The Republican Party's recent troubles have given birth to a new breed of conservative that I don't recall having ever dealt with before. They're a rather sullen lot, given to extended periods of despair marked by an almost irremediable sense of nihilism. So morose are these newly arrived conservatives that one is tempted to disregard them as little more than emotionally stunted attention seekers who are best ignored.
However, as you can see from the image below, that would be a mistake. These melancholy conservatives are quite serious in their despondency and will not hesitate for one moment in inflicting serious harm upon themselves and the entire conservative movement in their desire to teach the world a lesson.
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Conservatism traditionally being an ideology of optimism (George Will and John Derbyshire being notable exceptions), its adherents most often find themselves at a loss when confronted with emo-cons. Imagine, if you will, Larry Kudlow trying to talk Paul Krugman off a window ledge after Steve Forbes is appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Every attempt at consolation results in deeper dejection, because reasoning with emo-cons is the intellectual equivalent of attempting to escape Chinese finger cuffs through brute strength.
So, how does one go about dealing with an emo-con when he has reached the nadir? What is the best way to prevent that nihilistic tendency from taking hold of its victim and sending him into an emotional spiral that threatens not only himself, but all the people around him who struggle in vain to understand and remedy the sense of alienation that has robbed them of a one-time compatriot and ally? Sadly, the truth is that there are no easy answers to that question. Each emo-con is unique and must be dealt with as an individual.
However, that doesn't mean that we are powerless in the face of this crisis. There are things that we can do to, if not completely alter the emo-con mindset, at least buy time until the gathering gloom finally gives way to a sense of perspective, and hope is allowed to crack the shell of this exquisite anhedonia by way of more aggressive means of intervention should they become necessary. In some cases, it is that buying of time that serves as the singular ray of light that obliterates the darkness that envelops the soul of the emo-con.
Remembering that the following suggestions are to be used only when confronted with an emo-con mentality in its most acute stages, and when there is an imminent danger of serious harm to the emo-con or the people in close ideological proximity, I will list below some techniques that might be employed to avert disaster. It is vitally important, however, that the person using these techniques do so only as a last resort, and only in cases where more conventional means (reasoning, giving time and space, education) are untenable.
One of the hallmarks of the emo-con is the rhetoric of futility. While it is not solely the property of these implacably forlorn denizens of the right, it is a near-universal identifier. While scrolling through the comments sections of blogs and discussion forums, you will invariably encounter paragraphs that pronounce the demise of all that is worth preserving about the Republican Party and, by extension, America itself. By way of example:
"It is a sad day when, in America -- once the greatest nation on the face of this planet -- we can't even field a candidate who isn't willing to surrender our national interests to international socialists who want to obliterate the very concept of national borders and enslave all of humanity to one gigantic superstate. I fear that we have lost the will to defend ourselves as a nation, and as such, I see no point in even voting in this election. Goodbye America. It was a wonderful idea. Too bad we proved unworthy of the trust our Founding Fathers placed in us."
Understandably, the first impulse upon reading passages like this is to simply roll one's eyes and dismiss the writer as an overly dramatic fantasist composing an ode to a time and place that exists only within the pages of New American. While this may be true in many cases, it would be wrongheaded to assume it is always so, since many emo-cons are susceptible to the allure of people who able to express lament in such romantic terms. By employing patronization, you can achieve one of two goals -- either of which is desirable. For instance:
"Indeed, it is truly a tragic day in the history of humankind. The America in which I grew up has ceased to exist, and all that is left of it is a once-revered, tattered scrap of paper called The Constitution of the United States of America. I mourn the loss of this indescribably glorious experiment in human freedom, and curse the bastards who trampled it beneath their filthy, tyrannical jackboots so that my grandchildren shall never see a day free of bondage. I shall now go and cut myself, and revel in the sweet numbness that only the sweet nectar of Mansinthe can deliver upon my tortured soul."
By replying in such a manner, you will provoke a reaction that will make your day, whether the original author is actually an emo-con, or just some florid literary scion of Robert Welch. In the case of the purple prose wielding conspiracy monger, you will inspire the kind of rage that will compel a response that makes the original passage read like the nutritional information on a box of saltines. However, if the person happens to be an emo-con who has fallen under the spell of such a person, you will have established a rapport by invoking Marilyn Manson's brand of absinthe and the gloomy language that is the currency of emo-conservatism. You can then exploit the emotional connection you've created to establish your emo-cred, and perhaps set the emo-con on the path to reason.
John Stuart Mill once wrote, "A profound conviction raises a man above the feeling of ridicule." And that is true enough. However, emo-conservatism isn't profound and has very little to do with conviction. It's merely an expression of antipathy toward people who don't agree with whatever it is the particular emo-con believes. And emo-cons are capable of having some widely divergent beliefs. So, you see, emo-conservatism isn't a belief system or a philosophy. It is merely an attitude. As such, it makes a wonderful target for ridicule.
In employing ridicule against the emo-con, the object isn't necessarily to bring about a change in mindset. Ridicule isn't a very effective tool toward that end as it tends to harden the position of its victim, and often leads to his becoming radicalized. Ideally, this will lead the emo-con to ultimately become overly forthright about what he truly believes, which is frequently so off-the-wall that, upon realizing that he has outed himself, he will slink away in horrified embarrassment, never to be heard from again.
Say, for example, you have read a post at Michelle Malkin's blog concerning, Rachel Ray's recent appearance in a Dunkin' Donuts ad wearing a scarf which some people insist was a keffiyeh. And, since you're not a lunatic, you just don't see what the big deal is. To you, it looks much more like what is commonly known as "a freakin' scarf". So, in order to let it be known that not all conservatives buy into kind of conspiracy mongering that Malkin often engages in at her blog, you decide to post a response that goes something like this:
"Good grief! It's just a scarf. A keffiyeh is a very specific kind of garment with a very specific kind of pattern worn in a very specific way. What Rachel Ray was wearing bore no resemblance to a keffiyeh, and I think Michelle has jumped her third or fourth shark on this one."
Shortly following your response, you can expect the emo-con to chime in with his own. Likely, it will be along these lines:
"None are so blind as those who will not see. It has become fashionable among many of the trust fund radicals and those living the soap-free lifestyle to wear what are called 'peace scarves' in order to show allegiance and solidarity with the Palestinians. Michelle is right about this, and I suspect that those who are attacking her are the same people who support open borders and selling out our national sovereignty. They obviously don't care about national security, or they would be doing everything they can to stop the mainstreaming of radical islamic violence. This country is going to hell in a handbasket because of all this PC bullcrap."
Amused at this response, you decide to address the charge that you are somehow an advocate of open borders who doesn't care about national sovereignty or security, and that your views are somehow driven by political correctness. And, so, you respond thusly:
"Look, I understand that there are many people who visit Michelle's site because of her advocacy of border security. But, honestly, is there any subject on the face of the earth that you people won't use as a springboard to rail against the Mexicans? This blog entry was about a bunch of kooks going nuts over a scarf. Michelle saw it as an opportunity to get herself showered with adulation for standing up for the apparent right of people to never see anything that looks like a scarf, because a keffiyeh is a scarf-like object which, if we let down our guard for one moment, will bring untold death and destruction to our shores and the end of America as we know it. Just like the Mexicans."
This will invariably inspire unspeakable rage in the emo-con. His face will become a carmine vision of indignation obliterating the emo-con's normally blue-tinged palor as he frantically pecks, backspaces, and re-pecks out every third word in response to your ridicule.
"Isn't it just like one of you leftwing hacks to denigrate true conservatives? All you know how to do is attack people who care about the future of this nation and don't want to see it absorbed into one big North American Union with the socialists in Canada and all those illiterate criminals in May-hee-co. You try to tell us to ignore the Trans-Texas Corridor even though there is evidence that proves it is the start of the NAFTA Superhighway, which will run from our southern to northern borders, effectively eliminating both. Look it up on the internet! The plans are all right there in the Security and Prosperity Partnership! Look at the back of the North Carolina driver's license, which already has the logo for the North American Union! And there are plans for all American driver's licenses to have the same logo! But, then, you already knew all of this. You're obviously one of the people who want it to happen. Unfortunately for you, there are people like me and Michelle who won't let you ram it down our throats."
Voila! You have just caused the emo-con to connect Rachel Ray and Dunkin' Donuts to the conspiracy to fold the entire North American continent into a borderless superstate. And, so, you say in response:
"So, not only can Rachel Ray make an entire gourmet meal in sixty minutes. She can also change the map of the world with a scarf. That's pretty impressive, and I admit, merits some pretty close scrutiny."
Finally, if patronizing and ridiculing don't seem to be working, there is always the option of ignoring the emo-con. This, however, is the least effective, and potentially the most dangerous of all options. Essentially, this is what the majority of the online conservative movement has been doing over the past few years. And, it hasn't worked very well. The only saving grace of this technique is that it grants its user some peace of mind.
But, it's a false peace, which became most obvious during the recent controversy over the online community at Barack Obama's campaign web site. Having assured themselves that no one would ever take seriously the malarial rantings of one of its contributors, the administrators allowed an anti-Semitic screed to be posted on Obama's official campaign site. Needless to say, some conservatives jumped on the piece with both feet and used it as an illustration of the kind of supporters that the Obama campaign attracts.
While it may be true that it is unfair to attribute the opinions of web site commenters and contributors to the person they are supporting, fairness doesn't really matter. As many emo-cons are quick to point out, politics is war. And, they are very serious about it. They approach politics in very much the same way that propagandists approach disinformation in wartime, though they may not always be cognizant of the fact that it is disinformation.
For the past few years, various conspiracy theories have been bubbling in the comments sections of blogs and in discussion forums. It is often left to other commenters to swat these theories down, but doing so doesn't really have much impact. After all, people who visit blogs and discussion forums do so because they find the people who run them persuasive and grant them a degree of authority. So, simply allowing commenters to hash things out among themselves while the guy running the show stays above the fray amounts to handing over a fertile piece of ground on your property to a marijuana growers association. The seeds will turn into weeds.
Pretty soon, a strange phenomenon began to occur. Conservative blogs and discussion forums began to devolve into gathering places for the chronically dyspeptic, and pretty soon, you had border hawks consorting with anti-war libertarians consorting with anti-war liberals consorting with anti-free trade populists consorting with paleoconservatives. From this, two factions were born: the Ron Paul revolution and the emo-cons. The emo-cons are essentially those churlish conservatives who, like so many suburban teenagers, have grown disenchanted because the Ron Paul folks don't really like them, and the regular Republicans don't pay enough attention to them.
Neither fully accepted, nor rejected, they simply long to feel something to remind them that they're alive. And, so, in their longing inspire some reaction beyond disregard, they act out in ways that guarantee a reaction from those around them: anything is better than being taken for granted. Like the emotionally numb suburban kid with a fondness for wearing black nail polish, lipstick, and clothes, he cuts himself to feel something. Only, in the case of the emo-con, instead of using a razor blade, he advocates an Obama victory.
It's hard to say how many of the emo-cons we'll find dangling from a doorknob with a studded leather belt for a noose this fall. It could be just a few, or it could turn out to be a big, Gothic Jonestown massacre. But, if it turns out to be a black-clad version of The Peoples Temple, it will be the fault of so many above-the-fray conservatives. And, it won't be because of a failure to indulge the emo-cons. It will be because, for too long, too many conservatives pretended they weren't there.