How identity politics and fake news killed conservatism

This post was re-blogged from Wendy Cockcroft’s blog, On t’Internet.

American conservatism has died, killed by identity politics, fake news, echo chambers, and the shaming of dissenters. What remains is an alt-right cartoon parody that mocks the values we conservatives have always held dear. This is what happened.

The meaning changed

Back in the day, this is what conservatism meant:

People who believe in the rule of law, a just society, self-determination,  a good work ethic, healthy competition, a free and fair market, personal freedom, patriotism, and respect for traditional values. We don’t like sudden, radical changes and have a deep respect for intellectual endeavour and a comprehensive education. We believe you have to work for what you get and that you should be fairly compensated. We believe in justice and fairness. In honour and integrity. In respect for religion and culture. In family, community, charity, and duty. – On t’Internet, Will The Real Conservatives Please Stand Up?

These days it means whatever the alt-right say it means. As for the above quote from an earlier blog post, that’s considered to be liberal these days. See the political spectrum chart I ran up some time ago while holding the moderate line against some chump who was trying to peg me as a left/liberal. I’m generally conservative but caucus with the liberals on personal freedom and with the left on social justice; I see no practical value in keeping wages down or denying the public services such as the NHS. The political spectrum we have now would basically lump together everything that’s not capitalist to alt-right or call it “liberal socialist.” Pick a side, there is no middle any more.

The dear leader

These days a literal cult of personality is built around each Glorious Leader that emerges at the front of the party machine. The leader is great. The leader is good. The leader can do no wrong. The leader is above the petty constraints of the rule of law. Winning is everything. Dissent must be crushed. Dissent will be crushed. Dissenters are an existential threat and should be treated as such. This is why Trump could actually rape your mother live on TV and if you were a Trumpkin you would cheer it on like they did in The Accused because she must have done something to deserve it. I’m not even joking, there’s a growing list of his conflicts of interest and the people who ought to give a damn don’t because he’s on their team.

The post-truth world

We are living in a world in which empiricism has been booted off a cliff by people who should know better. This post-truth attitude is what fuels the partisan identity politics that is tearing the United States apart. It means that no level is too low for the Grand Old Party to sink to if the base is happy. Heck, they’ll even cast out established principles if it gets Joe Voter on side.

Team players

Identity politics has created a host of disturbing new norms in which hate is accepted as par for the course. Basically, if you don’t pick one side, you must, by default, be on t’other. Anyone on “our” side is acceptable no matter what he or she says or does; they are sanctified and purified by membership of and loyalty to the team. Thus it is that Reason’s Robby Soave can say with a straight face that promising to get rid of political correctness ushered Trump into office. That was a strawman built up by the right wing media; political correctness is something to roll your eyes at and dismiss with a derisive laugh. It is only an existential threat if you believe the right wing echo chamber media. This is where fake news and exaggerated reports thrive; wherever there’s a culture war axe to grind, the echo chamber pundits will jump on anything that sounds true to them and declare that it is. Needless to say if you call out “their” news as fake they’ll do the same to you on principle. They’re not interested in whether it’s factually true, only if it benefits their team and its positions.

For the greater good

The most ardent team players are cultish in their devotion to their Glorious Leaders; this happens on the progressive/liberal side too where Hillarybots are all over their fallen angel like a rash. To be fair this is an Establishment thing more than a Progressive thing but you’ll see the same denialism in play when she does something wrong. It is, however, to the right we must turn our attention since they’re running the planet — not necessarily in our best interests. If you’re wondering why the people are willing to accept the most egregious jerk-ery from Trump and his team it’s basically because he’s their jerk and they’re not expecting any of the negatives to happen to them.

What now?

If the echo chamber nonsense continues as it is, the toxic environment created thereby will reach its logical end. People are already lashing out at each other over politics because they believe that Trump is either the spawn of Satan or the second coming, depending on their point of view. How long before that turns into violence? Given that some people are spoiling for a fight in an effort to achieve dominance, it’s possible. The liberal and progressive wings of the Democrat party are at a loss to understand how they so utterly misread the American public so they’ve resorted to Red Scare boogeyman politics. I kid you not, they are blaming the Russians for their loss instead of asking themselves why they didn’t connect better with the electorate. In other words, the moonbats are back.

What about the moderate conservatives? Will they continue to caucus with the Democrats or will they start questioning the status quo and ask themselves why they’re so willing to sell their souls so cheaply? Or will they continue to permit the divide-and-conquer extremism that pervades political discourse to continue till there’s no such thing as a moderate conservative any more? If that were the case there would only be “the left” and “the right” and we’d be lumped in with one group or the other whether we liked it or not. The echo chamber brigade have killed off nuance to a degree but it still exists in places. The alt-right has killed off conservatism but we can bring it back if we’re willing to call these people what they really are: extremists.

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