Andrew Ferguson has a very nice profile of Ken Myers, editor of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, in the most recent Weekly Standard. The interviews and commentary featured on Myers’s audio journal, writes Ferguson, are “unhurried, the discussions pretty easily comprehensible. Imagine NPR if NPR were as intelligent as NPR programmers think it is.”
That’s spot on. Ferguson also positions Myers as engaging culture in the sort of serious way once recommended and even sort of practiced by some leaders of the conservative intellectual movement, but now more or less swept cleanly away by the Legacy of Limbaugh:
The idea that conservatives should have a special interest in high culture—the best that has been thought and said, sung and played, carved and drawn—has been selectively applied. In speeches and in the Journal Myers has often raised the question of why political conservatives, who defended the literary canon, the Great Books, with such energy in the eighties and nineties, went limp when it came to defending other traditional forms of cultural expression.
A watershed may have been reached when Rush Limbaugh, who would replace William Buckley as conservatism’s chief publicist in the early ’90s, chose as his show’s theme music a Top 40 track by the Pretenders—a self-conscious contrast, Limbaugh has said, to the baroque trumpet concerto that opened Buckley’s TV show Firing Line. Buckley’s fanfare had signaled that he aspired to something lively but elevated, slightly at an angle to the surrounding popular culture. The Pretenders’ guitar riff was meant to signal that Limbaugh’s conservatism would have none of that stuffy stuff: He was fully at home with what had become of American culture and wasn’t terribly curious about what had come before.