Gutless Conservatism

The cowardice of modern conservatives in the ongoing culture war tearing down traditions and reshaping Western culture.

That the Left has been fighting a war to dismantle Western civilization is not news to anyone. The front line of the war since the end of World War II has been the United States and the Left’s army has consisted of battalions of avowed communists and socialists, self-styled revolutionaries, and radical activists who have fought tenaciously and assiduously to dismantle the last stronghold of conservatism in the Western world.

It is the fact that so many conservatives have recognized that there is a war going on that I can only conclude it is the result of a gutless conservatism – a conscious abnegation of principle – that the Left has been so phenomenally successful. Whereas a few decades ago it may have been harder for an uninterested observer to discern the gradual erosion of culture and tradition in favor of their modern and progressive replacements, today’s technology produces changes faster – and easier to see. 

One perfectly public example is Cancel Culture. While in the Soviet Union there were show trials, the Left doesn’t bother with such formalities when a cancelling is initiated: public shaming, destroyed reputations and, ultimately, being killed off in the minds of the citizenry. In an era where references to 1984 have unfortunately become trite, the cancelled becomes an unperson. 

In the case of companies who have violated Leftist orthodoxy, they are relentlessly attacked, consciously baited, their customers shamed, and every political and administrative employed until they submit or are ruined. Most now take preemptive steps to avoid being targeted: diversity statements, hires, and departments, a rainbow logo for pride month, and donations to approved charities are all tribute to propitiate the Woke Horde before it chooses its next target.

Conservatives are well aware of this phenomenon and endlessly opine about the leftward radicalization of society through the media, politics, academia – and that’s all they’ve done, opine. While the Left has destroyed lives and livelihoods, conservatives have cowered, unwilling to fight back. Seeing little opposition, the Left has unrelentingly laid waste to every vestige of Western civilization including among others religion, art, literature, and tradition. 

It was not long ago that there were lengthy discussions about whether music videos with lewd content might exert an unfavorable influence on children watching them; now you have to check to see if your local public library is hosting a drag queen story hour before taking the kids to check out a book. If you want to send your daughter to the lady’s room, you can’t be sure there won’t be a man in there with her. Public money is used to pay for abortion clinics, for transsexuals to get sex changes, and for woke art, like a book that claims that St. Augustine, a man who lived 1,700 years ago, was a homosexual. When you apply to college or a job, you’ll be told that “diverse” applicants are welcomed and encouraged, doublespeak that applicants of certain preferred categories will be prioritized to the detriment of others, irrespective of merit or ability. 

Classic books are no longer read or taught because they are written by “old white men” or because they are labeled racist; movie night has become a frequently unsuccessful exercise in parsing through woke propaganda masquerading as art to find something worth watching; having a chicken sandwich can mark you as a homophobe; churches have been converted into restaurants and concert venues; entertainment teems with hyper-sexualized imagery, obscene language, and the normalization of everything from incest to sex changes for children; the family has been deconstructed completely to the point where marriage is seen as nothing but a glorified friendship with tax benefits; academia is so much in the control of leftists that it has become nearly impossible for those of a conservative persuasion to conduct scholarship: besides the discrimination they would face, there just aren’t enough the scholars to train them; art in the form of sublime renditions of the Annunciation and Last Supper have been replaced with crucifixes in urine – and we are told both should be held in equal regard as high art.  

While all this has happened in 60 years, the pace has accelerated in the latter twenty and it only seems to be picking up; thousands of years of tradition, morality, and learning have been decimated in six short decades. How? Because while the Left has been fighting the war that everyone seems to have recognized is happening, conservatives have been AWOL. Instead of being relegated to a fringe underground, the depravity of modernity has been pushed into the popular mainstream by dint of tenacity and lack of adequate opposition.

The conservative attitude of the past half century is best illustrated by its grandest proponent, William F. Buckley. This eminent advocate of conservatism would graciously invite leftists onto his show, Firing Line, where he would run circles around them with his genteel eloquence and reasoning. But Buckley, like most conservatives, thought that winning the argument was enough. Buckley saw TV as an extension of Oxford Union, where battles were intellectual and he could convince a thinking public of his opinions and, thus, win; his Leftist opponents saw TV as a tool to proselytize and build and expand their networks. 

When Jesse Jackson and Betty Friedan left the studio, they used the momentum to continue the fight, hammering away at any and every obstruction. They organized, they recruited, they tried and lost and kept on trying – until they won. There was no relenting, no surrender. Buckley left conservatives important books and the National Review, for which conservatives are rightly thankful, but whose efforts have been more successful?

To this day, conservatives, often individually and totally disconnected from one another, try to fight the Left one-on-one. Occasionally a Pat Buchanan will appear with the right ideas, a larger stage, and a broader audience, but these efforts are unsustained and become a flash in the pan, disappearing and taking with them the momentum they were able to generate.

The Left, on the other hand, has developed truly magnificent networks of groups that include activist organizations, media outlets, think tanks, meme factories, comedy shows, and college departments to ensure that they train soldiers, control the narrative, and eliminate opponents without mercy. This is what I call The Swarm. 

Their success is premised upon an essential component of leftism: the idea that each person can and must contribute to the success of the revolution, that each person can be an ally, each person can be an activist, each person can be an organizer. The Soviets would teach that each person is responsible for the success of the Union and that included children selling out their parents and neighbors reporting on neighbors for anything potentially treasonous. With social media, a spectacular tool for monitoring every individual’s behavior, each leftist wields great power to contribute to ensuring that the orthodoxy is upheld by dutifully reporting indiscretions to The Swarm, which then proceeds to eliminate the transgressor. There is no debate – this is war.

Conservatives, meanwhile, have just been bumbling around, annoyed that they run across The Swarm every so often while doing next to nothing to prevent or defend against it. They continue to amuse themselves with books about the demise of Western civilization, YouTube videos of how SJWs were “owned” by Jordan Peterson, and articles suffused with references to Thucydides, Marx, and blithe smugness, content that their erudition has mollified the opposition. It’s pathetic.

The Thomas Sowells of the world do painstaking and enlightening research that sometimes filters down to the Ben Shapiros of the world to be used against leftist activists who, frankly, don’t care. You can’t win a war with only snipers. Sure, facts don’t care about your feelings but this is war and facts don’t matter. The Left understands this and conservatives do not.

That is why the Left whittles down their message to simple, ambiguous, and superficially unobjectionable words and expressions: “human rights,” “black lives matter,” “equality,” “diversity,” “choice,” “racism.” These are then broadly and immediately applied to the cause du jour in what can best be described as linguistic blitzkrieg, dominating the narrative with stupendous rapidity. Conservatives, invariably caught off-guard, are forced to respond – if they can muster the courage – on their enemy’s terms and find themselves in the awkward position of trying to explain why all lives matter (“so you have a problem saying black lives matter?”) or why they think children shouldn’t receive hormones to change their sex (“so you’re against the ‘rights’ of trans children?”).

Almost exactly a year ago Sohrab Ahmari wrote in First Things, “Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism.” I fear this exquisitely important observation was overshadowed in his paean against “David French-ism” but it bears echoing the message: the Left offers no quarter to its enemies and it takes no prisoners. Conservatives, if they have any hope of winning must do the same. They must embrace the war and have no illusions about the tremendous fight that it will entail, especially with the handicap of decades of lollygagging. 

Let’s start from our own house: the Left did much of what it did in entertainment with the complicity of corporate Republicans who could hardly care about the social principles of conservatism and who hijacked the party in the absence of any moral leadership. These faux conservatives readily forsook principles that weren’t theirs in the first place for cold, hard cash. Many conservatives went along for the ride under the guise of defending capitalism to prove its virtues and those of America’s to the communists and the non-aligned countries. Yes, the U.S. won the Cold War but it paid a price in suppressing and injuring true conservatism. Indeed, it is astounding how resigned conservatism has been to the onslaught of liberalism since the collapse of the USSR. It is as though conservatives are the only people who believed Francis Fukuyama and gave up the fight, even after it became obvious that he was dead wrong. 

Conservative complicity in the liberal project is evident to this day. Despite the frequently lamented sins of the liberal media, entertainment industry, and academia, conservatives have abdicated any pretension of agency. They complain about liberal bias in the media but subscribe to the New York Times and tolerate conservative leaders wasting their gravitas publishing op-eds there instead of conservative outlets that could use their validation; they complain about indecency, pornography, violence, and obscenity in movies and music but have yet to organize a single successful boycott of a movie studio or music label for its indiscretions; liberal bias in schools and colleges is evidently rampant and neither conservative students nor professors are able to freely express themselves, even while liberal professors post instructions on how to topple historical statutes like that of Winston Churchill but I know of no organized, energetic effort that conservatives have undertaken to counteract the deleterious changes exacted upon the learning system of the United States; when YouTube or Twitter or Facebook silence conservative voices, a hodgepodge of conservatives post their indignation on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook – and everyone lazily moves on.

Conservatives know there is a war going on, they only need to organize and show up to fight it. They need their own Swarm. The rule, as in any war, is simple: win. The only alternative is death. There is nothing else. There can be a post-war peace where debate, reason, and good cheer prevail but anything less than entering the battlefield and fighting to the death will mean capitulating to the Left and leaving it to complete its long march through our institutions until they are irrevocably lost.