Saturday, April 30, 2005

Frank Rich Takes On South Park Conservatives

Brian Anderson is much in the news with his new book, South Park Conservatives (I haven't read it, for the record). Frank Rich, always desperate to grab hold of some 'hook' for his columns, uses Anderson's book as the hinge for this week's installment. Oh, boy, I thought, when I first read Rich's opening, here we go again:
Conservatives can't stop whining about Hollywood, but the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too. It's not easy. In the showbiz wrangling sweepstakes of 2004, liberals had Leonardo DiCaprio, the Dixie Chicks and the Boss. The right had Bo Derek, Pat Boone and Jessica Simpson...
That's both poorly conceived and executed...but Rich is a better talent and deeper thinker than his cohort MoDo (talk about damning with faint praise!), so he recovers somewhat after a shaky start.

Rich wisely admits what many conservatives found so amusing about Team America and South Park's skewering of such liberal icons as Barbra Streisand:
Among their other anarchic comic skills, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone have a perfect pitch for lampooning what many Americans find most irritating about liberals, especially Hollywood liberals: a self-righteous propensity for knowing better than anyone else and for meddling in everyone's business, whether by enforcing P.C. speech codes or plotting to curb S.U.V.'s and guns.
And yes, Rich has a point when he points to conservative overreach on the religious issue. What Rich fails to notice is the double-edged sword of overreach, oddly enough, since he correctly perceives the double-edged sword of South Park (to say that South Park has a conservative sensibility is, I think, a little too pat; I'd say Parker and Stone pretty much go after anyone that gets a little too full of himself).

What I mean to say is this: I've been on the Times editorial staff for what has seemed to me to be a barely disguised hostility towards religion. If Rich bothered to watch Bush's news conference this week, though (and I'm quite sure he did), he would (does) know that Bush's view on the divide between religion and politics is squarely in the mainstream: Bush says that while religion plays an important part in his life, it is a largely private matter, and certainly not the business of the state.

Rich is correct that some Republicans have perhaps confused mainstream disgust with the coarseness of today's culture with a desire to be 'all religion, all the time'; but he is sadly mistaken if he thinks Americans would prefer 'no religion, none of the time'. I don't want to live in a society of prudes and censors, nor do most Americans, but there has to be some cultural balance. Will there be an anti-conservative backlash, as Rich argues? Yes, I think so; but the good folks at the NY Times would do well to remember that what brought conservatism back into vogue in the first place was the morally bankrupt philosphy of relativism that is as large a threat to America as a theocracy.

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