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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

WEB ENTERTAINMENT

“This is worse than normal, a lot less fun, and it feels impossible for us to change the conversation”
-Walter Shapiro

Kid with Tablet
A lot of time and energy is spent online pointing to the bias and leftist slant in the news media. Often, its true, and it is no secret that most journalists are left leaning. But for all the furor directed at this, a very large swath of society with just as big a leftist tilt and as powerful - if not more powerful - influence on American culture is the entertainment industry.

The legacy media has been severely challenged by the new media, as most people know. The old days of a few newspapers, wire services, and three network nightly news shows dominating the news business are long gone, and all of those industries are facing serious cutbacks. The way people get news has changed, and most of that is for the better - now you can see events as they unfold, get news from people where it took place, and find many different reactions to events instead of being spoon fed a careful narrative by a handful of sources.

That makes the news media less controlled, and that's often good. But news isn't all that's happened to. The Clint Eastwood speech in the RNC has highlighted something that I've long wanted to see happen: the entertainment community has less power to control pop culture these days. In fact, the internet primarily drives popular culture now, although the old bastions still have a great deal of power. Movies, television, popular music, and to a lesser extent radio and magazines have long dominated what people find entertaining, funny, and interesting.

News is dry and often depressing. Entertainment by its nature tends to be more amusing and fun. Even grim or sad stories are emotionally compelling as opposed to raw data about events around the world. When people gather to talk about the issues of the day, the topic is more dominated by popular culture than the news media.

And that popular culture has been largely controlled by the left for decades as well. That wall is cracking apart largely due to the internet. Now instead of the Fonz we have Rage Faces. Instead of the latest SNL skit, we have Adam Carolla's latest podcast. Instead of Dude and Where'sMyCar in the morning on the radio, we have Nick & Artie. We don't rave over the latest TV episode so much as the last viral video you saw on Youtube.

Part of this is due to the ubiquitous smart phone and tablet, which allows us to show people the fun thing we last saw and carry around the entertainment we specifically choose. It allows us to store and mix the music we like and the videos we enjoy and even watch films we prefer instead of waiting to get them carefully pieced out to us on radio, TV, and movies.

With artists like Bill Burr releasing their content on Netflix instead of HBO, that lets us enjoy it on our electronic computer devices when and where we wish. And his perspective is different, shall we say, than the usual SNL drones. With no ads. When we want instead of waiting for one day a week late at night.

And that breaks one of the most powerful establishment controls that the left has enjoyed for forty years or more. While for decades the left has been able to dominate entertainment and shape perception of issues through this slice of culture, their dominance is falling apart. Clint Eastwood made it cool to joke about President Obama, although few comedians have the pills to follow up on it. His act was almost totally without wires, off the cuff, and daring, something even leftist Bill Maher had to admire. And, if they're honest, probably a lot of entertainers were impressed by it, industry insiders who know how hard, courageous, and interesting the speech was, even if they didn't like it.

And for almost a week now, its dominated blogs, discussion, popular culture, and debate. Eastwooding, empty chairs, was he an old man past his prime or a bold statement, would it hurt Romney or not. And as anyone in the entertainment industry knows: like or hate it, if your product is the center of discussion its a success.

This can only be good because as Higher Education's bubble bursts, home schooling continues to grow, and the teacher's unions fade, the three big bastions of establishment - politics, education, and entertainment - are falling out of the left's control. Will the trend continue? I suspect so, but not necessarily in the direction I want.

Because social conservatism is out of favor with nearly everyone. Porn, pot, abortion, homosexual normalization, and sleeping around are all considered not just ordinary but to be protected these days. You're weird if you vary from that. So in a sense, the left won an even greater, more lasting industry by shaping the culture on social issues.

But this libertarian perspective is growing in momentum and popularity, and its a lot closer to what the hippies loved in the late 60s. Free love, freedom, leave me alone, government out of my face. Let me do what I want, and back off, man. How this turned into the nanny state big government top-down control the left favors now is a topic for another post, but that model seems to be falling by the wayside, thankfully. What replaces it, I fear, may be as bad or even worse for the culture, though.

Because if you take away individual morality as a restraint on human behavior, all that's left is a tyrannical government to compel you to act correctly. What happens when you take away the government?

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