Hipster Conservatism

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Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

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  1. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Interesting how this is not similar on the left. I mean, there are ardent polyamorists or whatever, but they are SERIOUSLY fringe. The dividing line on the left between true believers and left-leaners seems solely political rather than cultural. How did the left get away with that?Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      The left figured out the truth in LBJ’s assessment of J. Edgar Hoover, to wit:

      It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

      So they generalized it. There are some fringe loonies in the Democratic Party, you’ll find the ardent polyamorists, you’ll find the PETA types. But unlike the Republicans, the lunatics aren’t running the asylum. The PETA types make nuisances of themselves every once in a while, but the party platform doesn’t have a “meat is murder” platform. The polyamorists are (nominally) content to have the freedom to do as they choose without being hunted down and stoned to death by raging conservatives.

      Around here? In one breath Tom Van Dyke is insisting that talk radio hosts don’t represent “real” conservatism, in the next he’s repeating talk radio talking points while Scott’s busy ranting and raving incoherently about “Barry.” I tried and tried and tried and couldn’t get a straight answer out of him as to how many or what level – talk radio host? national talk radio host? Number of followers? Speaker of the house? Majority whip? Minority leader of Senate? Governors? Official state GOP platforms? – it would take for a particular point to represent the mainstream of either the GOP or conservatism.

      51% of the GOP are Birther A-category who “do not believe Obama was born in America”; another 21% are Birther B-category “I’m not sure and why didn’t he just release the birth certificate” (note: he did, over and over again) Birthers. That’s 72% of the GOP that will admit to a pollster that they are Birthers.

      When Romney uses the phrase “Keep America American” in his stump speeches, he’s not just whistling Dixie – he’s whistling to the anti-Muslim bigots, to the racial bigots, to the “deport them all” crowd. And he’s also making an undeniable insistence that President Obama is “not a real American”, another of those commonly repeated phrases (right along “Kenyan” and “Marxist”) that is repeated far too often by hosts and callers alike on right wing talk radio.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        There are some fringe loonies in the Democratic Party, you’ll find the ardent polyamorists

        Well, there are some cultural conservatives on the left, clearly.

        By the way, “ardent polyamorism” is all the rage among the early-20s hipster set these days.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Rose, I’d hazard it’s because the cultural right has been pretty much unified for quite a long time. The cultural left has been fragmented pretty much from the get go (and it’s gotten even more fragmented with the death of communism).Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

        Yeah, you’re right about the death of communism (and, for that matter, unions) leading to some fragmentation. But it’s not crazy fragmented. A Brooklynite or Upper West Sider has a lot in common with a Portland dweller. I bet both are environmental activists in some way or other, interested in food growing or at least the origins of their food, eager to seek out multi-culti experiences, do not spank their kids, etc. etc.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I think you’re right: the fragmentation of the American left has been greatly exaggerated, as has the unity of the American right. A two party system means coalitions of fairly diverse groups, so there’s going to be some fragmentation, but hell, we’re all growing up, living, working, and watching TV in (broadly) the same place.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            The fact remains the American right has enough unity of purpose to flat out control one of the two national parties. The American left’s control of the Dems amounts to indirect influence through fund raising and voter enthusiasm. I’m drawing a blank trying to think of left wing figures who every Dem politician has to kiss the ring of. The right has Grover, Rush, Zombie Regan etc…Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Oh, I agree that the real left has no real influence on the Democratic party. I don’t think liberal = leftist, and I don’t think Democrat necessarily means liberal, though there are liberal Democrats. And the right does have a great deal of influence on the Republican party, though I think the American Right has a fringe element that doesn’t have much (or any) influence just like the American Left does (here I use left just to refer to whatever is on the other side of the American spectrum from the Right).Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Okay fair enough, I can agree with that with the caveat that the left fringe that their own side rolls their eyes at and quietly shuffles off to the kiddy table is much broader than the right fringe that gets treated the same way by their own side.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’m not sure what you mean by broader. On the right, you have the militia types, the conspiracy theory types (Alex Jones), the white nationalist types, the ultra-Randian types, hard core anti-abortion types, the hard core anti-gay types, and so on. These are not mutually exclusive groups, of course, but they are hardly coextensive either. On the left you have, what? Socialists, old schol Communists of various sorts, anarchists of various sorts, hard-core animal rights folks, hard-core environmentalists, hard core anti-globalization sorts, radical feminists, and so on. As with the groups on the right, these are not mutually exclusive or coextensive. I’m not sure I can make out one side to be broader than the other.

                I spent much of my adult life in the hard core anti-war set, and I saw most of the left groups represented there. The diversity was largely in focus, rather than in general ideology.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I’d say that the right mainstream pays much more attention and is kinder to their right wing fringe (mostly because the right mainstream is closer to their fringe) than the left mainstream does to theirs.

                So broader as in the right fringe is narrower because more of them are part of the right main-stream. You don’t see many radical commies, radical animal rights groups or radical feminists paid respectful lip service by the mainstream left.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                What’s the difference between the “right mainstream” and the “right wing fringe” at this point?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                how much koch is paying. 😉
                /snarkReport

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’ll be honest, I don’t think most liberals know anything about the left, in America or elsewhere. How many of them can name one “radical feminist,” for example, or even know what makes a feminist “radical” in the first place? I doubt many. I think, at best, they have some conception of Green Peace and PETA, and aside from that, the “left” is a mysterious group that lives somewhere in the unexplored regions denoted on the map by dragons and other scary monsters. Hell, I’m not sure you know them other than to say, “There be dragons!”Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yep, and ignoring and being utterly uninterested and uninformed about some group is the nastiest thing you can do to em.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’m not sure that deciding something is looney and fringe, and then ignoring it, without ever having actually heard anything about it, is really much of an insult. It’s mostly just sad.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Communism is a longlong way from dead in the world at large. Communism only arises as a reaction to feudalism, which is Not Dead Yet.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            True, where you get feudal or capitalist abuses you get socialist or communist backlash absolutely but in the modern developed world there’s no large constituency either politically, socially or academically who actually thinks the communist system still stands as a plausible alternative to capitalism.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              That’s correct. But that doesn’t imply such conditions can’t appear again when capitalism has concentrated enough power in the hands of the few. As the centre of mass rises in the structure of the Capitalist Tower of Babel, the tower becomes vulnerable to external forces in ways a more-distributed structure could withstand.

              “While evils are sufferable”, don’t look for much change. But the cracks are appearing. If those cracks are small, they are structurally significant. Though they are not seen as Liberals in the modern sense of the word, the Tea Party does represent the re-emergence of Classical Liberal tradition.

              Perhaps not a re-emergence, for Classical Liberalism never truly went away. It was attenuated by a false sense prosperity which arose in the era when Communism held sway over China and the Warsaw Pact, attenuating the differences between Conservatives and Liberals in the USA.

              The politicians and the academics are deluded on this subject. The ghost of Marx is still out there in the shadows and poor men still read his works in translation. If Communism is not a plausible alternative, Capitalism can only hold out the equally-implausible dream of universal prosperity for so long in front of the workers’ horse before that horse is no longer motivated.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I think we agree Blaise. Communism arose in the first place because of the abuse of the elites. If, in its death, the capitalist elite unlearns the lessons that they learned and employed across the last century to defeat communism then something very communist could arise once again.

                By classical liberal are you talking about the kind of government minimalist individual freedom liberalism that libertarians claim to mostly be informed by? If so then we agree there too since my own (uneducated) read on history was that in the west (and in America in particular) the rise of communism caused a very curious alliance of the conservative old guard and the classical liberals that informs much of the modern political spectrum to this day. In America especially it’s a strange thing that the party of cultural conservatism and authority frosts itself all over with libertarian slogans like a hooker covering herself with whip cream whenever it finds itself out of power.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yes, exactly, with a few caveats. I have said before, however tiresomely I repeat myself, that the Libertarians suffer from the same delusion as the Marxists, that government ought to retreat and the private sector advance. And like the Marxists, when the need for government is demonstrated to them, grudgingly concede the smallest possible point, then return to their Individualist Idiocy.

                Ayn Rand could not have arisen without the rise of Lenin and Stalin. Here, the Libertarians are equally squeamish about their intellectual roots, as the Marxists were about Lenin about the time Trotsky was driven out and eventually murdered. When confronted by their own lunatick forebears, the Libertarians will claim to have evolved beyond their embarrassing and spittle-flecked prophets, but continue to believe in their precepts, all the evidence of what mankind’s selfishness has produced to the contrary.

                I have given up on the Libertarians. They are not entirely dishonest but they continue to live in the Cave of Plato. Their simplistic notions are too dear to them. And like the Marxists who fell prey to the totalitarian monsters within their ranks, I am darkly amused to see the Koch Brothers come a-huffing and a-puffing like the Wolf in the story of the Three Little Pigs. They will eventually find a brick house but it will not be that residence built of straw on Cato Acres.

                The old guard of Conservatism is dying off. Ronald Reagan has been mummified and lies in state, exactly as Lenin’s pickled corpse lies in state in Moscow, periodically re-dressed in a new suit and the makeup reapplied. The faithful still line up to venerate him, yea even hereabouts, where a jovial beer-drinking Ronald Reagan adorns the lobby of one of our sub-blogs. It is easier to make museums and shrines than to make progress in this world of sin and error, where the best-laid plans are the least-likely to survive contact with the enemy, where truth and innocence are the first casualties of war.

                The current generation of soi-disant Conservatives are nothing of the sort. As Communism morphed into Statism in China and Russia, it was transmogrified into fascism. In like manner, those old-guard Conservatives who are deluded enough to believe they can harness the Tea Party to their ends are as deluded as old Trotsky thinking he could outmaneuver Stalin in the wake of Lenin’s death.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Did I ever mention that I read and was utterly fascinated by your pieces on Trotsky? I did and was, just in case I didn’t mention it before.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                As I was writing them, I entered a period of profound depression, to the point where I couldn’t continue the series. I should revisit the topic, for I left off where the story becomes interesting.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I would encourage you to do so unless you have reason to believe that they had any sort of causative connection to your depression.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Ecch, I’d just changed medications.

                I know I periodically re-alienate everyone around here on a regular basis. I would not wish bipolar disorder on my worst enemy.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          By fragmented I mean common priorities. On the right you have religion pretty much gluing a lot of the parts together. There’re a lot of religions, yes, but their basic assertions are generally compatible and they generally care about the same things so they can all pull together for the same cause through a network of quasi-religious bridging organizations (Focus on the Family and, well now, the GOP and RNC too). The political leadership on the right ignores their right wing at their own considerable peril.

          On the left there’s some respect for the various different factions goals and desires but each parts priorities and desires are different and there’s not as much unified pulling (and some of the priorities conflict with each other). Which means the political leadership is pretty much free to focus on what they think polls well or what they personally care about (mainly reelection).Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    Here’s a theory for dissection in the comments, then: the benefits of ideological discipline are political, whereas its costs are cultural.

    I suspect there’s something to it, though I think its application to the left-right distinction is a bit less straightforward than this post implies. The consensus among social and political psychologists is, at this point, that “openness to experience” is a personality trait associated with left-liberalism, it’s true, but this doesn’t quite line up with the quoted passage, because there is ideological discipline in parts of the left, specifically the far left (what I’d just call the actual left). And as anyone who’s spent time with people from the far left can tell you, you’ll find a lot of cultural rigidity there. So maybe there’s something to your idea here, it just doesn’t conveniently line up with the American political spectrum.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Yeah, in essence the right-conservatives have acquired themselves control of a national party. The left-liberals on the other hand haven’t (though they’d sorely love to). The Dems are quite a muddle of a party but they’re certainly not controlled by the left-liberals (they’d do a lot worse in electoral politics if they were I imagine).Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I agree, though I suspect that you’ll find that there are about as many Democrats who aren’t exactly comfortable with their gay neighbors, and certainly aren’t comfortable with the thought that their son or daughter might end up being gay, as there are who are cool with all of that. And I also think you’ll find that the cool kids among the Democrats are, as often as not at least, on the left end of that party’s spectrum.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Well sure, but you’re not going to find many peeps anywhere who are comfortable with the prospect of their children being gay. Even allies or sympathetic people are aware that life is harder for people who are gay, why would you wish that on your kid?
          As for cool kids, I quite disagree. The left wing of the party is treated as kind of embarrassing or naive. Can you name a national popular Dem or left wing figure who is to the left end of the left to center spectrum? Nationally I’d submit that the “cool kids” are pragmatic leftists who’re leftish, sure, but overarching practical (I’ll admit being biased since I consider myself left wing but predominantly practical).Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Culture is always rigid, else it wouldn’t be culture.

      There are always two sides to culture. There’s what the culture says it is, usually a litany of things every culture espouses, Mom, apple pie and the flag. Then there’s that second part: what the culture says it isn’t, always a lying litany of other cultures’ shortcomings.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Sat up last night in bed and watched a documentary on the great photographer of Modernist architecture, Julius Shulman. When Postmodern architecture came along, redolent with in-jokes and perverse quotations from everyone from Vitruvius to Holabird and Root, Less was a Bore. And Julius Shulman had to wait it out, hating all of it. Eventually the world would return to Modernism, this time with better materials to support those clean, improbable, daring lines and planes.

    Today’s PoMoCons are in the same boat as all those wretched PoMo architects of the 80s. In their search for ties to the past, they sorta forget the present. Look at Red Eye on Fox, all snark, no bite.

    Ann Coulter is the ultimate PoMoCon: though she’s a bit frayed at the cuffs and her schtick grown old out of memory, here and there, through the loose threads and the smudged clown paint, we can see someone who doesn’t believe any of this vicious crap any more. She might as well fly to Milwaukee and register her face at Clown Hall of Fame. Truth is, Ann Coulter is a genuinely nice person.

    So let’s not beat up the PoMoCon with too much harshness nor call them hypocrites. A few Nerf darts will do fine. There’s one truth about Postmodern Anything: it’s a critique, pure and simple. It has no point to make. If hypocrisy is the homage virtue pays to vice, postmodernism is the homage vice pays to virtue.Report

    • “Truth is, Ann Coulter is a genuinely nice person.”

      Over the past few months, there have been a number of comments of this flavor: “X is a genuinely nice person, even though they play a frothing-at-the-mouth mean-spirited intolerant lunatic in their professional conservative capacity.” This seems to me to be a significant weakness for today’s “movement” conservatism — you can’t be both a conservative and a nice person.Report

  4. Avatar J.L. Wall says:

    In addition to all else, you’ve just reminded me how much perplexity T.S. Eliot — “the last poet to wear spats” — ought to cause. He was decidedly unhip and uncool — and decidedly on the avant-garde. (By comparison, Yeats was a kind of romantic-turned-toward-authoritarianism, not a “conservative”; Pound was decidedly “hip” and really didn’t care about standards of personal behavior.) So, in a way, maybe Eliot — if anyone — is the better ideal for conservatives who don’t want to resign themselves to Sinatra and sock-hops.
    _____
    I went to a high school effectively populated by group (1). I can still remember how delighted I was to realize, at one point, that with the exception of a handful of genuinely believing Christians, the (even smaller) handful of liberals were leading the most conservative personal lives. Ah, high school… you couldn’t pay me to go back… (Well, in reality, it depends on how much we’re talking about…)Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Eliot was a conservative’s conservative and a monarchist to boot. There is no more ardent zealot than the convert. His mentor, Ezra Pound was that worst of poets: the Broken Preacher Type. At least the Rebel Without a Cause knows he’s got no cause and goes in search of one. Pound’s entire life was an eloquent rejection of any such search.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        For three years, out of key with his time,
        He strove to resuscitate the dead art
        Of poetry; to maintain “the sublime”
        In the old sense. Wrong from the start—

        No hardly, but, seeing he had been born
        In a half savage country, out of date;
        Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
        Capaneus; trout for factitious bait;

        ????? ??? ??? ??? ????’, ??’ ??? ?????
        Caught in the unstopped ear;
        Giving the rocks small lee-way
        The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

        His true Penelope was Flaubert,
        He fished by obstinate isles;
        Observed the elegance of Circe’s hair
        Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

        Unaffected by “the march of events,”
        He passed from men’s memory in l’an trentiesme
        De son eage; the case presents
        No adjunct to the Muses’ diadem.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          The Greek didn’t come through. I’ll do my own bit here:

          idmen gar toi panth, hos eni troie : a bit of Homer there.

          But when we were as far distant as a man can make himself heard when he shouts, driving swiftly on our way, the Sirens failed not to note the swift ship as it drew near, and they raised their clear-toned song: `Come hither, as thou farest, renowned Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans; stay thy ship that thou mayest listen to the voice of us two. For never yet has any man rowed past this isle in his black ship until he has heard the sweet voice from our lips. Nay, he has joy of it, and goes his way a wiser man. For we know all the toils that in wide Troy the Argives and Trojans endured through the will of the gods, and we know all things that come to pass upon the fruitful earth.’Report

  5. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    The problem with the American right is that it needs a mechanism for de-demonizing.

    Look, I’d love it if conservatives just said a few years hence, “Hey, we were wrong about gay marriage. We’re sorry. We screwed up. Can we, like, be friends?”

    If they did, I’d make some effort to forgive them. But that’s not what they’re going to do.

    Nope! They’re going to ride the remaining anti-gay sentiment to every last electoral victory that they can. And then, when the well dries up, and when blatantly attacking my family doesn’t win them any more elections, they’re going to dog whistle the hell out of the issue, just to make sure that the bigots still turn out. And in the hopes that no one else will notice.

    How do I know? Because it’s exactly how they’ve treated black civil rights. If they had a way to de-demonize stuff, they should start right there. But they haven’t found one yet.Report

    • Given that much of the social conservative agenda is predicated on a religion that puts such a premium on repentance, you’d think there’d be a mechanism for this.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Heh. Dr. Saunders, this repentance business only serves as a mechanism for further hypocrisy. Confronted by the seemingly insurmountable dichotomy between the high-minded ideals of what’s said and the bloody consequences of what’s done, this Faux Repentance is a psychic reset mechanism, Cheap Salvation.

        This explains why so many GOPers are Born Agains. No matter how serious the crime or the social approbation which arises from it, there is always Pardon from On High and a New Life in Politics to follow.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      If the way conservatives handled black civil rights is a model, I look forward to hearing how liberals are the real homophobes a few years down the road.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      And they’re going to claim that Harvey Milk was one of them. After all, his issues were small businesses and neighborhoods, not marriage and adoption.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “I’d love it if conservatives just said a few years hence, “Hey, we were wrong about gay marriage. We’re sorry. We screwed up. Can we, like, be friends?” ”

      And here in this comments thread we see how even if they did that, they’d be called hypocrites on one hand and political opportunists on the other, so why bother? No matter what you do you’re wrong, so you might as well stick to what you wanted right from the start.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

        First of all, seriously? “Why bother”? Is one only not racist or homophobic because one wants to make the right impression? Is there not a moral reason not to be racist or homophobic, even if one were wrongly labeled opportunistic or hypocritical?

        And secondly, what you say is not true. I understand that there exist conservatives who repudiate conservatives’ initial slowness to recognize the seriousness of civil rights without demonizing the left. That is neither hypocritical nor opportunistic. There are plenty of public voices on the right, however, who insist that the left are really more racist. That is what is hypocritical.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        they’d be called hypocrites on one hand and political opportunists on the other, so why bother?

        Doesn’t this claim presuppose that the only reason a person would make an apology is to look a certain way in other people’s eyes? Couldn’t it just be an honest expression of how they actually feel?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          It is fucking hilarious that I say “why bother changing, you’ll say we’re changing just so we look good” and two people instantly reply “you’re really saying that the only reason you’d change is just so you look good?”Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Well, that’s pretty much what you said DD. If the apology will only be used against that person, then why bother?

            Is there another way to interpret it?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Ahh, just re-read. Neither Rose or I said “why bother changing …”. You in fact didn’t say “why bother changing …”. You said ‘why bother apologizing…’

            That’s what we’re objecting to.Report

          • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

            I must admit I’m missing the hilarity. I take “Why bother doing X, because if X then Y” to mean that Y is a reason not to do X. “Why bother doing X” more generally means there is not good enough reason to overcome associated costs in order to do X. Do I misunderstand the term?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Hypocrisy is a word used exclusively by those who have no intention of doing any good in the world — of those who are trying to do some good.

        It is pointless to say the Modern Conservative is a hypocrite, for he is no longer a Conservative. Once, you see, long ago, back when manly men bestrode the world, Conservatives understood their mission, to preserve what was good in the world and test all things new and Liberal, to see if they made sense in the long view of things, where stability and reason and honesty were the highest of virtues. Those Conservatives were willing enough to modify their views in the light of progress, for they did believe in improving the world. To this end, they instituted the Senate, where the long view of six year tenures would attenuate and ratify the works of the two-year tenured House of Representatives, blown by every passing fancy.

        Where are today’s Conservatives? Where’s the long view any more? A Conservative believes in the paramount powers of government to provide stability and thus encourage progress. Not any more they don’t. They have never apologised for their connivance and whoring about with bigots and moneyed interests, they assiduously court them to this day. No longer the defenders of the virtues of thrift and perseverance, the resolute defenders of laws and regulations, written in blood, most of them, they cannot tear them down fast enough.

        Of course today’s Conservatives will never apologise for the sins of their past. We can’t even get Augustine’s prayer “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” What is the bloody point of condemning them for their hypocrisies any more? They can’t even quit booing gay soldiers.Report

      • Avatar Sam says:

        What did they want right from the start? The closet, at best, a battle they’ve lost that battle so completely that it boggles the mind.Report

      • Avatar Sam says:

        Incidentally, conservative victimhood continues to look ridiculous. “Oh, we’d be nice to gays, but liberals wouldn’t think we were being serious about it and would probably say mean things to us at dinner parties, so we’ll just continue to advocate for second class citizenship for gays instead, which is all we ever really wanted in the first place.”Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I am always amused by the Modern Conservatives’ appeal to alienation and past glories. The fascists were past masters of this line of rhetoric. The fascists had no place for gays as history shows. They got to wear the Pink Triangle and were exterminated along with those who got to wear the Yellow Star.Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        No, we’re predicting that, rather than apologize, they’ll claim they were on the right side all along, unlike those filthy liberals who are the real homophobes, and in addition continue to milk dislike of gays for every vote it can get them. Doing the right thing would make us look foolish (in addition to being the right thing to do.)Report

  6. Coolness, whatever else it is, usually leans into transgressiveness.

    I don’t know how much more analysis you need than this. “Cool” is about transgressing the status quo, which is anathema to conservatism. To simultaneously transgress and defend cultural norms invites the cognitive dissonance you discuss in category 1 above. There may be many wonderful attributes of conservatism (not necessarily by my lights, but plausibly), but it’s a fool’s errand for them to pursue “coolness.” Does the world really need another iteration of Stryper?

    (Not that I’m any expert, mind you. I may have been briefly cool for a few 20-minute bursts during the 90s, but moving to New York City pretty much obliterated any sense I might have that I am cool. See also how weary Vegas made me in a mere 48 hours.)

    (I also love that Andre 3000 is your benchmark of cool, given that I’d bet a good number of Today’s Young People have already forgotten who he is.)Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      How many cool points does Andre 3000 lose for doing razor commercials?Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

        Is it still uncool to sell out? Or is it extra cool?Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          It’s cool to sell out. You just have to admit that you’re doing it, and then blow your brains out later.

          This is why I’m hugely unimpressed with coolness.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            Here’s an interesting question:

            If Steve Guttenberg had died young of an overdose – say, right after he made Cocoon – would he be a icon of cool today? Would people look at movies like 3 Men and a Little Lady and say, “Man, that’s what’s wrong with Hollywood today. It’s just a bunch of commercial sellouts. All the good ones like Steve Guttenberg are gone.”Report

            • Well, if it was right after he made Cocoon, that would have spared us Three Men and a Baby, etc. But he still would have survived to make Police Academy 2, so the answer is “no.”Report

              • Fair enough. But he also did plenty of other stuff that (many people thought) was awesome. (I am not the biggest Belushi fan, but understand myself to be in the minority on this one.)

                The best one can say about Steve Guttenberg (who, in full disclosure, I actually thought was kinda cute way back when I was still Just Beginning to Realize Things) is that he did not louse up a movie starring a bunch of much more talented older actors, and was not bad in a horribly dated ensemble comedy. And that does not a legend make, I’m afraid.Report

              • Avatar Nat says:

                This is my impression of Guttenberg as well. He was a reliable but unexceptional performer, and either had a great agent/management team or an excellent knack for picking very successful franchises during the 1980s. When he came back after a five-year hiatus, it appears that he attempted to replicate that success, but by that point, tastes had changed, and none of his subsequent efforts were quite so successful.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well actually Steven Speilberg directed and Roger Zemekis wrote 1941. Not a bad pedigree for a movie. It wasn’t , what we movie geeky guys call a “good” movie but still. I also have to admit i’ve always thought Nancy Allen was hot and especially when i was young and Christopher Lee was in the movie which automaticlly makes it cool.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          It’s cool to sell out, so long as when you celebrate the stuff you got fron selling out you’re all ironic.Report

      • Just about all of them, I’m afraid.

        My bemused near-admiration of Gillette for using Mr. 3000, along with Gael Garcia Bernal and Adrien Brody is, sadly, outweighed by the impossible smugness of those ads, along with the reality that I have no desire to look like any of them.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      But is coolness all that transgressive? From my outsider’s perspective cool just seems like rigid conformity to a different set of norms.Report

  7. Avatar Sam says:

    Can we continue to play the “Cool is…” game in a thread somewhere? “Cool is modern corporate country music!” “Cool is contestants on American Idol!” “Cool is a nice pair of slacks with neatly pressed shirt!”Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      “Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?” -FZappaReport

      • The original version of this post was going to be a sort of po-mo/meta thing along those lines…just a list of “THAT’S NOT COOL! COOL IS…Sobriety! Table Manners! Getting Good Grades! Xenophobic jokes!”Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          The likes of Ross Douhat will always encumber the earth with their doughy recapitulations of Aquinas. There’s no getting rid of them any more than we can eliminate Aquinas, they arise from the same tiresome place in literature and history, the Young Fogey.

          Orpheus sang in the darkness to retrieve poor dead Eurydice. Plato says in the Symposium that Hades produced an illusion of Eurydice which could never have survived the journey back to daylight. That’s where these PoMo Conservatives are today, hoping to resurrect Reagan and they will not get him back. They will get a corporate golem like Romney in his stead and they will not like it.Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        It’s a Sanza Poncho (he said, quixotically.)Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I’m a moron, ‘n’ this is my wife
          She’s frosting a cake
          With a paper knife
          All what we got here’s
          American made
          It’s a little bit cheesy,
          But it’s nicely displayed
          Report

  8. Avatar Erik Kain says:

    Maybe conservatives are just too hip to be cool.

    Terrific post, Conor.Report

  9. Avatar damon says:

    I always thought the “cool folk” were rebelling. Didn’t matter what it was, they were rebelling. Whatever, it’s just another clique, except perhaps, they are even more annoyingly pretentious than other groups that have come before them. Frankly, they embody everything I hate about people. Frickin’ posers! A bunch of nabobs following the “latest thing” when they haven’t the brains, or the willingness to use one, to think for themselves.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Conor- I thought about this post today in my car. Glenn Beck was on, describing a new project he’s undertaking: music producer. I’m not entirely sure what he scope of this enterprise is, but my inderstanding is that the mission is to make music about conservative values “cool” to today’s kids.

    I’d have thought Beck was far more media savvy than to fall for the belief that all that was missing from the cool equation was higher production values and an “Approved!” stamp from a middle aged radio talk show host that kids’ grandparents listen to.Report

    • Funny—I thought I saw Beck today while running home from work. As I came up on the guy, I decided I’d stop and say, “Hey! You’re on TV! You’re that Olbermann guy, right?”

      But it wasn’t Beck after all. Shame.Report

  12. Avatar Gus says:

    I have news for you. No one who takes his politics this seriously is cool, liberal or conservative. That’s what uncool conservatives fail to understand. The “post-modern conservatives” are most definitely not “on to something.” Kerouac was cool and very conservative (regardless of Norman Podhoretz’s disdain for him), but can you really see him “deconstructing Coolidge speeches”? This seems to be a conservative obsession (see Jeffry Goldberg’s unintentionally hilarious piece on Springsteen and Christie), and the truth is as long as you obsess about it, you can’t be cool.Report

  13. Avatar MattyInMass says:

    Just curious, but I’m wondering how much of this cultural divide comes down to simple preferences – for movies, books, music, etc. – and the trappings that come along with them.

    As telling as it might be to use those preferences as informative of ‘coolness’, it likely depends upon the audience’s own view (bias). Cultural touchpoints have different cache with different groups. Re: the Coen Bros, Mitt Romney has mentioned “O Brother, Where Art Thou” as a favorite film. Really??! I consider myself neither conservative or liberal, but I wonder aloud whether Mitt isn’t a) trying too hard to be cool, or b) just ‘whistling dixie’ here. (sorry.)

    And how does this square with the wide perception that Mitt will never, EVER “out-cool” The President…?Report

  14. Avatar MattyInMass says:

    P.S. I just read Jeff Goldberg’s interesting, awkwardly written take on Chris Christie’s Springsteen obsession (129 shows and counting) and how The Boss won’t give the NJ Gov the time of day. Am I missing something if find Christie’s incredulity a bit unseemly?Report

  15. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    First, let me say that I really liked this post, although frankly I didn’t really understand it- but I really do chalk that up to my own total lack of coolness.

    By “conservatives”, we’re talking about American right wingers, right? Because I know a lot of hipsters are, well, not exactly conservatives, but traditionalists. I see hipsters who live like they’re in the 50s, or the 70s, or hell even the 1920s. I know people have criticized those types here for not being aware of how great things are now, but I think identifying with past aesthetics is pretty harmless. Now, I don’t think any of them are politically conservative- at least, not if we define it in these social terms: they do support same sex marriage and access to abortion, so there’s that. But, living in Canada, I know plenty of conservatives who also support those things. In the US, it’s never clear if the Republicans are a political party or a religious movement. Elsewhere, it’s easier to tell. Finally, you’ve got oblivious to social inequality as a conservative trait, although I’m sure you know that hipsters are pretty notorious for that.

    Okay, so abortion, entitlement, and gay rights puts American right wingers in the unhip category. You’ve got three divisions of how conservatives deal with that. I like those quite a bit. I guess my question is can’t we imagine a “stodgy con” who just wasn’t a Republican? I know quite a few, actually. I don’t really know where they’d fit in, but I take one of your arguments to be that one can’t be both Republican and hip, which is probably why they’re usually liberals. However, if you take the frequent hipster lament about the “mainstream” for what it is- an argument that our culture is in decline along with a romantic identification with the culture of the past- you can’t exactly call hipsters cultural progressives either.Report

  16. Avatar ktward says:

    I’ve yet to make my way through comments (which will prove, natch, enlightening and entertaining because that’s how y’all roll at The League) but first I’ll quickly share how thoroughly I enjoy reading your thoughtful, cleverly-crafted posts, Mr. Williams.Report

  17. Avatar Genesio Zenone says:

    I think the un-coolness comes not from the type of ideology, but from the ideology itself. It’s hard to be cool while taking yourself too seriously.
    This may be too weak a definition, but for me a conservative is someone who, having seen the nightmares created in the name of utopia, wants to proceed down the unknown road with foot on the brake. A conservative is anti-ideological and suspicious of meta-narratives, believing instead in gradual pragmatic progress by way of tinkering (Burke was an early bricoleur!)
    One of the problems I have with contemporary American conservatism is that, while it has retained its suspicions of leftist ideology, it has adopted an oxymoronic conservative ideology (e.g. the quasi religious belief in free markets). Also they have taken Sowell’s “constrained vision” and turned it myopia …hence the aversions to social programs that have a proven track record; where the road in known.
    As long as the conservative takes the universe and his place in it with a grain salt (a bottle of wine and a rare steak), he is cool in my book.Report

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