When I first heard about Brian C. Anderson's new book, South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against the Liberal Media Bias, I had little interest. While I knew the hit Comedy Central show South Park bent slightly to the Right in that it spent more time parodying the issues liberals champion, I figured this was just a useless book attempting to make money by giving itself a catchy title everyone's familiar with.
But then I realized, having been a South Park fan since its conception, that more than a few episodes of the vulgar cartoon make fun of liberals (Anderson lists several episode plots that brought back fond memories from the earlier seasons). And then some conservative commentators such as Michelle Malkin refused to accept the label "South Park Conservative" because they dismiss such crudity. There was interest for me after all.
South Park Conservatives documents the rise of conservative ideas in a country dominated by a liberal monopoly that has chocked almost every outlet of the media for decades. Then came talk radio which took flight when President Ronald Reagan dismantled the "FCC's Fairness Doctrine," allowing jockeys to say whatever they wanted without giving equal time to the opposing points of view. Nobodies like Rush Limbaugh came about and soon amassed audiences Air America can only fantasize about.
It's unclear whether Anderson believes that the rise of conservatism is due to do the fact that more conservatives are being born into society, or that conservative innovations such as talk radio, the Internet and FOX News Channel have influenced otherwise moderate people into becoming rightward thinkers.
One could understand how someone growing up on the traditional basic cable news channels and Dan Rather would take their news as fact without considering the possible bias that exists inside those cabals. Without the blogosphere CBS would have gotten away with those forged National Guard documents and it could have cost President Bush his reelection.
From what I gather in the chapters I believe Anderson ranks the order of most influential mediums from greatest to least as such: talk radio, FOX News, conservative book publishing, the Internet (with blogosphere), and finally South Park. Each has contributed to the breakdown of the traditional liberal monopoly in the media, and has allowed opposing, more conservative ideas to flourish.
For the most part Anderson explains this well. He does, however, run into a few walls beginning with his chapter on the success of conservative booksellers - describing Amazon.com as a "godsend" for "creating a truly democratic marketplace of ideas."
Anderson exaggerates the value of the "customer reviews feature," which in reality is nothing more than a place for idiotic blowhards who've never read a book in their lives to post a zero or five star review of a product that either matches or conflicts with their political ideology. Hardly could one get an accurate take of a book by reading the so-called customer reviews. And without Amazon.com or Republican-friendly chain stores such as Wal-Mart, conservatives would still survive and always have in the world of hard covers and paperbacks. This fact is best explored in Ann Coulter's Slander, like her or not.
But that's small beer compared to the following chapter on the expansion of the conservative presence on college campuses. Having observed them firsthand I find the typical large state university to be the least tolerant place for new ideas, the least likely place you find the challenging of traditional liberal philosophies - and I've been to all the big ones down here in Florida.
What Anderson does is provide responses from actual college students he interviewed right there in the courtyards as if he were the host of Street Smarts or some show that interviews strangers we care little to hear from.
It's an attempt to prove to readers that college students can be both conservative and cool! As if he discovered gold, Anderson reports, "Yale senior Nikki McArthur (a big Metallica fan) is, like most of the students I questioned, ardently pro-life." A conservative who likes Metallica? And is pro-life? No way! I wonder if in addition to fans of mediocre metal bands he interviewed any campus conservatives who didn't have honor-system curfews as well.
If you believe the underlying thesis of this book -- which I do -- then you know that conservatism is becoming popular on its own without needing to be sold as a club for cool people which is all that Chapter Eight tries to accomplish. Brush it aside and then you're left with a good chronology of how conservatism began to take over its ideological opposite to find itself in the mainstream; yes, even on the college campus if not as big Anderson believes it to be.
So what exactly is a South Park Conservative? The term "South Park Republican" was originally coined by blogger Andrew Sullivan when he defined a class of conservatives who don't fit the "geeky" conservative stereotype; enter the rebellious Metallica fan. Still, a South Park Conservative supports our military and rejects the ideas of mainstream liberalism. On stronger issues such as abortion and gay marriage, Anderson avoids a blanket categorization. Conservatives will enjoy the read while finding out if they too are of the South Park variety.