The State of Conservatism: I Have Marshall McLuhan Right Here
By Arnold Kling
Traditionally, American conservatives have been Eurocentric in their political and cultural discourse, but how can conservatives convincingly articulate this perspective to non-European immigrants and to millions of superficially educated young Americans, and at a time when much of Europe itself no longer seems Eurocentric?
That’s a sentence to ponder. More central to his theme are the following excerpts:
look at the 100 “best educated” of these counties: those having the highest percentage of college graduates, defined as people over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Most of these counties–America’s so-called Diploma Belt–used to be Republican. That is no longer the case. In 1988, the Democratic presidential candidate carried only 36 of these 100 counties. Last year, the Democratic candidate won 78 of them.
Isn’t it time that conservatives create a kind of conservative version of National Public Radio, or at least a coordinated network of conservative equivalents of NPR’s Fresh Air, On Point, and Talk of the Nation programs, devoted not just to daily political combat and commentary, but to conservatively oriented cultural explorations of the broadest character?
Conservative talk radio is bombastic. The hosts may not be as stupid as their opponents believe, but they do nothing to encourage careful, reasoned discourse. They do not nurture an audience from the “diploma belt.” But I have no use for NPR, either. I think it only pretends to be intellectually worthwhile. The quality of arguments that you can put into a written piece that takes five minutes to read is much, much higher than the quality of what can be said in five minutes on NPR.
Putting arguments in writing does not guarantee quality. In terms of tone, it is often hard for me to tell Paul Krugman and Sean Hannity apart. Both are ideologically rigid, preaching to the converted, and extremely uncharitable to those with whom they disagree. The posts that I most regret writing tend to be those where I could be accused of that sort of behavior myself. I feel better when I express doubt and respect honest differences of opinion. (As for Gruber, you have to allow for sheer jealousy to creep in. If someone has ridiculously high status, that sets me off.)
Still, I think that the medium is the message. I do not think that radio, TV, or Youtube are going to produce strong intellectual discourse. I believe that the written word is the best medium for that. If conservatives master other media, they may win some political battles, but not any intellectual war.