national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]

















Bruce S. Thornton - Contributor

Bruce Thornton is a professor of Classics at Cal State Fresno and co-author of Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age and author of Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization (Encounter Books). His most recent book is Searching for Joaquin: Myth, Murieta, and History in California (Encounter Books). [go to Thornton index]

The Conservatives' Pyrrhic Victory?
On Cancelling "The Reagans"
[Bruce S. Thornton] 11/8/03

Conservatives should resist the impulse to crow over CBS's pulling of its bio-pic on the Reagans. There's no question that the show is an ideologically skewed cartoon reflecting the liberal prejudices of Hollywood types like Barbra Streisand, whose husband James Brolin plays Ronald Reagan as the amiable puppet of his Machiavellian wife. But compromising on the broader principles involved could turn this into a Pyrrhic victory.

At issue are the fundamental differences between the liberal and conservative assumptions that lie behind the stands taken on any individual issue. Liberals are, at heart, elitists who distrust the intelligence and character of the average American. Most people, in the liberal view, are dolts enslaved to various pathologies such as racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia -- diseases that leave them vulnerable to the manipulation of corporations and their Republican minions who want only to ensure the existence of a large cohort of docile consumers. In this view, the "false consciousness" (in Marxist jargon) of most Americans therefore require a class of intelligent moral caretakers who have the expertise and vision necessary to realize America's "true" interests.

This distrust of the "people," whose "empowerment" liberals are always claiming to advance, explains their willingness to surrender the management of society to self-proclaimed enlightened "experts," and to limit individual freedom, if necessary, in order to keep this childlike "people" from harming their own best interests. That's why liberals prefer unelected judges with lifetime tenure to legislators elected by and accountable to the voters. We had a perfect example of this prejudice in the recent recall, when liberals were squealing that the election to remove Davis was an "assault on democracy," when in reality it was an expression of pure democracy -- proven by the fact that more people voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the recall than voted for Davis in the regular election.

Conservatives are supposed to be different. As champions of individual freedom and responsibility, they prefer to leave as many decisions as possible in the hands of citizens, who can be trusted to know their own interests and decide accordingly. Rather than distrusting the people, conservatives distrust large bureaucratic institutions and their so-called "experts," particularly those of the government that are beyond accountability to the voters. Rather than trusting judges, conservatives prefer to fight in the political arena where the people decide.

The point is not that the people will always make the best or right decision. But whatever decision is made, the people are responsible for the choice they freely made. If the choice turns out to be a bad one, then the same process will provide the opportunity for correction. Political freedom, after all, doesn't necessarily guarantee the right result: it simply guarantees that the greatest number of people have participated in the process and will bear the responsibility for the outcome. Whatever damage historically has been caused by the mistakes made by a free people, they are dwarfed by the carnage wrought by various elites of "experts" whose visions of utopias the oafish masses couldn't see led to mountains of corpses.

These different principles explain why typically liberals are eager to censor and control what becomes available to the people: that's why the term "political correctness" is universally understood to mean the enforcement of liberal-leftist doctrine, not conservative. On college campuses, it is the left that protests the appearance of conservative speakers, disrupts their speeches, vandalizes newspapers, and attempts to compel the administration to use is enforcement powers to silence ideas of which the left disapproves. It is generally the left that monitors textbooks and curricula and reading lists, and that proscribes various words in order to make sure the people aren't exposed to any corrupting influences.

Conservatives, on the other hand, usually favor a free market of ideas; their protests focus on the unfair domination of the market by one group that controls an institution. Content is not the issue, for no matter how bad or pernicious the idea, the more people who encounter it, the more its lack of merit will become apparent. A free raucous debate will generally allow the people to sort out treasures from trash; and if some trash should prevail, the same process will eventually expose its trashiness. We need to monitor the various institutions that promote ideas, of course, but for fairness, not for content. If all voices have an equal opportunity to be heard without fear of reprisal or coercion, then the market and the people who frequent it will do the rest.

For these reasons, I think it would have been better to encourage CBS to broadcast its anti-Reagan propaganda and then have to suffer the consequences of outraged viewers and nervous advertisers. More people would've directly seen for themselves the biased fictions passing for history rather than taking someone else's word. The result would have been an embarrassing exposure of the blatant prejudices in the popular media that liberals are continually telling us are the figments of our paranoid imaginations. Pundits and commentators would probably have spent weeks correcting the distortions of the movie and thereby providing a more accurate and balanced estimation of Reagan and his presidency.

As it is now, the whole affair will blow over and the Hollywood left will cast itself as a martyr to free expression and a victim of the "vast, right-wing conspiracy," as Barbra Streisand is already doing on her web site. No matter how untrue, the perception that a conservative establishment used its clout to stifle expression will gain traction and reinforce the current big lie that the media aren't really liberal but in fact all too eager to kowtow to the Republicans. And a golden opportunity to allow millions of Americans to see with their own eyes that truth of liberal dominance in television would not have been lost.

Conservatives cannot prevail in the long run by playing the same game as the other side, no matter how gratifying in the short term it may be to give them a dose of their own medicine. Conservatives must stick to their fundamental belief that free people should have the power to run their lives, not self-selected elites who claim some greater wisdom or insight.

copyright 2003 Bruce S. Thornton

Searching for Joaquin
by Bruce S. Thornton

Greek Ways
by Bruce S. Thornton

Bonfire of the Humanities
by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, Bruce S. Thornton

Plagues of the Mind
by Bruce S. Thornton

Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality

by Bruce S. Thornton





Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005