Fracture, baby, fracture
May 24, 2003 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Conservative acts like conservative Columnist William Safire (in the NYT, though mirrored in the link for your convenience) takes on corporate consolidation of media and culture: The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many. Does that sound unconservative? Not to me. The concentration of power - political, corporate, media, cultural - should be anathema to conservatives. The diffusion of power through local control, thereby encouraging individual participation, is the essence of federalism and the greatest expression of democracy. (search for info. about your hometown media). Safire, in fighting against deregulation alongside "the left", has some strange bedfellows. Obviously, terms like "left" and "right" are less than perfectly useful, but is this the beginning a larger shift? 20 years from now, will libertarians and gun-owners still be de facto Republicans, and if not, will they simply cease to be a block, or find comfort elsewhere on the political spectrum?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly (26 comments total)
Good for him, the old Nixonian bastid. I think this is actually the second time this year that Safire's stood on principle and said the right thing, no matter what the ideologically correct thing would have been.

Either he's preparing to meet his maker and putting his house in order, or, far more likely, he knows he's now so insulated that he can speak the truths his cohorts find so difficult to stomach. Maybe he learned the entry-to-China lesson well.

As for myself, I'm increasingly convinced that "left" and "right" are content-free labels that do nobody justice and actively obfuscate the real generation of solutions to the problems which face humanity.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:32 AM on May 24, 2003

20 years from now, will libertarians and gun-owners still be de facto Republicans, and if not, will they simply cease to be a block, or find comfort elsewhere on the political spectrum?

Good question. Many traditional conservatives seem to feel alienated by the "national greatness" ideology that the Bush administration is pursuing. We may see an ideological flip-flop between the Democrats and Republicans on some of these points.
posted by homunculus at 10:41 AM on May 24, 2003

We may see an ideological flip-flop between the Democrats and Republicans on some of these points.

There seems to be a convenient collective amnesia on this subject, but I recall a time when Republicans (inlcuding Limbaugh) used to trumpet the abslouteness of privacy and freedom from the intrusion of the state. I wonder if a new platform would ever be forged in which issues like gay marriage and gun ownership are seen as having the same ethical/cultural/ideological mandate. The irony is that groups like the ACLU and the NRA have pobably been on the same page longer than any of them know.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2003

we may seem 20 years from now, or far more likely i think, many increasingly convinced used to, i wonder.
posted by Satapher at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2003

The NY Times magazine had an article this week about young conservatives, who tend to be much more of the libertarian-small govt. type than religious right type, which will make the GOP much stronger in its courtship of independents over the next couple decades.

That said, media deregulation is a tough question for conservatives. I think I can agree that we should apply antitrust if big media org's are stifling creative innovation and independent reporting, but to say a media company is de facto bad simply because it has national/international reach seems a bit of a stretch. Put it this way: Reuters and AP are far more powerful organizations than any media corporation, but few are calling for their dissolution.

(On preview: I just noticed that that Times article was posted yesterday, so you can find a link on the main page)
posted by Kevs at 11:46 AM on May 24, 2003

Indeed, adamgreenfield. I've been thinking the same about the word "liberal" lately; it seems an increasingly disconnected signifier. People who use it seem to think it describes me, or my friends, or some vague collection of people I'm supposed to identify with, but the ideas and opinions these "liberals" are supposed to hold don't match well with anyone I know.

We need some new terms. This rickety old left-right axis doesn't even match the Democrat and Republican parties, much less the people they supposedly represent. Perhaps the solution is a change to the American voting system that would allow more than two major parties to hold power - instant runoff voting, proportional representation, or something. The Greens and Libertarians are currently dismissed as ultra-Democrats and ultra-Republicans, respectively, but I suspect they'd discover they have as much in common with each other as with the two major parties if the current giants were cut down to a more reasonable size.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:51 AM on May 24, 2003

The irony is that groups like the ACLU and the NRA have pobably been on the same page longer than any of them know.

Convergence, baby, and that's the only way out. Because backers of gay marriage and gun rights are on the same page, whether they care to admit it or not, and as privacy rights continue to give way to governmental intrusion in the name of national security, as media ownership further concentrates in the hands of the few who may or may not pay lip service to issues of individual rights, those who care about such things above and beyond the party line will begin to feel an affinity with those traditionally defined as "on the other side."

And as media ownership continues to concentrate, the remaining players will be more dependent than ever before upon the machinery of government to topple the remaining regulations, to provide new avenues for growth perhaps at the expense of the public broadcasters are supposed to be serving. The moguls, realizing which side the bread is buttered on, will back the government all the way down the line - which in fact we've already seen via Cumulus Media (and Clear Channel's) boycott of the Dixie Chicks.

Get ready for more of the same.
posted by kgasmart at 11:53 AM on May 24, 2003

that whole "National Greatness" thing about sums it up.

What you cite appears to be in conflict with the above. Will these young, small gov't conservatives win out against this neoconservative double-reverse Wilsonian strand that is now so dominant? Why will these young conservatives not simply ammend their ideologies to account for neocon. notions, as have most of the "adult" pundits of late?

Goddamn, I would love to find some synthesis between all of those who are left out of the current Rep. V. Dem. farce. But a likely alternative to that would be that Greens/Libertarians become further alientated and irrelevant.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2003

Not wanting to cause a massive derail (and also because I gots to run) I'd just like to take exception to

backers of gay marriage and gun rights are on the same page

this remark. The two issues aren't equivalent.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 1:13 PM on May 24, 2003

De-regulate and privatize the military.
posted by Postroad at 1:15 PM on May 24, 2003

slipperywhenwet - of course they're equivalent. Proponents of both insist the government has no right telling them what they should do with their guns.
posted by pyramid termite at 1:23 PM on May 24, 2003

I understand that these issues are championed by people with little in common, but let me show where I believe their common ground could be synthesized/identified (depending on where you stand):

Many people who would argue in favor of gay marriage would do so based on the notion that human rights are essentially absolute, and that gay people do not deserve special, undue discrimination, i.e. it is wrong. This rationale works for most. I, however, find it inadequate because it is based on morality (indeed, "my morality" or one on which I can groove for the most part, and aren't those always the hardest to pick out?) and morality is messy, simplistic and usually dangerous. Plus, unchecked moralizing is the whole reason that gays face hatred to begin with, so simply pushing an alternate morality would seem short-sighted.

A separate rationale for gay marriage (and against structural discrimination against gays) could be made based on basic libertarian principles, basic American principles even (my right to swing my schlong ends where your gaze begins). I would guess that this is how conservative homosexuals like Andrew Sullivan see things, though that is straight-up speculation on my part.

Gay, gun owner, dissident, pot smoker, militia member/hippie commune dweller, unabomber, librarian, artist, arms dealer, lawyer, doctor, professional wrestler, what have you, some people seem more strongly concerned about personal privacy and restriction of constitutional protection than others. I am just wondering if this will become more salient common ground than one's level of desire to pay lots of taxes or make macrosocial reproductive decisions.

You would disagree with the above, I take it? That being said, how 'bout a why? Anyone want to take a stab at that (since slippery indicated that he be outie)?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2003

Regarding the term "liberal" - here in Australia, our ruling conservative party is called The Liberal Party. It was a bit of an education to learn that Americans usually consider "liberal" and "progressive" synonyms, not "liberal" and "conservative". I think this shows the meaningless nature of term - everyone wants to be liberal with something - if you're a conservative, you want businesses to have the liberty of reduced government regulations. If you're a green, you want the liberty to smoke pot. If you're a libertarian, you want the liberty to be without restrictions on earning and spending your own money. If you're a socialist, you want the liberty of free and equal education and health for all. (Apologies for my broad brush). Everyone's a liberal, really. It's somewhat confusing that a lot of right wingers choose to use the term as a predefined insult - as if holding some belief about fundamental human freedoms makes you the enemy.
posted by Jimbob at 4:38 PM on May 24, 2003

Starting to think the terms are less than useful?

Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative : even when speaking of politics within a single country (like the US), these labels of convenience have been useless for doing anything other than confirming and bludgeoning others with preconceived beliefs since the mist of prehistory - a couple of decades at least. It was precisely this that drove me from any discussion of politics most of my adult life, and still makes me write long ranty comments here which inevitably get deleted before I hit post. Hell, I used to hound people like aaron here about framing every.single.fucking.issue in terms of the spurious and unhelpful polarization between the imaginary monolithic 'right' and the imaginary monolithic 'left'. (Sadly, some of the old targets of my ire have gone and been replaced by blank-eyed trolling morons, and it hasn't been as fun to bait them as once it was.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:21 PM on May 24, 2003

Hey Kevs, is this the article in the NY Times Magazine you were
speaking of?

The Young Hipublicans
posted by ZupanGOD at 9:07 PM on May 24, 2003

I prefer to look at political positions in terms of government control (and what type of control they advocate)

A libertarian would say, be in favor of 10% as compared to a social democrat who would be around, say, 60-70% (conjecture). In my opinion, Republicans used to occupy the space between libertarians and Democrats (20% to 45%) but nowadays I don't really see much of a difference at all. I expect to see a relevant third party finally emerge in the next decade or so in response to the disastrous Patriot Acts and intrusions upon civil liberties of which the Republicans and Democrats have been party to. After all, the Republican Party started out as a single issue party: they wanted to repeal Douglas' vaunted Kansas-Nebraska Act and bring back the Missouri Compromise. It could happen again, just to a slightly different tune, because now we're talking about the enslavement of the whole society.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:06 AM on May 25, 2003

these labels of convenience have been useless for doing anything other than confirming and bludgeoning others with preconceived beliefs since the mist of prehistory

My hero! You can tell I still have an AOL account...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:59 AM on May 25, 2003

my right to swing my schlong ends where your gaze begins

Say that three times fast.

I won't be adding anything much new to the debate to note that the two-party system (Microsoft and Apple) tends to mute the diversity of political opinion in this country, which is why I have taken to "throwing my vote away" on Green candidates lately.

The shift really began with the Old Left turning neoconservative in the footsteps of Norman Podhoretz and the National Review. An Italian Marxist named Antonio Gramsci has a lot to do with these people's thinking, but nobody reads him. You could call Gramcsci the architect of cultural revolution, focused on the appeal to people's moral sense rather than their economic rationality, which is just what the religious right is all about.
posted by hairyeyeball at 7:55 AM on May 25, 2003

There may be some swishing between left/right on issues from time to time, but make no mistake - come election time the cards will remain firmly in place.
posted by owillis at 1:22 PM on May 25, 2003

Definitely -- in the short term. But look at it this way (seeing as you have come squarely as a democrat in the past): the republicans are alientating some of the libertarian right, will the democrats do anything to court them?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2003

It would be a waste of time, in my opinion. 90% of the "libertarians" are essentially Republicans who don't like the fundamentalist line. Under Clinton the Dems moved to the center, and as far as I'm concerned that's where they should stay. They're not going to get the right-wing votes any way (they'll either go Bush, not vote or go for a third party candidate). The vote the Dems should court is the emerging middle-class mostly female demographic, as well as shoring up the minority vote (not that they're running to the party of Lott and Santorum with any haste).
posted by owillis at 4:28 PM on May 25, 2003

On media monopolization: There's No Exit From the Matrix
posted by homunculus at 7:21 PM on May 25, 2003

That sounds wise and all, but then doesn't that leave a (potentially) significant block of those alienated by the republicans (libertarians) and democrats (the left)? Likewise, show me where the middle class is growing, and I will move there.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:20 PM on May 25, 2003

I thought Libertarians were Republicans who like drugs...?
posted by NortonDC at 8:40 PM on May 25, 2003

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