(The audio version of this essay can be found here.)
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a society in which our mass media and popular culture served to reinforce traditional morality rather than tearing it down. Imagine that the most popular movies, television shows, and music encouraged young men to be morally and physically strong, to build things, and to lead God-fearing families. Imagine that they encouraged young women to get married and have children, and to teach those children the time-tested virtues of our civilization. Imagine that true Christianity was promoted rather than marginalized and mocked. What does this imaginary society look like in your mind’s eye? Does it have the same dysfunction, the same criminality, the same rampant depression as our own? Are divorce and out-of-wedlock births as common? Compare this society to what you see when you open your eyes and consider the influence of popular culture.
Civilizations fall in two ways. Like a great tree, they can either be felled by the woodman’s axe or they can rot from the inside. While the United States has numerous external issues that are influencing its decline, it is the spiritual and moral rot that is the bigger problem. Atheism and agnosticism are the fastest growing categories of belief in the younger generations, but even those claiming to be Christian live as if the words of the Bible do not apply outside of Sunday morning church services. Perhaps just as harmful as our declining faith is the poison that is western culture in the 21st century. Television, movies, advertising, and music are worse than useless today; rather they are active propaganda designed to undermine your family and the traditions that built western civilization. When young people have no knowledge of their own history and culture, yet demand that statues be torn down and names erased from history, remember that this is what the creators of our popular culture want. When you see thousands of young people expressing a desire to mutilate themselves because they think they were born the wrong gender, you must understand that this is not an organic or accidental occurrence. The people who create our culture have an agenda, and that agenda is the destruction of western civilization itself.
Everyone knows the story of George Orwell’s 1984, even if they have not read the book themselves. In the world of the novel, Communism has triumphed so completely that the Party is able to exert total control over the people it governs, and they even rewrite the past to control the way people are able to think about the world. Surveillance is everywhere. One cannot even look the wrong way without the Party knowing. The constant reminders that “Big Brother is watching” keeps the people on tight leashes. There are many ways in which the modern world is approaching Orwell’s dystopia. Surveillance might not be as obvious as it is in the novel, but it is everywhere, and expanding quickly. Rather than being concerned, however, we spend money to have an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomePod in order to make our lives a little bit easier. In less fortunate nations such as the United Kingdom that lack our strong Bill of Rights, people are being arrested for tweeting or speaking the “wrong” opinions. To be fair, many in America are working hard to bring that level of censorship here too. For those potential tyrants, the Constitution is simply a temporary setback on the road to utopia. For those of us who value our freedom, it is only a redoubt, not a permanent solution.
I believe, however, that the better predictor of our real-life dystopia was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The leaders of Huxley’s dystopia do not control their people through an invasive surveillance state because they don’t need to – the people are too busy wasting their time and their brains on mindless entertainment to care about anything else. Thirty years ago, Neil Postman wrote a great book about the decline of intelligence in media called Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the introduction to the book, he compared Orwell and Huxley’s respective dystopian visions:
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
Throughout the book, Postman explains how media has been continually dumbed down over the years, from print to picture to video. Media changed from a source of information to a source of entertainment – and he wrote this even before the world wide web had been invented. Media has long been the opiate of the American people, and it has been getting stronger as time goes by. It is interesting to note how every advance in communications technology has served to centralize popular culture in the hands of fewer and fewer influential people. Before the printing press, news traveled slowly, and each community developed its own unique culture. Music, art, and literature were transmitted only gradually. Culture remained slow and decentralized until the invention of radio and television in the 20th century. Imagine what life was like in a city or rural community before the invention of mass broadcasting. Culture was passed down from one generation to the next. Styles changes very slowly, and whatever new fashions were introduced in cities only gradually spread to the country. Each region had its own unique culture, slightly different from their neighbors. How many different variations of the English accent exist throughout Britain? There is the Queen’s English in the upper classes, the Cockney accent in the lower classes, with regional distinctions in Liverpool, Birmingham, Yorkshire, and more. That is not even to mention the variations that are now spoken in Scotland, Ireland, the United States, and Australia. These distinctions are a remnant of the age before a centralized popular culture that was transmitted to everybody all at once.
Mass media changed the way that cultures grew. American culture in the late 20th century was created in New York or Hollywood and then exported to every community in the nation, and eventually the world. Children in rural Iowa are listening to the same music, watching the same movies and television shows, and wearing the same fashions as children in downtown Miami or on the West Coast. Popular culture has become monolithic. A small handful of people now control what most of us see, hear, and think about. If you wanted to destroy a civilization from within then it makes perfect sense to put yourself in a central position to influence the culture.
In addition to becoming monolithic, pop culture has also become pervasive in American life. Go to any workplace or coffee shop and try to see how much of regular conversation revolves around movies, TV shows, and music. How much of our dialogue is simply a string of catchphrases from the latest popular movie? Pop culture has replaced thinking for a lot of people. Orwell was right about one thing – the ability to think is dependent upon having words to express those thoughts. Modern vocabulary is becoming limited to whatever we see on our screens. Our very thoughts are being programmed by nameless writers in New York and Hollywood. An entire generation of journalists have grown up and gone to work having consumed nothing but late-night television comedy, and they think that their sarcasm and snark make up for their lack of education in history, science, law, or the Great Books of western civilization.
We all live in one bubble or another. There is the famous anecdote where journalist Pauline Kael was supposed to have marveled at Richard Nixon’s election, wondering how he could have won being that nobody she knew voted for him. If you spend all your time around other people who share your tastes, styles, and worldview, it is easy to forget that you are part of a relatively small group. People who grew up in a Christian homeschooling community start to believe that the majority of America shares their values. People who spend all their free time on anime forums online get the impression that anime is much more popular than it really is. Many years ago, Joss Whedon’s television show Firefly aired for a few months on FOX and was then canceled. Despite its short run, Firefly had built up a dedicated group of outspoken fans who quickly organized across the internet and started a movement to restore the show. Movie studios, seeing this passionate fanbase, gave Whedon the funding and the opportunity to continue his story in the form of a movie. However, that movie, Firefly, flopped spectacularly. The fanbase was passionate and outspoken, but still fairly small compared to the mass of American entertainment consumers. They forgot that they lived in a bubble.
What happens when a small group of people who live in their own bubble are also the people who create our culture? The communities in which I grew up seemed normal for America at the time; mostly white Christian children. I did not grow up around Jewish culture, African-American Culture, or Hispanic culture. However, I noticed that many of the young adult novels I read and television shows I watched had a lot of references to Jewish culture. For a while I assumed that I must have lived a sheltered life, that America was much more Jewish than I thought. On the contrary, however, as of 2016 the Jewish population of America is just above 2%. It turns out that the population of authors, screenwriters, producers, and others in media is disproportionately Jewish, and they naturally write about the world they know. With popular culture being so centralized, this small minority can share their worldview with the greater population in ways that were impossible just a few generations before. I was not the one living in a bubble. This is not to single out a single group for condemnation but is merely an example of how a centralized pop culture allows a small group to influence the thought processes of the entire nation.
The same effect is seen with the homosexual population as well. Polls have consistently shown that 2-4% of Americans are homosexual, yet they too are tremendously overrepresented in media. Every television show must have a gay character, and these characters are almost always portrayed in a positive light. Every now and then a polling company asks people what they think the gay population of America is. Many people guess that it is about 30%, despite this being obviously exaggerated to anyone who thinks clearly about it. Why would we think this is the case? It is because that is the world we are presented in media; the world that reflects the people who create it.
Recently, taxpayer-funded PBS aired an episode of the children’s television show Arthur where a major character came out as homosexual and had a gay wedding. Marvel at how quickly our culture has changed: just ten years ago, Democratic presidential candidates declared in their primary debates that marriage was between a man and a woman, but today gay marriage is being propagandized on state-run children’s television. This is how you capture an entire generation, and this is how conservatives have lost the culture war. The right ceded control of the media and academia and then wonders why their children grow up to be transgender socialists. The left doesn’t even hide their intentions here. I remember sitting down to watch the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated which promised to be an expose of the way Hollywood movies are rated by the studios. Instead it ended up being a complaint-fest by a lesbian filmmaker that her lesbian propaganda movie for teenagers was rated R, which kept it mostly hidden away from the impressionable young girls she wanted to reach.
The people who create our popular culture have an agenda, and they are interested in your children. One of the most popular YouTube streamers lately was a homosexual man who creates videos to talk about wearing makeup. He was heavily promoted by YouTube, to the point where the company’s CEO visited him at home for a photo op, but he found himself in a scandal after he was accused of grooming boys toward homosexuality. In a sane world, this would surprise nobody. In a sane world, people like this would not be allowed to influence children in the first place. But in our clown world, men like this are promoted. Men who wear diabolical makeup and dress in women’s clothing in order to read to children at libraries are lavishly praised and promoted by our mainstream media, while anyone who disagrees with them are called homophobic bigots. Buzzfeed News endlessly promotes young boys who dress in drag and dance for gay men at strip clubs but they proudly doxed and attacked a teenage girl who made videos mocking the left. There is a consistent agenda at work here, and it seems to be coordinated throughout media, academia, and government. The people behind this agenda will steal your children’s minds if you allow them.
Many conservative and Christian parents seem to have a “see no evil” approach to our culture. They might complain about how much worse it is than in their day, but they nevertheless still send their children to public schools, let them listen to whatever music is new and popular, and watch whatever television shows, movies, and YouTube streams they want. Even if they exercise some discretion, they still underestimate the pervasiveness of the poison in our culture. Take Disney, for example. Walt Disney worked hard to make his name synonymous with wholesome family-values, and many parents still make that association today. Yet what is the message that Disney is giving young people today? They are telling girls that getting married is for losers and that disobeying your parents and doing your own thing is laudable. They are deconstructing heroism and teaching that evil is simply misunderstanding. This is on top of the invidious carpet-bombing that Disney does to our popular culture, in which their licensed characters penetrate every facet of your family’s life. Walt Disney is long dead, so we should ask who is now creating the culture that is so dominant in our society? What is their agenda?
Netflix is another insidious example. After I canceled my subscription a year ago, I found that the only thing I really missed were the excellent nature documentaries. I am happy to no longer support their original programming that is clearly designed to warp the minds of children. Whether it is suicide propaganda, or transgender propaganda, or sexual propaganda, our children are being subverted before our eyes, and we are paying for it to happen. Remember Bill Nye, the goofy science man from the harmless and educational children’s television show in the 90s? He recently appeared on Netflix to talk about all the degenerate sexual fetishes he thinks you should engage in. The outcry from concerned parents was harsh but brief, and they soon moved on. In the meantime, the propaganda continued unabated. Nye himself, who is not even a real scientist, still appears on various television shows in order to lecture us on how we need to give up our way of life or else the planet will burn in a dozen years.
Our culture has become poisonous, and that poison is killing entire generations of Americans. I believe that America as a nation is the people; not the land, not the buildings, nor the government institutions. You can conquer a land with an army, or a government with a coup, but to take over the minds of the people requires intense propaganda and brainwashing. Look back at the last two generations of popular culture. If you were trying to destroy a people using the media, what would you have done differently? If you wanted to turn a generation of children away from the virtues and traditions that created our civilization in the first place, is there anything else you could do that they have not already done? If you want to save the next generation then turn off the spigot of propaganda before it reaches your home and your family in the first place. Cancel Netflix and cable. Be aware of what your children are watching on YouTube and listening to on Spotify. Exercise discretion in the messages you allow your family to hear. Instead of filling their heads with the poison that is created in Hollywood and Madison Avenue by people who want you destroyed, fill them instead with the Great Books and stories of Christendom. It is an absolute shame that the heirs of western civilization are almost entirely ignorant of the art, literature, and music that is our cultural heritage. If we expect our children and grandchildren to reclaim and rebuild Christendom, then we must build them up with more than a popular culture that is mindless at best and at worst, deadly poison.
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