I was watching an episode of Bill Whittle’s new (and much improved over Right Angle) solo show on NRATV “Hot Mic” the other day and in what is a first for Bill going solo, I shut him off partway in. As a commentator for the NRA, an organization which I wholeheartedly support, of course one of Bill’s signature issues is going to be the right to keep and bear arms and how gun control is not going to come anywhere close to solving violence of any kind. That much I’m completely with him on. But what he tried to do was to place blame for increasing gun violence and violence against law enforcement officers in particular, and place it on Hollywood movies. Now, I have no love for Hollywood, but this notion that violent movies or strongly-written dramatic characters prompt otherwise docile people to become rampaging monsters is every bit as asinine as claiming that the presence of guns means the chance of violence taking place is ramped up. To make matters worse, Bill thought a good way to make his point would be to pull a classic scene from a movie very near and dear to my heart, “The Matrix.” He took the iconic lobby shoot-’em-up scene and derided it as “violence porn.” I’m sorry Bill, but you only made yourself look like an ignorant scold–the movie had been crystal clear by this point that these are NOT police officers and NOT an actual SWAT team, but for whatever reason you chose to ignore that and just focus on the uniforms worn by the men getting shot and throw in a line about how the Columbine shooters were “influenced” by “The Matrix.” Uh, no Bill, they may have taken some stylistic elements from that movie just like James Holmes took some style points from the Joker in “The Dark Knight” but the monsters they were came long before they ever donned a black trenchcoat.
Incidentally, the scene that would have made Bill’s point much better (although it’s still wrong) would have been the opening scene where Trinity takes down two units of cops and Agent Smith looks like he’s there to apprehend a terrorist. But of course she does most of that with kicks and punches and it’s nowhere near as dramatic. Full disclosure, first time I watched that movie I was cheering for the agents at the end of that scene. Moving on.
Gavin McInnes, much as I like him, derisively rips on video games (and he is far from the only conservative voice to do so). Prager University attacks porn and guys who don’t “man up” and get married. The list of topics and supposedly-individualism-loving voices seems to be getting longer very quickly, and this is disturbing to me because it’s playing right into a stereotype the left has been trying to promote for decades. Supposedly conservatives (Christians in particular) are a bunch of Puritans and ruler-wielding nuns who are opposed to anything fun or different and want to impose their ideas of propriety and morality on everyone and everything, even when we’re not talking about their kids or things that hurt other people. They are painted as the preacher from “Footloose” and the book-burning simple country folk in that huge-pile-of-straw-man movie. In reality conservatives have rarely been like this and when they have it’s been far in the past, and in general society’s safeguards were built to prevent the conservative abuses of the past from happening again. No one wanted a state church or preferential treatment under the law for one denomination or speech being banned by an overzealous preacher. It wasn’t until the advent of the term “politically correct” in all of its various connotations came into use in the mid-20th century that the left got its own cadre of scolds. Today we call them social justice warriors, Antifa, speech police, fake news, and so on. If she had won the election, Dr. Pantsuit would have taken the raspy-voiced scold to new heights, just listen to her infamous “why aren’t I fifty points ahead?” rant if you need a taste of what might have been. But it seems that when we manage to push the lefties back, some voices on our side want to give them more ammunition than they could ever come up with on their own by coming up with these loopy ideas to censor “violent video games” or rap lyrics or ban pornography or what have you.
And again, let me be clear that I don’t lump people making rules for their own families and children into this bunch. I can see plenty of valid reasons for not allowing a teenager to participate in even things as tame as a high school dance and hell, when the time comes I might do the same myself. I also very definitively do not include anything that hurts someone else as being in this category, and like it or not harpies, that means abortion. Abortion is no more and no less a moral issue than straight-up murder is–but the left likes to try to scream that “you can’t legislate morality” in an attempt to portray their opponents as nothing more than judgmental scolds. Because no one likes a scold. Furthermore I absolutely do not include anyone opposed to making the government pay for this dreck as part of the problem–you’re free to dunk a picture of Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, Sun Myung Moon, or whoever into a jar of urine and call it art, but the government’s got no business spending my money to pay for it. That’s totally different from telling you you can’t do it. And finally, there’s the whole issue of gay marriage, transgendered bathrooms, 101 different genders, and all the rest of that nonsense that the left doesn’t really care about but loves to use to piss off Christians. That’s a topic for another time but for the purposes of this post I think most conservatives have come to a “live and let live” point in these matters, meaning don’t force your lifestyle down our throats or use it to corrupt science or cultural institutions and we’ll all get along fine. No one’s sending the SWAT team into your bedroom to see if you’re committing sodomy (Sarvis voters in Virginia who fell for that line of malarkey, I’m looking at you).
The fastest way to lose the ground we’ve picked up in the recent past will be to try to become the very scolds the left has tried to paint us as for generations. Conservatism’s biggest selling point is its emphasis on personal liberty bordering on libertarianism in most respects. Pitching it now with “by the way you’ll have to give up your computer games and internet anonymity and your naked lady pictures too” is going to turn people off because you can’t justify any of that with any sort of logic or reason beyond “I don’t think you ought to do that, because I think it’s bad for you.” We know how well Prohibition turned out. We saw how well the “Conservative (note “big C” meaning the British Tory party) Manifesto” which was going to censor the internet went over in the British snap election.
So Gavin, you want to be “punk rock” and rumble in the streets? Kind of cuts against that when you deride video game players and guys who go their own way. Bill, you’ve ranted before about why conservatism is so hard to sell when its very essence is individualism, and well, this is why. People like the independence but they want the freedom to watch violent movies whether or not the violence is in the context of a larger story or is just senseless gore because it doesn’t hurt anyone. No one is going to or ever has watched a slasher flick or a shoot-em-up movie and then gone out and proceeded to riddle a 7-Eleven with bullets unless they had a screw loose or a spark of actual evil in them already. This is the time we ought to be capitalizing on our progress made against the thought-policing safe-space snowflake left by showing them to be the scolds they are and presenting ourselves as the “so long as you don’t touch my nose you are free to swing your fist as you please” side. So my friends and comrades, I beg you, knock it the hell off. Don’t give the farm back to these people by becoming the stereotype they made of us for years.
I am reminded of a scene from another notoriously violent movie from the same era as “The Matrix” but set well in the past, Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.” There’s a scene after William Wallace makes his first really big win against the hated British where Wallace (Mel) meets with Scottish leaders and nobles to congratulate him on his victory, and then they immediately set to pressuring him to recognize and back their various claims to the Scottish throne or other matters of dirty politics. Wallace walks out in disgust after telling the infighting nobles off, basically saying that he has bigger things to worry about and greater matters to concern himself with than their petty little fiefdoms. We have better things to do and more important matters to be spending our time and attention on than “Hollywood violence” or video games, and it’s the height of foolishness to take the little ground we’ve been able to take back and try to use it as a platform to attack the very freedom and individuality we claim to revere. For God’s sake, don’t be a scold. No one likes a scold.