The gazillion-selling Da Vinci Code has been converted into a blockbuster movie and the right-wing culture warriors are not happy:
"Da Vinci Thoughts [Stanley Kurtz]
"I just saw The Da Vinci Code. Point one: Michael Novak's review is dead on. [At NRO, Novak found the movie such a maelstrom of hate and decadence that he could barely finish his Junior Mints.]
"Point two: This movie is a salutary kick in the teeth for conservatives. There's no gainsaying the fact that the Narnia movie was a big deal. Having conceded that, the fact remains that when it comes to exercising influence on the fundamental levers of American culture, conservatives remain in a pathetically weakened position.
"I may not be a professor of 'symbology,' but I have taught at Harvard and studied religious symbolism. So I feel in a particularly strong position to reveal the entirely unsecret conspiracy against patriotism, tradition, and religion hiding in plain sight on our movie and television screens, in our universities, and on the pages of the mainstream press. Conservatives have forgotten just how precarious our position is. One cable news channel, talk radio, and the blogosphere do not an invincible army make. It only seems that way because we also have nominal control of the reigns of power. But lose our foothold in government, and conservatives are up a creek. The other side controls the levers of cultural power in this country, and we are the enemy in their eyes (and on their screens).
"Conservatives need to face the fact that our position in this culture is genuinely precarious. If we lose our hold on power, we'll scream bloody murder on our outlets at everything the other side does. Yet those screams may only confirm our helplessness. The deep cultural dimension of our political battles makes an ordinary transfer of political power far more consequential than it was in the days when America had a bipartisan foreign policy and a broad cultural consensus. We can dream about forcing Republicans to the right and then riding back into power two years later, but one big loss could easily turn conservatives back into a marginal cultural force for some time.
"Why have Democrats been so angry? It's because their taken-for-granted cultural superiority has been called into question by 9/11, the return of patriotism, a tough foreign policy, and the open defense of the sort of traditional values they thought were on the way out. Republican victories have punctured the cultural left's sense of the historical inevitability of their triumph, and that is at the root of their rage. By controlling the political agenda, conservatives control the cultural agenda as well (or at least a large part of it). But the truth is, other than the government, the left is still in control of our critical cultural institutions. Should the left recapture the government as well, it may well succeed in pushing traditionalists aside in the culture at large.
"The battle is radicalizing. Big Love and The Da Vinci Code are far more direct and brazen attacks on tradition than we might have anticipated just a few years ago. Conservatives are the targets, and Hollywood is aiming and shooting repeatedly. Give credit to Tom Hanks, by the way. As producer of Big Love and star of The Da Vinci Code, he is clearly one of the captains of the not-so-secret conspiracy.
This is some piece of whining. Of course I don't read NRO a lot so maybe this is typical. But this is Conservative-as-Victim mania such as I've rarely seen, at least since the election of Shrub.
And what's the conservative complaint about Big Love? Polygamy (like slavery) has plenty of Biblical precedence and justification. Most of the Old Testament patriarchs and kings had more than one wife at the same time. For that matter, the taboo against polygamy seems to be of a rather modernist, liberal, secular humanist origin.
I would think conservatives might be more offended by that other HBO series, The Sopranos. I've never watched it, but as I understand it, the show is noted for its, um, character "clipping". That is to say, it's violent. And it's a violence practiced outside the bounds of law, which should be especially offensive to today's conservatives so bent on restoring the rule of law where it applies to immigrants. But if there's a monumental conservative Christian opposition to or boycott of The Sopranos I am unaware of it.
Anyway, the boys and girls at NRO, and presumably elsewhere around the conservative media empire are (gasp!) offended and outraged that people are allowed to write (and read) books and make (and go to) movies that offend and outrage Christian conservatives. This despite the fact that conservatives have been making a big show over the last few decades about the outrages of "political correctness" that prevent them from saying mean things about black people and other minorities and those groups conservatives consider socially inferior or threatening.
Meanwhile, the conservative bubble that was the post-911 period is collapsing into a smoking pile of financial and political fund-raising scandals, an unpopular and unfullfilling war in Iraq (and the re-emergence of conflict in Afghanistan), and a rising tide of political ineptitude generally. In the face of these challenges to their dream of permanent political and cultural hegemony, some conservatives are reallocating their resources and vitriol to other potential and pseudo wars against immigrants, Iran, and other, non-conforming Americans. The war against the latter is waged officially against noted liberal demons like college professors and Hollywood celebrities (of which The Da Vinci Code is a representative), but in actuality is aimed at regular Americans who by purchasing the goods and services of a free, market-driven culture are offending the conservative movement's sensibilities. Still other conservatives are turning on their political leadership, threatening to embroil the forces of reactionism in a civil war.
Most frustrating to the spokespersons of cultural conservatism is the realization that political control over elected institutions does not necessitate cultural control over the individual and over the masses, at least not in a democrat, pluralistic and capitalist system. This latter element seems particularly important in that while conservatives loudly trumpet the virtues of capitalism, market mechanisms are essentially amoral processes that produce large financial rewards for Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks alike.
Moreover, conservative angst is amplified by the recognition that the last 6, 12 and 25 years of conservative political leadership has not fundamentally altered the direction of society or yielded the revolutionized world their fantasies have imagined and inflamed. As James Wolcott writes, society tends to move along by fits and starts, regressing a little here, advancing a little there. This is problematic for conservative and liberal utopianists alike, but especially for conservatives whose perspective of the 20th century is probably not a record they are proud of or can revel in when one considers the importance of Civil Rights, for example, and the development of federal government programs like Social Security, Medicare, and college aid. The end of the Cold War and the relative collapse of world Communism, while on the surface clear conservative triumphs, in practice have probably done more to erode conservative ambitions than enhance them. The end of Communism as a global threat has meant less fear generally and more freedom, politically and economically in particular. Neither of these outcomes are conducive to a vibrant conservative value system and hierarchical form of social control.
On the other hand, as Kevin Phillips and Michelle Goldberg have documented, trends in the religious world would seem to be more advantageous for conservative thinkers hopeful for erecting a more authoritarian and conformist state in this country. But despite the size, intensity, and peculiarity of American religious conservatism, it remains unclear, at least to me, what the origin or origins of this new wave of Christian fundamentalism is, and what ultimate impact it will have in a large, fragmented, individualistic and consumerist society like America. While the organizations, programs and rhetoric of Christian Reconstructionalist leaders are indeed frightening in many respects, I suspect that much like the soldiers of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, the rank and file of Christian followership is much less committed to a project of political and cultural purification that might cost them their SUV's, comfortable homes, and peaceful retirements than their eliminationist rhetoric would suggest.