The Creativity Vacuum

How the Right is Failing to Seize the Literary Talent Left Behind by Wokeness

The creative writing world was lost to wokeness long ago. Because of this, the Right has been gifted a tremendous opening to fill this vacuum and create institutions that attract creative talent. But very little, if anything, is happening on this front. One of the reasons for this is that the Right has instead been focusing on creating think tanks in which the same policy issues are litigated and re-litigated by bow-tied nerds who wonder why they’ve lost the culture war and the culture at large, ceding the artistic terrain to the Left and its commissars. The think tank machinery doesn’t lend itself to imaginative thinking, of course, but even if the institutional Right wanted to fund or support creative outlets, it is, in its current form, temperamentally unable to do so. 

The rightwing intelligentsia is constrained by a desire for respectability at all costs, a mindset that attracts office-dwelling bureaucrats and those with a complete inability to understand creative work and the artistic lifestyle. This desire for respectability makes it impossible to align oneself with writers and artists with transgressive sensibilities whose work might offend the affected prudish nature of the wonks. I say “affected” because a cursory glance at the DC swamp scene, in which boozy lunches where staffers play grab-ass are par for the course, is anything but prude and respectable. The bowties and nerdiness is all for show. The truth is that the institutional Right, young and old, completely misunderstands, and is very often, derisive of creative work and the artistic mind.

As a refugee of the creative writing world, disgusted by the anti-art ideology of wokeness, I had to turn to cultural criticism if I wanted to continue writing and find an audience for my work. My autobiographical stories of growing up in urban Miami were far too masculine and didn’t paint POC as noble savages or lowly victims, so the literary world, dominated by white guilt-ridden elites and dopey ‘black’ and ‘brown’ bodies dancing the victim mambo, would have nothing to do with me. Most in my position have simply quit writing or gone underground, but as I have always had an unfortunate interest in politics and cultural issues, I pivoted. I’ve found some success and have written for mostly center-right outlets, but I’ve noticed that some political purists have been a bit unsure about granting a platform to someone who comes from a creative writing background. This distrust of artists is linked to the desire for respectability, as the mainstream Right has cast artists as cultural boogeymen for so long, due to accepting the Left’s framing that anyone with an artistic sensibility automatically identifies as a progressive. To the institutional Right and its gatekeepers, who go on and on about wokeness as a corrosive and anti-American cultural force, writers and artists are also problematic. 

While the woke Left find writers problematic if they don’t blame all of society’s ills on whiteness or push the social justice line at all times, the mainstream Right ostracizes them on account of a lack of political or ideological purity. True writers and artists, whose main concern isn’t ideological but aesthetic, certainly won’t be politically pure — thank goodness — but if the Right wants to make cultural gains it would be smart to put the affected purity aside and align with some of the ‘unsavory’ artistic elements looking for a home. In other words, it needs to create an ecosystem for dissident writers and creators that begins with the acceptance that their work may not share their exact politics, but that their commitment to free speech and truth will nonetheless be a boon to their outfit.

Gina Carano is a perfect example of the Right’s failures to properly seize cultural icons. The actress, after being ousted by Disney for wrong-think, became a rightwing cultural icon, but her political bona fides, and not her artistic talents, led to her rise as the Republican actor of the moment. She says the right things and retweets the right memes and so she is glorified by the right-wing media. In short, she passed the political purity test and is no longer problematic to the mainstream Right. Carano has now signed a deal with The Daily Wire — that paragon of artistic creativity! — and just like that, at the zenith of her cultural relevance, has become absolutely cringe, which is what the mainstream Right does to every artist it embraces. It is not that being right-wing is inherently cringe, but the fact that the right-wing ecosystem, so devoid of artists and the artistic sensibility for so long, is totally uncool and only worthy of mockery, that if you join their ranks, just like Carano — a charismatic screen presence, if nothing else — you will automatically transform into a cringe figure. If The Daily Wire, or any other right-wing outlet led by pundits and think-tankers, is producing your creative content, whatever is created will not be a cultural product but a hackneyed and preachy political puff piece consumable only to rubes and political obsessives. The Carano problem speaks to the Right’s failure in creating spaces for artists, and how it loses its marbles and salivates over any Hollywood no-name who’s run afoul of progressive orthodoxy.

Artists, more than ever, are willing to associate with right-wing publications. This was also my case: A graduate of the top creative writing program in the country who’s collected quite a few credentials that carry some serious sway in the progressive writing world, I nonetheless made the decision — mostly out of necessity — to write for publications that have made me an untouchable in the contemporary creative writing sphere. It was a tough decision, but one I’m glad I made and would make again. I wanted to write whatever pleased me, free from the censors, and so there really wasn’t any decision to make. I would’ve loved to continue writing fiction and submit short stories to a quarterly or literary journal accepting of transgressive and non-woke work, but very few, if any, existed. If a right-leaning cultural magazine with institutional backing and a literary supplement would’ve existed when I made my exit, I could’ve found a readership for my fiction. It was only because of my interest in politics and culture that I eventually found venues to publish my material. Similarly, the Right is likely missing countless opportunities to seize literary talents.

What connects writers and artists who do decide to defect is a classic American artistic sensibility: they want to create and disseminate their work free of the woke censors. This loosely affiliated group, when it leans left, goes by the post-left, and when it leans right, goes by the New Right. There’s much crossover among these groups, and no matter their political disagreements, they are linked by that creative American energy that in the not-so-distant past was the driving force behind many of our great cultural products. You were an American, and so you created like an American, which is to say that you said “fuck it” and made whatever the hell you wanted, damn the critics and the consequences. This new creative American scene mostly exists on Twitter and on the podcast circuit, completely disconnected from the major institutions that provide not only funding, but cultural cache. Most of the writers and artists in this scene, artistic outsiders by nature, would be open to the idea of publishing in a right-leaning outlet if it existed, but the fact that the institutional Right hasn’t conceived of such a space, epitomizes its absolute creative and artistic bankruptcy. 

There is a desire for spaces that are not ‘cringe’ or stodgy like The New Criterion, an outlet that produces fine and respectable work, which ultimately is exactly the problem. The conservative literary magazine is a prime example of why the creative infusion is necessary if the Right wants to take advantage of the surplus of homeless talent looking for an opportunity and a new creative home. If Gina Carano aligning herself with Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire epitomizes right-wing cringe, The New Criterion, and magazines like it — catering to the geriatric professorial set — encapsulates the respectability at all costs ethos. In short, it’s sterile and boring and champions a ‘respectable’ Americanism that devalues the transgressive and the experimental. The magazine is good at what it does, but what it does is create an insular space that perpetually looks to the past and never to the future. 

The Right has earned its reputation as the party of stodgy seriousness, but with the Left committing to a spiritless wokeness that sucks the life out of everything it infects, it has an opportunity to frame itself not only as anti-woke but pro-art. There’s been so much talk of a political realignment post-Trump, but it’s always political and never cultural. If the Right focuses on embracing writers and artists with classically American sensibilities instead of merely rejecting wokeness, it will attract top-tier thinkers whose main concern is the freedom to produce and create content without the cultural commissars breathing down their necks. It must be made clear, however, that the bow-tied number crunchers will not be the new commissars. Writers and artists must be allowed to create freely, which is to say that they will certainly produce work that will occasionally offend the sensibilities of the right-wing intelligentsia. 

There’s a budding appreciation for writers and artists in what we might call the New Right, a coalition of young right-leaning men who mostly congregate on Twitter. The creative energy of this group, and its consideration of writers and artists who may not be considered traditionally right-wing, is where the future of the Right lies, if only the wonks and the think tank connoisseurs of failure and mediocrity get out of the way. It is this very group and its growing influence that gives me hope that a cultural realignment is possible.

The mainstream Right, however, in its current form, would never touch these artists or provide them with a platform, due to its purity constraints and the ultimate desire for respectability that afflicts and neuters the political class, ensuring its cultural obsolescence. This lack of freewheeling artistic attitude is exactly the reason why the Right needs a creative infusion. The shakeup will not come from within, and it most certainly will not come from the wonks. Writers, who are not political agents but American artists, can connect with large swaths of the population that have grown weary and disgusted by the cultural barrenness of political discourse.

If the Right wants to make inroads with writers who’ve been left behind by the woke Left, the first step is getting over the respectability optics and embarrassing Thomas Kinkade aesthetics and accepting that if you want to understand the culture — which is how you win the culture war — one has to muck around with those in the down and dirty trenches of the seedy side of American life, which is where most ideas that drive the spirit of the country are brewed. This is where the writers and artists come in. You may not want to follow them, bow-tied Fellow from the Institute of Irrelevant Nerds, but you must listen to them. That is, if you want to stand any chance of reclaiming America.

Alex Perez is a Cuban-American writer based in Miami, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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