Money vs. Ideas

For the past several years I have been chronicling the fall of one “conservative media icon” after another, exposing their gradual submission to the Republican Party establishment, even as they tried (or pretended) to cater to their primary audience, namely the true believer hordes we used to flatteringly mistake for “grassroots conservatives.” The Trump era, however, has amplified the problem ten-fold, as Trump’s cult and the GOP establishment are in such perfect lock-step that gone are the old conflicting winds that kept the best of the “conservative media” upright, or at least complicated their self-interested drift toward soulless profiteering.

In the pre-Trump days, a pundit or publisher looking for fame, wealth, and “relevance” was always pulled in two directions: on the one hand, there was “the conservative movement,” to which most of his readers or listeners belonged; but on the other, there were the sirens serenading him toward mainstream establishment respectability, perhaps even influence. One could ride the fence and try to play to both groups to some degree. It was difficult to pull off, but if one were clever enough, one could make a comfortable, maybe even glorious, career out of this balancing act, drawing the grassroots conservatives around one by claiming to be their “voice,” and then serving them up to the establishment lions at every election, under the “binary choice” flag. This method worked quite well for most of the prominent radio hosts and columnists, as well as the big conservative commentary websites, for many years.

The whole situation changed with Trump’s rise. The establishment ingeniously used Trump as an artificial sweetener to entice the old Tea Party movement into its maw, such that today, in practice, there is no longer even a sliver of light between the goals of the erstwhile grassroots and the goals of Mitch McConnell. As a result, however, the profiteering pundits are no longer saved from their own worst inclinations by divided interests (their need for glory on the one hand, and for acceptance on the other). All the money and fame and influence are on the same side of the equation now. It is not difficult to guess, then, which way these conservative commentators will fall, sooner or later.

The positive outcome of this new dynamic, from the point of view of truth, is that the principled minority, who for years sought honest, serious conservative commentary, and believed that they might get it from this or that famous celebrity on the radio or in print, can now see how thoroughly they have been had. Everything is so much clearer now, as the lines of demarcation between the principled political commentators and the posers and money-takers are no longer fuzzy at all, to anyone willing to be honest with himself.

In short, the chief lesson we have learned, or rather verified, about the entire “conservative media,” thanks to the establishment’s adoption of Trump as its avatar, is this:

If so-called conservative commentators are trying to make a living from their commentary — that is, if commentary is their “career” — then they will ultimately fold when the money and prospects on the anti-Trump side promise to be smaller than the money and prospects on the pro-Trump side. In other words, they will all show themselves to be profiteering frauds or weak-souled sell-outs in the end.

The profit motive is a wondrous thing, and a bringer of miracles in practical life. But it is not a good match for the arena of ideas. There is no way to “balance” a desire for money and audience numbers with a desire for truth. Truth will always lose in the end.

The sincere truth-seekers, on the other hand, will win in the long run, as current events help them dispel yet another cumbersome and distracting delusion; dispelling delusions, after all, being a major part of the struggle for wisdom.

Here, for new readers who may be interested, is just a partial list of some “conservative media icons” whose collapse into Trump-ophancy I have chronicled:

Dennis Prager
Roger Kimball
Mark Levin
Red State
Erick Erickson

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