In the age of viral internet fame, activism has become something of a ploy to get attention for the sake of attention rather than for the sake of creating change. We can see this in the Kent State chapter of TPUSA, where the immaturity of their actions brought nothing but negative publicity to the conservative movement.
In the age of William F. Buckley, the idea that conservatism could gain negative connotations from the actions of a single group (such as the John Birch Society) was a huge problem. Buckley did not, however, have to reckon with social media. Instead of pushing our “activism” on social media for hopes of gaining attention, we need to ensure the events, activities, and campaigns we hold will actually do their part to accomplish our desired outcome within our community first.
Pavlich, Yiannopoulos, Lahren, Kirk, Shapiro, Stuckley, Timpf, etc. are all right-wing commentators with huge social media followings. While some of them have authored books, it is the tweets and social media posts that students love most. Oftentimes, people only read their headlines instead of their articles. “Activists” worship the people who get the most retweets and likes, calling it the “best day of their lives” when they are retweeted by one of these commentators.
Activism can be effective without being imitative and it’s important for students to realize that a person they agree with politically can be wrong. I have met people who will defend Tomi Lahren to death, even if they claim to disagree with one of her viewpoints — they will defend her position exclusively because it comes from her.
It’s fine to admit someone is wrong about something without giving up your support for them. Standing by your personal convictions and principles is far better than allowing someone verified on twitter to dictate all of your views. Knowing what you believe, and why you believe it, leads to greater degrees of passion and authenticity for your values, not to mention more effective defenses to support those values as well.
“Cult of personality” praise leads to focusing on spokespeople rather than principles: there are Baby Boomers who would rather point someone to Sean Hannity’s talk show than explain what they think about a policy. Similarly, I know people who claim to have “converted a friend to conservatism” when all they did was point them toward Ben Shapiro videos. Shapiro is great, but I don’t give my acquaintance the credit for that person’s political transition.
Instead of focusing on celebrities and pointing people towards our choice of political analysts, we must live our lives by our convictions and our principles. This will do far more to further the conservative movement because it shows that we live by the expectations of the morals and beliefs we preach.
Buckley conservatism can be seen as boring, and it may be, but it is also incredibly effective. Integrity, conviction, and honesty were all things Buckley exemplified; and, he would probably be pretty disappointed in how social media has influenced modern activism. Therefore, while we encourage activism among differing viewpoints, we must ensure that it is done in a mature way which earns respect rather than virality.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.