The great pop culture war

So conservatives stupidly place hopes in a right-wing Kanye or a Trump-friendly Roseanne Barr. They convince themselves that celebrity provocateurs will make America’s campuses more conservative. They make a cynical, race-baiting, adulterous campaign-finance fraudster like Dinesh D’Souza a rich man after he abandons an intellectual career for a Michael Moore-imitating grift — and then cheer when Trump pardons D’Souza because it owns the libs.

All of this reflects a deep confusion about how liberal cultural power actually works. It’s the steady circulation of ideas and money and people through cultural institutions that really matter, not the famous faces popping off on Oscar telecasts.

But the same confusion is on display among liberal culture makers themselves, who have reacted to Trump’s defeat by leaning into their most self-defeating instincts. Cultural liberalism wins battles when its omnipresence just seems like the natural air we breathe. But direct political hectoring plays against that strength; instead of the subtle nudge of a sitcom’s implicit values it’s just a rich and famous person yelling at you, in a way designed to maximize ratings among progressives looking for catharsis.