The driving force of society today is not politics, but rather, popular culture. Trends indicate the mindset of a people, not who they vote into office. This might be a grim reality to face, but it is true nevertheless. President Obama’s administration has committed war crimes, tortured the unjustly imprisoned, assassinated U.S. citizens, and expanded the government’s abilities to spy on its own (free) people, among many other horrible things, and yet he is one of the most popular presidents in decades. By and large, the people love him. Not because of his actions as commander-in-chief, and not even despite them – but instead, because they are completely unaware of them altogether. They are irrelevant. They don’t matter. Because as long as Obama continues to go on talk shows, participate in internet skits, and tell jokes at press events, the ignorant masses will always call him the “coolest President ever.”
For years, a more pretentious version of myself (believe it or not) once complained quite vocally about this fact. I couldn’t understand how or why so many people would jettison their critical thinking skills in favor of the short-lived thrill of mass consumption. And yet, the market has spoken – 21st century Americans would rather educate themselves on Game of Thrones fan theories than the Geneva Convention. Should we really complain about this? Or should we use it to our advantage and initiate our own influence? The kind that, as has been proven through the enormous success of television, movies, music, and tech culture, truly sticks in people’s minds and defines the cultural outlook of future generations?
We would be foolish not to.
In fact, the best among us have already been ahead of us for nearly two decades, and have proven that it is indeed very possible to have political influence through creating a memorable public product for popular, mass consumption purposes. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of he massively popular South Park television series, have been out-of-the-closet libertarians for years, yet unlike the more overtly political members of our little demographic, they are not mocked, blacked out, or misrepresented in the public eye. In fact, they are celebrated as some of the smartest and most honest comedic political commentators of our time – arguably held in just as high regard as the Jon Stewarts and Bill Mahers of the world. And yet, those comparisons wouldn’t be considered fair if they were being made strictly in political circles. Because “smart” political observers in this age are almost exclusively liberal in bent. Yet when presented through irreverent, faux-cardboard cut-out mouthpieces, the same beliefs and adversarial words that would otherwise be maligned manage to garner praise and applause.
This suggest that there is perhaps something much more intuitive about a base-level libertarian outlook that would otherwise be rejected and disparaged on culturally instituted grounds. Perhaps it’s the prospect of being the political outsider that discourages a conscious embrace of the philosophy; or, the general public’s seemingly principled rejection of libertarianism might have the most vocal and fringe members of our movement to blame. But whatever the reason, once a person is asked to let go of predispositions and simply be himself/herself in the face of a piece of modern media, the truth comes out, and the influence takes hold.
Now, I’m not suggesting we deliberately and surreptitiously brainwash people through media influence and subliminal messaging, but I am indeed pointing out the benefits of talking to, not at, the people through a more agreeable medium rather than forcing upon them an overly politicized lecture and a dozen YouTube links to even more politicized lectures. That sort of behavior is repellent to many, whereas the genius of South Park‘s commentary is that by episode’s end the audience is left more informed and more cynical than before they watched, yet at the same time are spoken to by the showrunners in a nudge-wink manner that leads them to be believe their new found attitudes were there own all along.
Why can’t more of us do this? Why can’t more smart and creative libertarians use their talents to bring the like-minded into our big tent through camaraderie and shared humanity? Instead, so many of us seem to feel like the only way to win is to go on the offensive. And that simply can not corroborated as being the swiftest method. And yet, ask everyone in your own social circle if they like South Park and why, then ask yourself why you really think yet another link to an academic snooze fest is somehow more effective.
This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, Micah J. Fleck, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC
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