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Across the algorithm, across the pond

I listened to Charlie Kirk’s four hour, post-election, daily podcasts so that you don’t have to and quite frankly, you weren’t going to. A stones throw across the pond and a quick jump across the algorithm, we find the heroes of this story and the heroes of a whole lot of intelligent, angry and scared people. At the time I am writing this Charlie Kirk is 27 years old, has 1.5 million instagram followers, 1.9 million twitter followers and his podcast ‘The Charlie Kirk Show’ is the seventh most popular News podcast on Apple Podcasts and the thirteenth Society & Culture podcast on Spotify.

So a substantial amount of people, of conservatives and of Americans care and listen to what he says and so do I. Whether or not I find myself nursing an ever-so-slight crush on Mr Kirk is immaterial, dear reader. Let’s get the basics out of the way, he identifies as “right of centre” and spent the last significant portion of his life; campaigning for the Trump-Pence ticket four years ago, being an avid supporter of the Trump presidency, and the last year campaigning for him once again, less successfully. His reaction to the Biden win was one of denial at first, clinging oh-so-desperately to sweet Michigan, which very quickly morphed into vaguely conspiratorial, emotional accusations of large scale fraud. He is a member of the ranks of a breed of new conservatives who represent the saving grace of the Republican party and American conservatism at large, and this group absolutely cannot be pigeon holed.  

Beyond the basic tenants of conservatism and liberal economic thinking – less state, more markets, endless boot strap analogies, and so on and so forth – this new breed has a few shared principles, at least that I have picked up on during my rabbit holes. Firstly, that racism exists in the form of racist people and any form of racial superiority is “anti-christian, anti-biblical and anti-American.”  Candace Owens (the crowned queen of this breed. ‘Crowned by whom?’ you may ask, well if by no one else, then ME) also subscribes to this view. Basically, racism will always exist because stupid people will always exist, they are not perfectible in the same way that the world is not. Secondly, they agree on what the ‘real’ threats to modern America are, namely: China, its ownership of American debt as well as its dominance in globalised markets; the break down of the family structure; and finally, you guessed it, liberals.

To this breed, these last two threats are intertwined. It is the left that has, through welfare, incentivised the breakup of the family, and liberals provide reasoning for this breakdown with their female empowerment and male disempowerment. In her own words “start telling kids that boys can be girls and girls can be boys and everything is subjective and everything is fluid, you’re not going to have kids who join a nuclear family set.” It is a pretty common tactic of conservatism to cast welfare and government support as the villain but with the added 21st century, chatter creating, controversial spice of getting to bring celebrities, who use gender non conforming, counter culture fashion or images, into the mix.

The consistent oversight this breed seems to make is of context. Reality is partly facts and statistics but it is also the corroborating experiences of large groups of people; stack them up, one on top of the other and you get the truth; truth needs a framework, a skeleton of fact but without context it is just skeleton and has no semblance of reality about it. Among these ranks are Ben Shapiro and closer to home, Douglas Murray. These are intelligent, eloquent and well-read people who understand their bases and cater to their leanings skilfully. Understanding the pillars of their philosophy is essential to the healthy, robust functioning of both the political left and right; the one needs the other, and democracy and the electorate need both. 

The sustenance of the narrative that this new right is the brave, outlaw proprietor of a dangerous truth, is censorship on social media platforms and university campuses, both of which the above persons are well acquainted with. Without this sustenance, this intrigue, they are just some good old, boring conservatives. Removing thought leaders from spaces where they can create and contribute to the conversation is not useful to the electorate. But creating spaces free from common laws of safety, dignity, politeness and decency makes no sense.

If we agree that we are not going to ban conservatism and all right-of-centre thinking and thinkers from all media; If we agree that in civilised, law abiding societies there are lines; And if we agree that there are consequences for crossing these lines, then the right answer is still anyone’s guess. The answer does not lie at either extreme so it must be somewhere in the middle. The only way out is through and all that remains is a discussion.

Image: Gade Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons