Machinations 2

MachiNations 2

That last entry got so long that I decided to continue my musings on November's issue of Harper's to another log.

The second piece I read was "THE KIDS ARE FAR RIGHT Hippie hunting, bunny bashing, and the new conservatism" by Wells Tower. The report from the 28th annual National Conservative Student Conference in Washington D.C. was disturbing, but not surprising. I think having grown up in Montana and attended two years as an undergraduate at Montana State University in Bozeman, I was exposed to lots of small town kids with similar viewpoints that I knew were, for the most part, coming from generations of ignorance and brainwashing. What is always jarring to me though, is how much anger these kids have towards people who are "progressive," "liberal," "left," etc. (which leads to the adult version in the likes of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, John Stossel etc.). So here's a partial summary of Tower's article and some of the points that stuck with me.

The conference took place over a week at the end of July. Attendees included students from more than 180 colleges and thirty-nine states as guest of Young America's Foundation, a conservative campus group that sponsored the event. Presenters included Bay Buchanan (Pat's sister), David Horowitz (author of The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America), Fox News contributors John Stossel and Michelle Malkin, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Alexander Haig, Sam Brownback, David Brooks and Robert Novak. Students were required at the opening ceremony of the conference provide a brief statement as to why they were attending. Their explanations included: "I needed to come to a place where people love America and understand why." "I'm here because I want to make liberals cry and subvert the socialist agenda." "I'm here because I'm a Christian." "Liberals on my campus make me sick, and I want to figure out how to combat them better." "I came to D.C. because I might get the chance to slap the jaw of Ted Kennedy." "I'm here because I thought this conference had the potential to turn into a weeklong fear-and-loathing-in-Las-Vegas-style adventure but with conservatism instead of drugs." "I'm here to see a girl I met on MySpace." "I want to teach freshmen how to defend themselves against dirty hippies." "I'm here because I've seen the liberals destroy Chicago." "I'm sick of dating liberal guys." "I'm here for How to Bash Liberals 101."

Tower goes on to describe the lack of youth identifying themselves as"Republican."
"The more than 400 attendees is a record for the conference, and although this is good news for the conservative movement, it is also an oblique sort of nose-thumbing at the Republican Party ... Proud self-declared Republicans, in fact, are curiously hard to come by among the students, nearly all of whom identify themselves as libertarians or simply as "conservatives," and who will later describe our president to me in the following terms: "embarrassing," "stupid," "arrogant," "a halfway conservative," "a puppet of lobbyists and special interests," and "a liberal basically."

Reading this I'm aghast at how easily these kids have been spoonfed by the media, specifically the likes of Fox News. It's great to hear these words finally forming from the mouths of babes who just two years ago were gaga over Bush; however, it may as well be babble given the absence of critical thinking behind such sound bites.

Tower's mingling amongst the students seems to support this observation:
"What lies at the heart of the poverty problem, student Bennett Rawicki muses, is that America's poorest families have turned pathological; they're 'crippled,' as he puts it. Taking a box cutter to the public safety net, and driving the poor into a modern-day state of nature, he says, might be just the thing to teach them a few important lessons in family values. 'Think of the hunter-gatherers. It wasn't just one person out there doing it on his own. You had people working together.'"

"The girl ahead of us in the buffet line turns to join our conversation. Like Rawicki, she, too, is an admirer of Dr. Williams (Dr. Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University, and an occasional stand-in for Rush Limbaugh. Williams was one of the featured speakers at the conference. African American, Williams refers to the NAACP as the "Klan with a Tan."). 'He's amazing, a genius, I love him -- I'm very libertarianesque.' She introduces herself as Samantha Soller of Bucknell University. ... In her facebook bio, Samantha Soller listed among her hobbies "political science, philosophy, and hippie-hunting, enjoys foreclosing on poor people's cardboard boxes, eathing red meat, using her Sigarms P232 Stainless to shoot cute little bunny rabbits." Tower's asks her about the gun. "'It's a semiautomatic handgun. I don't have one, but I would love to own one soon. It's really cute. It's silver. It fits in your handbag.' ... We close in on the catering trays, which today are full of steak and chicken fajita meat. The sight douses the cheer that mention of the Sigarms P232 had stirred in Soller's hale, brown cheeks. 'What is this?' she says, surveying the buffet. 'I don't eat anything that's not American.'"