Originally published in The Spectator Australia

Whenever a disaffected liberal artist is abandoned by the Left – The Spectator Australia gains a creative and insightful commentator.

The path from ‘culture creator’ to ‘culture critic’ is a well-trodden one for those in the arts that don’t have the so-called ‘right’ opinions.

Even though the anti-Woke side is steadily gaining artists – be it Winston Marshall for his support of Andy Ngo against Antifa, Laurence Fox and his identity politics stand, Jess De Wahls and her opinions on biological gender, or Leunig for creating cartoons critical of vaccine mandates – the artists are still losing their primary business platform.

Being in a hit producing band, an actor in a prime-time TV series, an artist selling works in a major gallery (fortunately Jess De Wahls’ art has now been reinstated by the Royal Academy of Arts), or a cartoonist for a centre-left paper is a position of far broader appeal.

Essentially, they have lost an important cultural position that allowed them to engage with those who disagreed.

There is nothing wrong with writing essays on cultural issues, but they are usually read by those already (at least slightly) sympathetic. Podcasts are more accessible, but they require more commitment from the audience than a popular song or crime drama. These aspects of popular culture has entertainment at its core. To move, enjoy, and persuade rather than inform.

Creative types who deviate from the ‘approved’ message are being lost or quarantined in publication bubbles. To stop this from happening, the Culture Wars are going to require more than intellect and commentary. It must be prepared to branch out into the entertainment industry – to provide enjoyment rather than squabbling over the facts.

In America, they do a bit better job at channelling creative types into new careers after they are dropped from mainstream culture.

The Daily Wire, which started out as pure political commentary with the hugely successful Ben Shapiro Show, has moved into an entertainment format and signed up screenwriters and actors to produce films. Their most high-profile sign-up came after the Star Wars actress Gina Carano was sacked from Disney over a Tweet.

Commentator Coleman Hughes, who rose to prominence for his opposition to reparations, has made his foray into hip hop. This is a rare case where an individual has made the move from art into commentary and then back again into art.

Those that don’t want to cede the entire cultural landscape to identity politics should actively support platforms that catch the fallen artists after they are knocked over by the blasphemies of our time.

In order to do this, audiences may need to consider new mediums.

Generally speaking, politically apathetic audiences are unlikely to sign up to the Daily Wire especially if they lean a little to the left. How many people that weren’t already following Coleman Hughes’ commentary know he is creating music? It is a self-limiting, sympathetic audience.

There is no doubt that the addition of artistic talent is giving counter-culture a bit of ‘street cred’, but the reach needs to be expanded if we are to stop Cancel Culture.

After all, where did ‘art for art’s sake’ go? Why has art become a pro-or-anti identity politics conversation? Can we go back to simply enjoying art for its entertainment and emotionally moving stories? Or even better, why can’t art be culturally unifying?

There is something precious about shared culture – of being able to start a campfire sing-along confident that most people will repeat the words without ending up in a fit of offence.

Good creators do not tap into what makes us different, but the experiences that unite us. The joy, the sorrow, the passion of new love and the heartbreak of lost love, the complexity of being human, and the simplicity of some of the most enriching moments in life.

That is what will be lost in a world where we are cornered into consuming content solely from those that share our ideological leanings.

I don’t want art to preach to me about the injustice of Cancel Culture any more than I want it to lecture me about the newest pronouns.

And I am sure that in this I am probably in the majority.

A victory in the culture wars would ultimately mean the end to art that aims to propagandise more than inspire.

Originally published in the Spectator Australia:

‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ has been a favourite cry of those that oppose companies that take on fashionable causes but alienate the public. The problem with this catchphrase is that often the public are not the customers…

Jeremy’s Razors is the newest brainchild of a conservative pushback against companies that ‘hate you’. Their ad is hilarious, and many members of the public in America have gone out and bought one (and many in Australia wish they could buy them). This kind of pushback is very much needed.

However, real change isn’t going to come until the actual customers of Woke corporations pushback: other companies.

The reason why corporate ‘Wokeness’ or ‘progressiveness’– also known as it’s more formalised conception Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility (ESR) policies – is so pervasive is that it is not merely culture, but law. More specifically, it is contract law with big companies passing on their Woke policies to smaller companies whenever they sign up to supply agreements and the like.

Many were shocked by the amount of mining companies that came out in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, but this was so completely predictable when they all have Indigenous Reconciliation Policies!

We also have the strange prevalence of private sector enterprises having Covid vaccine mandates enacted on their staff ‘by choice’. It isn’t much of a choice when their customers – which are other companies – have clauses in their contracts that say that in order to provide them services they had to guarantee their staff were vaccinated. For example, to receive stock from a supplier, both the supplier and the receiving company have to have the same vaccination policy. What is the easiest way to guarantee this? Have their own mandatory vaccination policies in place.

For all the smears of the Left that ‘trickledown economics doesn’t work’ – a crude and inaccurate representation of free-market economic theory – ‘corporate social responsibility’ theory definitely trickles down from big companies to small, with each contract that is entered into.

If you are a smaller business wanting to win a tender to provide goods or services to a giant corporation, having the same ESR policies in place is vital.

This is no more true than the biggest behemoth of all – the government.

Have you looked at a government tender recently? There are mountains of ESR polices that form part of the contract with the government and if you have any hope of winning the government as a customer, the business must signal their compliance with each.

So, next time you hear the phrase ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ remind yourself why these companies have these policies in the first place, to win customers… Big customers. A multi-million tender contract is worth far more than a few angry ‘conservative’ customers. After all, what are they going to do – buy from a competitor that probably has the same policies?

All this is pernicious because it means that the problem with ‘Woke Capital’ is far deeper than mere culture and whinging Millennials and Gen Z’s on the staff. All these policies carry the force of law – contract law. Each B2B transaction in which these policies form part of the basis of the agreement homogenises corporate culture in one direction.

The prevalence of homogenous ESR policies due to their way of ‘trickling down’ from one company to another through private contract law are as clear an example of the power that the private sector has as any. It is strange times indeed when it is being pushed by those that sit on the side of politics that has traditionally been sceptical of Big Corporate Power and opposed by those that have traditionally advocated for freer markets.

More importantly, those in opposition seem to be hell-bent on using the very sources of power they have traditionally deemed to be the weaker and less efficient – government – to fight against Woke Capital. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis taking on Disney is a prime example of this.

Taking away Disney’s special tax status and setting up a competitor razor company is a start but if conservatives really want to fight Woke Capital, they must start at the top.

Unfortunately, we can’t all do an Elon Musk and buy Twitter, but we can break the monopolies of industry bodies and professional associations – which is where a lot of these homogenising policies start – simply by cancelling our membership of these organisations and joining alternatives like the Free Speech Union or The Business Union instead.

Conservatives must become the real customers of these companies if they want to challenge Woke Capital at its root.

Updated: Jun 22

Originally published in the Spectator Australia:

The biggest shifts in culture have always come out of subcultures or scenes that go mainstream.

It was mostly African American subcultures that produced a new genre of music in almost every decade of the 20th century. Each of these genres was birthed in America but soon went global. From blues to jazz, ragtime, soul, funk, hip hop, and rap along with every subgenre in between.

I was a weird teen that became fascinated by record labels such as Stax and Motown. These recording studios became cultural powerhouses that pumped out hit after hit despite (or more likely because of) being quite subversive places where the cultures mixed, and new genres were born. Arguably, soul and funk did more for the civil rights movement than street protests.

In one of the nicest rebukes against the charge of cultural appropriation, Professor Shayne Lee in this podcast with Thaddeus Russel says that it is not cultural appropriation for white kids to rap because this is the dominant culture in America.

Saying that these kids America should not engage in rap would be like calling children in Germany in the 1600s guilty of cultural appropriation for wanting to be like Bach.

America was and still is the cultural hegemon and one of its main exports is music. To want to imitate American culture from any decade in the 20th and 21st century is to be a student of popular culture – not a cultural appropriator.

If not for the influence that came from America’s most oppressed people at the time playing in underground venues the biggest bands in the world such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would not exist. Even today, most songs use a 1-4-5 chord progression which is the signature blues harmony.

Even in my time there was a subculture whose music made it to mainstream (despite still being roundly mocked). I refer to the infamous Emos.

We who went in high school in the noughties may have not adopted the dress, but we still listened to Avril Lavine, Good Charlotte, and Blink 182 (and many many more).

When I attend a regional high school music student gathering, a lot of the female vocalists had chosen for their example piece Evanescence’s My Immortal. For this generation, she was kind of a musical heroine that – despite not dressing or acting like Emos themselves – the young ladies wanted to emulate.

It isn’t just music that tends to progress in scenes. In fact, the most influential movements are multi-medium.

The Bloomsbury Group weren’t, as asked by their Tate page, ‘Privileged bohemians who dabbled in the arts – or creatives who made an important contribution to the development of modern culture’ but both an eclectic and bourgeois (or boujee as the kids today would say) group that influenced everything from art, writing, and economics.

One of my favourite movements is the Vienna Succession which influenced art, architecture, interior deign and spurred many other movements such as the Glasgow Style and Art Nouveau.

There are many examples throughout history of groups or movements that start as a bunch of people that influence each other but end up influencing the whole culture and society at large.

Perhaps that is why modern culture is so bereft of novelty or edginess. There are no subcultures, only mass-produced on-demand culture from Spotify and Netflix.

The consumption of culture is no longer communal, and at least during the era of Covid, neither is its creation. The lack of human contact and lack of cultural developments can’t not be interrelated.

Even the eccentric lifestyles the bohemians of the past lived are in no way edgy today. Everything from ‘free love’ to ‘androgyny’ has been sterilised by or subsumed into the dominate culture with the rise of ‘ethical non-monogamy’ and ‘non-binary pronouns’.

Recently, the mainstream media have predicted a backlash against all this orthodox-unorthodoxy. They warn that being conservative is the new counterculture and that a wave of sex-negativity will soon envelope the culture.

Maybe it really will become Hip to be Square in the twenty-twenties.

Whatever the reason for the dearth, there is a definite need for some actually subversive and dangerous ideas and art to break into the mainstream. But for that to happen there needs to be real-life in-person-subcultures where people can meet, mingle, clash and create.

I am playing a small part with All Minus One to fill this void but there is a need for plenty more movements to make up for the last few years of physical and artistic sterility.