Posted by: jackslife | March 4, 2009

Limbaugh, the Front Porch, and Community

There is a great new website for us Paleo-con/crunchy/traditionalist/communitarian, called Front Porch Republic.  You will want to bookmark this one.  A number of great writers will be posting there, including Rod Dreher, Daniel Larision, and Patrick Dineen.  This site seems to be focusing on more than the merely political, and will be venturing into the ripe fields of the broader cultural aspects of conservatism.  There were a number of posts that I could choose as my first one to comment on, but I think that Daniel Larison has a great post that really fits nicely with some of the thoughts and conversations that I have been having recently.

From Larison-

Technology has provided a greater diversity of media and allows for communicating vast amounts of information, which necessarily disperses and scatters attention in myriad directions, and the elevation of choice as one of our chief cultural goods (endorsed by almost everyone regardless of conventional political affiliations) has helped make sure that eclecticism and eccentricity tend to prevail.  Online fora, including blogs, are obviously also a product of this.  One of the things that we constantly hear in praise of talk radio hosts is that they are effective communicators.  This is ironic, given the almost reflexive disdain for community, both as a word and as a reality, that so many of these hosts seem to have.  Little remarked on from Limbaugh’s speech was his passing shot at the idea of community: “Remember the root word there is “commune”.”  Taken together with his glorification of individualism, his hostility toward possessing and being defined by something held in common seems clear.

Several points come to mind here.  The first has to do with something that I have noticed before.  We are a nation that has traded community for cliques.  We all have our little subcultures that we divide ourselves up into, thereby eliminating any possibility of real community within our “communities”.  As we rapidly devolve into a national series of granfaloons, it becomes more and more difficult to achieve any real kind of community.  Contra Rush, I think that community is a good thing.  In short, Rush Limbaugh’s world might be a great place to own a business, but I sure wouldn’t want to live there.

In reading this I was also struck by the irony that so many well intentioned Christian people have latched onto Rush as their political guide.  It seems that Rush’s hyper consumeristic, overly individualistic, crass, and pompous rhetoric are at odds with traditional Christian thought.  His eschewal of community hardly seems to jive with Christian virtue in my mind.  He has no appreciation for traditions (if they go back further than Reagan anyway), he desires that big business be able to run over the public unfettered, and treats those who don’t agree with him with an extreme disrespect.  The cognitive dissonance created in my “young skull full of mush” by trying to justify Rush’s worldview with my conservative Christian values finally led me to toss him aside altogether, and I wonder how long it can be until the religious conservatives wake up and do the same.

More Larison –

It is not merely that these programs distract from creating middlebrow conservatism, as Derbyshire argued, but that they feed into the forces that eat away at whatever remains of a common culture while also creating their own sub-cultural ghetto to which conservatives seem only too inclined to retreat.  Following Lukacs’ observation about real, personal communication that I mention in the other post, it seems to me that the more conservatives define themselves in relation to these radio communications from fervent individualists the less likely they are going to be to engage in the kind of hard cultural work of building up their own communities and laying the foundations of the common culture they wish to pass on to their children.

The conservative movement has become barren of truly insiteful thought and meaningful debate.  Sometimes I feel that this died with Buckley, but I think the real problem is that the quality voices within conservatism are all outsiders, like Larison and Douthat.  The loudest voices are those of talk radio, and we can all see where they have gotten us.

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Responses

  1. Haha, I had to look up your granfaloons reference. I was surprised to see it had to do with Kurt Vonnegut’s book – Cat’s Cradle. That book is waiting for me after I finish up with The Scandal of Evangelical Politics.

    I totally understand where you’re coming from in regard to Rush, Hannity and O’Reily types that are the mouthpiece for the GOP. Rush especially seemed to romanticise the wealthly/big business in his speech last week. Constantly questioning why the hard-working/wealthy should be punished and seeking to remove big government out of the way so individuals can achieve. Which is great for Capitalism, but his world view lacks compassion. In the book I’m reading, the author cites how that God created man to be a communial being. We need human interaction and community with one another.


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