Cool died with Joan Didion

John Ganz undresses the effort to claim Joan Didion as a reactionary about whom the greatest thing that may be said is she cannot be "canceled". On the contrary, Ganz writes, Didion's "small-c conservative" coolness was completely at odds with the hot wet ranting of modern reactionaries posting all-day and every day about "cancel culture".

This elision dishonors Didion, because she never merely reacted, even to things she found distasteful or disturbing, but sought to understand and actually observe them. Perhaps none of us can fully escape our prejudices, but at least she put them to the test. Her writing has very little in common with the sort of crude propaganda generated now by the remains of the Conservative Movement or much of the culture industry in general. Perhaps her gradual alienation from Conservatism had as much to do with its total vulgarity and vacuity as much as her instinctive distrust of "enthusiasm" and "utopianism."

On the way there, he makes an interesting point:

The Culture War — even "cancel culture" if you will — is not a war at all, or a culture of any kind, it's a little industry, its own mode of production. It has ample jobs available, if you are willing to do them. It also provides industrially pre-manufactured words and phrases to make writing easier: "woke mob," "moral panic," "political correctness," "problematic," "trauma," "censorship," "soft totalitarianism," "elites," "identity politics," etc.

If you've observed that conservatives are prevailing unexpectedly in the Theater of Ideas despite everything (not least measurements of public opinion) and find yourself lost in suspicions about algorithmic engagement, social media network effects, newsroom culture's fear of the right, etc., it's helpful to remember that the marketplace of content is just people being paid to write, and that the money on the right is fantastic.