On Conservatism and the DVD
Counterpoint: The DVD revolution is unstoppable--resistance is futile. And that's a good thing.
12:00 AM, Jul 8, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THE BRITS, so valuable for so many reasons, understand a great many truths, one of which is this: Everyone has their place in the world. Alas, the place of conservatives is standing athwart history and yelling stop until, Wile E. Coyote-style, history runs them down, hurtles onward towards the horizon, and leaves them a laughingstock.
Conservatives have lost almost every intellectual fight since Caesar and Brutus took it outside, but what most normal people--and nearly all liberals--don't realize is that the world needs conservatives. Human beings are made for change, but when change happens too fast, disaster strikes. Just look at the '70s. Conservatives are the engine governors of intellectual life and without them, the world would be a shambles. Being conservative isn't glamorous or fun. Liberals get all the good ink and all the credit for changing the world and all the parties at the Playboy mansion; conservatives get to keep the wheels from falling off the cart and serve as the punchline for jokes in the New Yorker.
So it is in this spirit that we must examine and appreciate Matt Labash's argument against DVDs. Don't be fooled by his snappy prose and It-Boy good looks--Matt Labash is a conservative. As such, his job is to argue against change, which in this case means DVD. If it was 1980, he would be imploring us to reject the VCR because it would kill the movie theater. If it was the 1890s, he'd be against the phonograph because of its harmful effects on symphony orchestras. As it stands, he doesn't like DVDs because he would rather see "Jaws 3" (tragically not available on DVD) in pan-and-scan than be able to sit on his couch and catch every last detail of the Copa steadicam shot in "Goodfellas" or the subtle work of cinematographer Dante Spinotti in "The Insider."
In nearly every way, Matt's argument against DVD is self-refuting and in the end it doesn't much matter. DVD is, for a host of reasons, the future. They are the same size as CDs, so the hardware manufacturers already have the machinery to manufacture them and the players they'll fit into. They were adopted by the computer industry years ago, so they're already the dominant format in another sector. They're smaller and cheaper to produce than VHS tapes. And they work well: Unlike the audio world where CDs sometimes lack the "warmth" of analog vinyl recordings, DVD is superior to VHS in every way, with greater fidelity to both the visual and audio celluloid originals.
In 15 years every house in America will have two or three DVD players capable of recording, as well as playing, and they'll each cost about $80. Do you hear that? That is the sound of inevitability.
But let's pause for a moment to appreciate the valuable service that the DVD naysayers perform: They keep the rate of adoption of new technologies at a healthy pace and help kill inferior new technologies. And they stand for staunch, conservative values. After all, these are the brave souls who saved us (most of us, anyway) from laserdisc.
Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.