Pop-Culture Civility

I am a conservative on the Internet, and I play games, read speculative fiction, and watch TV. People who produce the media I consume, by and large, are either in vocal disagreement with me on almost every substantive issue, or silently disagree with me on almost every substantive issue. I maintain this is not a bad thing.

I certainly don’t take the progressive view, which frequently declares certain pursuits, views, and luxuries anathema1. See handwringing over the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game, for one, or the occasional calls for boycotts of business which support gun rights, or who are accused of being too capitalist in their outlook, or the case of Brendan Reich of Mozilla, or various fora with a leftist bent whose progressivism extends to the progressive erosion of the Island of Acceptable Opinions2. This censorial impulse is frequently served with a side of disappointment or regret: “I really enjoy this thing, but the people who provide this thing are the scum of the earth, so I can’t have it!”

Some conservatives do yield to that impulse, but since I’ve already mentioned I enjoy consuming the products of the entertainment industry, I can’t. My choices are separate the work from the people, or live under a rock, and the latter is not a particularly charming option. Of course, separating the work from the person altogether is impossible. Maybe Green Eggs and Ham is a work without a message, but once you move beyond that level of complexity, almost every piece of art says something, whether or not the author had something in particular in mind to say.

That, then, is why it’s a good thing that a lot of storytelling I enjoy comes from people who disagree with me. We live in an age of echo chambers and isolation. We can go through life effectively avoiding exposure to people who don’t think the same way, but media has a way of sneaking in and showing us someone else’s opinion. Reading a novel colored by a communist utopian author’s perspective isn’t apt to turn me into a communist utopian, but it does tend to present a case, implicit or explicit, for communist utopianism. As wrong as I think that case may be, seeing it presented keeps me from lumping communist utopians into the Nameless Other category—though perhaps guilty of poor reasoning, they’re still humans.

Which finally brings me to the title of the post. We staunch conservatives with a fondness for pop culture have practice with that viewpoint, because the entertainment industry is so overwhelmingly leftist. Staunch leftists have a lot less practice in that realm3, and so I most often see them as the perpetrators of pop-culture incivility: angry proclamations that authors like Jerry Pournelle, Larry Correia, or Orson Scott Card are unfit to read, not because of the quality of their writing4, but because of the views they hold. That, I think, is definitely bad: it subverts media’s role in humanizing the other side, and depoliticizing life and rehumanizing the other side is an extremely important part of avoiding a society of cells of harmonious agreement in violent disagreement with all the other cells.

1. A word with a religious origin used advisedly. Humans like telling other humans what not to do. Progressivism rejects the thought that the traditional institutions which tell other humans what to do are worth much, and has to fall back on telling other humans what to do on their supposed merits when read through a progressive lens. “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow the consensus leftist view” lacks something of the original’s verve, though.
2. Obviously, what I’ll term ‘my side’ doesn’t have the cleanest of hands, either, but I’m more qualified to nitpick about people I disagree with, so I don’t have any specific examples.
3. Though more, perhaps, in the personal realm. I hear a lot more about leftists surrounded by conservative family or friends than the other way around, but that might just be the sorts of circles I run in.
4. Which may be good or may be crap. Of these three, I’ve only ever read Card’s solo work, which ranges from good to crap all on its own.

It strikes me that I could probably apply this mode of thinking to the #GamerGate flap, but I’m not sufficiently thick-skinned to deal with the potential response to a whole post on that topic. The short version: the ‘death of gamers’ articles which helped push the movement more mainstream were examples of the same sort of cultural excommunication I spent this post condemning, and the #GamerGate people are guilty of declaring some games journalists unfit to read because of their politics. Both sides may be guilty of other things, and I don’t claim to capture every facet and every nuance of either side’s position. That’s why this is a paragraph below the footnotes instead of a fully developed post of its own.

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