A frequent meme in conservative conversations is the loss of a common culture. Terry Teachout, for example, has an interesting article in Commentary that looks back longingly on the mass media and speculates on the divisive nature of blogs (bold highlights are mine):
[Excerpts] The simplest description of this change is also the starkest one: the common culture of widely shared values and knowledge that once helped to unite Americans of all creeds, colors, and classes no longer exists. In its place, we now have a “balkanized” group of subcultures whose members pursue their separate, unshared interests in an unprecedented variety of ways.
One thing of which I am sure is that the common culture of my youth is gone for good. It was hollowed out by the rise of ethnic “identity politics,” then splintered beyond hope of repair by the emergence of the web-based technologies that so maximized and facilitated cultural choice as to make the broad-based offerings of the old mass media look bland and unchallenging by comparison. For all the nostalgia with which I look back on the days of the Top 40, the Book-of-the-Month Club, and The Ed Sullivan Show, I prefer to make my own cultural decisions, and I welcome the ease with which the new media permit me to do so.
This is the rub. We all have nostalgia for the simple past, but would hate to live within its narrow confines.
Kris over on the Dummocrats adds:
While it's true that pop culture has become more splintered, does pop culture truly define our culture? I contend that America isn't what it is because of Life Magazine or The Book of the Month Club. American culture is best defined by the concept of the American Dream . . . a chance at a better life . . . That is what makes us Americans.
Kim du Toit, lamenting the same "crisis," points the finger at the teaching of diversity.
How then is the traitor able to create and maintain perpetual disunity and instability? By creating social division. Thus we find the common glue of communication, the English language, replaced with a multiplicity of tongues and the concomitant social irritation, all under the guise of “equality”. We find likewise our common culture and heritage replaced by a policy of relativism, whereby foreign cultures are as worthy as our own, and therefore our common culture is replaced by a multiplicity of cultures, all in the name of “diversity”.
I would certainly agree that technology has facilitated the creation diverse forms of cultural life. And recent talk of red and blue states, while entertaining, has created a deceptive picture of stark divisions at the state level. And the emphasis on celebrating diversity has probably encouraged people to maintain or develop their own cultural practices that differ from the ideal of 1950s WASP culture. But if diversity's really a problem, the right should probably reserve the greatest blame for corporate marketing. (Kris touches on this a little with his discussion of pop-culture.) Corporations have created a nation of consumers who are told to be unique, to always want something different that sets them apart and defines them as individuals. So we wear different fashions as we zoom zoom zoom around in different cars, each item immediately telling everyone about our personal "style." Academics spouting Foucault can do whatever they want--they're going to have little effect on people who sit in front of the idiot-box most of their lives.
I'm not convinced that cultural diversity is really a problem, but even if it is, conservatives seem to be barking up the wrong tree. If our conservative brethren are so serious about creating a common culture, they should be serious about creating a subsidized mass-transit system (instead of a heavily subsidized private car system). Then people would have to actually come face to face with others from their community each day as they commuted to work. Conservatives should also get rid of taxcuts and subsidies for the wealthy. Then we might have a society where hard work is rewarded, where those who make similar contributions to our economy received a fair share of the fruits of the labor, and where the citizenry wasn't sharply divided into economic classes. Hard-working people everywhere in America might find they have a hell of a lot in common.
P.S. Into the Blogosphere has an excellent article on political discourse and blogs that is somewhat related to this topic.