A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The foundation is shaking. . .

. . .beneath the establishment conservative media house. The very thought of a John McCain nomination has a lot of conservative journalists hiding under the dining room table, hands clasped around their heads. And I can't say as I blame them.

Since my last post on this blog, I've become a McCain supporter. I took a rather circuitous route to get here, but here I am. And, I won't lie: it feels good. For the past three years, I've found myself at odds with parts of the conservative media I once revered as a refuge from the brazen biases of ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN and their ink-stained cohorts.

Part of that has to do with blogging itself. Just about every writer for a mainstream conservative media outlet has a blog these days, and with it comes the urge to be as much like the independent, little-guy blogger as possible. It's a "when in Rome" phenomenon, I suspect. Or, it could be that blogging opens up a venue for established writers to feel free to write whatever springs to mind without having to contend with editorial admonishments and the boss's skunk eye.

Whatever the reasoning, this proliferation of shoot-from-the-hip outlets has revealed a side of the mainstream conservative press many rank-and-file conservatives like myself hadn't seen before, and don't always appreciate. No longer reined in by the warden, many conservatives feel free to let fly with their opinions without regard to tone or temperament. With William F. Buckley on one shoulder, and Michael Savage on the other, more and more we see Savage reaching over the writer's head and jamming Buckley's halo down around his shoulders.

Of course, that's not to say that all conservative writers do this when given the freedom not to expound. Ramesh Ponnuru and Victor Davis Hanson are notable exceptions. In fact, the vast majority exercise a good deal of restraint in all but a few exceptional instances. However, what many of them don't understand is that rank and file conservatives lend just as much credence to their one-paragraph broadsides as they do 500-word expository pieces. This inevitably results in the reader concluding that, with the writer's words stripped of puffery and nuance, now we know what he really thinks.

Unfortunately, conservatives don't always agree with one another. In fact, I can only recall complete unanimity among us at two points in my entire lifetime: the death of Ronald Reagan, and the atrocities of September 11, 2001.

It's that lack of unanimity coupled with the unbridled expression of disdain -- or delight, for that matter -- emanating from our house organs that threaten to put that house asunder. In the past, when a conservative pundit wanted to influence the reader, he went to the trouble of calmly laying out his case as persuasively as he knew how and invited the reader to consider it before coming to a conclusion. Not so in the blogosphere, which is to persuasive writing as Thunderdome is to the Oxford Union.

Consequently, our once staid havens of intellectual curiosity have been transformed into mere facades on a dogfighting ring. And, like any place where bloodletting is integral to the game, the game and its blood often spill out into the parking lot.

And so we find ourselves in a position where the very idea of dissent, no matter how well-intentioned, compels one to gird his loins for battle. The act of clicking a link to your favorite political blog is an introduction into the raised hackles and clenched jaws of contumely. This is all well and good among the hoi polloi if only because of its inevitability.

But, when the people we look to for guidance and temperament start choosing sides and busting chops, it becomes extremely difficult to keep all the furniture in one piece and the pictures on the wall.

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