Think the Left Won the Culture War? Think Again

The Ashley Madison leak demonstrates that our culture is simultaneously radical and profoundly conservative. When discussing this kind of story, your average liberal sounds like the town elders from Footloose. Anilingus is a regular topic on Top 40 radio (and thank god for that), but people are shocked, shocked that adults sometimes cheat on their partners. If you tell people you’re polyamorous, or that your relationship is open, nobody bats an eye. But the idea that people might step out of their relationships secretly–a behavior, I’ll remind you, as old as the idea of monogamy–turns everyday people into a combination of Jesus and Batman. In that, they are in keeping with a call-out culture that turns all of us into moral sages, judging other people for their ethical and political failings at all times, casting judgment as constantly as a preacher’s wife. I find the notion that a major media company like Gawker should be in the business of regulating infidelity ridiculous and offensive, but then, they were only in keeping with a cultural moment in which we’ve all elected ourselves moral arbiters of everyone else. This is precisely what the radicals I grew up around wanted to get past: the constant nagging judgments of others. Instead, we’ve gotten a social culture that resembles a lifetime in high school, with the internet functioning as the cafeteria where everyone’s every private act is discussed and judged.

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