Saturday, 13 October 2018

Deconstructing the Conservative Youth Movement

There has been a growing trend of young conservatives who position themselves as the leader of a young right-wing movement. The young usually lean left, and these new right-wingers hope to dispute this. As petty as it seems, a large part of this is being "cool."

The problem with marketing conservatism to young people is that they believe in traditional values-remaining a virgin until marriage and not cursing or deviating from social norms. That's kryptonite for young people. More importantly, being cool entails a sense of rebellion. By definition, conservatives are not rebels. They support the status quo and the people in power, including the military, the police, and business leaders. 

Finally, to start a movement you need a pressing issue, a great injustice. The right, especially now, has overwhelming control of the US government. So the right needed anything to latch on to, to make an issue out of. What's the one place conservatives aren't especially prominent? College campuses. That's where conservatives decided to focus.

Enter Ben Shapiro. Starting as a conservative columnist as young as high school, he had a talent for talking at a dizzying speed and being fast on his feet during debates. While he shares the social value of conservatives, like opposing gay marriage, he was smart to mostly shut up about them because they alienate young people. 

He understood one crucial aspect of coolness-- not caring or becoming emotional about anything. Ben Shapiro would invite leftists to argue with him. College leftists are very passionate but often aren't articulate. Ben Shapiro exploits this to create a dynamic where he seems like the untouchable epitome of coolness and logic, while the left comes off as emotional SJWs. His hyperbolically titled videos are shared online, contributing to the view counts on his show. His usage of the Internet, where entertaining soundbites gets the most views, is masterful. He preaches the message that the left is obsessed with victimhood and dominates the media, but he has a new message that abstains from identity politics and such self-pity. He has a sense of humor and gave his followers a feeling of collective identity. 

He has inspired a number of wannabes from Charlie Kirk, who has taken the extra step of founding College conservative group called Turning Point USA, to Steven Crowder, who hosts viral Change My Mind segments on college campuses, to the now irrelevant Milo Yiannapolous, who veered to far right for even mainstream conservatives. 

Next I will discuss the contradictions within their movement.