Our Urgent Tasks in a Post-Trump Anti-Propaganda War
The election of Donald J. Trump will prove to be far more significant than any of us Trump Train riders might have even dreamed. What looked like a desperate attempt to stave off complete and permanent domination by the American left has actually revealed truths that bear a lot of promise:  A large swath of the country is firmly with conservatives on social principles if not on fiscal matters,  the libertarian-conservative intelligentsia that demonstrated so much weakness and ineffectiveness for decades is not a valid reflection of conservatism in the population at large, and  conservative strategies can work if people are energetic, willing to take risks, and smart.
Perhaps the most important revelation of November 8, 2016, however, was that all of the right wing’s focus on political activism has been overkill. Republicans own America’s political structure; the GOP controls the House, the Senate, and almost 70% of state legislatures and governorships. These gains developed over time, even during the supposed peak liberalism of the early Obama years. So all of our consternation about the threat of a vanishing Republican Party was wasted worry.
If we never needed to spend so much time worrying about politics, why do so many of us on the conservative side still feel like we are immersed in a war with the left? The answer is simple: for all the domination of politics by conservatives, there is a corollary counter-domination of culture by liberals, and for most right-wing people, there is a deep awareness that the cultural exile experienced by conservatives matters and warrants some anxiety.
Trump’s win is important not because it is the final reward for the valiant battles we fought, but rather, because Trump will be the most important weapon in the battles awaiting us in the frontier of culture. This is not the time to rest—the iron is hot right now, so this is the time to strike. If given time unchallenged, the liberal forces arrayed against us will do what they have done in the past, scheming and manipulating and plotting so that when we mobilize, it will be too late again. Our great mistake over the past decades was to summarize these battles as a “Culture War,” when in fact we were not fighting a culture—the left has no culture, only propaganda.
For all of the left’s control of national conversation and entertainment, the left has failed to produce, in 60 years, any sort of compelling values, inspiring way of life, or holistic belief system that could make sense of human experience or instill happiness. The left has given us critiques of the past, vague notions of tolerance and equality, plus a neurotic need for authority figures to punish dissenters under the McCarthyite banners of “bigots,” “haters,” and “un-American fundamentalists.”
We are not culture warriors, we are anti-propaganda warriors. The culture that conservatives hold dear, based on American self-reliance, tradition, strength, and Judeo-Christian beliefs, is strong and well; it is simply buried under layers of the left’s fluffy platitudes and perversions. We need only brush away the propaganda and the culture will thrive again.
Money, Infrastructure, Time
So let’s get to it. How do we combat the left’s enormous propaganda? As someone who was in the trenches during the motherlode of all cultural flashpoints—the debate over same-sex “marriage” and parenting—I have to conclude that there were enormous mistakes made by the conservative movement, which must be addressed. Here are the key problems: (1) We sought to argue with the left in the hopes of winning with better arguments, (2) we trusted our cause to an exclusive clique of leaders better designed to look good to the left than to reflect conservative people truthfully, and (3) we neglected the practical matters of organizing our money, infrastructure, and time.
If we were really fighting a left-wing ideology, perhaps we could invest our hopes in the tenet advanced in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, namely “things which are true and things which are just are by nature stronger” (Book I, l.21). This assumption on conservatives’ part was wildly off the mark (pace Aristotle), for the left never gained its advantageous ground by having better arguments about anything. The left merely took control of the institutions, meeting spaces, money, and personnel who would be able to give them an exclusive platform.
From our misguided belief that the truth could speak for itself and victory would come from mounting better arguments came the folly of investing all our hopes in a tiny cabal of well-groomed and telegenic spokespeople. The same faces appeared again and again, shared millions of times on Facebook on Twitter. I can think of one spokesman for traditional marriage who delivered endless lectures at university campuses and elsewhere; he has been sent to over a dozen countries, in which traditional marriage lost every single time. With book contracts and flawlessly promoted appearances on TV talk shows, he was the embodiment of the right wing’s Peter Principle: keep investing in pretty faces who lose with style, and keep everyone else off the radar because they’re “risky.”
We have got to shift gears and completely re-envision our struggle and what we are doing. This means trusting that we have the truth already so we do not waste copious time repeating the same arguments to ourselves, hoping that some undecided people will overhear and come to our side. This means having a strong offense and a strong defense: With the post-Trump government decidedly within our sphere of influence, we must cut off the supply chain of money, time, and infrastructure that has enabled the left’s propaganda machine, and we have to move quickly to assemble our own arsenal. Going forward, we must be clear that there’s no point arguing with the left on the left’s turf. This is a war of resources, not a war of ideas.
Here are our priorities in order of importance:
When we were fighting against gay marriage, we made a huge tactical error in thinking we had to fight in the courts and media first, trusting that the churches would be safe. I fell for this delusion as well. As I pointed out in a recent conference in London (“The New Normal”), I followed many others’ leads and minimized the churches’ influence on my position, for fear of being tied in people’s minds to “old church ladies telling people what to do.” After half a decade of this, I’ve realized that “old church ladies” are the most important group to get on our side, and we have to have their confidence first. Why? Unlike everybody else, they show up and bring food. On their often unacknowledged labor rested most of the breakthrough moments I saw in the fight against leftist propaganda, not only in the United States but also in France and the United Kingdom.
It is alluring but fanciful to dream of winning over secular feminists and prestigious men in suits, but these would-be partners are notoriously slippery. I tried, for instance to open up a dialogue with innumerable liberal feminists in hopes we could build a coalition. Queer feminists Yasmin Nair, Claire Potter, Cathy Brennan, Sheena Malhotra, and others all reacted to my attempts to engage them in authentic conversation with paranoid recoil, feeling the need to repudiate or even viciously attack me in public lest their liberal allies think they were really in league with me. Other liberal feminists such as Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy and Laura Kipnis were hot & cold interlocutors, willing at times to share thoughts but then prone to close doors on key positions such as defense of life and/or the opposition to sodomy.
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