Politico recaps how rapper Montero Lamar Hill—a.k.a. Lil Nas X—duped the easily distracted Governor Kristi Noem and the right-wing culture war machine into helping him make money. I kinda sorta want to cheer the article’s assessment that the right wing has lost the culture war and is now a mere predictably manipulable minority:
…Though seemingly uninterested in religion himself, he recognized that millions of evangelical Christians could be recruited to the culture wars as a minority that feels increasingly embattled.
Just as a series of impotent “Go woke, go broke” boycott attempts have repeatedly failed to dissuade corporations from taking liberal political stances, there is no meaningful pressure threatening Nas’ various corporate partnerships. After four years of the Trump presidency, it’s easy to understand Nas’ provocation as a turning of the tables — making the confrontational demand for conservatives to “stay mad” amid the initial uproar over “Montero,” and sit with the fact that many, probably most, Americans are perfectly unbothered by a campy satanic lap dance.
At the same time, that very fact gives the whole episode a bit of a spiking-the-football quality. Nas, his fans and his critical allies have already won the culture wars, at least nationally [Derek Robertson, “How Lil Nas X Flipped Conservatives’ Culture-War Playbook,” Politico, 2021.04.10].
But Robertson’s essay concludes that Hill’s “victory” is just a marketing coup with a seamy, Trumpy flavor:
But the days of the culture-defining, tone-setting pop star are, at least for now, over. With “Montero,” Nas has proven himself masterful at taking advantage of our current cultural landscape and the incentives toward cheap and manufactured outrage that lurk within it—reacting to the reaction, and drawing energy from it.
He took the playbook conservatives have used during the Trump era to reliably “own the libs,” gratuitously flouting their cultural norms for fun and for profit, and turned it against them. Which is all in a day’s work for a political or ideological actor. But in the world of pop culture, that same savvy is also a weakness — revealing how hopelessly we’re trapped in the cycle of outrage the Trump and post-Trump era have engendered [Robertson, 2021.04.10].
I don’t think we can claim to have “won” any culture war unless we establish a healthy culture based on thoughtfulness and mutual respect, not money, manipulation, and outrage.