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Win the battle - lose the culture war?


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.



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