The Corner

Radio and the Right

Kathryn:  Just a couple on my “How Radio Wrecks the Right” piece.

Reader feedback has been very evenly and clearly polarized. I’ve had lots of this:

Thank you thank you thank you for writing what you’ve written. I can’t abide the man, and he tars (is that image now forbidden?) all conservatives with the brush of his coarseness. He may not be stupid, but he is coarse …

and this

Yes, precisely. Many of us were drawn to conservatism many years because it appeared to be a gathering of awfully smart people who could dispute amongst themselves intelligently … I now wince when I see American conservatism being defined by Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, and other noisome sorts. They peddle anger and a dumbed-down patriotism. That Limbaugh could tell CPAC’s audience that conservatism could not win elections by devising public policy solutions is telling. Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

but an equal quantity of this

As conservatives form circular firing squads, your piece is of the type common a few months ago when certain writers, normally on the Right,discovered that Sarah Palin was not their kind of person, a bumpkin who couldn’t find her way around the finer parts of Manhattan. The competition to say witty and new things among “public intellectuals” must be fierce on all sides but one rarely sees (or at least I haven’t) such internicine warfare among the Left.

and this

[Quoting from my piece] “perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism.”  [Reader comments] This appears to assume that Rush has little to offer beyond name-calling. I don’t think that’s true. There are other radio personalities for whom it is true, but not him. Indeed, I would call Rush the epitome of middlebrow conservatism (not a highfalutin’ effete fop like Bill Buckley, not a knuckle-dragger like Savage or Coulter).

I don’t know that I’m much wiser after reading all the email. I already knew there’s a culture gap in conservatism. Indeed, I wrote a much-discussed column on the fact six years ago. I also knew that I myself am mostly on the side of the effete fops, though I regard the word “lowbrow” as neutrally descriptive, not slighting. I’m not much interested in “internecine warfare,” and didn’t think I was engaging in it. The gravamen of the piece was that radio conservatism is unbalanced. There’s nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. Or, to quote my actual words in the piece: “There’s nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun.” But where’s the middlebrow counterweight? That’s not internecine warfare. It’s more: OK, we’ve got the cavalry working a charm, but where’s the bloody infantry?

I’m not even asking for more effete foppery. I think we are pretty well supplied with that. I want middlebrow. Not just in radio commentary, either. What happened to middlebrow American culture? Does it totally belong to the Left now? Why?