The Pornification of Conservative Inc.

Way back in the olden thymes, access to pornography was limited. When I was a kid, there were magazines sold from behind the counter, books sold from the backs of those magazines and smoker films that came from sleazy vendors in big cities. Women had bodice rippers, the soft porn of romantic novels, which were sold openly in grocery stores. Otherwise, it was your imagination when it came to titillation.

The result of this was a tiny porn industry. Magazines like Playboy were “big time” in that they had a large subscriber base and were able to work from swank offices, but they were still relatively small. They maybe used three or four girls in each issue and some women would appear repeatedly so the pool of women, who made money in men’s magazines, was tiny. The same was true of smoker films and the money they made was tiny as well.

Public morals played a role, but it was mostly technology that kept the porn business small. They were barred from the mass media of the day, television, and public morals meant porn had to be sold discreetly. I recall a store in our town mistakenly putting skin mags in the regular magazine shelf. My mother and some other women went to the owner and probably threatened to nut him. The mags went back behind the counter.

The big change for porn was the VHS tape. This was the first way to distribute video that anyone could play at home. All of a sudden, the porn maker could reach a much larger audience. When video stores popped up, they inevitably had a back room for adult films. With a bigger audience, the industry blossomed. Suddenly there was big money in porn so the San Fernando Valley became the Hollywood of porn, making films on a scale never imagined.

Those of you on-line in the dial-up days know where I am headed next. Porn was the first to truly exploit the internet. They pioneered the use of images on-line and then the use of video. The technology for putting video clips on-line was an obvious boon to the industry. The same is true of credit card processing. The porn guys were the first to adopt this technology. The first commercially successful websites were for porn. The joke back in the day was that a lot of code was written one-handed because it seemed like the porn sites were driving innovation.

The point of this walk down memory lane is that technology changed the porn industry. Demand was always there, but rarely met. The people on the supply side exerted enormous power because the cost of creating and distributing the material was high. Technology suddenly dropped those costs, thus allowing a wave of new suppliers into the business. It also wiped out the old suppliers like the old smoker films and skin magazines. It was a classic case of creative destruction.

That is not the end of the story. The internet lowered the barrier to entry so much that anyone can be in the business now. Amateurs make films and post them on-line for peanuts. Low-cost operators in Eastern Europe can sell porn to Western consumers for pennies. Porn is now free and ubiquitous. As a result, the porn industry has collapsed. There is simply no money to be made making sex films or selling pics of naked people. It is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons.

Something similar has happened to the pundit-ocracy, and specifically the Conservative Industrial Complex. In the 70’s, you had a few “conservatives” like Bill Buckley and Bill Safire showing up on TV and writing for major newspapers. Otherwise, the supply of conservative opinion was tightly controlled by technology and the liberal morality police. As a kid, my local library had one copy of National Review and unlimited copies of the liberal rags.

Then talk radio burst the damn, in the same way the VHS opened the porn industry. All of a sudden local radio was allowing right-wingers to talk about forbidden topics. Cable TV started to open up more channels to non-liberal opinion and the Conservative Industrial Complex began to flourish. Instead of booming in a valley north of Hollywood, it boomed in the Acela corridor, running between Washington and New York City. I guess you could argue that Rush Limbaugh was the Seymore Butts of right-wing punditry.

Like the porn industry, the conservative opinion rackets are now under assault by the internet. Specifically talented amateurs who know how to cheaply reach a broad audience on-line and, most important, say things the professionals are afraid to say. Playboy did not just collapse for business reasons. It is content was overtaken by a wave of providers willing to do anything. National Review is being swamped by a wave of talented bloggers, twitterers and commenters willing to say what NR is afraid to say.

One difference is that being an insider has value. The price for access has always been the keeping of confidences. The big shot reporter who had a lot of friends in government could lever that into high paying TV gigs. He just had to be trustworthy with the secrets shared with him. Bob Woodward got rich and famous leveraging his confidences. That is not something that is easily replaced with technology. But it does limit the insiders and connected because there are things they cannot say that the bloggers and twitter guys can say.

The other obvious difference is the government was never shoveling billions into the porn industry via tax schemes and subsidies. Plutocrats were never bankrolling porn shops like we see with the pundit rackets. There is a great disconnect between compensation and audience share in the chattering classes. S.E Cupp has a six figure salary despite the fact you can count one hand the number of people who pay any attention to her. That is because billions flow into the TV chat shows via government regulation.

Even so, the Trump phenomenon is a good example of how technology is collapsing the political industry in the same way it collapsed the porn business. It is simply not that hard to be a chattering skull on TV or a political writer on-line. There are millions of people out there good at selling candidates and positions. Trump’s volunteer meme army is crushing the pros in both parties because it is just not that hard to be clever with this stuff. When lots of people can do something and the barriers to entry fall, the market collapses.

24 thoughts on “The Pornification of Conservative Inc.

  1. You would be a lot more credible if you knew the difference between “discrete” and “discreet”.

    • Yeah, you’re right. A typo means I’m wrong about everything.

      Look. I can fix a typo. You will be an unpleasant dickhead forever because it is in your nature.

  2. Seems like your only goal was to get the word porn and conservative in the same title. The analysis loony. Reminds me of the time, while arguing with a a pro ERA lady (alifetme ago) who in the heat of the moment equated stay at home moms to prostitutes since both put out to get taken care of. Yeah at some level of intellectual abstraction, maybe so. But highly inappropriate. People might look like ants when looking down from the Empire State Building, that does not mean they are.

  3. Everyone probably has their pron tales, possibly even admit it, but mine is my first dabble into video pron was buying a VHS tape thinking — as I was living alone — it might be fun. In fact it turned out not to be. It was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of some German ‘action’ filmed from the screen of another TV set and thus was so grainy and gloomy it was impossible to tell what was going on and as my German is limited most of the dialogue, when required by the actors, was unclear to me. I am sure the participants had fun and maybe some of the pre-multi-copied watchers enjoyed what they saw and were able to say “wunderbar!” That wasn’t me though.

    Anyway, that’s how we learn. I dumped the pretty useless tape and have never felt inclined to buy another. I suppose the lesson is that the pron industry made one sale but having duly failed to provide the goods they lost a potential repeat customer. A bit like politics is today, perhaps…

  4. “S.E Cupp has a six figure salary despite the fact you can count one hand the number of people who pay any attention to her. That’s because billions flow into the TV chat shows via government regulation.”

    Huh? What does this mean — “billions flow into the TV chat shows via government regulation?” That sounds insightful but seems to mean nonsense (what regulation are you referring to, what evidence do you have to back that fanciful claim up, etc.) If no one watched S.E. Cupp (and by the way, anyone who supports so-called “gay marriage” is about as ‘conservative’ as Donald Trump — i.e. not very much at all) then I’m sure at some point CNN would pull the plug. TV relies on advertisers and if they can’t get eyeballs, they close-up shop.

    • All over America, governments have granted cable monopolies. They could have required a la carte pricing, but they don’t. The result is Fox, for example, peaks at about 2 million viewers, but 150 million cable hones pay a buck a month to Fox via their cable bill.The same is true of CNN and MSNBC.

      Cable fees make up the lion’s share of revenues for these channels. Example. ESPN, the most popular channel by far, gets close to 90% of its gross revenue from cable fees. Rating have zero impact on these fees. Therefore, ratings fall in importance, which is why they have gone full on SJW.

  5. Just what are these clown “conserving” but their rice bowls?
    Think any of them give a shit about any of us? Ever see any of them write about something like what this really pissed of lady has to say on FaceBook? And good on her!

    “Not sure if facebook will delete me after posting this or not…but, so be it. The following is a message I received this morning as a forward in my email……It will be interesting to hear YOUR thoughts as well!

    One Pissed off woman

    I don’t think ‘pissed’ really covers it!!!!
    Alan Simpson, the former Senator from Wyoming, calls senior citizens the ‘Greediest Generation’ as he compared “Social Security” to a Milk Cow with 310 million teats.
    Here’s a response in a letter from PATTY MYERS in Montana … I think she is a little ticked off! She also tells it like it is!
    Hey, Alan, let’s get a few things straight!!!!!
    1. As a career politician, you have been on the public dole (tit) for FIFTY YEARS.

    2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old. I am now 63).

    3. My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in ‘an interest bearing account’ for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.
    4. Recently, just like Lucy and Charlie Brown, you and “your ilk” pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age, 67. NOW, you and your “shill commission” are proposing to move the goalposts YET AGAIN.

    5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from day one, and now “you” propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because “you” mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal our money from Medicare to pay the bills.
    6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you “incompetents” spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay off YOUR debt.

    To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” to your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU:
    1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?

    2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?
    3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?
    4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?
    5. It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the “greedy” ones.
    6. It is you and your fellow thieves who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes, your job and retirement security at our expense.

    7. That’s right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know it.
    8. And you can take that to the bank.

    NO, I did not stutter.

    P.S. And stop calling Social Security benefits “entitlements”. WHAT AN INSULT!!!!
    I have been paying into the SS system for 48 years. It’s my money-give it back to me the way the system was designed and stop patting yourself on the back like you are being generous by doling out these monthly checks.

    EVERYONE!!! If you like the way things are in America delete this.
    If you agree with what a Montana citizen, Patty Myers says, please PASS IT ON.

  6. Good analysis, but you don’t quite cover why, for example, Talk radio is still a huge profit center and why new conservative online aggregators / sites are growing.

    If your hypothesis was strictly accurate, then Rush’s audience would be dwindling, local talk radio would be gone, other national talkers (Hannity, Ingram) would be marginalized, and online content like The Imaginative Conservative and Taki’s Mag would disappear in favor of straight blogs.

    But I do think you are on a fertile trail. I think you have to add in a growing conservative base that are more educated, well read, and still seek thought leaders to conceptualize and distill (like Buckley, et al). Add in that libertarians and independents are finding common ground with conservatives (via Conquest’s 1st Law), and you are close.

    • Bo’s own audience lapped him ten or fifteen years ago. His numbers didn’t drop because he engendered a tremendous loyalty. I tend to think his presence has crowded out new talent. Hannity is a drone. There is an audience for drones, but it is not growing. Levin is interesting, but he thinks we are going to talk our way out of this.

      There is no red pill on the airwaves. Commercial and government interest would not, and have not, permitted it. People in the main have literally never heard it, and are shocked if they do. It’s like porn in the old days. You have to go looking for it.

  7. Red pill, however minute, is the only political movement that is alive with curiosity. If the internet is a room, the last time this many inquisitive skeptics met was in Philadelphia, with a special blessing to the anti-federalists. There was a fire, and it was of their own making. They put it out. These are not, as is often said, interesting times, but if they are coming they are red pill.

  8. The demand/desire for sensible, trustworthy opinion and analysis is great. Always will be. Z-man describes the collapse of the existing rotten system, but modestly fails to note that he himself, like Whittle, Fernandez, Steyn, and others, appear to be among the brilliant phoenixes rising from the ashes. More power to you Z-man! May your readership grow exponentially in the coming months and years.

  9. What passes for political “conservatives” in the press today is like pornography, it isn’t real.

    • Look at Kathleen Parker, who regularly represents the “conservative” side on TV and op-ed pages even though she’s endorsed the Democratic candidate for president in two out of the last three elections, counting this one. MSM content schedulers love pulling that bait & switch, where the veneer of opposing perspectives is presented even though the substance is a wall of beltway establishment conformity.

      • You know what Richard, what is wrong with this picture, these mandarin’s who think they are special?
        I’ll tell you what it is. They don’y know what a shovel and an axe and a rifle is, they are people who have forgotten how to use a shovel and an axe and a rifle.
        Their useless.

  10. I don’t get SE Cupp. Yeah, she does the “sexy librarian” bit and she spells her name to evoke “c-cup,” but she appears to be talentless. Way back when Glenn Reynolds was flogging her, I read a couple of her opeds and they were devoid of anything resembling insightful thought. Every time her name pops up, I’m amazed she’s still around.

    • I’ve never quite grasped the lack of self-awareness. An axiom in show business is “there’s no dignity in show business.” If you are going to put a show for the folks, you will eventually be required to make a fool of yourself. She is more than willing to play the boozy bimbo role on TV, yet she gets offended when not taken seriously. At the same time, these people like to mix it up with the prols on-line, then get miffed when the prols don’t toady to the TV stars.

      • Having seen you mention her several times, I finally looked up this S.E. Cupp person. I thought about reading one of her columns, but then I saw her Problem Glasses. How horribly sexist of me. Shouldn’t she be over at, telling us why it’s true conservatism that Heather has two mommies?

  11. Pretty good insight into the collapse of the pornocracy. As an editor and publisher for Penthouse and someone who ran for a year or two that’s generally right on the money. Add in the bullgoose lunacy of Hefner (speed) and Guccione (diet coke) and you’ve got it.

    Back in 1993 I wrote in the first issue of Wired:

    “The point here is that all media, when they are either new enough or become relatively affordable, are used by outlaws to broadcast unpopular images or ideas. When a medium is created, the first order of business seems to be the use of it in advancing religious, political, or sexual notions and desires. Indeed, all media, if they are to get a jump-start in the market and become successful, must address themselves to mass drives – those things we hold in common as basic human needs.”

    As some wag put it very early on, “Libertarianism is the deep fuel source of the Internet and from time to time it must return there to feed.”

    • The early days of the internet were not so much libertariansim as simply a safe place for normal males to be normal males. I don’t think we truly appreciate just how feminized the culture has become in the last forty years or so. All of these insane fads like trannies in the bathrooms are driven by spiteful young women looking for a reason to harass men. Every time some poor bastard is hauled out in chains for crime think, the accuser is a white woman.

      This did not happen overnight. In the 80’s we were marched off to sensitivity training and then diversity training in the 90’s. Back then, the internet was where you could say what the bleep you wanted without having to worry about the nags in HR waging a finger at you. It’s so out of hand now, I think that’s why were seeing this huge backlash.

      • I watch re-runs of “Married with Children”. Damn were they ahead of their time! They made a feminist scold a main character.

      • My late husband was raised Catholic. He used to say the the nuns were bitter because they weren’t allowed to have children. Maybe we have underestimated what happens when you pervert the natural impulses towards motherhood.

  12. Yes, getting the truth, and fearless opinion pieces, for free on line is a lot better than paying for lies and bought opinions on TV. If there’s going to be a revolution it will come when big government tries to control online content.

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