Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Problem with Famous Conservatives

During my decade or so in the so-called "conservative" trenches, I got to see a lot of behind-the-scenes wrangling. I wish I hadn't seen these things. They feel distasteful and unsettle the mind. Conservative politics is show business, kind of like the musical Chicago. Very little of it really comes forth as the fruit of conservative thought or ideals. A lot of it is actually quite fake.

When you speak of these things, you run into a lot of dangers. The conservative world has its own mafia. The fact that as conservatives we cannot gain access to the massive array of platforms available to the left cuts us in two ways. We feel, at times, so ostracized that we long for any affirmation on a platform, no matter how unprofessional the platform might be. Also, in practical terms, the small number of platforms we have falls under the power of a small number of people. On the left, you can attack George Soros and not find yourself blacklisted from every possible publication venue. The right wing does not work like that.

If you irritate one of the conservative luminaries, you learn quickly what a mafia our movement is. The luminary you angered sits on the board of this nonprofit and that institute. He works as an editor for this journal and has friends on the editorial board of that journal. His family founded this small press and his wife is the acquisitions editor for that press. 

With all the dissemination options closed to you, you will never have a chance to explain to the public your side of the story. You will find yourself erased, thrown down a memory hole. Or, on the other hand, you may find that the big personality you irked will plant animosity toward you everywhere. When the left attacks, you will have few or no defenses. Some on the right may begin to attack you publicly.

The conservative commentariat functions on the model of scarcity. Also, the purist capitalist model works against us. It is taboo in our world to ask for donations or apply for public aid, though everyone in the conservative intellectual world, in one way or another, lives off donations. Usually the donations come from very wealthy individuals or their families' foundations. 

"Famous" conservatives do not become famous unless they have shown their funders that they pose no risk. The vetting process often guarantees that such individuals do not advocate due to a moral calling. More often they are simply war profiteers, "opportunists" as some would call them. Their funders or they saw an opportunity in the wreckage left by the progressives. Seeing how many people reject the economic impracticality and politically correct tyranny of the left, a number of people swoop in with the intent to make money from the opportunity. But they do not feel attached to actually conservative ideals.

The problem with famous conservatives is that they do a great job of being famous and a poor job of being conservative. Countless conservatives, desperate to see anyone at all with their views in the public square, misread what goes on when a conservative becomes famous. They think a meritocracy has led the person with the best skills and strongest ideas to rise to the top. That's the opposite of the truth. Imagine the thousands of conservatives, just as bright, shut out from the game. They got eliminated because they didn't advance the agenda of very wealthy people funding it all.

Some naive listeners and readers think that famous conservatives have done "amazing work" because they are on TV all the time. Often they have done little more than give speeches and argue with people. Typically their ideas do not defend conservative tenets that strongly, once you strip away the snark and caveats. They are not the lone voices of conservatism because they bravely stood up to take on the left when nobody else would--far from it! They and their machine created a monopoly for themselves by blocking out any conservative voices from getting into the game.

So famous conservatives are not what they seem. I don't name names here because I still believe I can do valuable outreach behind the scenes and try to soften the situation with individuals. But don't get it twisted. We need a revolution and famous conservatives, like tenured liberals, will not be the ones to do it.