Posted by: John Vandivier | October 15, 2013

Conservatism in Media and Pop Culture

In this article I will argue that there are at least a few strong and current examples of conservatism in media and pop culture, although I will not by any means arguing about its degree.

While I am not going to argue that liberalism is the major driver of media and pop culture in this particular article, I do believe it’s true. Quickly, since I have brought that up, I would recommend two comrehensive books on the infiltration of the negative aspects of feminism into media and pop culture. The books are both by Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young and are called Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture and Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination Against Men. I like certain aspects of feminism but I do not like the misandristic, or man hating, aspects of it. I argue that those aspects of feminism are tied to liberalism in a paper I did in my undergraduate studies that I will upload if I ever quit being lazy, but the same point is made more comprehensively in those two insufficiently recognized books.

Thank you for reading through that prolonged rabbit trail and I will now get to my point: While I do not want to argue whether conservatism comprises a majority or minority of the messaging behind pop culture or media in this article, I do want to argue that it is not altogether absent. As evidence I will argue that there are examples of conservatism in the production of widely consumed news, music and television.

News

  • Fox news is a major television outlet with high ratings. I would argue that it is center-right because it contains messaging which is largely friendly to Christianity and in support of a limited or strictly constitutional government.
  • For those who argue that Fox isn’t actually conservative so it doesn’t count, Tom E. Woods Jr. is a far righter and has a talk show which has just hit #2 on iTunes for news and politics. Neither is there any denying how popular Ron Paul and the rest of the liberty movement have gotten, although I admit these things are less mainstream than Fox news.
  • For written news, The Wall Street Journal and New York Post are generally considered center-right and have major circulation.
  • In radio there are several big names and they overlap sometimes with the television names such as in the case of Hannity. There are other big names as well like Limbaugh, Levin and Savage all who have obtained large audiences, at least as far as radio goes anymore.

Music

  • Christian music is a huge industry in the USA. Christian music is somewhat to the ideological right by definition and often songs go further to the right on social issues. Of course it doesn’t address fiscal stuff.

    English: Photo of Justin Hills of Sleeping wit...

    English: Photo of Justin Hills of Sleeping with Sirens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • While there is already a large overt Christian music industry, there is also a large covert Christian music industry. In that industry a band or musician does not identify with Christian music as a genre but still uses Christian messaging. The line gets blurry here because sometimes covert Christian messaging is not distinct from covert messaging of other ideologies, but a little investigation on a band will often reveal from where the motives derive.

  • An example of covert Christian music would be the song “With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear” by Sleeping with Sirens. Sleeping with Sirens identifies with the post-hardcore genre. The song condemns lying and states that liars “will pay for [their] sins.” Later the singer asks a mysterious figure, “come down from your tower.” While those lyrics have multiple interpretations, the music in that part of the song is vaguely reminiscent of a Christian worship song which might indicate that the singer is asking God to come down from heaven. Another interpretation would that the singer is asking the liar to stop being an elitist while the music is a case of musical irony. Even if the singer was known to be discussing God and heaven this still doesn’t necessarily indicate Christian messaging. All of this circumstantial evidence indicates that Christian messaging is a possibility, but that possibility is elevated to the status of likely when we do a little research to find that Kellin Quinn, the singer, is a married Christian who wrote and sang songs called “You Saved Me (Under a Cascade of Stars” as well as “Jesus in the Southern Sky” about his explicitly Christian faith while in other bands. We can also look at associated acts which Sleeping with Sirens chooses to have concerts with and other things, but by this point we have a good reason to think that “With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear” is based on Christian messaging. Note that I didn’t prove anything, I just found evidence to show that an idea, that a certain song involves Christian ideas, is more likely than its negation, that the song doesn’t involve Christian ideas.
  • Country music is another popular genre in the USA with strong conservative messaging.
  • Rock music is a mixed bag but there is definitely some conservative messaging in there. Rock music sometimes emphasizes individualism and freedom.

Television

  • This may be the most minor of all of the points I make in this article, but it is the one which sparked the idea for the article and which I find most interesting. My wife and I like to watch the TV show Supernatural for fun sometimes. I found the messaging to be vaguely conservative through watching many episodes and developed the hypothesis that the writers, director, actors or someone else
    English: Misha Collins at the 2011 Comic Con i...behind the show, or some combination of those people, was pushing conservative ideas. I never cared enough to do any research on the subject but Tina was checking out biographies of the actors and one thing lead to another and now I have what seems to me to be a substantial body of evidence. Many actors in the show, including the main actors and actors with smaller roles, are married, Christian, from Texas or some combination thereof. One prominent actor in the show, Misha Collins, also acts in the music video for the Christian song “Awakening” by Switchfoot. The show is based on a book series by Alexander C. Irvine and there is reason to believe he is Christian including the fact that Christian is literally his middle name, in addition to the fact that he is married and his books deal with a range of supernatural and spiritual discussions, although I admit that evidence may be weak.
  • It’s not like these professional Christian actors in Supernatural don’t have any other movies or shows. Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and other such actors I was talking about have all been featured in a wide variety of shows and movies.
  • While I think all of that background information on the show is interesting, even if it is ignored the show still seems to have Christian messaging in the actual content of the show. The show has more content then I would like to review here and I could be wrong, but I think it holds true.
  • As an independent small piece of evidence on the side of TV, consider that the TV show American Idol has lead to a large degree of attention for Christian music.

In conclusion I think there is strong reason to conclude that conservatism is present to some degree in media and pop culture. While that degree may be small or large, people who claim that conservatives are “nowhere in pop culture,” like Limbaugh does in this article, I think are mistaken. In fact I would say that Limbaugh has some influence on pop culture himself!

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