If you are like most politically-inclined individuals, you probably enjoy watching YouTube videos or reading popular culture articles with titles like, “Person X DESTROYS College Student With FACTS and LOGIC,” or, “Person Y EXPOSES THE HYPOCRISY of Person Z.” You get the gist, perhaps the names of certain political commentators come to mind. These types of videos seem to promote bellicose behavior and an echo-chamber environment. So, why is it that these articles and videos get millions of clicks and reshares each time they are born into the internet’s chaos?
“The Love for Hate”
Why are conservatives so easily dragged into bitterness, paranoia, and lament of the culture? Dr. Elizabeth Corey, a political science professor of Baylor University, came to Trinity on November 15th to answer this question. She called attention to the increasing negativity stemming from conservatives and the profitability of cynicism. While sensational journalism has always been lucrative, the emergence of social media only added fuel to the fire, inflaming the absurd and damning its readers to feel hopeless and isolated. As refreshing as it is to see some uplifting news in the media, the number of views pales in comparison to the views on the catastrophic, so-horrible-you-can’t-look-away news.
Dr. Corey addresses this fact as humanity’s “love for hatred”; we have an affinity for the outrageous and dwelling on the ugly. In the conservative sphere of the media, negative news that is critical of today’s culture can be comforting because everyone agrees. When attacked by something, it is human nature to either fire back or shrink away. Pessimistic conservative attitudes are a form of firing back, or ‘warrior conservatism’ as Dr. Corey calls it. On the other hand, inaction or avoiding a constructive conversation would be conservative “squishiness.” So, how can a productive conservative balance these?
The Cure to Cynicism
The solution that Dr. Corey proposes to spark positive change on the conservative side is to embrace the good. This means first understanding that many news articles that we are exposed to are widely sensationalized for the sole purpose of appealing to the need for the outrageous. Also, this means returning to rationality, which is often overridden by negative emotions. Those who identify with the conservative movement should look at their direct surroundings and environments and observe the immense number of blessings. Gratitude should come first. There should be a drive to do beneficial, positive things around one’s community instead of pessimistic inaction. Finally, Dr. Corey explains that there should be a restraint on “warrior conservatism” and engaging in political conversation only to have that “I told you so” moment. Conservatives need to back away from the meanness and irony and, instead, embrace and advertise that which is good.
Beauty of Tradition
Dr. Corey gives an example of “that which is good”: some traditions from the past. These could be religion, a strong family unit, or gracious debate. Instead of fighting in culture wars, conservatives should establish their own. Criticism cannot be the right’s only hallmark. There needs to be a renaissance of the conservative movement’s own art and culture.
The main takeaway from Dr. Corey’s speech was the necessity of learning to live gladly. A little gratitude and graciousness can go a long way in today’s political climate. By rising above the desire to be negative, the conservative movement can become an undeniable force for goodness and truth. All it takes is positive change in the aspects of our lives that can be controlled.