Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We'll just have to muggle through

As our nation lurches from crisis to crisis this summer, with ominous movements taking place everywhere from Afghanistan to Scotland and an increasing climate of unquiet here at home, where institutions as important as Meet the Press rock and teeter toward a possible doom, when what we need most is a voice of unity to speak to our fears and hopes with a calm but convinced voice, one key figure appears to have gone AWOL, abandoning us for the golf course or whatever he does when he's not working, puttering while Rome burns, vanishing on an unprecedented number of vacation days in the face of the people's anxiety and uncertainty.

I refer of course to New York Times columnist David Brooks, who was missing in action during much of July and has now been off again for a week so far with no pretext of "book leave" and no indication of when he plans to return, leaving bloggers bereft and forcing us to write about unpleasant things like murderous cops, murderous Salafi organizations, Ross Douthat, and worse. He needs to speak to the nation in our hour of confusion, and the column he needs to write goes something like this:

Young people of the millennial generation have become unmoored from the institutions that used to provide Americans with a framework of stability and confidence. Almost 29% of them have no religious affiliation, and 50% identify with no political party. Only 26% are married.
This lack of a support structure is reflected in an almost feral detachment from society in which 60% were so alienated that they voted for Barack Obama, while just 19% believe that most people can be trusted.
The inevitable question at a time like this is, is Harry Potter to blame? That is, not Harry himself, who is as I understand it a fictional character, but his creator, the Scottish author J.K. Rowling, a known liberal and former unmarried mother herself, who has invented a magical world characterized by diversity for the sake of diversity, peopled by witches, wizard, elves, trolls, and sensible people known as "Muggles" pictured in many cases as envious, suspicious, and nativist.
Are Rowling's books, immensely popular among the millennials, in any way responsible for millennials' leftist leanings? One researcher who has looked at the question (and probably in fact the only one, but I'd like to give you the impression of a substantial body of knowledge I've checked out before embarking on a discussion of it) is University of Vermont political science professor Anthony "Jack" Gierzynski.
Gierzynski has written a book, "Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation" (I'd like you to think I read the book rather than just the email interview with the author that ran in The College Fix a week or two ago), that examines the attitudes of a sample of 1000 millennial-age Harry Potter fans at seven different American colleges, and the results are telling: some 60% of them voted for Obama too, exactly like the millennials in general.
This suggests in the first place that all millennials must be Harry Potter fans and that the subtle biases found in the books, what Gierzynski has referred to as a "positive attitude toward tolerance and diversity, a disdain for violence, and a healthy dose of skepticism for authority," are in part responsible for Obama's election.
Apparently the younger generation has taken up the idea that these attitudes are liberal, in opposition to an intolerant and authoritarian conservatism. For example, one lesson learned from the Potter books (conveniently found in the first chapter) is "Diversity and Acceptance; Or Don’t Judge People (or Creatures) By Their Appearance or Blood." This is based on the theme of intermarriage between magical and muggle creatures, whose offspring are discriminated against by some of the less appealing characters. "The tale of the boy wizard teaches it is good to reserve judgment, to be open to those who are different," says Gierzynski. "By contrast, the stories' antagonists are often quick to make judgments and be quite vocal in their bigotry."
Obviously it takes something of a leap of logic to identify such antagonists as "conservative", since no true Scotsman, I mean conservative, could ever harbor feelings of bigotry or an undue respect for authority, for heaven's sake. And yet such is the power of the imagination. Through her narrative skill, Rowling has made these characters seem to the unformed youthful mind to be conservative, even though they are clearly not.
If conservatives want to combat these peculiar beliefs, they will have to come up with a counter-narrative—perhaps a full-scale magical epic of youthful wizards who respect their parents and other authority figures, delay sex until marriage, and are comfortable talking about tax policy. Until then I fear we may be in for more irresponsible, wingardium leviosa voting for what may turn out to be a long while.
Conservative Harry. Image by Jamie via Mikatastic.

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