How to Write Like a Conservative
People say to me, “Ellis, we’re tired of earning an honest living. How can we get cushy sinecures writing shameless crap for brand-name Republican propaganda mills like National Review Online, the American Enterprise Institute, or The Weekly Standard?
Good news: It’s easy, it’s fun, and the liars of the right need all the help they can get.
Here’s how: Take the latest newsworthy example of Republican hypocrisy. “Which one? There are so many!” True. I mean today’s report about Senator (and, predictably, “family values” conservative) David Ritter (R. LA), whose name has been found in the records of “DC Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey. (“A right-wing moralist found availing himself of the services of prostitutes?” a breathless nation cries. “We love this! Will there be more?”) Patience.
efore learning how to write about this as they would (and will) on NRO or Blogs for Bush, let’s establish the opera buffa hypocrisy of Vitter the man, the Senator, the Catholic, the father of four. As a Congressman he was scored 100% by the Christian Coalition on “family issues.” Headlines from his web site (www.vitter.senate.gov) include “Vitter Pushes For Reauthorization of Abstinence Education Program” and “Sen. Vitter joins his Senate colleagues in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment.”
The picture, as usual, is one of public piety and private hypocrisy — abstinence and the sanctity of (heterosexual) marriage for thee, but not for me.
But wait. Does God know? Is He okay with it, or mad, or what? “Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter says in today’s public statement. “Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there — with God and them.”
This is impressive. How do you know that you have received forgiveness from God? Is it one of those acts-by-omission deals, where you say, “God? If You don’t forgive me, hit me in the head with a bag of marbles right…now.” And when that doesn’t happen — which it hardly ever does–you know you’ve received His holy absolution? Let’s say.
In any case, the Vitter story is a classic example of right-wing hypocrisy. How can you learn to “spin” it into a job? Although come on — it’s not just a job. It’s an adventure. You get to call Michael Ledeen and Dinesh D’Souza “colleagues.”
Here’s how. Follow this four-step formula:
1. Start with a contemptuously dismissive statement, not about the person worthy of contempt and dismissal (in this case, Sen. David Vitter, R. LA), but about the left’s reasonable reaction to him. Use fancy words to show you’re smart. Begin to smother the actual meaning of the event. For example:
The moonbat left is indulging in its usual paroxysms of ecstasy over the revealed imperfections of a Republican official whose most serious crime, apparently, is his public admission of sin.
Note that none of this sentence is true. This is essential. (“His public admission of sin” is not his most serious crime.) Extra points for “apparently,” “it would seem,” and other terms expressing both lofty amusement at the delusions of the mob, and the vague philosophical befuddlement of a person who, really, has more important things to think about. You don’t actually want to comment on all this; the atrocious behavior of the left has forced you to.
2. Turn the topic to Bill Clinton:
Of course their howls of outrage were notably in absence when Bill Clinton’s more egregious public peccadilloes were on inconvenient display.
This, too, is essentially untrue. And even if it were true, what is splendid about this sort of comment is that it has nothing to do with the issue at hand. This is what magicians call “misdirection” and what the rest of us call “bullshit.” (Also, “notably in absence” is a nice example of stuffy-but-not-quite-correct usage. What this hypothetical right-wing idiot means is “notably absent.”)
3. Make a sweeping, and false, generalization that will serve as the basis for your “surprising” conclusion. Use “of course” or “as everyone knows” to pre-empt any calls for proof:
Now, liberals, of course, believe in “free love” — or at least in a blanket permissiveness in which everyone is encouraged to do what they want, from no-fault divorce to abortion on demand, from gay marriage to single parenthood to the legalization of addictive drugs, and on and on. One need hardly wonder at their opinion of prostitution. It is, to them, “a victimless crime,” and ought to be legalized (so it can, like everything else, be regulated by the state).
There are kernels of truth here, just as there is a kernel of truth in the statement, “Zebras are stupid.” It’s possible that zebras are stupid. Or that a few are. But what does it mean, for a zebra to be stupid? Can it be proven? Can it even be measured? Does it even make sense? Does it matter? Are you willing to discuss the issue? Of course not. Best to just accept it and move on. Thus the conservative tactic of further smothering the meaning of the event with ludicrous, unprovable and, ideally, undiscussable irrelevancies.
4. Assert, in triumphant tones, that the meaning of the topic under discussion is “in fact” exactly the opposite, not only of what it really is, but of what everyone knows it really is. This accomplishes two goals. It allows you to say things that, in a normal, honest context, almost no one would have the shamelessness to say because absolutely no one with half a brain would take it seriously. And its very blatant wrongness, its complete variance with the truth, helps your audience of partisan, faith-based dumbbells to believe what they want to or hope to be true, as opposed to what really is true.
And yet these same proponents of individual license — without personal responsibility — now purport to condemn a man for succumbing to a natural human frailty, and availing himself of the very same “escort services,” the use of which they defend and even champion, on principle.
Thus, the somewhat surprising fact is, it is not Senator Vitter who is the hypocrite here. He has made his confession to his god and spouse and is making amends in ways we can know nothing of. No, the true hypocrites are the liberals themselves.
Well. I say, “the somewhat surprising fact”. But is anyone really surprised?
And that’s it. You’re done.
You’ve turned the situation inside out, like a sock, and then declared, “Here. Put this on. This is how you wear a sock.” It isn’t. You’ve turned it inside out. You’ve suffocated a story’s real meaning and, in an act of supreme intellectual dishonesty, used it as the basis for yet another bit of propaganda.
The above presents, as I say, a hypothetical “conservative” column. Assuming, though, that somewhere on Powerline or at The Corner someone — your Jonah Goldbergs, your John Hinderakers, your Michael Medveds — is tapping out something much like this as we speak, then for the record:
This scandal does not consist in liberals being “hypocrites” because they condemn a man for using an escort service. The hypocrite is the Senator, whose use of an escort service is a direct contradiction of his public avowal of “family values” and his assertions, either open or implicit, that no one should use or tolerate escort services.
But what do you care? You’re a right-wing columnist! You’ve made the world just a little more stupid by disseminating half-truths, outright lies, and boilerplate nonsense. Proofread, check for manuscript form, email to Bill Kristol, and wait for your check. Good job!