When I was a teenager, I thought the 50s sounded dystopian.
The idea of everyone living in a white-picket-fence suburb, siloed off into their little nuclear family units (and unable to step outside of their role without getting shunned, fired, and punished) struck me as something close to living death. (Of course, that’s not how the decade actually was, any more than most people spent the 60s dropping acid in Golden Gate Park or spent the 90s hanging out at grunge shows in Olympia. Leave It To Beaver was not a documentary. But the sanitized pop-culture image itself seemed too dreadful to bear, regardless of the reality.)
I never understood why anyone looked at that with nostalgia. Did they want to live among the bored housewives and tie-clip-wearing company men? Why would anyone mourn the loss of a culture of overbearing conformity and hollow values? But, of course, people did and do. That’s why the malt-shop-poodle-skirt image was created.
I couldn’t see it. But then, I was deeply unhappy and alienated from my parents. To an uncomfortably-out LGBTQ high schooler in Texas, the conservative utopia looks pretty bad. My mental and emotional state determined my understanding of an idea (the idealized 50s) that with a different mindset, I might have interpreted differently. Instead of “oppressive conformity and shallow consumerism,” someone with different feelings might have seen “supportive community and middle-class security.”
The mainstream news media doesn’t set the bounds of political discourse.
It might announce them. It certainly plays a role in shaping them. But it doesn’t get the final say — not any more. It used to get the last word, before the emergence of social media, but now journalists are all on Twitter. At least from a distance, journalists and their professional culture appear to be heavily invested in social media progressivism. As individuals, they seem to be (understandably) shake-in-their-sneakers terrified of bringing down the wrath of the online mob.
They don’t decide who gets cancelled. Sure, they can signal-boost or cower at the appropriate times. But I don’t think they’re the ones who pick which attempted cancellations take off and which ones fizzle out. Frankly, I’d be surprised if most of them had the…