Saturday, June 20, 2009

Conor: No Turning Left

By Smitty
There has been some back-and-forth with Conor in the comments of another ToM thread. My reply to him was eaten by the browser, and he really merits more complete treatment anyway.

World's briefest bio: Baptist, sailor, engineering undergraduate, a couple of Master's. Geekier than most. That's also about as much as I know of Conor.

Right. Then we have this DoubleThink Online article by Conor. He sets the scene of a blind date with a chick in a coffee shop, having selected someone who is a "whip smart, beautiful woman who loves talking politics" (NTTAWWT).
Escaping this ghetto requires understanding why the media slants left. Contra the least-thoughtful conservative critics, there isn’t any elite liberal conspiracy at work. Bias creeps in largely because the narrative conventions of journalism are poor at capturing basic conservative and libertarian truths.
Conor, I completely disagree with you and what I feel is your naïveté. Spend some time on Stanton Evans. Are we to think that JournoList is either a) unique or b) simply a side-effect of technology? While I won't go full-on tinfoil hat on you, to ignore indications that our domestic socialist nitwits had at least some agenda overlap with the dudes who would have buried us is simply irresponsible:
As I previously observed, if you trace any of these back far enough, you’ll find a Stalinist intellectual at the bottom. (The last two items on the list, for example, came to us courtesy of Frantz Fanon. The fourth item is the Baran-Wallerstein “world system” thesis.) Most were staples of Soviet propaganda at the same time they were being promoted by “progressives” (read: Marxists and the dupes of Marxists) within the Western intelligentsia.
The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.
So, fine: Go on and bemoan the difficulty of describing the negative effects of rent control in sufficiently simple terms to impress a hypothetical date in DC.
The right, in other words, has a problem with narrative. The stubborn facts of this world contradict pieties left, right, and libertarian, occassionally forcing each group to revise its thinking. But the core critiques of liberalism intrinsically resist the narrative form. Who can foresee the unintended consequences of government intervention in advance? Who can pinpoint the particular threats to liberty posed by an ever-growing public sector?
No, Conor: Your problem is with narrative. Can you try parable? I submit that if you can't break a topic down into buyer/market/seller terms, you may either a) not grasp the topic, or b) simply lack teaching skills. Economics isn't Biochemistry. The contemporary evidence seems to indicate nobody understands economics. However, if the argument doesn't relate fairly cleanly back to gazinta==gazouta, I suspect that the speaker is trying to have me on. Do you look at the speaker's résumé and just naturally assume they know WTF if the proper school is listed?

The difficulty of critiquing flawed liberal positions and asserting alternatives before it’s too late is exacerbated by the conservative intellectual tradition’s lack of penetration into academia. Colleges and journalism schools rarely teach Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, or Milton Friedman. How can journalists unversed in such thinkers recognize when facts validate their ideas?
These asymmetries help explain why the right has sought to discredit the mainstream media while funding its own ideologically conceived outlets. It isn't just a matter of "playing the refs." Every political movement has a place for publications where debate among fellow travelers helps refine its most nuanced ideas and where the faithful can be rallied behind them.
Conor: "the conservative intellectual tradition’s lack of penetration into academia". Wow, those blinders of yours . . . I'll infer you haven't seen Indoctrinate-U? You've some homework.

Oh, and your tender sensibilities were ruffled by the original title for Goldberg's book? "even those on the left who regularly engage conservatives would assume bad faith. They did, even after the title changed." Faith? It's not a religious question! Of course they will say they assume bad faith. At the same time you glibly assume good faith on their part, in fact. Hint: they are not purusuing truth. Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise." Having begun with bogus premises, how do you expect the title of Jonah's book, like some magic spell, to open their shuttered eyes?

Then you're bemoaning the lack of a Buckley or a dozen Wolfes, and applauding the Douthat/Suderman/Poulos/Klein school.
"Unless colleges and journalism schools start assigning Burke, Hayek, Friedman, and quite a few others, the answer depends upon whether the right is willing to invest in talented young people who understand conservatism and libertarianism, but whose foremost loyalty is to investigating their world and conveying whatever they find."
Two links: Pajamas Media and PTJV. Are they publishing you? Far more credible than the Huffington Post with many people.

Let's go back to your dating premise for the whole article, Conor. You've just dropped precious loot into the relationship. It's gone on a while. You've reached the stage where it "cannot survive on commentary and analysis alone". Then the girl tells you she feels she needs a change of narrative. Are you the kind that understands that relationships are about participation, and if she's not holding up her end, and you try to drag the relationship forward like some corpse, then the whole situation is more about your masochism and narcissim? Such is the case with academia. They don't love you. You're a convenient toy. A foil. Someone to use to offer depth to their utopian visions.

You seem to think that there is some value in trying to reform academia by injecting conservatives back in. I offer a different path. Metaphorically burn academaia down. Form a new school. Pajamas Media, Ivory Tower Edition. Don't use the word "narrative". It makes you sound like, for all the protests of disagreement, you secretly covet membership in the lefty club. Kick that post-modern girl to the curb. She's already off with another someone, doing whatever. She's laughing at you. It happens. It's only shameful if you continue to sniff around sounding like you fell out of a Michael McDonald tune:

Repeat: don't hang around with dumb chicks and academics. The inevitable result is that you'll be Turning Left:

Ow. I think that the formerly proud ship U.S.S. Freidersdorf went from sailing the seas, to a brief career as a minesweeper, before settling to a permanent post as a bottomed submarine. Note to self: do not enrage Donald Douglas.


  1. Smitty,

    I've appeared on PJTV in a 15 minute interview segment. I guess that isn't publishing me, but it seems relevant.

    Also, you write, "Baptist, sailor, engineering undergraduate, a couple of Master's. Geekier than most. That's also about as much as I know of Conor."

    Well, I'm not a baptist, I've only got one master's degree, and I never studied engineering anywhere.

    Finally, you seems to think I am saying that conservatives are treated fairly in academia, when actually I'm saying that they're treated unfairly.

    But thanks for taking on my article -- a critique is always an opportunity to learn.

  2. @Conor,
    For heaven's sake, why not post a URL to your appearance? Their PJTV/s indexing is nearly bad enough to pass for a Microsoft production. A quick Google on your name and PJTV revealed only a bashing you gave it on either the fourth of February or the second of April. (As a geek, I could rail about data format ambiguity here.)
    Finally, you seems to think I am saying that conservatives are treated fairly in academia, when actually I'm saying that they're treated unfairly.
    As a geek, I'm going to show a pun as a regular expression: fa(ir|re) is what you pay to ride a bus. Your expectation of fairness in the secular, darwinian world is either:
    a) naïveté writ larger still
    b) a complete mis-read of what I posted above
    c) deliberate ignorance on your part, attempting to drive web site traffic, perhaps.
    Whether or not academia, as a whole (and with copious exceptions), has jumped the shark and dived deeply into the septic tank of intellectual dishonesty Doesn't Really Matter. Whining the unfairness borders on petulance. "Two tears in a bucket," say I. It's time to found and fund conservative-minded schools. And I say all this having slummed for a couple of years as an adjunct at GWU, working towards a PhD in MIS before destiny got me out of there.

  3. "Whining about the unfairness"