"ALL CAPS IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY IS NO VICE."

Friday, December 24, 2004

THE MYTH OF AMERICAN CULTURAL HEGEMONY - or - WHY SO-CALLED "AMERICAN CULTURE" PREVAILS

American culture prevails over other cultures because American culture is AD HOC.

AD HOC: "Something that is ad hoc or that is done on an ad hoc basis happens or is done only when the situation makes it necessary or desirable, rather than being arranged in advance or being part of a general plan."

American culture evolves in ways that are determined AD HOC by the people - not by the design of "the academy" or "the politburo" or "the Upper West Side" or "the chattering classes" or the "chic degenerati" or the elitist Left and the Old Media they dominate.

That's why American culture is an ever-evolving amalgam of the marketplace of ideas & products & services. The people - at any given time and place - determine for themselves what their culture is.

That's why American musical culture has gone from Brass Band to Big Band to Jazz Combo to Rock & Roll to Disco to Hip Hop - it's not the result of what some big-shots in some big offices decide. In America: "Culture happens!"

SO... when you hear leaders in other nations (or cultures) argue that they "want to prevent American Culture from overtaking their own" what they are really really proposing and doing is to prevent their people from reading & writing and listening & playing and filming & viewing and dressing or doing as they please. In effect, it is nothing more than fascism.

One of the favorite targets of culture elitists (who would prefer a system in which they themselves would pre-determine what YOUR culture "should be") is Hollywood - as if Hollywood movies were somehow uniquely American.

This is false, if not: absurd.

First of all, the Hollywood movie style was developed by trial & error in an effort to discover a way to manufacture a "moving picture story" that could be most widely distributed to a mass market comprised of disparate elements. To discover this style the studio moguls (themselves nearly all immigrants from various non-American cultures) hired talent from all over the world: Europe, Asia - everywhere; the who's who of early Hollywood is utterly international and multi-cultural. What this multi-cultural group was able to discover and perfect was a moving-picture story-style which was TRANS-CULTURAL and therefore "available" to audiences from any culture.

Further proof that this style is itself non-cultural is the fact that this style can be used to manufacture a moving-picture story in any language, and on just about any subject, with any political POV: elitist; subversive; anti-American; Marxist; porn; NAZI, etc.

So when you hear elitists (like Chirac) say that they want to put quotas on Hollywood movies to protect their own industry or their own culture from "American Cultural Hegemony" what they are really doing is preventing the people from deciding for themselves what they want to watch.

And this is the same attack on personal liberty when Chirac makes it against Hollywood, as when Bin Laden makes it against the West.

Neither wants the people themselves to decide for themselves what to: read or write; or play or listen to; or how to dress - or anything. They are both cultural elitists who think they know better what anybody should write or read or view or listen to; (YES: France has IMPOSED quotas on their radio-stations against too much "Anglo-music"). Neither trusts the people to decide for themselves.

If they had real confidence in their own culture, then they wouldn't fear competition with any other culture. They wouldn't have to ban the hijab on the one hand, or mandate the burkha on the other. They are - like all statists/elitists - birds of a feather.

The strength of American culture - so-called - is that it is FREE TO EVOLVE HOWEVER THE PEOPLE WANT IT TO EVOLVE. It absorbs whatever it wants from wherever it wants for as long as it wants - and "it" is the people, the "marketplace" if you prefer.

Within this ever-evolving culture, people are of course free to maintain enclaves of whatever they wish: they can be more devout & conservative (like 50's greasers, or Amish), or they can be xenophiles (like Woody Allen and Michael Moore and their fixation on the pre-eminence of French culture), or they can even be trekkies. This is because a FREE culture doesn't demand that everybody tows the line - heterogeneity and pluralism are fine in an open culture. That's why it evolves. America's culture is open-sourced and free; anti-American elitists are closed-minded and dictatorial.

And, that's why the LAND OF THE FREE is the home of world culture: because here the public determines what culture is (at any given moment) - and not members of the Academy or Mullahs or aristocrats of any stripe.

That's democracy of culture, and like democracy in the political realm: it only frightens tyrants.
As well it should.

7 comments:

Brian H said...

I think it's partly the other aspect of "popular", too, that causes foreign (and elitist) unease. Coke and hamburgers are more popular than veggies and fruit, but that taste preference has some pretty sloppy and morbid results. The "evolution" of popular taste and culture is a pretty ruthless process, with lots of casualties and unintended and unanticipated consequences.

Anonymous said...

I am an American living in Canada, a country filled with busybodies who, when not obsessing about people mistaking them for Americans, rush about forbidding people to own pit bulldogs, smoke, drink, eat or drive except when and what Nanny says. Personally I think this is bred of the helpless knowledge that they are entirely dependent on others for their sustenance (90% of all Canada's trade is with the USA, and if not for American medical care, half the country would be dead), and thus they grasp at any other means of control over "Canadian" life that they can find.

Anonymous said...

You raise some good points. The Australian actors' union do raise one counterpoint. There is a problem of American television dramas being "dumped" on the Australian market at less than cost price (The shows' producers can afford to do this because they have recouped their production costs in the American market). So the arguement here is not one cultural hegemony but one of unfair trading practices.

Giles said...

I believe that selling TV shows below cost to foreign markets once the initial investment has been made back domestically is pretty common practice - the UK's TV schedules are full of Australian soap operas, which puts those actors' complaints into a slightly different light...

Anonymous said...

How would Americans react if half of their television programming advocated, for example, a Taliban lifestyle. How would you feel if your children began wearing veils or turbans? You'd bomb the countries who produced the shows. How do you deal with countries that resist American cultural invasion? You punish them with sanctions, and if that fails, threaten to bomb them.

The phrase "American Culture" is an oxymoron. What you have is an anti-culture which lowers everything to the lowest common denominator. What we see is an endless parade of murder, rape, drugs, alcohol, greed and self centeredness. Your "freedom to choose" is limited to what your faceless corporations offer you. And they make sure every choice is pablum.

This century will see the greatest mass extinction of animals and plants since the age of the dinosaurs. Much of this is thanks to American greed. And you're the main actor in the destruction of diversity in human culture as well. What you offer other cultures is annihilation and enslavement.

You use the term fascist. Fascism is the union of big business, government and the military. The US is a classic fascist military state. Yes, you have elections. Hitler was elected. Equating Chirac with Bin Laden is a good example of your attitude. Are you going to invade France?

Fear and Respect are not the same thing. Respect must be earned, and to earn respect you must show respect.

But all this may be moot. You're bankrupting yourselves with your failed attempt to conquer Iraq. Maybe soon you'll be watching Chinese soap operas on TV.

Hoodia said...

Help me Dude, I think I'm lost..... I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw him in a car lot yesterday, which is really strange because the last time I saw him was in the supermarket. No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender". He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a San Diego cosmetic surgery doctor ,to fit into those blue suede shoes of yours. But Elvis said in the Ghetto nobody can afford a San Diego plastic surgery doctor. Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger. Then I'm gonna go round and see Michael Jackson and we're gonna watch a waaaay cool make-over show featuring some Tijuana dentists on the TV in the back of my Hummer. And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . . "You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on " Strange day or what? :-)

Anonymous said...

American culture is well an hegemony:

The word hegemony derives from the Greek term egemonia or emenon, meaning leader, ruler of political predominance. The Italian marxist Antonio Gramsci developed this concept as a refinement of marxist notions of ideology, demonstrating the psychocultural aspects of control, and the role of cultural institutions within this. True control, Gramsci believed, is achieved bot by coercion but by gaining the people's consent for this control. ...

So what?

1/ hegemony on food: in a world which became faster and faster, food is industrialised instead of beeing craftmanship. Fast food is everywhere and french, greeks, spanishs, italians, chinese, russian, polish, japanese, ... don't take 2 slice of bread and a beef steak as something called food, it's just not as refined as what we eat and yes we want something with taste and something good for the health. American are known for having the most biggest obese people in the world, this is the result of a country where everything is about consumming and buying goods.

2/ Americans have a strong production in all kind of areas: cars, technologies like computers, operating system and software (M$ Windows / Apple / Unix / Netware / Borland / ...), movies, motors (general motors), planes (boeing), ... Of course, you're 300 millions and as you grasp all resources of this world by force like your Irak's war, well you also can afford to pay for the best brains who move to the US because in their country there is no more money to pay them

3/ Americans are a melting pot and thus you get a melting pot of cultures but the guys who have come to America where religious fondementalists: you know on your coins it's written "we trust in god". This is just not freedom: I'm atheist and for me the Bible is pure shit (and let it be clear, this is also the case for all serious scientific out there, just ask Galileo ;) ). God and the catholic religion is responsible for all the major wars we have suffered in the past in Europe and in the world (the war against the jews done by Hitler is the result of the jews' role in the death of Jesus: jews have managed money and became skilled at it because this was what romans have forced them do to survive). And Irak war is the war from Protestant against Islam, well that's at least what they have succeded to put in you brain with the massive propaganda done by Bush administration, the real thing is that American boys are in Irak for Oil and for forcing Arabic countries to deal in Oil US Dollars and not in Euro Dollars like Saddam Hussein wanted to.

4/ The US culture bring capitalism everywhere and not the easy way. I was in London, the root of Americanism, I've never seen there so much ads with so much lies in the marketing methods. Everything is about money on your culture and that's really having norrow minded brains: no not everything is money, there is also feelings, values, respect and ideas.

5/ Violence is unwelcome everywhere except in the US: you've the "freedom" to buy guns, keep it, each years there is more dead buy gun in the US than what Ben laden is supposed to have done the 11 sept 2001 ! Other countries have an history, they know that wars cost a lot and not in money but also prevent you to get your full potential in the future because you kill your roots with violence and also future links.

So as US are better organised (300 millions people speaking english is a good start), or at least have a system which enable to consume a maximum by getting Oil and other ressources from elsewhere the hard way and give moneys to a few, the fact that you've a mass media production with his huge and well spread all over the world (try to sell to the masses a french song in the US or a Romanian or Polish or Russian one and see, do the same in any country in Europe, you'll see that only the english ones sells well), it enables those richs guys both in and out of the US government to set the rules for the world.

US is the strongest but it's in decline because you're too big and too extreme in everything, your ways bring pollution and bad behaviour everywhere, this result in permanent storm of violence, that's lake of wisdom and lack of culture.