For the longest time, the Conservative Movement operated as the screeching gates of Tartarus that kept the damned from reentering politics. This worked because they had some great thinkers and writers, who functioned as adamantine columns. For the politically engaged, especially the youth, these writers provided the convincing arguments and critiques from the Right. That’s what made Buckley-style conservatism so effective at gate-keeping. They had high quality gate-keepers.
It was this effectiveness that was probably the undoing of Buckley conservatism in the long run. By the 1980’s, being an acceptable conservative was a good job at a good wage, so few were willing to risk being hurled into the great pit of despair. As a result, those gates and their adamantine columns were not maintained. The great writers faded away one at a time. The system itself grew corrupt, attracting grifters and lunatics, who saw Buckley conservatism as a means to an end.
As a result, even those grifters are moving on from conservatism. Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes are now peddling their warmongering fetish to Progressives. As Paul Gottfried pointed out in a recent essay, they are just drifting Left in search of an audience willing to buy their shabby neoconservative act, while dressing in the rags of Conservative Inc. The movement is left to hiring homely child actors like Charlie Kirk to run around peddling whatever it means to be a conservative these days.
An example of the callow mediocrities charged with keeping the gates is this recent post at National Review. It is a review of the Andrew Marantz book about various scary creatures he encountered on his adventure outside the hive. Simply on technical grounds, this is something that never would have made it past the editors thirty years ago. It is a dilettantish effort at comparative analysis and a ham-handed effort at gate-keeping, while accusing Andrew Marantz of trying to be a gate-keeper.
The ridiculousness of the post is made plain in the penultimate paragraph when he writes, “For all that Marantz gets wrong, everyone should agree that far-right extremists should have as little influence as possible.” That right there is exactly what dissidents mean when they accuse these guys of being gate-keepers. The writer just concedes to the Left, the people he allegedly opposes, the basic premise that those most feared by the Left can be systematically excluded from public debate.
Later in the same paragraph he writes, “Their gatekeeping either will be too tepid for progressive activists or it will enrage the Right, which will hit back — by revoking their protection against liability under of the Communications Decency Act, or with antitrust enforcement against Big Tech, or with a culture war that puts the would-be gatekeepers squarely in the crosshairs.” In other words, the point of the post is not an attack on the Left, but a friendly bit of advice to help them maintain their power.
Of course, the absurd assertion that the Right will become enraged and hit back at the Left is so lacking in self-awareness that it reads like a troll. The defining feature of Buckley conservatism is its steadfast unwillingness to fight back. They never get enraged about any of the excesses of the Left. Instead, conservatism is just a collection of sob sisters warning that one of these days, not now, but soon, they will stand up on their hind legs and do something. It’s why the word “cuck” stings them so much.
Notice also the unwillingness to address the excesses of the Left with regards to the public space. Marantz is making the case that the rich and powerful should crush the people he does not like, but dig deeper and it is really a way to justify what the Left is doing already. In other words, the mobs of heroin addicts and mental patients called Antifa are just a response in lieu of more responsible elements stepping in to control dissident opinion. Marantz is trying to justify what is already happening.
Nowhere in the piece will you find any push-back to what the Left is currently doing with their terrorist tactics. In fact, Conservative Inc. has been silent on these issues, because ultimately, they agree with them. In their historic role as the gate-keepers, they are always willing to take help from their friends on their Left. The only bad guy in the post is the people both Left and Right agree is their shared enemy. That enemy is the swelling number of people willing to fly the black flag of dissident politics.
Again, the writer is young and inexperienced, so it would be uncharitable to make more of this than is required. That’s the thing though. There was a time when Conservative Inc. did not have to rely on rent boys for content. Someone this age with an interest in writing should be covering high school sports for a local paper or maybe submitting articles to his college journals. That’s where you learn to form your thoughts and express them in a compelling manner, not the flagship of conservatism.
That’s what conservatism is reduced to these days. They operate like a grooming gang of creepy geezers, cruising the college campus for young people so dull and joyless they think pleasing an audience of seniors is cool. Charlie Kirk, an old person’s idea of a young person, is used not so much to sell whatever it is Conservative Inc. is peddling these days, but to keep young people from looking outside the bounds of conventional politics for answers. Charlie Kirk is a far cry from Russell Kirk.
In a time when many dissidents are feeling a bit low about the state of the fight, this should be a source of encouragement. When the flagship of Buckley conservatism is relying on kids like Nicholas Phillips, they’re finished. If the gate-keepers think a ridiculous dimwit like Charlie Kirk is their big gun to defend the citadel against the barbarians, it may be time to open the gates. Children’s crusades are always the last desperate effort of an exhausted combatant.
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