The operative condition for the 21st Century American "conservative" is false indignation. They're always pretending to be outraged about something. This high-pitched whining has the convenient effect of limiting public discourse, making it harder to discuss critical issues openly and rationally. It's worked, too, even when it should be embarrassingly obvious what they're doing and why. Yet people still fall for it (and by "people" I mean the media).
Let's say the righties start ranting about "political correctness," as they did a few years ago. Soon most white middle class Americans are walking around thinking we live in a country whose #1 human crisis is the inability of male students at some Midwestern college to penetrate a co-ed without asking her first "is this okay?"
(... as opposed to, say, the epidemic of poor American children suffering from malnutrition, while conservatives make tax cuts permanent for the rich ...)
I figure the best way to end this pattern of artificial indignation is by exposing it to the ridicule it so strongly deserves, so I'm holding a new contest - "HuffCon: Pick Your Favorite Phony Conservative Outrage." ("HuffCon" stands for "HuffPo Contest," "Huffy Conservatives," and/or "Huffy Con-Jobs.") Unlike my "Guess Bush's Nickname For Abramoff" contest, where unfortunately nobody got it right, I promise this contest will have a winner, a runner-up, and a third place finalist (aka "win," place," and "show").
Contestants will be judged on originality, writing flair, and the absurdity of the conservative "outrage" chosen for ridicule. It's important to name the outrage, illustrate its flaws, and describe why the phony indignation's being mustered. To start you off, here are five examples to play with:
1. The Lawrence Summers Case
Dershowitz et al. complained that Lawrence Summers lost his position as President of Harvard because he dared to voice politically incorrect ideas which, after all, "is what academia should be for." Newsflash, guys! Summers was fired because he sucked at his job.
Why do I say that? Because anybody who's ever worked in an academic setting knows the President has much more power than any faculty member. And anyone who's ever been in management knows that we've all had to manage difficult employees. It comes with the territory.
Summers was known to be nasty,abrasive - and vindictive. When employees lose so much respect for you that they turn on you en masse despite your greater power, you're a lousy manager. When morale gets so bad that everyone in sight is worried, you've lost control - and control is a manager's job. Good managers know how to pick their battles, and how to build loyalty - even with staff who disagree with them.
The Summers firing was not about "politics," except to the extent that his blundering management allowed people to push their own agendas at his expense. His problem was the inability to lead, pure and simple. I guarantee that if William F. Buckley had been President of Harvard (a thought to horrify the old Yale boy) he would have had fine relationships with all his faculty, including the most liberal. And he'd still be on the job.
In addition, the firing of Harvard's president isn't normally a story of national significance - so why make it one?
This phony outrage (plus, no doubt, some anger on the part of Summers' personal friends) has been manufactured to trash the Ivy League "establishment" (that is, academics). That helps a) discredit intellectual (that is, informed) thinkers, many of whom have the information needed to realize how ineffective conservatives policies have been; and, b) create a perception that university faculties are biased in order to lay the groundwork for "affirmative action for conservatives" in academia (similar to that already in place for the media).
Please note: Being informed is one reason why academics tend to be more liberal than the population at large. Want another? They're more likely to be smart.
2. That Taliban Guy At Yale: The same motivation's behind the phony outrage over the Taliban leader now taking classes at Yale. Is it a good idea? That's certainly open to debate. On one hand, he was part of a group that did horrible things. On the other, if he's repented we want to encourage that in his part of the world. A tough call, I'd say, though I can certainly see both sides.
But is it worth the repeated postings we've been getting from John Fund about it in these pages? Of course not. It's one guy sitting in one chair at one university.
So why does Fund keep going on about it? See a) and b), above.
3. LA Times "Prejudice" Against Black Conservatives: I've already covered that one, here. Eugene Volokh has since issued a flaccid quasi-defense, here, where he can't even bring himself to give the name of his own piece and then lectures anyone who would treat black conservatives any differently than they would other righties (i.e., by being discourteous enough to mention their race).
I won't treat them differently. I'd treat a Caucasian poor or working person exactly the same way - by pointing out that they're working against their own interests and that of their peers. Since my position is that modern conservatism hurts African Americans, I am sufficiently "colorblind" that I feel free to make that observation about them, too.
When a fellow African American writes a piece suggesting that Claude Allen's work for Jesse Helms (with his racist history) and against the King Holiday might have created some cognitive dissonance and an internalized sense of humiliation, I feel she should be free to do so. I don't agree with Volokh that it's bad, bad, bad. (The title he doesn't repeat, by the way, is "Why Did He Steal? Well, Partly Because He's Black.")
So why this phony outrage? (And I say it's phony in this case because a guy who defends the right to wear blackface is not too likely to feel the wounds of racism deep in his heart.) I'm guessing it's to remove race as a topic from public discourse. Why do that? So that conservatives (and their "libertarian" allies) feel free to push policies that disproportionately harm minorities, without allowing anyone to point out that awkward fact.
4. The "Mistreatment" of Pres. Bush at the King Funeral:
I've written about this before. Here's a guy - Bush - who picks one of six representatives to vote against the King holiday to be his VP, who spent the sixties getting drunk while others marched for social change, and who wasn't going to bother attending Mrs. King's funeral until public backlash forced him to change his mind. While reluctantly attending the memorial he heard a couple of speeches which - gasp - criticized his policies.
Oh, the outrage! Those speakers "tarnished Dr. King's legacy," say the same individuals who ignored or fought that legacy while it was being made.
The purpose of this pseudo-controversy, as with the Volokh diatribe above, is to remove the inconvenient topic of race. Americans of all political leanings now support civil rights and the principle of racial equality, according to polls. So conservatives are well served if the racial impact of their policies stays where, thanks to our media, it pretty much is right now: buried.
5. The War Against Christmas:
I've said it before and I'll say it again, making it short and sweet: If Christ returned today, Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson would lead the charge to crucify him. Write your own on this one.
OK, guys, have at it! I can't wait to read your entries. Winners get a prize to be named at a later date (but it can't cost anything, because I'm extremely cheap). Or, maybe they just get a "laurel, and hardy handshake," Mel Brooks style. Either way, the joy is in the competition and not the prize.