Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Significance of South Park Conservatives

National Review Online has an interesting interview with Brian Anderson, author of the book South Park Conservatives. What is a "South Park Conservative"? Anderson explains in this passage:

As I use the term, which I didn’t coin — Andrew Sullivan was speaking of South Park Republicans at least a few years back, as was Stephen Stanton, who writes for Tech Central Station — it loosely refers to an anti-liberal or an iconoclastic right-of-center type: someone who may not be traditionally conservative when it comes to things like censorship or popular culture or even on some social issues but who wants nothing to do with the dour, PC, and elitist Left.

This anti-liberal attitude, I argue in the book, runs through a significant strain of contemporary humor, above all through the show South Park itself, which though it satirizes the Right, too, and is filled with enough profanities and outrageous scenarios to anger some social conservatives, has really gone after liberals like nothing before it in the history of popular culture. As Trey Parker, the show’s co-creator, put it: “We hate liberals more than conservatives, and we hate them.” A rude anti-liberalism characterizes the attitudinal stance of many of the college students I interviewed for the book, too.

I don’t proclaim the existence of “South Park Conservatives” to be the future of the Right but one sign of a broader delegitimation of the Left that is resulting, at least in part, from the market- and technology-driven arrival of the new media of political talk radio, cable television, and the Internet, which are allowing right-of-center arguments and ideas and even creative visions to get a hearing in the broader culture. That’s the larger theme of South Park Conservatives, which offers a kind of brief, and I hope entertaining, history of new media.

Hip Right

Am I a "South Park Conservative"? In some ways, yes. I'm not a huge fan of the show, and definitely thought the movie went a bit over the top. On the other hand, I appreciate the show's willingness to mock the sacred cows of the left (and the right), and eagerly await the arrival of Team America: World Police on digital pay per view. Depending on the issue, I'm much more of a libertarian than a social conservative. For example, I have no problem with gay marriage. Finally, I do have a keen appreciation for the suitably cheesier elements of popular culture, with the exception of reality television.

Many liberals seem to harbor the ridiculous stereotype that those who voted for George Bush are either benighted evangelical theocrats or mindless sheep frightened into submission by a nonexistent terrorist threat. This is nonsense. As Anderson points out, conservatives come in a variety of flavors. There are social conservatives, libertarians, country club types, limited government advocates, traditional Burkeans, and warmongering neocon deathbeasts like myself. We're not all dour theocrats. By the same token, there are plenty of liberals who are just as narrow minded and dogmatic as the most devout Christian, as reflected in the stultifying politically correct orthodoxy that permeates most college campuses. This is why the anti-PC irreverence of South Park is so popular, and why it is needed.


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