“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” states Sir Isaac Newton’s third law. While Newton intended the law to describe physical processes, it can apply to culture as well.
Just as hyper-conservative post-war America produced the rebelliousness that defined the 1960s (and much of American society since), today’s breed of authoritarian liberalism is laying the groundwork for a cultural coup d’etat. The ‘60s, with its focus on individual freedom, both mental (New Age and Eastern religions) and physical (sex and drugs), was at its core little more than a rebuttal to an American mainstream rooted in nationalism and religious conservatism.
Rebellion entails opposing the existing power structure at every turn, be it the arts, education, or even religion. That’s precisely what occurred, and is occurring again.
The New Rebellion Takes Shape
The open-mindedness and optimism of the ‘60s have given way to a progressive establishment equally as authoritarian, perhaps even more so, than the system the decade attempted to overthrow.
The movement—much to the chagrin of many of the idealistic baby boomers who set it in motion—has grown old, ornery, and hellbent on maintaining its twisted orthodoxy, so much that it is openly abandoning its most basic ideals, such as individual liberty and skepticism of authority. Yet these ideals are still meaningful to modern-day conservatives and libertarians.
From universities to Hollywood to Silicon Valley, today’s twisted brand of fanatical progressivism permeates nearly every facet of American life. The ‘60s have, in many ways, produced exactly what the decade so despised. Nowhere is this horrifying evolution more obvious than in higher education.
The “turn on, tune in, drop out” movement ironically did nothing of the sort. Rather, they were the moth to academia’s flame as beatniks and burnouts seized control of America’s once-great educational institutions, saturating them with a singular political philosophy and sowing the seeds of a liberalism that would grow unrecognizable in a matter of decades.
Rather than expose students to novel ideas and disparate worldviews, as the boomers intended, today’s totalitarian ivory tower crushes dissent at every turn. Consider the epicenter of the ‘60s themselves: Berkeley, California. Once lauded as ground zero in the battle for free speech, today, Berkeley’s campus is a hunting ground for packs of social justice warriors preying on the occasional stranded conservative.
Groupthink Turns Leftists Against Their Own
The groupthink is sufficiently suffocating that traditionally center-left heroes such as Steven Pinker and Sam Harris are now criticized for, well, not being leftist enough. Academia itself has become synonymous with leftist largesse, an association that is hurting higher ed’s bottom line as more and more Americans reject its hyper-liberal monoculture.
After all these years, the real rebels, in a bid to preserve what is left of free thought and free expression, are finally dropping out in droves–and tuning in. Not to the likes of Timothy Leary or Allen Ginsberg, mind you, but to the unsavory opinions of Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and numerous others who dare to rage against the progressive status quo.
Among them is hip hop’s resident giant Kanye West, who unleashed a flurry of tweets and activity voicing his disdain for leftist intolerance, even going so far as to quote conservative stalwart Thomas Sowell and retweet Peterson’s heretical videos. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he met with conservative rabble-rousers Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens and, most recently, met with President Trump at the White House, receiving plentiful mainstream scorn in response.
While the music and film industries have always had their freebird vocal conservatives, few are at the apex of their careers and have as much to lose as West. His decision to put principle over profit, and his dramatic departure from the left’s mental plantation, is about as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets.
Of course, West is a shrewd cultural observer, and perhaps he has simply witnessed firsthand, in the eyes of the throngs of millennials who flock to his concerts, the coming exodus from a philosophy that no longer represents the freedom young people so desperately seek. Perhaps he is simply attempting to remain on the cutting edge of culture and, by extension, the top of the charts.
Young People Are Losing Faith in Democrats
If so, the numbers are on his side. Consider a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll that made headlines for revealing that America’s youth were rapidly losing faith in the Democratic Party. According to Reuters:
“The online survey of more than 16,000 registered voters ages 18 to 34 shows their support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percentage points over the past two years, to 46 percent overall.”
It was rock stars and their young fans who fundamentally changed the cultural landscape by championing freedom roughly 50 years ago, and the same demographic may be poised to swing the pendulum back, at least somewhat, the other way. The course correction will have profound implications for America’s culture war—a war the left declared over, and victory theirs, just a couple of years ago.
Regardless, it seems debatable whether 400,000 young conservatives and libertarians will soon be flocking to a farm in upstate New York to drink craft beer and watch Kanye perform “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Even Comedy Is Showing Signs Of Cultural Shift
There is an undeniable movement taking shape in certain corners of American society that were once thought lost to the modern left. Even cutting-edge comedy, once considered all-but-off-limits to conservatives, counts vocal critics of the left Bill Burr, Adam Carolla, and Norm Macdonald among its most prominent voices. Still more comedians criticize leftist political correctness, such as Dave Chappelle and Lisa Lampanelli.
In many ways, the transformation makes perfect sense. The hippies of yesteryear and today’s conservatives and libertarians have more in common than most care to imagine. Distrust of government’s motives, a lust for individual freedom, and a foundational belief in freedom of expression all bind the rebellion of the past and the rebellion of the present.
But they are not the same. Conservatism comes with plenty of economic and social principles wholly antithetical to the indoctrination of many of today’s young people. But the more radical the modern left becomes, the more today’s youth–who instinctively seek freedom–will explore other philosophies.
Counterculture icon Timothy Leary once advised his admirers to “think for yourself and question authority.” These days, such a suggestion falls wholly on the shoulders of conservatives, a development that no one, including Leary and his fellow malcontents, could have ever imagined. It’s far out for sure.