You may be familiar with the concept of otherkin — people who identify as at least partially nonhuman. For example, if they believe that, spiritually, they are part cow, they might call themselves “cowkin,” and take to chewing on grass while they are writing the latest chapter in their fan fiction epic. A “dogkin” might wear a false tail, or punctuate their speech with dog-like sound effects, which would be funny behavior in a 5-year-old, but tends to be disturbing in an adult.
My suggestion is that modern American conservatives are engaging in this activity in a similar, more mainstream way with their adoption of a conservative identity. They are conservakin, and you can find them in large numbers contributing to hashtags like top conservatives on Twitter or in the comment sections at websites like Free Republic.
Conservakin love to do things like:
- Praise the constitution.
- Worship pretty, clean-cut looking women posing with rifles, like suburban Athenas.
- You also see this in some more recent contexts with wild, semi-chaste praise for the (disastrous for the IDF) female Israeli soldiers and female Kurdish fighters.
- They are more fond of Israel and Jews than most reform Jews themselves, despite being Christians of indeterminate denomination themselves.
- Hold more radically integrationist and equality-minded positions about Civil Rights than Malcolm X.
- Build group cohesion by criticizing minor democratic politicians vehemently.
- Take their cues from the agendas set by the producers at Fox News, whose agendas are in turn set by the wire services like the AP, Reuters, the NYT, the ones operated by different government-bureaucratic organs, and other liberal institutions.
- Becomes very engaged in national primaries and elections, and on occasion more local ones.
- Develop strong feelings about the current president, along with various marginal figures in the president’s administration.
- They become fascinated by the relationships between various minor functionaries of the American government, along with what they perceive to be scandals and abuses of power.
Now that some of the snide contempt is out of the way, let us praise the conservakin as being a better person than the typical American. They will generally be more affluent (it’s what gives them time to post all those patriotic material and photos of themselves posing with expensive outdoor gear), harder-working, and more oriented towards family than the typical internet liberal.
What makes conservakin harder to reach with a more substantive message is that they are less involved in politics for the substance, and more for the surface appearance — they do it for social reasons. There is also the character-driven pageant aspect to their pseudo-political enthusiasm.
Much like a pigkin can never actually become a pig, a conservakin can never possess an authentic conservative essence, because the American political form is a profoundly liberal one.
Since their chosen political methods are entirely based on a sort of pantomime, entirely outside the actual structure of government, their political influence can be sealed off within the world of speech, prevented from influencing the actions of the state.
Further, the political leaders who were more authentically conservative were systematically suppressed in multiple waves coinciding with World War I, the New Deal, World War II, the Civil Rights / Great Society era, and then in repeated suppression actions leading up to the contemporary practice of the social-media-witch-hunt.
The Old Right left behind only vestigial supporters because the old right was successfully removed from influence, and replaced with a more docile, controlled opposition.
It is, in fact, common to find American conservatives who believe that President F.D. Roosevelt was a conservative, and that everything that happened during the New Deal ought to be praised by conservatives. It’s nearly universal for conservatives to venerate the socialist Martin Luther King. Some of the leading conservakin may venture to attack Woodrow Wilson, but in a piecemeal fashion.
The great progressive projects of the 20th century tend to be praised almost universally by modern conservakin. To the extent that liberals of today are criticized, it is that they are threatening the great progressive programs instituted by Wilson, the later Roosevelt, and Johnson. It is not that American conservakin oppose the idea of the Great Society — they just become incensed when the implementation of the Great Society isn’t matching up to the ideal.
Conservakin experience tension when their emotions contradict the political commitments required by their chosen identity. Emotionally, they may oppose open immigration. But they are politically committed to the idea, affirmed by the Johnson administration, that America is a proposition nation. Intellectually, they’re disarmed, because of their beliefs about universal availability of full citizenship. They can only counter new immigration initiatives with a mass emotion-driven outburst, threatening to unseat politicians.
Unfortunately for the conservakin, most legislators have minuscule authority. The party leadership is entirely subordinated to the permanent bureaucracy, which has real legal authority, whereas the legislators only have the legal pretense of the right to perform oversight. Despite the oversight pseudo-powers, legislators have limited capability to actually bring down consequences upon the bureaucrats.
This method of rage-voting is easily countered by just violating the law, ignoring the Constitution. Most Americans have a broken mental model of the American state. This model mostly ignores the enormous, disproportionate power accorded to the permanent bureaucracy. This broken model is only reinforced by the media companies which generate the conservakin identity and reap profits from it each day.
To the extent that conservakin tie their identity and feel a sense of control from their ability to rally votes and shift public opinion is the extent to which they are politically neutralized by the progressive state. To the extent that they focus on personalities rather than institutions is the extent to which those institutions can be preserved and nurtured, despite being inimical to broader conservative goals.
Since the conservakin identity is downstream from the political marketers who manufacture it, it’s better to run interference on the latter, smaller, professional group than it is to try to argue with the masses. Shouting at the crowd is like punching the ocean in the hopes of knocking Neptune unconscious.
The pitch is ultimately to convince more local leaders to swap the pretense of power over the world for real power over a smaller territory and population.
For the average conservakin, it is the return of authority to their household at the cost of the vicarious feeling of being part of a political ‘superpower.’ For more local politicians, it’s swapping access to the national pig-trough for real authority over their own patch.
Until this changes, the 125 million Americans who identify as conservative will remain wedded to a manufactured identity which is as deluded as those of Tumblrites who believe that they share a soul with a neon-colored pony.
Excellent and to the point. A more comprehensive version of the recent tweet that ran along the lines of “The less real power you wield the more likely you are to have an American flag in your home.”
Short bits like this are far easier to forward to open-minded friends than asking them to go Full Moldbug.
I would also add that the bulk of the hardworking, family-oriented conservakin simply don’t have the capacity to grasp the workings of our nation (let alone other nations) at any abstract, high level. That is not to be insulting — the vast majority of people simply shouldn’t have to even attempt to comprehend a complexity so remote from their daily lives.
But with our nationalized media – nationalized everything, really — you can only honestly expect the majority of the country to comprehend the surface. The workings of our caveman-brains just can’t really compute the world we live in. It was bad enough with television, but the immediacy and reward-validation triggering internet so distorts reality that the conservakin caveman-brain has the same emotional connection to Scott Walker as it does to their own children.
The people who you term conservakin, by and large, ought to be the people in which a robust, nuanced, organic, and comprehensive folk cult / folk culture resides. But the nationalizing media (among any number of other modern factors) have destroyed our ability to maintain and pass on any sort of folk culture.
And folk cultures are what make the world comprehensible and meaningful for the folk, and allow the bright, the not-so-bright, the old, the young, to all participate in a comprehensible world together.
So we’re left with a large number of decent folk, stripped of their guideposts and their capability to grasp nuance, complication, and meaning within their own local sphere. And since the concept of “local sphere” has been wholly nationalized (or even globalized), what can they do but grasp wildly at social cues, media stunts, reactive attitudes, and so forth?
It is a big challenge, but their capacity to support local culture could possibly regenerate a bit if you cut them off from the Washington messaging engine as much as possible.
Toddy Cat says
It may seem like a distant possibility to reactionaries, but the Left is genuinely worries about secession, and other fissiparous movements within the country. Look at all the times Obama used the phrase “one country” in his State of the Union. Has any president in recent memory done this? We may be closer than we think to devolution; it’s obvious that our enemies think so.
If they are worried, make them terrified. If it hurts, make it excrutiating.
Polls actually show that support for secession is much higher than you’d otherwise think, which is why he included those lines.
I’m not optimistic.
I made an earlier comment about the poor simply disappearing behind screens. This is similar. Conservakins are useful now, insofar as they can contribute funds to the PACs and related organizations, reliably turn out in primaries, and don’t cause problems. Upcoming economic instability interrupts the contributions. And, they’ll simply disappear. They are old. The youngest are Boomers. They will be disillusioned. Will President Hillary rile them up, or sink them in to total despair? My money is on the latter. They will grow old, and they will die, and Conservatism Inc. simply won’t have anyone from whom to harvest money.
Conservakins, while on the one hand being that group of people that would traditionally be the source of strength and vitality for a folk culture, are on the other hand (as you point out) now the source of strength and vitality for a weird nostalgia-laden John Mellencampy nationalized culture. The virtues and ideals and small-c conservatism that once provided for the antifragility of folk culture are now twisted in support of a Fox News inflected American ideal. Those virtues are what will – for the time being — prevent the reemergence of local culture.
At least until the Boomers die out.
It will get worse before it gets better.
Boomers are mostly a hard market, because many are well-served, and the state is paying out to them.
If their entitlements are cut or interrupted, they will be like progs, which they are now (government keep your hands off my medicare).
Sub-boomers are the softest market because they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Fortunately, the state has chosen a side, in that they hate all the white guys, which works for me.
Professional conservatives are focused on milking the old until they die. Plenty of oldsters are OK with that; others are not.
50+ers are one of the larger reader segments on this blog, for example.
We should be more than happy to take a despised master race off the hands of the noble rainbow-USG at a discount. I’ll take that trade any day of the week.
Toddy Cat says
“It will get worse before it gets better.”
Unfortunately, it has to. But it will get better…
Crud Bonemeal says
This is one of your best posts. (I haven’t read them all yet.)
Glad you liked it. Tell a couple friends about this, if you don’t mind.
Jefferson Fitzhugh says
I think this is spot on. Having gone to various CPACs in the past and having participated in politics on various levels I think you get at the core of what is wrong with ‘conservatives’
Their big conventions are just sci-fi cons for the middle aged and middle class. Talk radio is their DragonBallZ/MyLittle Pony.
One supposes that if one wished to be more damning that their could be seen a connection between the fantasy world of blue pill multikult millennials, and the flag waving larping of their elders.
Thanks. re: the blue pill multicult — it’s a fictional realization of the hopes of the civil rights religious revival, which is not as pleasant as it was dreamed to be.
Toddy Cat says
One of the most horrifying things I found when I started actually reading material that was written during the “Civil Rights Revolution” in my twenties was that the segregationists predicted almost everything that has happened to this country since about 1965 with regard to race relations. I mean almost Every. Damned. Thing. Mass rape, riots, preferential justice, affirmative action, anti-white propaganda, agitation for inter-racial relationships – Strom Thurmond and his gang of racist idiots predicted it all, whereas all those smart, well-dressed well-meaning liberals were wrong about almost everything. Yeah, Strom was wrong about a Commie takeover of the U.S., but that’s probably only because Communism collapsed (one of the few real accomplishments of the Reagan Administration, by the way, so of course, everyone gives the credit to Gorby) – by the late 1970’s, we were well on our way, with black “leaders” all over the U.S. snuggling up to the Evil Empire. There were some honorable exceptions, but not many.
On what was billed as the greatest moral issue of our time, the so called “Bad Guys” were right. This still kind of freaks me out, to be honest. But more than anything else, it turned me hard right.
Toddy Cat says
Thanks for the link, always good to read vintage Moldbug. As they might say over at MPC, “McCarthy did nothing wrong…”
Whenever a prediction relies on people behaving better than they currently do, you can be almost certain it will never come to pass. Current behavior is the best predictor of future behavior after all. Also, I wouldn’t call liberals well-meaning. At best they’re dangerous morons.
I agree with this article’s argument, but FYI that pic of Palin is a fake: http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_sarah_palin_bikini_pic.htm
It’s better as a fake.
Modern conservatives are actually conservatives. They’re trying to conserve whatever the liberals already chewed up and spat out. The idea that there was a time before last week eludes most people and the modern “right” are no different. Nazis in Germany, Commies in Russia, basically.
“Authentic conservatives” probably not the most specific term to use.
Peter Blood says
The salient characteristics of movement conservatives today are, to put it in terms of classic virtues, lack of fortitude and lack of prudence. More simply: cowardice and stupidity.
The LARPing with guns is similar to the flags. I think it serves to troll leftists.
It does tend to make them very uneasy, but it helps to have cops who can actually use those guns for the ends of the state to help assuage that unease, as when the police routed the Oathkeepers with some curt words in Ferguson, Missouri.
My name is neovictorian and I AM a conservakin…well, about 80% during the Clinton era, 60% in 2004, and STILL about 20% on election night, 2012…but that was really the End. Still do I feel the pull of that bottle, errr, that politician, when a Scott Walker “wins” over the Progs or some Rep. cries that Obamamnesty “will not stand.” Thankfully, it only lasts for a second or two, these days.
I do miss loving my country, but she turned out to be a cheap whore, and the makeup is really beginning to crack now.
This is a safe-ish space for conservakin.
Mark Minter says
Henry, I am little confused about this “local” thing.
“The pitch is ultimately to convince more local leaders to swap the pretense of power over the world for real power over a smaller territory and population.
For the average conservakin, it is the return of authority to their household at the cost of the vicarious feeling of being part of a political ‘superpower.’ For more local politicians, it’s swapping access to the national pig-trough for real authority over their own patch.”
I live in a small town. I moved here about a year ago. My prior history was basically following tech booms to the bigger tech cities, Austin, a short stint in Long Island, Houston, Denver, Atlanta.
My current town is such a cliche, northern, Lower Great Lakes Region, flyover whites. It is an “organic” town somewhat near to an insignificant smaller mid-level city that in of itself is a product of the overall lack of dynamism in the region. It is the kind of place where the Golden Corral is packed with fat trough feeders where the better local restaurants have half full parking lots.
The economic reality in my town is that it has “good bone structure”, is remarkably attractive, a safe wholesome small town where the police blotter lists a fight in a parking lot and streaker as the big crimes for the week. But this big stat went public, 56% of students in the schools qualify on the basis of family income for reduced or free lunches. This is a rise from 30% in 2003. So when you take the whole “hollowing out” of the American job scene, this place is suffering that epidemic, and probably all sorts of other blights, single mothers, divorce, low male employment.
So tomorrow I have an appointment with the editor of this small town paper and I am going to pitch this economic development idea. This town has as its core function a specific niche of agriculture. And there are many regions all around the world that have this same niche, most far more famous that the local one.
My pitch is that if automation is targeting you, then it is suicide for a community to not accept that reality and adjust, adapt, and embrace that technology. I propose that as a town, all facets of the town need to become single minded in its purpose. That the schools, the local government, the growers, the processors, the churches, the civic organizations all need to focus all activities with this idea as its first filter. And in doing so global market opportunities for development and integration to the other regions are possible.
Take for example, the Internet of Things is really just a fancy word for SCADA, measuring data points for stuff like temp, flow, speed, current, etc and then posting that into a DB for Human viewing or further processing. Limits or state changes can be set that if some switch goes from off to on or some temp is exceeded then some trigger fires of some processing. This tech has been around for well over 35 years in some form. OPENScada is a free software package that is fast becoming the “Apache” of SCADA and a large community is forming. A group can adopt this package, and implement configuration, add value specific to this particular agricultural niches, implement the packages in clouds and offer that as a service, globally, much like Salesforce.com, a SaaS package. It is merely identifying this as a possibility to this community as a possible market opportunity. There is also opportunity in “maker” activities to use of the shelf hardware to create various smart sensors specific to this niche. Drones and robots are going to dominate this niche. There are already several options on the market. So to not accept this reality and be proactive is suicidal for this town.
And in addition to that, this community needs to come to grips with the pitfalls of postmodernity, and as a community to get very real in reinforcing “traditionalism”, particularly marriage as a necessary component of re-invigoration. When a policy is considered, one of the first questions should be, “How does it enhance male jobs as a means of empowering marriage?”
So my idea is “reconsider Federalism”. Instead of Federalism being Federal->State->Local that it should be Local->State->Federal. This town can ignore federal and state mandates as it chooses and defy other governments. Defiance may not be outright rebellion but rather feet dragging, slow compliance, selective enforcement.
My first question to the schools is “OK, if the curriculum mandated by the state does little to prepare students for this body of technology that will sweep down upon us in the form of automation, robotics, Internet of Things, then why teach it?”
And then, “What happens if we don’t?” What would happen if as a town we decided to send ever kid into State Assessment Test and they drew happy face patterns into the bubble chart answer sheets and turned them in?” What if the town decided it would hold its teachers to a more local standard, particularly proficiency in the ability to learn and work in these newer technologies? What happens if we stop deciding our kids should learn about Rosa Parks and decided it was better to learn about setting outdoor mesh networks?”
So basically what happens if we “Secede from the Union” at the local level, if not formally, at least informally in that as a town we begin to refuse to comply with statutes, mandates that are more designed to give power and influence to minority groups in large cities, to give economic power to bigger entities at the expense of the flyover whites that live in this town?”
So I do little to influence the nation or the world at large, but I can begin to influence these local people to think in a different, more local, more singular purpose.
So isn’t that perhaps our immediate goal, at least for now, if 50,000 little towns began to “secede” and use their impact and effect on the smaller regional cities like Omaha. Des Moines, Fargo, Witchita Falls, Hattiesburg, Montgomery, Spokane, etc and began to defy federalism doesn’t that set the stage for a larger movement?
That is, more or less, the plan, but I wouldn’t really suggest going to the local newspaper, because that’s like going to the local Comintern office.
This is a very good tract on the topic: http://mises.org/library/what-must-be-done-0
I have a bit of a similar background to you (although I’m about half your age), and from my experience with flyovers vs. more technically forward cities, they tend to say that they are interested in economic development, but they are not totally aware of what that really means.
Also, having done a little work with a local ED office, they are not people who know anything about connecting you with investors. You will want to go to one of the programs at Kauffmann or something similar that’s local rather than an ED office, which is more oriented towards attracting established businesses and hooking up such enterprises with tax credits and grants. I would also not trust them to be any good at funneling talent to you.
This would be right in the interests of many of the Kauffmann programs — that’s pretty much what they do: hook up entrepreneurs with corporate development and cash to put together some technically forward projects in flyover land.
You will have an easier time, I think, if you identify who the local big man is (usually someone in real estate or a major local employer) and talk to him.
Also, local governments in flyover land tend to be very subservient to the Feds, and will be unwilling to do anything that would risk the flow of money. Flyovers tend to be emotionally affected more by relatively small amounts of money (some $100s of 1,000s or $millions going to some program or project will make local headlines for months).
Going direct to the people rather than through the local Comintern will probably have more success. I am still trying to figure this all out mostly flying solo, so if you’d like to compare notes as you progress, send me an email.
A lot of the more rural areas are hurting badly, but their approach to economic opportunity tends to be back-asswards. There’s a lot of cheap industrial, commercial, residential, and even agricultural land to pick up and develop.
To the extent that we figure out how to flip individual towns to the ‘dark side’ without tripping any national-level alarms, the process can probably be repeated in other areas. Smaller is probably easier because the cash requirements would be next to nil, but they tend to be more trusting of people they have known than city slickers who come into town on a mysterious wind, unless you’re bringing in a lot of cash, in which case, they’ll be more likely to cotton to what you’ve got to say.
Like you mention, the smaller settlements around these mid-sized cities would be easier to flip than the cities themselves, but once you get the surrounding territory, it’d probably be easier to get to work on getting moles into authority & influence in those cities.
Plenty of cities also have tensions with state capitols which can be played on off the other. If the capitol is conservative, the cities will often be very hostile to the state capitol, and behave like outposts of FedGov. The opposite can also be the case, as in states like Missouri, where the hicks are opposed to the Reds in the state capitol.