuum begs for something to fill it. People want to have an identity and the first step to getting a political identity was to destroy all other unifying identities. Our Diversity Is Our Strength has a double meaning. If you define the first "Our" as hoi polloi "You" and the second "Our" as the elite "Us" then that is certainly fulfilled. Popularly understood it is the exact opposite of its claim, Diversity killed our culture and now something else must step in. This is deliberate.

    True, not Nominal Christians have an identity in their unifying faith, and need not search for one that is provided by the Political Culture - this is an ongoing threat. The current crop of Narcissists, Malthusians and Nihilists being minted from the government schools, propagandized further by every form of media, and reinforced by virtue signaling of their peers either finds their identity in the Political Culture or will numb themselves to the identity void through gang affiliation a/o drugs.

    I can't find any other reason to understand why Pennsylvania voted in Uncle Festerman and a dead guy unless the Vote Blue No Matter Who ethos gave people an identity and purpose, and nothing else matters. This is a shining example of adopting a Political Culture.

    The aforementioned practical agnostics need not only an identity, often cloaked as culture, but also a value system to justify their identity/culture as better than The Other. The ritualization and structuring of this identity/culture patterns quite nicely to any other organized religion. This may explain why religions also tend to be sweeping in their cultural expression forming governments and whole systems of inter personal and business relationships. That is just the way people are wired up to extend the culture into an entire economy. Those who hate Christians often project their own Religion Is Culture associations by declaring that Protestant Christianity, if not suppressed will transform this current culture-less society into an oppressive Theocracy, like Caesar/Emperor Worship, Islam, pre 70AD Judaism or Roman Catholicism. This was the fear of the Bradbury Baptists when asking Thomas Jefferson about religious freedom in the newly formed Nation - whose religion will dominate all of culture and the economy? The reply by Jefferson is where we get our infamous "Separation of Church and State" policy that is more sacred than the actual Bill of Rights and the 1st Amendment. People know that religion and culture are inseparable, so when talking about a Political Culture you are simultaneously talking State Religion.

    Climate Change will be the name of this Political Culture/Religion. For many it will fill the void and make up for the designed collapse of a national identity/culture. It will have all of the trappings of a large organized religion especially the Law, the guilt, the priests, the indulgences and the authority of excommunication. The only thing that is deliberately missing is a means of atonement. A religion without any form of redemption.

  11. Anonymous23/11/22

    Top Gun was ok, but I was puzzled by the fact that the enemy was never named. Apparently we were at war with a 5th Generation fighter from no particular country. At least the original Top Gun knew who our enemy was at the time. The terrain they showed for Top Gun 2 was not desert, and not tropical, so pretty generically temparate zone.
    A few years ago  I was excited to see that the important moments of history surrounding Dunkirk had finally been brought out as a movie. Once something gets "movie-tized" it at makes some lessor known moments accessible to folks who might never have heard of it.  Maybe, even when there are inaccuracies in the movie, it inspires people to learn more about the events on their own so they serve a worthwhile purpose but I was immediately disappointed in the opening minute of Dunkirk. They could not even name the enemy. This is not verbatim, but essentially the opening sequence says something like:  The British and Belgian and French troops were trapped on the beach and encircled by... the enemy.  Generic enemy.  Generic story.  It's like they didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by mentioning Germany.  As I continued watching the movie, that's all I saw.. a generic war movie, not the incredible, pivotal moment in history it represented.  Just another, war is hell movie with CGI, explosions, and tense moments the same as any other war movie but with WWII period costume.  So sad.  It could have been so much more.

  12. Anonymous25/11/22

    One genre of movie entertainment that seems to be thriving is the horror film. People want other people dead. We enjoy watching the villain slice, burn or shoot down his chosen victim. It’s cathartic.


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