The rise of American conservatism is the greatest modern example of cultural change in the Western world.
Over the past 70 years, a motley crew of suburban activists, libertarian businessmen, and political opportunists have radically changed America and its national values.
Red, White and Radical explores how they did it.
Based on the book Red, White and Radical: What Organisations can Learn about Change from the Rise of American Conservatism by Warrick Harniess.
How did a native of America’s most cosmopolitan city become the chief executive flag bearer for a nationalistic strain of 21st Century populism? TV, machismo, race and self-invention all play a part. Conservative culture is as alive and well in Donald Trump’s New York as it is in the suburbs and rural backwoods.
Way before social media echo chambers and filter bubbles existed, conservatives had worked out how to create communication channels between the grassroots and the establishment. They’d also worked out how to craft fantastical, funny content. Bill Clinton’s love life gave them subject matter with mass appeal.
A penniless social conservative went east to Washington DC; a working class libertarian went west to Kansas. They knew a secret – legislation is passed into law in the same way that products are manufactured. Both persuaded wealthy benefactors to build assembly lines for the conservative change machine.
The country was becoming more divided and violent. Family-focused Americans lit out for the suburbs, and radical young conservatives seduced them with a powerful vision of a better world. Marketing guru Richard Viguerie explains how he helped build a grassroots network of suburban conservative activists across America.
Big government tried to kill the cigarette. So Big Tobacco used the values and symbols of American patriotism to preserve smoking as a civil right. Along the way, they taught a generation of conservatives how to manipulate democracy for their own culture change ends.
Libertarian consumer culture is part of the fibre of 21st Century America. It’s a legacy of the Marlboro cigarette. Robert Proctor of Stanford University helps explain how Big Tobacco’s cunning and a romantic conservative hero paved the way for the consumer choice revolution.
Adam Curtis meets Karina Longworth with a sprinkle of Ronson and dusting of Gladwell. Harniess weaves a compelling, unsettling and enriching narrative, with rich, textured production and a winning sense of humor.