Conservative 'Sleeper Agents' in Hollywood? The Right Wing's New War for Culture
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Gingrich has been busy: hinting and hinting at a 2012 presidential run, starting a "solutions" oriented think tank and “tri-partisan citizen action network” (which claims a hard-to-believe 1.5 million members on its Web site), aggressively hawking his historical fiction, and giving lectures with titles like "America at Risk: Camus, National Security, and Afghanistan.” It is significant that Citizens United has become a Gingrich vehicle.
There are other independent offerings, too. The Ground Zero Mosque: The Second Wave of the 911 Attacks, produced by anti-mosque mouthpiece Pam Geller, premiered at CPAC in attempt to revive a controversy that has long since flagged.
Rock & Roll: Saving Souls, Fighting Big Government Control
Lisa Mei Norton has no big designs on New York/Hollywood polish. She proudly represents the movement’s DIY arm. The conservative singer-songwriter and former air force sergeant created a webpage in the MySpace aesthetic (and this is not a good thing) for like-minded musicians called Big Dawg Music Mafia. She emphasizes the non-standard spelling of “Dawg” through her street-sense delivery: this is how conservatives roll now, people. She’s part of a growing number of musicians who tour Tea Party rallies around the country, and the composer of one very heartfelt tribute to Sarah Palin’s fairy tale life called “Thank God You're a Woman.”
Norton is also a member of an organization called Oathkeepers, made up former and active duty soldiers and police who pledge to take on the federal government should it be necessary. Like everything at CPAC, the fringe right mingles easily with the Republican establishment.
Jon David is one of the most famous of the Tea Party musicians, and you have probably never heard of him.
David wears a trucker hat and lives in Los Angeles and takes on a singer-songwriter posture at the microphone. He headlined CPAC’s Friday night banquet, and has opened for Sarah Palin and Tea Party rallies nationwide. Jon David is not his real name. He told the Wall Street Journal that he was worried about losing work in liberal Hollywood. Jonathan Kahn is now out of the closet: the persecuted conservative bravely announces his faith before the heathen powers that be, prepared for martyrdom should it come to that.
The core of David’s appeal is a catchy and deeply maudlin song called “American Heart.” He played it right before Phyllis Schlafly was presented with the lifetime “Courage Under Fire” award for leading the successful fight against the Equal Rights Amendment and other such nefarious liberalisms.
The song is very catchy, and the video deftly if manipulatively uses a montage of historical images to elicit an emotional response: victorious USA Olympic teams; soldiers on patrol abroad; that photo of construction workers eating lunch at the top of a skyscraper. That nearly all of the half-dozen black people pictured were firmly on the left--Martin Luther King, who called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," or Muhammad Ali, who resisted the draft to Vietnam--fades into a mush of soft-focus patriotism.
It is the perfect soundtrack for a movement that glorifies the idea of history but rejects knowledge of its substance.
If you can't beat em, join 'em
The right is increasingly hostile to political compromise. But in the realm of pop culture, they’ve taken a “if you can’t beat em, join em” approach.
In 2006, the National Review published a “50 Greatest American Rock Songs,” unapologetically co-opting songs that have been traditionally identified with the left.
“According to everyone on the left, we are all 91-year-old white bald men in this room right now,” Stephen Kruiser, a comedian and Fox News commentator, told the large crowd gathered for “Engaging America through Conservative Pop Culture.” “You know that right?...Pop culture, the use of it, opens up the avenues of bringing in a new audience..I am going to steal pop culture from the lefties.”