Embracing countercultural conservatism

What would help us, of course, is for artists to get some recognition from conservatism’s establishment guard, which needs to step aside or support us. I have argued in this space and elsewhere that conservative individuals and foundations need to get behind the documentary I am producing about Whittaker Chambers. I won’t belabor the point here, but I will note that a well-known conservative foundation rejected our application for funds to pay for historical footage, the same foundation that has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to think tanks, schools, legal groups and pro-business advocates. The situation reminded me of something once said by the late Richard John Neuhaus, one of the wisest conservative thinkers of the past 30 years. A liberal group wanted to build a soup kitchen in New York, but a competing group wanted to use the space for a new chapel. To the liberals, of course, it was a no-brainer: the soup kitchen was needed, and must be built. Neuhaus replied that this thinking was all too common in orthodox liberalism: liberals just assume that a soup kitchen would help more souls than a chapel.

For too many establishment conservatives, think tanks, foundations, businesses and weekly political magazines are more important than bands, plays, poetry and films. But think of it this way: Imagine it’s the year 2020. President Clinton has just been re-elected to her second term. Conservatism has been pretty much outlawed. In a small bedroom somewhere in America, a teenager is on his computer doing research on marginal political movements of the 21st century. His first encounter with conservatism will either be a speech by William Kristol (or, God help us, Dick Morris) or a beautiful and artistic film about Whittaker Chambers. Which would make the greater impression on him?

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.