The blessing of the internet has also proven to be it’s greatest curse. It’s ease of access and ability to host multiple, more obscure perspectives through a variety of platforms has allowed many people of good faith to express themselves and their perspectives in ways previously unavailable to them. But for those of ill faith, the internet poses an opportunity to escape the formal rules regarding sources, styles of presentation, and other such regulation meant to enforce a standard of fair, accurate perspectives in older publications in a brazen attempt to instill their ideology to impressionable ears that pass them by. Case and point, the online conservative ‘intellectual’, represented now-a-days by figures such as Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and others, as well as myriad of organizations and publications that host thinkers of a similar cloth.
Regarding these individuals and publications, their arguments are not where my intrigue lies. Plenty of others have countered Jordan Peterson’s ridiculous claims that lobsters are a good biological analog for human behavior, demolished Ben Shapiro’s essentialist assertions that gender pronouns are linguistically rooted in chromosomes, revealed how Dave Rubin interview style lacks any sort of journalistic integrity, and other such arguments that the conservative ‘intellectual’ ilk produce at a regular basis. I’ll leave the task to those better suited for it than me. What does intrigue me, however, is not the minutiae of their arguments, rather the thrust behind them.
When looking at these conservatives and the arguments that they make, you see a trend of hypocrisy as they give their perspectives on different topics. For example, when discussing gun control on Piers Morgan Tonight, Ben Shapiro feared that “50 to a 100 years from now a tyranny will rise in the United States” and a armed citizenry is necessary to stop it. Ignoring his faulty comparisons to Nazi Germany and blatant fear-mongering, the central tenet he is seemingly trying to convey is that government’s have the potential to become tyrannical, that this tyranny is likely to be enforced by armed forces such as the military and police, and that a similarly armed citizenry is the only means to combat this threat. Contrast that acknowledgement to his remarks during a Young America’s Foundation conference, where he states that police disproportionate presence and violence in predominantly African-American communities is solely due to high crime rates in those communities. Putting aside the argument’s ignorance of the unique historical situation of African-Americans that separate them from other minority populations and how the police’s development has often intersected with this history, a lot early municipal police forces in the south had roots in slave patrols, for instance, note the tenet being promoted here. In this argument, the underlying principle is that the government, as represented by the police, cannot unjustly target a subset of the population without due cause with no acknowledgement of the potential of a government to become tyrannical and begin to commit immoral actions. The underlying tenets behind the two arguments are in contradiction with one another, rendering the speaker, Ben Shapiro, a philosophical hypocrite.
This isn’t an isolated incident, for either Ben or other online conservative ‘intellectuals’. It is instead a common occurrence amongst the stock. For example, Jordan Peterson, in his opposition to bill C-16 which amended the Canadian Human Right’s Act to include trans-people under it’s protections, rooted his concerns in an appeal to an free speech. Yet when Professor Wendy Lee of Bloomsberg University, located in Pennsylvania claimed on twitter that Peterson was a “White Nationalist” and a “Incel Misogynist”, Jordan threaten to sue for libel despite any clear malicious intent as required under U.S. law, revealing a disregard for free speech.
This pattern of behavior indicates a lack of any consistent philosophy underpinning online conservative ‘intellectuals’ political stances. Instead, they seemingly change philosophies per their convenience, like a wolf swapping a sheep’s clothing whenever he needs to blend into a particular flock. Contrast this with conservative’s writing their perspectives in more established mediums, such as New York Times David Brooks and Ross Douthat. I disagree with these commentators on almost everything topic, but at the very least I can be certain of their sincerity, that they are not trying to deliberately mislead and can be pinpointed to a idealogical tradition, whether that be Douthat’s Catholicism or Brook’s Burke-esque thinking. This allows an individual encountering these commentators to hold them to account on both a factual and a idealogical level. They welcome it. With online conservative ‘intellectuals’ though, that level sincerity is non-existent. They seemingly don’t desire the confines of an ideology that they could be held to, much like their disregard for facts. Instead, they are nihilists, only adopting a tenet when it seemingly benefits them and discarding it when it becomes inconvenient towards their goal.
What is their goal then? What is the wolf hiding underneath the coat of a sheep? I can’t say I know for certain, I never personally interacted with these people after all. Though if I were to speculate, I would identify that wolf as resentment. Resentment for LGBT people asserting themselves and challenging sexual and gender norms. Resentment for women and minorities increasing power in society. Resentment for the left’s challenges to capitalism and the classes that benefit from it. That’s all there is, resentment and the rhetoric that expresses it and instills it in others. Taking a page from Mussolini, these ‘intellectuals’ adopt overtly contradictory philosophical positions because ideology is only a means to power. This approach can be described in many ways, from blatantly dishonest to eerily ur-fascist. Though my preferred way of regarding it is this: pathetic!