A lament for our vanishing culture

(Note: see Daniel H.’s eloquent response to Jane in another entry.)

Jane S. writes:

I have listened to conservatives complain against establishment publications like the NY Times and Newsweek for years. But I have never heard anyone complain against Yahoo. I am surprised by that. It is a much worse propaganda machine and it is more pernicious because it reaches more people.

I have a bunch of nieces and nephews in their 20s and early 30s. They all came here from Europe and Asia to go to university. Some of them have already graduated and entered the work force. They are all extremely tech-savvy. They are totally the future of this country, totally, in every way, and they don’t have a clue what America is about. They have no concept of American culture, “traditionalist” or otherwise. They don’t read newspapers or mainstream publications like the NYT. They don’t think it’s necessary. They get all of their social and political updates from online garbage heaps like Yahoo news, because it’s set up to make it easy to skim news headlines while multitasking. These are people who can carry on a conversation with you while texting their friends at the same time.

They would never find their way onto a blog like yours on their own, never in a million years, and even if they did, it wouldn’t make an impression on them. I could lead them to it and it still would not make a dent. They would think, “this is one blog,” whereas gazillions of people read Yahoo news every day. For that reason, Yahoo news has credibility with them, but one blog has none. That’s just how they think.

Every time they open their mouths to comment on current affairs, they sound like they have been programmed by Yahoo news or its equivalent, because they have. I have tried to talk to them, which is futile. When they were younger, I tried to get them to read Shakespeare, but that didn’t work, either. They are very sweet and polite and respectful and call me “aunty,” but privately, my opinion means nothing to them. Why should it? They make more money than I do, they have more “friends” than me on Facebook and they are better looking, too.

They have tried for the longest time to persuade me to get a cell phone. They’ve even gone out and tried to buy one for me. I’ve explained why I don’t want one. I quoted an observation of yours once—one of my favorites—about the way cell phones have destroyed the social order and turned people into monsters of self-absorption (I’m paraphrasing). I even tried translating it into their language and they still didn’t get it. Social utilities make it easy to stay in touch with your 1,400 friends—that’s what social order means to them.

I’m talking about a specific group of young people, but I could say exactly the same thing about the College Republicans, or Young America Foundation or David Horowitz’s little protégés over at FrontPage Magazine. I’ve been around them too. Tell them about the importance of reading Shakespeare—reading anything that was written before they were born—and you will get the same blank look. They have been age-segregated their whole lives and they grew up in the same pop-culture feedback loop as their Leftist peers and they are fine with that.

How many people under 30 visit your blog? Or any conservative blog? We will take our memories of America’s traditional culture with us to the grave and that will be the end of it. If conservatives have a plan for passing along this knowledge to the young, they are mostly keeping it to themselves. I enjoy conservative blogs, but at the end of the day, they sound like they are preaching to the choir. The Left have won because they are better at playing Pied Piper than we are.

Anyway I am sorry to annoy you with bitchy emails. It’s been the kind of week where I type something and hit “send” when I shouldn’t have, too many times. But I just wanted to explain a bit. It’s not that I’m too dense or lazy to switch to another ISP. I do it because it won’t matter. Some day all the news sites will be just like Yahoo because no one will be able to imagine something different.

LA replies:

Your insights and experiences are very troubling. But it’s not as hopeless as you think. For example, check out the 22 year old fellow Brandon who wrote to Laura Wood today.

Jane S. replies:

I try not to be pessimistic. I don’t mean to traduce my nieces and nephews, or anyone in that age group. But how long has it been since you were on a university campus, or sat in on a class? No matter how bad you think it is, it is even worse.

I went back to college mid-life and I was utterly horrified by what I saw. I got right up into the faculty’s faces and harassed them about their evil brainwashing campaign. I’m sorry to say this, but conservative blogs don’t accomplish a thing, except that they make me happy and keep me from going nuts. When it comes to the left, you have to hammer them up close and personal, that’s the only thing that works with these people.

Yeah, I saw that guy at The Thinking Housewife, too. It was great! But he is only one guy. Have you ever spent time with your local College Republicans? They think conservatism was invented by William Buckley. I’m not kidding. There are rows and rows of books by conservatives at San Francisco State library. No barbed wire, no guard dogs, nothing to stop you from reaching for one off the shelves. Most of them haven’t been checked out in more than 20 years. Some of the relatively newer ones (Dinesh D’Souza, Anne Coulter) haven’t been checked out at all. Some of them have only been checked out once, and that was me, so it doesn’t count.

LA continues:

Also, it’s not just the younger people who are radically deculterated. Consider the three writers at the conservative website Powerline, all attorneys in their late fifties, all Dartmouth graduates. They never make a single cultural reference that goes beyond the pop culture. They never make a single allusion or reference to literature, to philosophy, to American and European history. Whenever they write about a cultural subject, it is to laud some contemporary or recent singing star whom they happen to admire. Their entire cultural framework is limited to pop music. Their entire intellectual framework is limited to neoconservatism and the Straussian school of thought at the Claremont Institute. In short, they express no sense of and no feeling for our historic civilization. Yet they are “conservatives.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 20, 2010 09:02 AM | Send

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