at Kausfiles.com says that the gay-cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain
has the same marketing strategy as Michael Moore's Fahrenheit
9/11. Both, he says, have been hyped as blue-state movies that
are reaching and changing minds in the cities of red America.
He calls this the "Heartland
Breakout Meme”. ("Meme" refers to a cultural
copying unit that hops from brain to brain without much thought
or any at all). What Kaus means is that the mainstream media keep
reinforcing ideas liberals want to believe, whether they are true
or not. But the alleged breakout of Fahrenheit appears to be myth,
as Byron York shows by revealing some confidential movie-industry
data in his new book, The
Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.
Kaus thinks preliminary
box office numbers indicate that Brokeback isn't reaching red
America either. His point is that liberals delude themselves into
overconfidence and harm the Democratic Party by projecting a false
view of political reality. He writes: "If you think the visceral
straight male reaction against male homosexual sex has effectively
disappeared...you won't spend a lot of time trying to figure out
the possible deep-seated, even innate, sources of resistance to
liberalization... At worst, you'll pass them off as sheer redneck
bigotry-a proven way to lose the red states for good".
of the “Heartland Breakout Meme” appeared when Bill
Clinton, under pressure from the gay lobby, agreed to accept declared
homosexuals into the armed services. The polls were mixed, and
if read carefully, showed that much resistance seemed strong.
But liberals thought it would be a low-cost initiative for Clinton.
A few howls from the right and it would all be over. Liberals
were stunned when the resistance inflicted considerable political
damage on the new presidency and resulted in a policy that none
had even imagined -- don't-ask-don't-tell.
A related meme is
that marriage is a civil right that a just society must extend
to gays. "Equality in marriage" reinforces the liberal
belief that an entitlement is being arbitrarily withheld from
an aggrieved group; again stoking the feeling that anyone who
disagrees is a redneck. But societies around the world-maybe all
of them-- have disagreed with this allegedly obvious idea for
thousands of years because they never concluded that an arrangement
built on same-sex love qualifies as a real marriage. Polls show
that tolerance and respect for gays are climbing much more rapidly
than approval of gay marriage, indicating for a considerable number
of Americans, the major sticking point is not bigotry, but a liberal-conservative
difference on the meaning of marriage.
Alito is out of the mainstream" was one of the strangest
of recent liberal memes, relentlessly spread by the media, all
with little effect. As U.C.L.A. law professor Eugene Volokh wrote,
Alito's views "are majority views, by a wide margin".
Legal columnist Stuart Taylor Jr., a centrist and no fan of President
Bush, called attention to the large role of reporters in spreading
the meme. He showed in some detail that "systematic slanting,
conscious or unconscious " in many mainstream press reports
"helped fuel a disingenuous campaign by liberal groups and
senators to caricature Alito as a conservative ideologue”.
Even worse was the
"racist response to Katrina" meme. Mostly this was aimed
at George Bush, who botched the crisis badly, though not on any
racial basis. The idea was to peel away growing Republican support
among blacks by playing the race card. It worked. The rapid spread
of the meme was the reason why a bland one-liner by entertainer
Kanye West-- "George Bush doesn't care about black people"--
unexpectedly became a famous quote. And there was a broader campaign
to indict whites in general, who were busy sending in most of
the $1 billion in voluntary contributions to Katrina victims,
for failing to care about the suffering of New Orleans blacks.
This meme was wildly
promoted by the mainstream media, but ultimately it failed, as
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake made clear in a recent speech.
She said, "It is certainly true that people very quickly
got off any analysis that...the patterns of Katrina were due to
race”. One reason was that people were pointing to New Orlean's
corruption and the city's incompetent black mayor as explanations
for much of the post-Katrina mess. Another factor was that the
power structure in this black-run city signed off on an explicit
arrangement to abandon 100,000 poor residents in case of disaster.
That was the city's plan and it worked. No wonder the racism meme
faded. “Far from Katrina promoting very much," Lake
said, "if anything Katrina is backfiring a little bit".
That happens now and then to memes that the public can figure
out aren't true.
Leo is a contributing columnist for RealClearPolitics.