Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, October 26, 2009

Failure Is A Conservative Value

In their continuing effort to prove their legitimacy and validity, conservatives are grabbing anything popular to claim as their own. Movies, songs, books--it doesn't matter. Wide scale failure makes one desperate. The Corner's John Miller scares up a post:
Halloween is my favorite time of year for literature. For the last week, I've been reading horror stories to my kids before bedtime: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" by Richard Matheson (made into a Twilight Zone episode starring William Shatner), "The Statement of Randolph Carter" by H. P. Lovecraft, etc.

That's just child abuse, depending on the age of the kids, and they are probably small if he's reading to them.
Over the years, I've written quite a bit about the literature of horror (go here for a quick compendium). I've also wondered why I like the genre so much. It may be as simple as what Edith Wharton called "the fun of the shudder." But there may be something else at work as well: Horror is a fundamentally conservative genre.

True, I know I'm horrified whenever I read about conservatism.
It's of course a huge and diverse field, so it's a little silly to slap it with a label.

But he'll do it anyway, because he's just silly like that.
Yet so many of its stories involve a rupture in the social order and conclude with its restoration.

War involves a rupture in the social order--morals always relax during a war--but that doesn't stop them from loving mass killing.
They are also full of warnings about not messing with things you can't understand, which is a sublte plea for respecting tradition.

I suppose Miller would have been far happier if medical science never dabbled in things it didn't understand, like cures for illnesses.
Finally, this is the one genre that aggressively questions the assumptions of materialism and gets away with it. Russell Kirk's fondness for ghost stories — as a reader as well as a writer of them — was no coincidence.

You know you're conservative when you believe in ghosts, because ghosts are supernatural and God is supernatural. QED! But do our believers really believe in the supernatural? Do ghosts haunt the scene of crimes? How many people have died throughout history, under horrible circumstances? Millions upon millions. Yet nobody's ever been able to demonstrate proof of the existence of ghosts. If ghosts were real we'd be elbowing them aside every time we went to visit Granny at the cemetery.

Do they believe demons haunt the land, looking for souls to steal? If so, why don't they use charms and blessed items to protect themselves, as our ancestors did? Do conservatives believe in angels? If so, why do they pay for police and soldiers and bodyguards, when they have a guardian angel looking over their shoulder at all times? And are these guardian angels thwarting God's gift of free will?

Gosh, it's fun to pretend to believe so you can hit everyone over the head with your Jesus stick, while actually living a life that is based on scientific achievement. You can both have your cake and pretend you didn't eat it.


Anonymous said...


"True, I know I'm horrified whenever I read about conservatism."

That is a fantastic line and great way to start the week. I hope this week isn't as depressing as last week was.


Downpuppy said...

The great bulk of all paid writing is done to support the status quo. Easy to write, unchallenging to read, telling people that everything is fine - call it conservative, call it lazy, call it crap - tis where the market is.

Anonymous said...

Author's generally should connect praise for the horror genre with the conservative movement. And if they're going to do so, they certainly shouldn't be referencing it back to old man crazypants Lovecraft, with his virulent prejudices...

Substance McGravitas said...

Horror is a fundamentally conservative genre.

This guy is gold, from Seuss to rock.

Going "BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA" does have some relationship to conservatism, however in horror it's usually the people who react calmly to that and adjust who save the day.

Mr. Wonderful said...

They will say ANYTHING, and profess to believe ANYTHING (sorry for shouting), and deform logic itself and traduce commonly agreed-upon history, to feel relevant.

It's pathetic. One question is, do they know it's pathetic? I think some of them do, but resist that knowledge, the way we all resist the knowledge that we're going to die.

But they think--or act as though they think--that we don't see through it.

THAT'S what's truly pathetic.

satch said...

So, Russel Kirk was fond of a genre that aggressively questions the assumptions of materialism and gets away with it, eh? He's got a point... any idiot knows zombies have no respect for property.

Kathy said...

Well, they're convinced Christianity is "conservative", so I suppose they can convince themselves of anything.

Susan of Texas said...

Plus, everyone knows belief in zombies is central to Christian thought.

ignatov said...

Top 5 Conservative Ogden Nash poems:

On proper parenting:

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.

On the decline of morality in pop culture:

In the Vanities
No one wears Panities

On the virtue of capitalism:

Certainly there are lots of things in life money won’t buy, but it’s very funny
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

On not engaging in risky behavior:

If called by a panther
Don’t anther

And, finally, on the decline of Western morality:

Is Obscurity