The other day I spotted this on the legacy website PJ Media. I expected to be a recitation of the hate thinkers they think they have “purged” from their thing. PJ Media is not as bad as many others, but it is still firmly locked into the old mindset of the “respectable Right”, which is to say they are not in business to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy. They worry more about the trouble makers to their Right than they do the supposed enemies on the Left, because they never want to get in trouble with the Left.
Instead, it was something entirely different. It was a list of mostly Conservative Inc sites allegedly being targeted by social justice warriors. The gist of the piece was to assert that the poodles of Conservative Inc are now being accused of blasphemy just like the toughs over on the alt-right, because, you know, they are just as hip and cool as the bad boys over at Breitbart. It is a fine use of the associative property to claim credit for things they have spent the last two years opposing, but failed to stop. Now they want in.
It’s not just PJ Media. National Review, noticing the collapse of their traffic, has decided they better figure out a way to get in on the action. They have been holding a mock debate among themselves about the role of nationalism, even giving the Tribe the needle a little over the issue of Israel and borders. Rich Lowry is clearly trying to figure out how to get the magazine back in front of the people they pretend to be leading. He has even warmed to Trump, saying nice things about his C-PAC speech.
None of this is shocking. So-called Movement Conservatism is a zombie movement, shuffling along until someone has the decency to put it out of its misery. That does not mean the army of people who have made a living peddling it over the last few decades are going to retire. They are looking for some way to weasel their way into the new thing. They look over at the cool kids raising hell on-line, building their own thing and the old guys of Conservative Inc are naturally jealous and want to be a part of it.
This is not an easy task. Buckley Conservatism was revealed to be nothing more than the candy coating to the Progressive nut inside the prevailing orthodoxy, when they went all in on the NeverTrump nonsense. It’s not that the cool kids will not forgive them. It is that there is no point to it. These are yesterday men with nothing to offer. National Review is one of those abandoned houses in Detroit. It’s only purpose is as a reminder of past mistakes. Otherwise, it can be plowed under and not one will care.
The current relationship of this new thing on the Right to the old conservative movement is a lot like what David Horowitz described as the relationship between the New Left and the old reds from the previous generation. When the New Left got going in the 60’s and people noticed it, suddenly every old commie in the country was trying to get in on the act. They were rejected not because they were old, but because they had nothing to offer.
The Reds of the early 20th century were all about communist orthodoxy and economics. It never made it too far away from being a parlor game for middle-class intellectuals, a hobby to add some spice to their lives. The New Left wanted to smash things, flip over tables and freak out the squares. They were a cultural phenomenon with a vaguely defined political agendas. The old Left was about party discipline and rules, while the New Left was about freedom and action.
That’s why the New Left of the 60’s could not borrow from the old commies and why they could not include them in their thing. Part of what defined the New Left was its rejection of the Old Left. That’s what’s happening today. This new thing going on is a break with the conservatism of Bill Buckley and the Reagan Mystery Cult. The young guys getting banned from twitter are not interested in hearing about how Dutch gave Tip O’Neil the business. They don’t care.
That’s the one thing that the new kids have going for them. They don’t care about the tastes and sensibilities of the people defending the status quo. There’s a delight in getting tossed from social media and an energy to the alternatives. This comes from being outside the rules. There’s a counter-culture vibe to what’s happening because the alt-right, or whatever you want to call it, is a cultural movement lead by young guys with everything to gain and old men with nothing left to lose.
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