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A plea for the return to intellectual conservatism - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

A plea for the return to intellectual conservatism

By Marlo Safi / Assistant Opinions Editor

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One month ago, our school hosted Milo Yiannopoulos.

The dainty man who wielded his Louis Vuitton bag and bleach-blond hair managed to spark controversy on our campus. With a polemic perceived to be drenched in mockery and ignorance, the crowd lingered on his every word, and with every word came one of three responses — a sense of pride in one’s own conservatism, complete detestation of conservatism or the poignant realization that your fellow conservatives did not actually understand the ideology that they and the man in the royal blue suit and crocodile loafers claimed to tout.

A majority of the attendees fell under the first two categories, as expected. Since then, I have spent the last month searching for fellow young conservatives who fell under the third, who felt muffled under the bells and whistles of the tantalizing lure of Yiannopoulos’ grandiloquence and felt as if their peers had bastardized conservatism and the great minds who founded the intellectual breed.

With the exception of one or two people, this was to little avail.

This is not to say that I wholly disagreed with Yiannopoulos or found him unentertaining, or that I am pompous enough to eulogize a holier-than-thou and self-righteous edict denouncing his lecture. I can honestly say I found him entertaining, and I did appreciate the dialogue he began on my campus. I digress, however, that Yiannopoulos did signify the advent of the possibly imminent end of intellectual conservatism, or at least he did when interpreted with my neuroticism.

Allow me to elaborate on the breed of conservatism I am referring to that Yiannopoulos conjured — the type that is saturated in bombast and shock value. The type that says and does the unimaginable to showcase their own bravado under the guise of conservatism while being utterly devoid of gravitas. The type that pays no homage to the intellectuals who crafted modern conservatism, who is not privy to the ideological contributions of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

No, owning a Reagan-Bush ’84 shirt does not count, and no, watching Breitbart News Network and Fox News will not make you an intellectual conservative.

What will?

Turn off “The O’Reilly Factor,” and go check out some books. Pretty old-school, but we’re conservatives, aren’t we?

According to Pew Research Center, since 2008, whites with less formal education have shifted to the Republican Party. This statistic, along with many people’s perception of conservatives as uncultured swine, can only be reshaped or debunked by reading the works of Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale” or Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind,” for example.

The media, politicians and professors too often portray us as having our ideology rooted in our romance with dirt roads and moonshine, the uncouth and unabashed narratives of people such as Donald Trump and his henchmen and Jesus’ unadulterated word. This is not a plea for anyone to be ashamed of their affinity for dirt roads, moonshine or Jesus, as I have indulged in the first two and owe my life to the third, as many devout Christians do. But, we are more than these things. We are more than what the left often skews to be a blind cult following white Jesus and the NRA.

But, while we unapologetically focus all our attention to Yiannopoulos’ boorish behavior, rather than people such as Buckley and Goldwater, we are subsequently repressing conservatism. We are allowing people who don’t extol these values and principles because they don’t grab you by the throat to overwhelm the intellectual minority. Why would you read Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” when you could instead watch the circus unfold at Breitbart after the recent resignation of several reporters and editors?

While, as conservatives, we often are derided because of our zeal for what has become vastly unaccepted — a stringent observation of the principles underlined in Reagan’s New Federalism, the adherence to an unalienable right to bear arms and our resentment of political correctness  — our opposition more often than not completely bypasses us and renders us insufficiently intelligent. We are classified as a species of human unlike the rest, with coal and soot in lieu of a heart, and a vocal and uncontrollable desire to eternally damn the poor, the gay and women.

We are not the hateful cretans that MSNBC, Lena Dunham and Hillary Clinton try to fashion us as for the sake of their conniving agendas. We are not inbred oafs — our ideology was finely crafted by scholars and sages such as John Locke and Edmund Burke, and we must harness the plethora of resources available to us to assure that Buckley’s, Reagan’s and Goldwater’s conservatism is unadulterated and pure in order to educate those keen to learn. If we antagonize the feeble-minded even as intellectuals, then they have, in turn, boasted their own ineptitude.

Hate the income tax? Read Goldwater’s books. Think capitalism is the only system that champions individualism? Read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” Think the Constitution needs abided by and upheld? Read Justice Antonin Scalia or Justice William Rehnquist’s dissents, “The Federalist Papers” and, most importantly, the U.S. Constitution.

Cling to your God, cling to your guns and cling to your trucks. But do it because Buckley inspired you to, not Breitbart.

Marlo Safi is the Assistant Opinions Editor and primarily writes about politics and public policy for The Pitt News. Email Marlo at mes260@pitt.edu. 

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A plea for the return to intellectual conservatism