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Stand and Fight
We conservatives don't need our own institutions.


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Jonah Goldberg

So I’m in New York to personally sign the first thousand boxes of my new porn video — F***ing Jew Bastard — and I decided to come by and visit the New York offices of National Review.

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Apparently my work ethic is catching on here because there are a shocking number of people not wearing pants and sporting those double-loading beer hats.

Actually, the reason I’m here is I was invited to go on the Brill’s Content booze cruise last night. Despite the fact that I was dramatically over-served, the really disorienting experience was being on a boat with 100 liberals and being treated like a talking dog. Don’t get me wrong, they were all very nice to me and I was nice to them, which is what I think confused them. These earnest, very bright and well-intentioned liberals had a hard time processing the fact that I wasn’t a nasty piece of work. All in good fun, I was introduced to a number of people as “our resident fascist.”

One young lady who overheard the remark, asked, “Why do they call you that?” I said because I’m the magazine’s conservative columnist. She wanted to know how conservative I really was, so she asked me a bunch of test questions.

“Gays?” she asked with a single word.

“What about them,” I asked.

“What do you think about them?”

“Well, I’m a huge fan of the Canadian men’s figure-skating team.”

Okay, I didn’t say that. I did say: “Well, it depends on the issue. I’m against so-called gay marriage and I’m against gay adoption.” Now, I was already a little tipsy and the boat was rocking a bit, but I think what she heard was: “I will brutally kill you and all your kin, salt the earth where you live, and dip every puppy for a thousand miles in hot tar.” At least that seemed to be what she heard, judging from her expression. She then said, direly, “Wow, you are conservative.”

I don’t think the people at Brill’s Content are particularly or exceptionally liberal. They’re just journalists. Indeed, whenever I spend time behind enemy lines — so to speak — I realize how inadequate conservatives are to the task of “taking back” the popular culture.

Every few years there’s a boomlet in conservative circles about how the Right should create its own parallel institutions — our own schools and newspapers and television networks. Paul Weyrich is big on the idea. So is the brilliant David Gerlernter. And so are thousands of young and earnest kids who pour forth from their conservative college newspapers like Huns determined to overthrow Liberal Civilization. There are a lot of problems with this idea, among them the fact that we should write off respected institutions — because respected institutions run the show. Hillsdale’s great and so is the Washington Times, but very few conservatives would send their kid to Hillsdale over Harvard, and a real conservative on the NY Times op-ed page would have a lot more influence than the another one over at the Washington Times (though if they bought my syndicated column I would be very, very happy). David Gerlernter, for example, is a brilliant conservative. Isn’t he more useful at Yale than at Hillsdale?

But the real problem with this parallel-institution stuff is simply mathematical. I once heard Gerlernter give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute about the need to create independent conservative museums and universities. Irving Kristol, the Godfather of Neoconservatism, was in the audience and he asked a good question, “where are you going to get all the conservatives to run these institutions?” I can’t remember the answer, but I don’t remember it being very satisfying.

The dilemma for conservatism is that conservatives are normal people. Take journalism. You really need to be motivated by something beyond pure self-interest to go into journalism. It’s an awful profession, which usually doesn’t pay well. A very bright person with his priorities in order would not willingly choose to become a journalist. That’s one of the main reasons why the media is liberal. The profession attracts liberals the way the porn industry attracts tramps and our president. Journalism works on the assumption that there are bad things going on in the world that need to be exposed. Journalists want to topple — or at least test — the status quo and defy the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” axiom. For those of us who subscribe to the venerable philosophy of “don’t do something, sit there,” such crusading is fairly unappealing. Indeed, I think the reason most investigative reporters are liberal is because conservatives find the requirements of the profession — sucking up, betraying trust, lying and scheming — dishonorable.

And to do it for low pay! That’s really meshugana.

The media is liberal because only liberals with their colossal egos and Manichaean view of the evils of the world are willing to do the work. There aren’t enough crusading conservative journalists out there for a serious softball league, let alone enough to staff up an entire parallel culture. When you add to that fact that liberals have largely circled the wagons against the few conservatives who do want to be journalists, you begin to see how daunting the task at hand is. Which is my excuse for why I drank so much of Steve Brill’s hooch.

FYI
1. If you’re interested, we’ve re-”printed” my most recent piece for IntellectualCapital about the current state of the melting pot.

2. Seriously, please stop sending me slogans for NRO, we’ve got plenty to sort through.

3. I’m still on for The O’Reilly Factor tomorrow night.

4. Nothing in this column should be construed as justifiable cause for Brill’s Content to cancel my column.



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