We had an e-mail from a visitor to the TAC blog, which has made us think about what the purpose of the blog is and where we should be going with it. The e-mail is below followed by my comments on it.
Our visitor wrote:
I am a recent subscriber and have enjoyed a good many articles from your archive. I was just entering high school when Reagan was elected and became a “Reagan Republican” during the country’s resurgence in spirit during the 80’s. I have been disillusioned for many years at the direction the party has taken with huge government spending and national programs that left wingers from past generations would envy. However, I’m primarily a one-issue person in these times…as a conservative Catholic…and that is on the issue of life and mainly on abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research. A society that fails to protect its young from premeditated killing, much less one that encourages it, is a dying society.
From reading the blog on your website, it appears to me that your magazine isn’t so much about putting forth a solid, real conservative message on current events as much as it is to snipe at neo-conservatives. Now, I have no use for the Sean Hannity’s of the world, either spiritually or intellectually, but your tone strikes me as pedantic at times and often fails to address current events from the “first principles” perspective of Russell Kirk. You seem instead to simply, like an 8th grader taunting one of his classmates, exult almost exclusively in the missteps and failings (real or perceived) of the group called the “neocons”, who would appear at times from the tone of your writing to be responsible for every wrong that exists in the world today. You also seem to have quite a following from a cadre of sneering adolescents who seem to be more “anti-neocon” than actual conversatives.
All of this leads me to my question. Is there a middle layer of thought that I was supposed to have to get all of this? I suppose I am a former “neocon” who tacitly rejected many practices over the years that led me to believe that I was either no longer conservative or that there was a different sort of conservative tradition. I found Russel Kirk and others and somehow found you. I suspect there are many hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people like me who need to hear that message so they don’t think that post-modern liberalism and libertarianism are the only viable vehicles for political expression in this country besides the dominant norms of those who currently control the “conversative brand”.
You might try to reach out a little bit to folks that are struggling with all of this and articulate that the “neocons” AND the liberals are wrong, and most importantly, WHY. And when they’re right, be respectful of the truth, as a good conservative is primarily interested in truth.
You seem to do this in your articles, though they can be needlessly shrill at times, but the blog…it’s like a silly inside joke in middle school that’s meant to keep everyone else out. Maybe some more of us want to embrace what you’re saying..and perhaps you could respond to my email with a reasonable explanation of what you’re trying to communicate.
I’m just asking because I care about what’s happening and what you have to say.
I think I became a conservative in 1966 when, in my second year at the University of Chicago, I noted just how much fun Bill Buckley was having compared to the dour Trotskyites and sanctimonious Liberals who surrounded me. Buckley was not above laughing at himself and delighted in tearing apart conservative orthodoxy. I saw him speak on a panel at the university and I am convinced (a) that he was drinking scotch from his water glass and (b) that he actually fell asleep after a particularly vicious bon mot relating to John Lindsay. The point of my story is that taking oneself and one’s beliefs very seriously might be an intellectual exercise compelling to some but boring to many others, particularly in a blog. Sermons on conservative pieties could drive readers away in droves. What could a blog item on abortion possibly say? I for one fall asleep immediately when confronted by something written by Russell Kirk or Sam Francis but can read with delight anything written by Joe Sobran, who is quite willing to stick the knife in and twist it.
Which is just to say that there are all kinds of people who call themselves conservatives. To me, conservatism is not so much a cerebral exercise or philosophy as a proper way to govern – sanctity of life, small government, low taxes, limited government intrusion in one’s privacy, rule of law, and most of all strong defense but no wars unless the nation itself is threatened. Which leads me to why the neocons are as important as they are. First of all, they have hijacked and perverted the conservative name and must be held accountable for that. Second, they are indeed responsible for nearly everything bad that has happened in the past seven years, including destroying our economy and military, starting unnecessary wars that they cannot finish, and taking away many of our fundamental liberties. It is necessary to attack them again and again until they are completely discredited and consigned to history’s dust bin. If we back off, they will be starting a new war against Iran within six months. I do think our reader’s point that we attack the neocons (and McCain-Palin) regularly but don’t go after the liberals nearly enough is very well put. Apart from Pat Buchanan’s articles, that is almost certainly true.
We obviously have a product to sell and an audience to reach, so it’s undeniably helpful to understand how the blog readers are perceiving our efforts. Now that the TAC blog is interactive I for one hope that we will be getting a lot more feedback from readers.