Elon Musk recently asked the internet what they thought of the culture war. One shrewd person suggested that the right needs to focus on funding artists, rather than just politicians.
I think the Right needs to start funding more artists, filmmakers and writers instead of politicians and super-PACs.
You don't win a naval war without any ships, and you can't win a culture war without any culture.
We've been reacting too long. Time to go on the offensive.
— Get Paid Writing (@getpaidwrite) November 25, 2022
As a writer, I may be biased, but this reply is exactly on point. The right can’t just forever react to the left. It needs to have its own contributions to culture. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
There’s no doubt that the right is full of great artists and talented individuals. Taking a look at history, we see the tradition conservatives hold to is full of beautiful artwork. Historical churches like the Hagia Sophia are architectural marvels. Murals depicting scenes from the Bible, like in the Sistine Chapel, represent some of the finest historical painting. And in music, Bach, who was a devout Christian, is a name known around the world.
Even within the past hundred years, two of the biggest names in literature are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, one a Catholic and the other a Protestant convert. And both men extolled conservative virtues like family, tradition, honesty, and bravery in their works.
However, the modern mainstream is dominated by a very secular Hollywood and by progressive artists.
The problem is not for lack of artistic talent within the conservative or libertarian camp. The problem is with artistic opportunity in that camp. In fact, since the left abhors free speech, I would contend that creatives have a friendlier home on the right.
Part of the problem is that the university system largely is in the left’s grip. When young artists want to develop their craft—be it painting, film, writing, music, or something else—the university system should be a place where they can develop critical thinking, explore ideas, and learn the technical side of their medium. Students should read great books, watch groundbreaking films, and analyze thought-provoking paintings. They should be exposed to the Western art tradition they are following in. In other words, something resembling a proper liberal arts education. Instead, today’s universities are full of left-wing propaganda.
Many other artistic institutions are also gatekept by the left. Hollywood is the obvious example, but in order to get work published, displayed, or released, artists have to get their work through the left-dominated outlets.
And you don’t have to look hard to see the bias of these institutions. In one wild example, the entire staff of a literary publication resigned after one editor published an interview she’d done with writer Alex Perez. Perez is a graduate of the premier writing program in the U.S., the Iowa Writers Workshop, and he currently writes for a variety of political publications like The Spectator and Tablet Magazine.
His shift from creative to political writing happened when he decided to write what he wanted to write about. The world of fiction simply wasn’t interested in his stories because those stories weren’t woke.
Good art simply cannot exist in this climate. Good art isn’t afraid of being bold and challenging prevailing ideas. It is stifled by an environment that worries about offending and questioning the narrative—both things the left is overly concerned with. Institutions that aggressively police art based on boundaries set by the left will ultimately squash creativity.
As a result, the authoritarian left cannot outcompete the free-speech-loving right in quality art. One only has to look at the number of film remakes, reboots, and adaptations compared to the number of original movies in Hollywood within the past few years.
Tolkien noted this exact phenomenon in The Return of the King, saying: “The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them.”
All this brings me back to the tweet that sparked this article. The right has so much untapped creative potential. While it’s important to fund and support political candidates who will uphold conservative values, it is also imperative to fund art that promotes conservative values.
After the interview that caused such pandemonium, Perez says many people reached out to him expressing frustration with the state of literature at the moment.
I heard from former classmates, big name writers, writers in MFA programs, etc. Editors from major presses reached out. Everyone with any sense knows there's a problem. I'm convinced a new press, properly funded and with the right editors, would change the lit game overnight.
— Alex Perez (@Perez_Writes) December 12, 2022
Artists are just waiting for the floodgates to open. I’ve seen a few conservatives working to build new creative institutions, so I hope that it’s only a matter of time before more outlets appear. In the meantime, artists stand by in anticipation.
Image credit: PxHere-Robert Couse-Baker, CC BY 2.01 comment