We should value conservative writersBy Ben Jackson | 12/06/2017 8:48pm
Photo illustration CW / MK Holladay
Conservative writers are disappearing. Outside the narrow confines of Fox News and Breitbart, hardly worthy arbiters of philosophy, conservative intellectuals are becoming increasingly absent from mainstream media outlets.
Awash in a sea of Republican politicians, this at first seems a preposterous assertion. But pick up a newspaper or scroll the editorials page of the most prominent news agencies and you will learn the surprising truth – conservatives do not write that much anymore. Their disappearance should concern you.
I would be equally concerned if liberal voices vanished from our editorials pages. This is because I believe in the power of editorials. I believe in them as open forums for democracy, and I believe that they serve as a litmus test for the quality of our civic discourse, a canary in a coal mine of looming tyranny.
So where have the conservative writers gone, then? I would argue that the editorials section of the newspaper has become an unfriendly gathering place for them. Conservative ideals — not Trumpian politics — but classically conservative principals, are hailed as “anti-intellectual,” and their proponents called uneducated or backward. While commentators on both sides of the aisle use these heckles, they are most often used against conservatives.
What’s more, a culture of internet shaming fans the flames. Now, instead of simply disagreeing with a conservative writer, you can find his or her personal life online. Attacking his or her character, boycotting their places of business, barring them from schools or other places of discourse. The cost of diverse opinion has become drastically more expensive. Gone are the dialogues, here to stay are the roasts.
Personal friends of mine no longer write for The Crimson White, or any publication for that matter, due to the fear that what they say will hold them back from future career or educational opportunities. They would rather be silent than take the risk. Is it not clear how dangerous this is to our democracy, how toxic to our air?
Academia suffers from the same malaise, having scorned even its moderately conservative patrons, condemning them to the obscure corners of the political fringe, where their ideas fester into diseases best described as populism. In fact, this phenomenon within universities is likely already in its late stages.
When both sides are not represented in a forum, the moderates die out. Instead, they retreat to echo chambers at either end of the political spectrum. This leads to harmful, radical politics, the likes of which we are currently experiencing. A lack of conservative voices hurts all of us, not just conservatives.
This issue boils down to a question of free speech. Free speech is protected by the law, but is it protected by the people? I would argue, currently, that it is not. If we hold our democracy dear, then we must vocally protect the pillars of its integrity. We must listen to those with whom we disagree, and fight fervently to do so.
Ben Jackson is a senior majoring in finance. His column runs biweekly.