Posted on | May 16, 2010 | 14 Comments
That Atlantic piece about Ricochet has set off a very interesting blog discussion about what it is conservatives should be doing with New Media. All we need now is for Julian Sanchez to weigh in, get Glenn Greenwald and David Frum involved, and we’ll have another pointless month-long time-waster.
While we await the onset of Sanchezistic discourse, however, the rest of us have a chance to audition for the role of Armchair Intellectual:
- Clark Stooksbury is “inclined to agree with Dan Riehl” — mainly because it permits Clark to revisit his Evil Neocon Theory of Conservative Failure. I’m not quite sure if he’s suggesting that the Republican Party is a Mossad-orchestrated conspiracy, but . . .
- Thers at Firedoglake requires scare-quotes for ”conservative ideas,” which he pronounces “stupid” — a familiar argument: Liberals are smarter than you because they say so!
- Professor Donald Douglas sees an opportunity to put another couple of lumps on Conor Friedersdorf’s head, which is the kind “fun, accessible and light-hearted” project we can all enjoy.
OK, so what about my own concerns that (a) the light-hearted fun should have begun with a phone call to me, and (b) at this point in time, winning congressional elections should take precedence among conservative priorities?
Ideology and iPods
Not too much support for proposition (a) – although I don’t really expect others to acknowledge that I am the center of the universe – but in a comment on proposition (b), Noel from Cold Fury pointed out that Episode 16 of Ricochet (that link is an MP3 download) includes some electoral advocacy for Dr. Rob Steele for Congress. And they featured Tim Burns in Episode 14. (Yes, that’s another MP3 download.)
Important confession: I’ve never owned an iPod, a device I regard as Satanic in origin and purpose. So while I’ve been a guest on many podcasts, I’ve never been the audience for podcasts. Therefore I am ill-prepared to discuss the prospects of saving conservatism via MP3 downloads, although I suspect that Ricochet is unlikely to replace Metallica and Lady Gaga in the iPod preferences of The Cool Kids.
My wholly subjective and egocentric perspective – i.e., I don’t listen to podcasts, so who gives a rip about podcasts? — may be blinding me to the world-historic implications of Ricochet, but that wouldn’t be the first time my semi-Luddite tendencies caused me to arrive late to an important trend. (Me to intern Amy Doolittle, circa 2002: “OK, so what are these ‘weblog’ thingies you keep talking about, and why should I let you do a feature story about them?”)
On the other hand, the Ricochet home page describes their mission as “center-right conversation” and “center-right” is a term I loathe like God hates sin. It smuggles into our discourse the misbegotten conception of a political “center” that is an obsolete legacy of Arthur Schlessinger – a liberal who, in the aftermath of the GOP’s 1946 takeover of the House, sought to define centrism and moderation in terms advantageous to liberals.
“Center-right” may or may not be a Laodicean formula for spineless, unprincipled compromise, but it is certainly not the kind of fighting creed that summons bold spirits to rally ’round and drive the enemy from the field of battle. Conservatives don’t need a Politics of Negotiation with liberalism – am I the only one who remembers how that “change the tone” and “compassionate conservatism” stuff worked out for Dubya? – we need a Politics Of Victory that sends liberalism fleeing for the hills.
The ill-conceived Bushian attempt to craft a center-right “third way” was precisely why Karl Rove’s “Permanent Republican Majority” resulted in the exact opposite of its intended result. And sic semper hoc — go back and read Bill Buckley’s anathema on Eisenhower-era “Modern Republican” idiocy. The cluelessness of Modern Republicanism led directly to eight years of JFK/LBJ, the very zenith of 2oth-century liberalism in power, with attendant political-cultural catastrophes that still haunt us today.
Yet I do not blame the proprietors of Ricochet for the pernicious phraseology of their home page. They did not create the phrase, and it might be eliminated by a simple tweak of their WordPress dashboard. Despite my bruised feelings about my omission from the “conversation,” I am pleased to see that they’ve recruited James Poulos and his genius sideburns as managing editor.
Why? Precisely because, as Stooksbury points out, the contributors to the Ricochet “conversation” are almost uniformly neocons, and I know Poulos has paleocon DNA. If Poulos and his sideburns are permitted inside the Big Tent, this is perhaps a signal that some of the more shrewd neocons have recognized the error of their Urge To Purge attempt to consolidate unquestioned hegemony within the Right. Many years ago, I privately counseled Poulos never to admit publicly that he had read M.E. Bradford – “Mel who?” — and he has shrewdly heeded that counsel.
Loyal Minions, Losers and Laughingstocks
Poulos will, of course, deny that he is part of my long-term Gramscian conspiracy to mount a paleocon “long march through the institutions” of the Right, but what kind of conspiracy would it be, if the Loyal Minions were not pledged to secrecy? And what about the fact that you’re laughing at this as if it were all a big joke?
Exactly – part of the Master Plan.
Speaking of secret conspiracies, today I received an e-mail from a confidential source who is involved in online political activism of the pragmatic Let’s-Win-Some-Elections variety, and my source identifies various self-defeating propensities commonly encountered:
- The people who think that there aren’t any differences between the two parties . . .;
- The people who blame everybody except their own faction for the problems with the GOP;
- The people who don’t think that they need to support the results of a primary that they participated in but didn’t win; and, generally
- The people who don’t think that they need to be polite to the political party that they want to use as a tool with which to change public policy.
The good news is that you can still foster activism – the Tea Party was a godsend for encouraging the basic concept of getting together in the fresh air and complaining, all at once – but there’s hella people out there who don’t want to do what is pretty much thankless grunt work. Which is why there’s a Ricochet, and which is why neither you nor I were headhunted for it.
Some very cogent analysis there, even if it steps on my toes a wee bit. Rudeness toward the GOP is certainly something I’ve never avoided. I take a “tough-love” approach toward delinquency, and when Republicans start selling out – inter alia, people actively seeking the re-election of John McCain ought to hide their heads in shame– they’re begging to be punk-smacked, and often, and by someone who knows how.
More importantly, however, Republicans need to abandon the kind of buttoned-down politeness that requires them to pretend that the Democratic Party is motivated by a genuine desire for the public good when they are, in fact, the Evil Coalition of Liars and Fools. (Hint: You will become an honest Democrat when you become an ex-Democrat, admitting you have been a Fool deceived by Liars.)
The “thankless grunt work” aspect of politics noted by my anonymous friend is something Ronald Reagan addressed:
“You can accomplish much, if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
It has been my pleasure over the years to become acquainted with many of those whose uncredited labors helped accomplish the Reagan Revolution, and I know the truth of that saying.
Fully acknowledging my own egocentric lust for glory — “Being Notorious Is Not the Same Thing As Being Famous, But It’s Better Than Being Anonymous” — it is nevertheless true that I do behind-the-scenes work for which I never receive credit. A bad reputation can be a very valuable thing, if you know how to use it.
Do I purposefully act the part of a ridiculous clown? Yes. Do I occasionally accomplish good things without credit? Yes, again.
Let others self-consciously strive to be universally acknowledged as Serious Thinkers — that’s the “smart” way to become an utter laughingstock.
But why bring Conor Friedersdorf into this?
I don’t much mind wasting time on a Sunday afternoon, but some things are more wasteful than others.