Don’t Be a Sheep, or a Wolf
Yesterday I wrote about how those who were dead-wrong on the Iraq War paid zero price for it. Whatever hubris, arrogance, and groupthink they displayed was only rewarded. In light of that, I concluded the following: Truth isn’t always what matters. The way opinion works these days, there aren’t so much truthful ideas and crucial facts. There are respectable ideas and presentable facts. And the latter matters much more, at least for writers trying to make a living.
As a help to young aspiring conservatives, let me list some of the respectable notions that will speed you on your way, help keep you from getting dismissed as a “fringe” or “extremist” thinker. It’s not that they are true. Don’t think of them as fact-statements about the world. See them as rhetoric intended to signal your willingness to play by establishment rules:
- Islam is a religion of peace. It’s only a tiny band of extremists who pervert their own religion that are a problem. If we point out how their own sacred texts endorse jihad and persecution, we are only helping the terrorists.
- Refusing foreign immigrants because their religious beliefs entail sharia and jihad violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- Every nation on earth is aching to become a liberal democracy just like the U.S. It’s just one quick, surgical invasion from turning into New Hampshire.
- Russia is the primary threat to freedom and peace in Europe. Pay no attention to the hundreds of thousands of young Muslim men huddling in radical mosques, fathering large families on welfare.
- Every immigrant from any country is a likely Republican voter, as long as we don’t alienate them by speaking up for U.S. workers, culture, or security.
You might find it hard, at first, to repeat slogans like this. But practice makes perfect. Pretty soon, you’ll find it as easy and natural as Orwell’s sheep did, when they learned to bleat “Four legs good, two legs b-a-a-a-a-a-a-d!”
The Servile Conservative
But there is more than one way to sin. In many situations, there is only one best course of action. There are countless errors which you could choose instead. The checklist above is the one that tempts those who lean towards being Servile. That’s one of what I call (following Aristotle) the Seven Deadly Neuroses. It’s the opposite error to the Deadly Sin of Wrath. The virtue, of course, lies in the “golden mean” of Patience. (See my The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins for a detailed analysis, complete with Cosmo-style quizzes.)
The wise man who looks for truth will patiently sift the facts of any situation. He will feel the tug on the one hand of sinful Wrath. And of contemptible Servility on the other. If his main concern is for his temporal advantage, he will doubtless make the Servile choice. He’ll run with the herd, then plummet with the lemmings.
Unfortunately, instead of just accepting the wholesome change in our civic religion that rejects sinful racism and irrational chauvinism, some on the right have chosen Servility. They’ve internalized the self-hatred that leftists want to infuse in every Westerner and Christian. They’ve embraced a kind of cultural masochism, and congratulate themselves for it. They preen about how unworldly and principled they are — when in fact they’re just competing for attention from intolerant leftist elites: “Oh, look, that one’s not so bad. Let’s let him in our club.” Won’t happen, thankfully. The left is only interested in “principled” conservatives during close elections when third party candidates are running. Or they hope to suppress our turnout. Then they kick us to the curb.
Many on the right have proven Servile.
Choosing the Wolf
But it’s easy to overreact against Servility, to willfully choose the opposing extreme. To dismiss not just popular errors but common truths. The wolf will embrace exaggerated or cruel points of view — if only to prove to himself that he’s not being sheepish. And that’s no better.
I get it. We see the perversion of decent principles such as equality or tolerance, and our gut fills up with bile. We’re stuffed to the gills with the preening rhetoric of the Servile, and decide we are done with it. So we programmatically reject every appeal to those misused values — even where they really do apply. And that’s how you get the Alt-Right, and “Illiberal Christians” of various sects.
In the rush to reject ideas that are merely respectable or presentable, we can find ourselves toying with those that are genuinely wicked. And it can feel heroic for a while, as we weather the fire of leftists who pervert those values daily, and enjoy the effeminate squeals of the Servile sheep.
But that’s just another devil’s trap, and we would be fools to fall for it.