MIKE PESCA: Conservatives. You've got your neo-cons, your paleo-cons, your values voters, your Log Cabin Republicans, your compassionate conservatives, your Kindergarten Cop conservatives - all right, there's just one of those - and now, you've got your South Park conservatives, so named after the Comedy Central cartoon featuring foul-mouthed 4th graders. South Park conservatism is more tied up in loathing liberal pieties than anything else, but Brian C. Anderson, author of South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias, believes that's enough to define a genuine strain of the conservative movement.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: They're very strong on the war on terror; they're anti-political correctness; they don't like government regulation of the economy; they cut in a variety of different ways on social issues; they're, I would say, in support of if not gay marriage then civil unions for homosexuals, but I think it really captures something that's been going on in the culture, which is the emergence of what I redefine a little bit in the book as an anti-liberal attitude rather than a traditionally conservative one. One of the creators of the show, Trey Parker, says he hates conservatives but he really (expleted) hates liberals.
MIKE PESCA: Could you give me one or two examples from an episode that demonstrates a point that would be something that a conservative would latch on to?
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: There's three or four shows where they satirize abortion rights, which is something you would just never hear of in traditional Hollywood. The divorce culture, multiculturalism, environmentalism. It's not that they don't make fun of conservatives too; they do. But, you know, if you look at the history of topical comedy in this country for the last three decades, it's mostly been aimed at conservatives. You think of the old All in the Family's and Maude's.
MIKE PESCA: Let's take the abortion example. What they did was they lampooned a lot of the language around abortion rights and what they saw as people who had abortion without seriously weighing the consequences. But I don't know that you would get from that show that the creators of the show are actually against Roe vs. Wade or think that abortion should be illegal. In fact, if you had to identify it with a political strain of thought, it would probably be something like they believe abortion should be safe, legal and rare. That was my takeaway. Was yours different?
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: The fact that they're calling the aborting of fetuses the aborting of babies in three of these segments is kind of significant, I think. It's hard to draw a strong anti-abortion position out of that, but the language is such that it cuts to the core of the issue in a way that I think a lot of conservatives might find agreeable. [CLIP FROM SOUTH PARK]
KID: There still has to be a way for you to kill the porcupine's baby.
KID: Why? You mean like in an abortion?
KID: Yeah. An abortion. That could work.
KID: But we don't know how to give abortions.
KID: Do you know someplace we can learn, Mister?
MAN: Where can they learn that, the boys said with a frown? I know - the abortion clinic, just outside of town!
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: If you can create a politician who would agree with that abortion episode, that politician would be more welcome in the Democratic Party than in the Republican Party.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: I would disagree with that, but…
MIKE PESCA: You would disagree with the assessment.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: …I do know that in another episode on stem cell research, they had Christopher Reeve driving around, sucking the brains out of the backs of babies, which wouldn't represent a traditional Democratic position on that issue.
MIKE PESCA: Did you see the recent episode where they seemed to me very critical of what the Republicans and some Democrats, but mostly Republicans in Congress and President Bush did around the Terri Schiavo decision? [CLIP FROM SOUTH PARK]
MAN: I found the page where Kenny specified his wishes about being on life support.
KID: Well, what does it say?
MAN: If I should ever be in a vegetative state and kept alive on life support, please, for the love of God, don't ever show me in that condition on national television. Whoops.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: That was probably one of the episodes that was directed more at conservatives. Another example was when they went after, pretty aggressively, Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ. But again, I'm writing about this show and the shift in young sensibilities as an indication of a broader shift that's going on in our culture - talk radio, the internet and the blogosphere and cable - which is allowing right of center positions a much bigger hearing in popular culture and in political debate. South Park is part of the entertainment wing of that transformation. The fact that it, it is getting Comedy Central's biggest audience and that it is so popular among younger Americans when it so regularly goes after liberals is significant, I think.
MIKE PESCA: Do you think it's more significant than the countertrend of the Daily Show which is getting a great audience for Comedy Central and probably goes after Republicans more?
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: They're two parts of the same phenomenon. I, I happen to like the Daily Show, and I think Stewart's a pretty open liberal, but both shows go after political correctness, and this is something that really drives younger Americans crazy on campuses, I discovered in interviews - they really don't like the campus police codes, the sensitivity sessions, all of these things that are pretty prevalent on elite campuses in this country. And I think it's one of the reasons that student attitudes have been shifting away from liberalism over the last decade.
MIKE PESCA: Okay, thanks very much. Brian C. Anderson.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: Thanks.
MIKE PESCA: Author of South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias. Brian Anderson's also a senior editor of The Manhattan Institute's City Journal. Thanks, Brian.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON: Thanks a lot. [MUSIC]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, CNN Headline News prosecutes with grace, and the best source for reissues of rare old American music - Europe.