Reconquering the Discourse–Part 1: The Battleground of Ideas

VoltaireThumbby Monsieur Voltaire
In the last half-century, we Conservatives have let ourselves become the “other” in our own culture. Controversial, outmoded, extreme, Neanderthal, medieval: these are the qualifiers we hear constantly associated with our views–in news, entertainment, social media, the classroom and even conversation among peers. The Liberal viewpoint has become the default position; Conservatives must rely on guesswork and coded behavior to recognize each other among strangers–a roll of the eyes at the name of a certain politician, a “God bless” at a sneeze, etc. On the other hand, Liberals feel more than free to howl out their groupthink views loudly and inconsiderately in all these venues, secure in their illusion that everyone else must bay with them in unison–and that those who don’t are idiots, have sinister motives, are brainwashed or all of the above.

The fault, however, lies as much with us as with them. While Liberals were busy taking over all or most institutions of public opinion, with the patience of a colony of termites hell-bent on consuming an ancient mansion, Conservatives have taken the intellectual high road, thinking it a waste of time or outright uncouth to engage in “the fight” on the often muddy turf chosen by our political opponents. Or, we were simply too busy leading normal lives, raising families or doing honest work while the opinion-leaders of the other side were burning bras, suing God out of the public square, manufacturing and pushing the hagiography of homosexuality and enshrining it all into the PC code. The result is where we are today: we, marginalized, they bandying their ideas around like fashionable accessories that “everyone who’s anyone must have.”

What to do? Somehow, we are in the bad habit of looking at politicians as potential messiahs who will sweep in, top-down, to restore America to its founding values of God, family, self-reliance, patriotism and the rule of law. If we could only get politician X elected president, goes the conventional wisdom, he will end the madness. That’s never going to happen for two main reasons: a), as a Beltway outsider by necessity, this politician would be most likely marginalized or taught to march in step with the establishment (Rubio, anyone?); and b), elected politicians are only a small cog in the behemoth government apparatus as we have allowed it to grow. No, if we have to have a “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” we must look at the people first. And we are the people.

The battlefield of ideas starts with the person you look in the mirror every day. Do you have the intellectual conviction to stand by your ideas even in an environment where they are treated as a sort of mental disorder? We should. Because we Conservatives have an advantage over Liberals in this regard: just like with our respective views of society, we are self-reliant, while they are not. We tend to build (and therefore elaborate, understand and refine) our own ideas, whereas most Liberals tend to hold their hand out and wait for talking points to be placed there, which they then spend like welfare checks at any possible opportunity. Which is why, when the two currencies come in direct contact in an honest debate, ours tends to hold a much greater logical value.

Therefore, while I would be the last to advocate social (or even professional) self-immolation, we Conservatives must at least agree on and start doing the following first baby-steps:

1 – Stop going underground with our beliefs. Our family, circle of friends and social media interlocutors (at the very least) must know that, as they, we won’t tolerate our ideas belittled, our idols spat upon and our beliefs treated as mental backwardness. Tolerance is a two way street, and we are retaking our voice in the public discourse.

2 – Pick which hills are worth fighting on. In a world where everything is politics—where even football stars and fast-food chains are being appropriated by political camps–we must be selective on where we draw the first lines. Traditional Christian values, the traditional family, the Second Amendment and a sane immigration policy are my own personal “hills.” Yours don’t have to be the same, but make sure that they are fundamental to the Conservative position and (especially) that you have elaborated a coherent theory on why you think the way you do about them.

3 – Be polite, firm and don’t deviate from the central philosophical position unless you must. Liberals love to get mired in the smoke-and-mirror of red herrings, strawmen, changing the subject and attacking, phony statistics and other verbal guerrilla tactics. Don’t play the game. At the very least, state that you and your Liberal interlocutor are like two doctors who are trying to make the patient (America) better–you are on the side of traditional medicine, while he believes in alternative cures; that you greatly resent being belittled or thought of as dishonest, and that your theory on issue X is perfectly coherent from your point of view if only given a chance to articulate it.

4 – Don’t proselytize, but be armed with resources to back up your positions. One of my favorite lines is “if your interest in the matter is more than emotional, I can point you to some resources that show X fairly conclusively; at least, you can see where I am coming from.” In my case, for instance, Government crime statistics before and after the passage of must-issue concealed-carry laws have gotten me at least a “wow, I didn’t know that.” And the moment you lose your tin-foil hat (in the mind of your interlocutor), is the moment you start making inroads.

5 – Have the patience to explain the Conservative position on any issue in a few compelling points. Remember: all Liberals know about our ideas are the distorted caricatures they learn from traditional channels. It must be up to us to clarify the real points, in a few, logically-compelling and well-stated sentences.

How does this work in practice? In the next few issues of my article, I will address different parts of the national discourse with regards to this template, starting with defending traditional Christianity. For now, though, I wish my reader to be proud of his Conservative ideas, not to be ashamed of defending them before the trashy onslaught of today’s vulgar culture, and to think about which issues are dearest and closest to his heart.


Part 2 of “Reconquering the Discourse” can be found here. • (2074 views)

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12 Responses to Reconquering the Discourse–Part 1: The Battleground of Ideas

  1. Brad Nelson bradnelson says:

    Many thanks for this thoughtful article.

  2. CCWriter CCWriter says:

    Bienvenu, Monsieur Voltaire.

  3. pst4usa says:

    Monsieur Voltaire,
    Thank you for your very thoughtful article. Baby steps for some giant leaps for others, I’m working on my ability to be most of these things that you have suggested. But I tend to fit the stereotypes of your first paragraph. Patient is not one of those things I possess, nor do I have the eloquence of either you or Brad, but I am working on that.

    I have been advocating the idea that the first thing to fix in this country is US for some time now, and will continue to do so. Armed with more tools and more practice, I may find myself becoming more effective. Thank you so much for laying out the syllabus of this course along with some, how’s and why’s we actually will win, when in the battle of ideas.

    • Brad Nelson bradnelson says:

      Great thoughts, PST. I’m a bit of a bomb-thrower myself and could learn a thing or two about patience. And Voltaire’s first article in the series is the kind of forthright viewpoint (combined with eloquence and patience) that we need. I know that you take your beliefs out into the world and usually do so with great patience. On the other hand, I don’t have a problem getting in the face of liberals, but am usually not as constructive as I know you are. Whatever the case may be, what we need to all do is step up and bring our message to larger groups. I guess this site is a baby step in that regard for me.

      And a note to you all: Be sure to “Like” the article if you can so that it will appear on your Facebook page. That way we can spread the word. And, believe me, setting up this Facebook widget was a royal PITA. So use it! LOL.

  4. momiss says:

    I like this website! Very glad to see 123MarkW and Bradnelson are founders! Just bookmarked it! 😉

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Very kind of you, momiss. Come back often and if you’d like to write a book or movie review, a conservative article, or — heck — even a bit of fun poetry, do so and send it to submissions@stubbornthings.org.

      No one is making any money from this (quite the opposite). It’s just an effort to get some kind of “synergy” going (a fancy five-dollar word, I know). But, really, the aim is to get real and normal Americans to give their account of what is going on and how to correct it. Those inside and around politics tend to be clueless windbags. There are a few good ones, like Cruz and (I hope) Rand Paul, but too many are selling us out.

      • Black JEM says:

        Selling out I don’t know – they are prone to action, to do something – when what they should be doing is eliminating some previous piece of legislation or at the worst, doing next to nothing. They also do have much too large of a desire to be liked – and that is not a very good thing in a culture controlled by the left as it is in DC.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I think you just describef Lady Graham (which is what I’ve learned to call him). Yes, these politicians want too much to be liked.

          Note that there is no real “like” system here at StubbornThings, nor do I plan to institute it. This “like” BS can get totally out of hand. But we do have the Facebook “Like” counter, so I didn’t avoid that completely. But it was necessary to have that simply as a basic means to advertise the site.

          But we’d all be much better off if instead of wanting to be liked, we worried more about doing the right thing.

  5. ladykrystyna says:

    Monseiur Voltaire, so glad you are hear. I have admired your posts at NRO for some time.

    Your article was spot on. And I have been of the same mind – the solution will come from WE THE PEOPLE, not some messiah. Not some reincarnation of Ronald Reagan.

    And that always makes me recall Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. Yes, Beck can be a bit too teary eyed, and a borderline conspiracy theorist in some ways, but that rally was a wonderful idea. It reminds everyone that WE are the solution. That, as Adams said, our Constitution was made for a moral people. So we should once again be a moral people. And then I think the change will really start to come.

    • GWeeze says:

      Agreed. The solution can only come from the people. But it does require a moral people. And I do not think we will again become a moral people short of spiritual revival and rebirth in this country. For this I pray every day.

      M. Voltaire’s points are all well taken, and if we believe that the solution lies within the people, then we must have the patience to discuss our ideas with persons. The hearts and minds of people are changed one by one, and influence for change is up to us rather than a political or cultural messiah (though such can be helpful).

  6. Pingback: Reconquering the Discourse—Part 2: Disarming Atheistic Smugness |

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