At a recent Republican event at Ohio State University, Fox News star Charlie Kirk tried to recruit young voters for his party in the company of another Republican celebrity, Rob Smith, who is both black and homosexual. Kirk, in his presentation, tried to appeal to diversity as the new GOP standard, which the showcasing of a black gay was supposed to illustrate.
In the ensuing Q and A session, something quite unexpected happened, as Chronicles’ Executive Editor Edward Welsch explains in the December issue. Those associated with right-wing dissenters from the conservative establishment, now known as Groypers, stepped forth and asked questions that were meant to be provocative.
Mind you, any group that wishes to challenge a firmly entrenched media conservatism from the right has to be edgy in order to attract notice. While a privileged conservative media star such as Ben Shapiro can count on attracting between 4 million and 5 million hits to most of his podcasts, Groypers superstar Nick Fuentes has only been able to reach about 50,000 viewers with each of his. Fuentes admitted on a podcast show that I cohost with Joseph Cotto that you really have to stir things up if you’re a “right-wing deviationist.”
Opposing the Republicans’ “special relationship” with the Israeli right, calling for a moratorium on immigration, and contesting the emerging alliance between Conservatism Inc. and LGBT advocates won’t endear Groypers to the media, or even to Fox News. It therefore seems necessary for outsiders to make their presence known by sounding disconcertingly bold.
The problem, it seems to me, is that the Groypers don’t always ask questions very well. Take this one, for example, which one of their group asked at Ohio State. Although it rattled Kirk, this question might have been posed more effectively. “What if the president were to enact a policy that completely benefits the United States and her citizens but to the detriment of Israel. Would you support it, yes or no?” If Kirk had not flown off the handle, he might have responded, as any neoconservative or Fox News all-star could have, that it’s inconceivable that the U.S. and Israel would ever have serious disagreements. Both countries embody democratic values and support human rights. Further, Kirk might have gone on, it is unimaginable that the U.S. would want to do anything to the detriment of Israel. Such an action would ultimately be to our detriment as well.
My point here is not that such a response would be factually persuasive or even entirely honest, but it would have had the effect of deflecting criticism without having to engage certain hard issues. Those issues would include the time and energy devoted by an American conservative movement to unconditionally defending the Likud coalition in Israel.
Is this frenetically pursued activity necessary for what claims to be an American right, especially since the conservative establishment has studiously ignored cultural issues that should concern us profoundly? While pushing us deeper and deeper into Middle Eastern adventures, this establishment never bothered to oppose key social issues, repeatedly yielding ground to the social left instead. Why is this enthusiastic devotion to Israeli hardliners a programmatic pillar of our conservative movement? This is how I would have framed the question, were I in the Groypers' shoes.
There are of course certain obvious answers to this question, and I won’t hold back in providing some. One could mention the consuming interest of certain conservative movement sponsors in pushing their ultra-Zionist perspective, the effort to buy off Christian Zionists by fervently and steadily supporting Israel while working to ally the GOP with LGBT activists, or the espousal of Israeli nationalism as a means of avoiding charges by the left of being “right-wing anti-Semites.” But I doubt Kirk would hurry to give any of these self-evident answers.
Please note that I offer this advice not as a total outsider but as someone whom Groypers say they have read and learned from. I appreciate their compliments, and I'm glad they are asking tough questions of the establishment. I would like to see them ask more incisive questions, even if it comes at the expense of being provocative.
[Image Credit: YouTube-America First with Nicholas J Fuentes]
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.