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One of the great truths of American politics is that for the last few generations one side has been motivated by dreams of destroying their enemies, while the other side dreams of befriending the enemy. The people we call the Left in America are the former case and this is their primary definition. Their ideology changes, but the one constant is their desire to clear the field of their enemies. The other side is the Right, which exists to find some sort of accommodation with their friends on the Left.
This impulse to seek a compromise is why American politics has followed a familiar pattern since the Civil War. The Left proposes some novelty and the Right resists, always trying to reason with them. In the end they always cave. As Robert Lewis Dabney observed a century ago, “it (conservatism) demurs to each aggression of the progressive party and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation.”
In the main, this is a good way to describe the political dynamic, but this relationship has had a strange effect on people. The selection pressure for both camps has molded generations of Americans. On the Left, of course, the pressure had been in favor of a feminine histrionics. On the Right, the pressure has been in favor of those who are sure there is some right answer to every trouble. They just need the right guy to say the right words so the kingdom of heaven will open.
We are seeing this with the Twitter story. In the early days of the internet, there was little moderation as no one wanted it. Early adopters liked that it was a place where they could experience heterodox opinion. This openness drove technological innovation and helped make the internet a part of civic life. This is why the Left felt it needed to take control of it. They saw the internet as another institution that they must control in their war on normal society.
As the harpies gained control of Twitter, the so-called conservatives demurred to each new aggression, making angry noises while acquiescing. They supported free speech but demanded the end of anonymity. They supported free speech, but not hate speech, whatever that means. Every “defense” of principle included an important concession to the other side, in the hope of finding a middle ground. Conservative principles are always just a retreat from those principles.
Now we have Elon Musk buying Twitter. Musk has claimed to be a free speech absolutist who is buying the company to open it up again. He has closed on the company and will take it private. It is unclear as to what he intends to do with it in terms of censorship, but he clearly wants his fans to think he will throw open the doors of the platform so it can be what it was ten years ago. Time will tell if he is willing to do what is required to make that happen, but that is the dream.
Here we see those conservative attributes that have been carefully evolved over the last century or so. The first of which is the savior complex. Conservative people have been sure that what they need is a great man who not only has the ability to make conservative arguments, but the courage to do so. The same enthusiasm that put Trump in the White House is what will flood Twitter with new signups. Elon Musk is here to save us from the Twitter mobs.
Another attribute, the most destructive, in fact, is the conservative desire to mix it up with the Left. The reason Twitter exists is otherwise normal people are compelled to interact with people who hate them and want them dead. To be a conservative is to lie awake at night dreaming of left-wing approval. The right argument from the right guy will cause lefty to throw down his arms and embrace you as a brother. Twitter exists so conservatives can beg the Left for forgiveness.
This is obviously true, but conservatives cannot accept it. Gab has been up and running since 2016 and it offers what conservatives claim they want in a platform. Even better, it is free from the deranged lunatics that have ruined other platforms. Conservatives dismiss it because they say it is an echo chamber, by which they mean it lacks the people they claim to hate. They avoid alternatives to Twitter because they want to beg lefty for forgiveness and those platforms do not provide it.
The other conservative quality on display with the Twitter story is the desire to win the approval of the mobs. The same lack of self-worth that drives the conservative to beg lefty for attention is there in their love of the mob. Conservatives are sure if they can get a clear shot on stage, the crowd will reward them with flowers and applause. In a prior age, they would crawl on their belly to be on left-wing television or land a speaking gig at a university. Now they just want to be on Twitter.
Back in the old days, conservatives would argue that they had to be on far-left television shows in order to reach an audience. Today they claim they have to be on far-left internet platforms in order to reach an audience. In Dabney’s time, northern conservatives said they needed to speak with progressive newspapers in order to reach the broader audience. In reality, what the conservative wants is the approval of the Left and there is no limit in how far he will degrade himself to get it.
Twitter is American politics at is most basic. Since Gettysburg, politics in American has been a theater show. The Left hustles everyone inside the theater and puts on a show about a victim or a villain. Sometimes they combine the two. The crowd is told about the plight of some victim group and is supposed to sympathize. Maybe they are warned about some villain, which is always the same villain. Old Scratch takes many forms and the producers of American theater use all of them.
At some point conservatives are brought onto the stage. They shuffle out in their comfort fit slacks and polo shirts. Their job is to dismiss the warnings about the villain or tell the victim to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The crowd is supposed to boo and hiss, but that does not always happen. Often the villain is so ridiculous that the crowd just laughs about it. Other times the victim is too creepy and weird for the crowd to muster anything other than contempt.
Often, the Left brings out their secret weapon, the Hitler costume. The spotlight focuses on the right of the stage and there it is. Then the Left asks if anyone in the crowd will play that role. Sure enough, an idiot runs up, puts on the costume and does the Hitler act. The crowd then starts throwing cabbages and tomatoes at Richard Spencer as he prances around on stage. The conservatives freak out, run behind lefty looking for safety and the curtain falls. The show is over.
This was Twitter from its inception through the 2020 election. The problem is the producers went bonkers and burned down the theater. In that meeting with the board of directors, everyone realized they needed to rebuild the theater. Despite some moaning from the blue checks, the truth is they want the conservatives back in the theater as much as they want to perform for them. The privatization of Twitter is going to be the rebuilding of the virtual stage of political theater.
Time will tell with regards to Musk and Twitter. He will quickly learn that he must obey the rules of Apple and Google with regards to speech. Maybe he has had some sort of conversion and he will go to war over it. Most likely he will compromise in order to get their approval. This will titivate the conservatives, who will see in his capitulation the stamp of approval for their capitulation. Twitter will go from a woke site to a woke site full of conservatives begging the woke for acceptance.
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