Entertainers used to ask the question, “Will it play in Peoria?” Thanks to technology which enables media to reach a national audience instantly, they think they don’t have to, but they still do. The Politico recently published a navel-gazing indictment of the entire journalistic establishment which failed to see and understand the forces that propelled Donald Trump to the presidency. Indeed, as liberals continue to hold tone-deaf protests and rallies like the Earth Day March for Science with former children’s television host and political agitator Bill Nye as their headline speaker this past weekend, it only reinforces the observation that the Left does not grasp how much the political ground has shifted under their feet, nor how much this is an unintended by-product of technological progress.
If you dislike the partisan rancor which has become cliché, then blame Silicon Valley for the destruction of local newspapers, shops, theaters, and other cultural institutions of small-town life. Top tier cities are booming, but in the vast middle of the country, cities and towns are hollowed out and derelict. Coastal liberals are prone to heap scorn and abuse on these Trump-supporting inhabitants of the Rust Belt and Appalachia, but anybody who claims to be a moderate should lament this state of affairs. Like an acrobat trying to cross a tightrope in a tempestuous gale, how we decide what is true or false is increasingly buffeted by howling invective and exaggerations on both ends of the political spectrum.
Just as extreme as the liberal media, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Breitbart are able to thrive, because the caricature of liberalism they imagine they are fighting is no longer a caricature. Whereas journalists in small towns could not avoid encountering the average Joe, inside the coastal cocoon, it’s easy to find self-referential liberals who don’t realize how extreme they are, and they make easy targets for hyperbole and ridicule. Bill Nye’s bizarre new music video about gender fluidity is a perfect example of the genre. Only a doctrinaire liberal insulated from all disagreement could think that this lewd and obscene display is in any way persuasive or intellectually challenging.
Big business, including mass media and entertainment, used to be the domain of moderate limousine liberals and country club conservatives who, although never guilty of understanding the struggles of ordinary people, at least sensed that there were certain universal norms and values that were best left alone. The moguls of Silicon Valley who have upended our culture are as radically progressive as they come, and actively seek to use their power to change it. Technological titans like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are now deeply engaged in political battles and they have unprecedented ability to influence public opinion.
As someone who makes a living in the technology field, your humble writer is no Luddite by any means, but at the same time, it’s for these reasons I don’t blame most people for being deeply skeptical of technological progress–and if you aren’t, you should be. The thesis of last weekend’s protest is that science is a force for good for all people, but this brave new world of technological mastery clearly demonstrates that we have unleashed forces we do not understand and which have the very real danger of undermining the entire American project of ordered liberty. If liberals really care about freedom, they would do well to take a few weekends off from protesting here and there to examine how they bear much of the responsibility for bringing us to this point.