Monday, February 27, 2006

MAU-MAUING THE FAT CATCHER. The new fun at NRO's blog on Crunchy Conservatism -- which, as previously explained, is Rod Dreher's revival of Jesus Freaks as home-schoolin', homo-hatin' yuppies -- is the exploding head of Jonah Goldberg.

Goldberg challenges Crunchy Con Man Rod Dreher's assertion that "the 'conservatives' will not oppose promiscuity because sexual discipline would reduce the profits of corporations, which in their advertisements and entertainments encourage sexual self-indulgence as a way of selling merchandise."

Now, you or I might sensibly tell Dreher: "So what?" (Come to think of it, it is instructive to consider how many of the complaints of today's lifestyle conservatives invite, nay demand, just such an answer.Hollywood doesn't make movies I like! So what? TV commercials make men look stupider than women! So what? Young girls are exposing their midriffs! Where? I mean, so what?)

But Goldberg, alas, has neither the standing nor the inclination for such clarity. He is a Big Wheel of Big Tent Conservatism, fond of defining conservatism extremely broadly, the better to keep together the great Republican coalition whose victories keep his Wheel Big. "You don’t really have to be a free-marketer or capitalist to be a conservative," he has argued. "The simple fact is that conservatives don’t have a settled dogma." And so forth.

This laxity suits Goldberg's role at NRO. He can make all kinds of ridiculous, lazy assertions, and when he is contradicted he can say: yes, you have a point, I'm sure the opposite can be true, too, we aren't really arguing and anyway it's late and I have to walk the dog etc. (No link needed: most of his stuff is like this.)

But when Dreher and his stupid hippies start spouting snake-handler gibberish, you can tell that Goldberg is just revulsed. Maybe it's just due to a storm of negative pheromones between those who smell of organic compost and patchouli, and one who smells of Cheetos, Johnson's Baby Shampoo, and farts. Anyway Goldberg lashes out instinctually at Dreher's imbecility -- "Have you ever met a conservative in your travels who won't attack promiscuity because to do so threatens corporate profits?"

But then Goldberg is ever so lightly challenged, and his instinct is to run to his suckup strategy. First he defends mainstream conservatives as every bit as spirited a set of fist-shakers and finger-waggers as the Crunchy Cons: "This administration puts real dollars behind its advocacy of abstinence, here and abroad... Conservatives criticize the popular culture." But -- here he reaches out -- "Now, they may not do it enough. That's a legitimate argument to make." Later, Goldberg strives so hard to accomodate Dreher's millenarial Christer philosophy that he even defends Karl Marx ("As for the alienating and deracinating effects of the free market and all that, I think some of the critiques — Marxist and otherwise — have varying degrees of value and merit"). See, Goldberg concludes, "I'm not the strawman conservative who idolizes the free market Rod has constructed."

So we see a leading figure of the Cause who, assailed by a new and radical fringe group convinced of its righteousness, has not the intellectual ballast to withstand the attack. I agree with your ends, he says; it's your means that I question!

Does this remind you of anything?

UPDATE. Meanwhile Ross Douthat, a smart fellow, reminds readers that the secret to success for a conservative niche brand like Crunchy Conservatism is to not take it very seriously:
...if such a cultural movement is going to win converts — or at least supporters — it shouldn't be too hard on those fellow-travelers who aren't up for home-schooling their kids, and don't quite have the time and energy to seek out the local organic co-op, and love "Lost" too much to get rid of their televisions. It's important to hold up an ideal, but it's also important not to let that ideal get in the way of making common cause with people who are, well, doing their best.
Sometimes I perceive that, despite all the fervent hallelujahs, modern conservatism is just a marketing exercise. Douthat's got his finger on the aspirational component of Crunchiness. And if you can get people to buy your hot cereal by telling them "It's the right thing to do," why not?

I realize this is a cynical reading, but it is also very charitable, considering the alternatives.

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