This is the script excerpt from one of my favorite parts of the three-hour BBC documentary The Power Of Nightmares, where the godfather of the Neocons, Leo Strauss, is discussed, along with his favorite TV programs:
VO: Strauss believed that the liberal idea of individual freedom led people to question everything—all values, all moral truths. Instead, people were led by their own selfish desires. And this threatened to tear apart the shared values which held society together. But there was a way to stop this, Strauss believed. It was for politicians to assert powerful and inspiring myths that everyone could believe in. They might not be true, but they were necessary illusions. One of these was religion; the other was the myth of the nation. And in America, that was the idea that the country had a unique destiny to battle the forces of evil throughout the world. This myth was epitomized, Strauss told his students, in his favorite television program: Gunsmoke.
Professor STANLEY ROSEN, Pupil of Leo Strauss 1949: Strauss was a great fan of American television. Gunsmoke was his great favorite, and he would hurry home from the seminar, which would end at, you know, 5:30 or so, and have a quick dinner so he could be at his seat before the television set when Gunsmoke came on. And he felt that this was good, this show. This had a salutary effect on the American public, because it showed the conflict between good and evil in a way that would be immediately intelligible to everyone.
BAD MAN on Gunsmoke: Let’s see what happens!
JAMES ARNESS: No! [ SHOOTS bad man; bad man DROPS to the ground ]
ROSEN: The hero has a white hat; he’s faster on the draw than the bad man; the good guy wins. And it’s not just that the good guy wins, but that values are clear. That’s America! We’re gonna triumph over the evils of… of… that are trying to destroy us and the virtues of the Western frontier. Good and evil.
VO: Leo Strauss’ other favorite program was Perry Mason. And this, he told his students, epitomized the role that they, the élite, had to play. In public, they should promote the myths necessary to rescue America from decay. But in private, they didn’t have to believe in them.
ROSEN: Perry Mason was different from Gunsmoke. The extremely cunning man who, as far as we can see, is very virtuous and uses his great intelligence and quickness of mind to rescue his clients from dangers, but who could be fooling us—because he’s cleverer than we are. Is he really telling the truth? Maybe his client is guilty!
This is a fantastic documentary, that, of course, has never been shown on American television. You have no excuse not to watch it, though, as it’s available for free download/watching at archive.org and Google video.