Thoughts of a Right-Wing PBS Viewer
Last night I was watching American Experience: two documentaries about World War Two. The first was about Jap atrocities against American prisoners, and a daring raid behind enemy lines to rescue them; the second retold the story (good stories can be told over and over again) of how our men kicked Kraut butt on the beaches of Normandy. Great stuff.
Well, seeing as how this was PBS -- a.k.a. the Pinko Broadcasting System -- this got me to wondering. In this age of "sensitivity," it's startling and refreshing to be given an honest glimpse at an age when epithets like "Jap" were freely bandied about. And surely the kind of people who normally watch and subsidize this stuff are also the kind of bleeding-heart thug-huggers who whine about our "mistreatment" of captured terrorists.
Then there's Ken Burns. He makes pretty good movies, which show that basically his heart is in the right place: i.e., pro-American, despite his shaggy hair and scraggly little beard and undertone of liberal unctuousness. Yet it's probably safe to say that he'd be on wrong side of nearly every substantive issue in American politics after the Civil War.
When you think about it, the liberal bias is actually not as strong on public television as on the commercial networks. Of course there are monstrosities like Bill Moyers and In the Life, but those are exceptional (and as long as there's going to be pervertarian propaganda on TV, it's better to have it concentrated in one easily-avoided show than interjected randomly throughout the schedule). As long as the subject doesn't directly touch on contemporary politics -- history, science, the arts -- PBS really is a national treasure.
As for the rest of TV: since the lingering demise of The X-Files, the only show I regularly watch is CSI. Besides that and the occasional movie, the only things worth looking at are all the attractive young women with their titillating assets on display.
So -- this is the paradox: the PBSniks are politically subversive but culturally conservative. Another example from last night: Charlie Rose interviewing actor Liev Schreiber, who waxed poetic about his love of Shakespeare -- aware of the contradiction between this traditionalism and his knee-jerk Hollywood liberalism, but somehow able to live with it.
It's easy to think of Left-wingers as lost souls -- or, less poetically, as evil commie scumbags. Certainly it's hard to see any humanity in some hairy idiot screaming "No blood for oil!" or some academic charlatan droning on about "American imperialism" and all that. But if someone loves Shakespeare or jazz, or commemorates America's victories in World War Two or the Civil War, then he too has at least the beginnings of a sense of patriotism. The trick is to make him see the connection between the thing that he loves and the broader tradition to which it belongs, and how the Left threatens that tradition.
After all, I was once a liberal myself. In my own case, the conversion came in two stages: first Ayn Rand connected esthetic "modernism" (i.e. nihilism) to the egalitarian-collectivist-statist Left, then Allan Bloom connected the egalitarian-collectivist-statist Left to the libertarian-individualist-capitalist Left. Spengler and Toynbee identified Western civilization as an integrated whole, and therefore the source-tradition of (among many, many other things) Shakespeare, jazz, the United States, television and the Internet.
Of course, these are only the landmarks of a long intellectual journey, undertaken by a cantankerous young whippersnapper with an unusual appetite for learning and thinking. But maybe -- just maybe -- those of us who love the West and our respective nations could help guide some of our Left-wing compatriots out of their ideological wasteland, by concentrating on shared tastes and interests, instead of mutual animosity.
© 2003 by Karl Jahn