Does the word “dignity” get much consideration in our politics, anymore? I wonder sometimes. My latest cause to wonder is the sorry episode from CPAC involving former conservative (now politically…whatever) mouthpiece/child Jonathan Krohn being cornered by a group of nominally conservative attendees from disparate corners of the Internet – notably Katie Pavlich, CPAC Blogger of the Year, whose primary contribution to conservatism is a book about the fact that plausible deniability still appears to work fairly well. If I’m in error about that perception, you may correct me in the comments below!
While nobody – repeat, nobody – in that video covered themselves in glory, I was particularly distressed at the hostile, immature tone coming from these representatives of the Right. Miss Pavlich interrupts the two gentlemen to demand Mr. Krohn confirm his identity. There’s not really a debate about whether this is rude, is there? But when admonished by the other party to the conversation, she hastily explains that she is a “reporter,” by way of excusing her altogether hostile tone of voice. She seems to take offense at the notion that she is being “confrontational,” (“Thank you for that”) after barging into a conversation and confronting Krohn about the views he held at the age of 13.
Watch the video. It’s a pointless confrontation, where an outnumbered young man is poked and prodded by a pack of over-excited, barely-post-adolescents for no discernible reason other than to get under his skin. Is that how “conservatives” play? We burn the heretics?
Listening to the tone of voice used by the young women in the video, I was unpleasantly reminded of petty high school dramatics. Take the moment in the video where, agitated, Krohn stands up and is promptly requested to sit back down. As if he is the threatening one. One presumes his interlocutors were standing at the time. This is not an example of a reasoned, considered ideological exchange. This is the tone of an arrogant up-and-comer and a sycophantic entourage attempting to intimidate someone because they can.
We don’t do that sort of thing, do we?
My favorite part is detailed in the Moody account, as Brandon Darby (apparently the Gorilla-in-Chief at Breitbart) takes the opportunity to let the shrimpy, nerdy Krohn know that if he had raised his voice outside the conference they “would have an issue.” That’s the way, Mr. Darby. One almost laments that there is no video of the simian chest-thumping. Really alpha’d that one.
In my rather slim online dealings I’ve often kept my distaste for this endlessly combative approach under wraps, for no better reason than a.) hardly anyone cares who the hell I am, and b.) complaining about someone on the internet rarely functions as a corrective. But a pattern of histrionics only serves to hand liberals a convenient, amateurish target to obscure our message. Such dramatics get traffic, I guess, but do they win people over?
Rather than lambasting Krohn, who at 18 is following the predictable adolescent path of searching for a distinct identity (with the important caveat that not many teenagers are afforded his opportunity to be an international journalist), why not put forward a conservatism that would be worth coming home to?
That’s not what happened here. And the aftermath of this unforced error only yielded further embarrassment, as detailed at the links.
We can all do better. We can and should treat our ideological opposites with respect, even if they don’t respect us in turn. We can treat them with the dignity that is due to all people, regardless of their misguided views. We can do this even as we fight “The Narrative,” unceasingly. That’s what makes our way better. That’s what makes our way attractive to political searchers.
Dignity. It’s one thing that can help us win.