Those of you who know me will know that I am in general a very conservative person, not only in what I do but also in what I believe. With this month being free topic month, I want to use this opportunity to talk a little bit about what this means in the era of an online world.
There are many places on the internet where a conservative dares not stick his neck. The online world is unavoidable and whether it’s browsing forums where something goes off topic or just a general Twitter feed it’s a safe bet that there won’t be many allies for conservatives like myself. There are places of safe refuge in the form of your own list of Twitter followers or other conservative websites but even those can have their own problems caused by open commenting systems. At first, one thinks that this is just a feeling in general and isn’t actually the way the online world is slanted, but over time it becomes more and more apparent. Earlier this month the Pew Research Center released a study showing that while Twitter tacks to the left most of the time, it is a very negative place. The reason Twitter also tacks to the left comes from its demographic. According to the study, in 2012 half of adults who posted on Twitter were under 30. Following from this 57% of those were Democratic or leaned Democratic compared with 46% of the general public. So there we have it, empirical evidence that Twitter (and the online world presumably) does lean to the left!
Before we get too far down the line in discussing how to combat this, I want to talk a bit about conservatism in general. There are many different flavours of conservatism ranging from Libertarian (Ron Paul and friends) to Neoconservatism (Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, among others). Each one has a specific area of focus and a general view of the world. With that being said supporters of the different types of conservatism should definitely get along with one another in order to make progress in general and thwart the bigger issues at hand. This kind of cooperation is needed online to prevent fighting and to prevent the formation of any fractures that could later become avenues of attack. No matter the type of conservative a person is, it makes sense to befriend other conservatives.
Fiscal conservatives are often seen as scary by the mainstream population. This is because they illicit a fear that they will remove entitlements or cut spending to programs that many feel necessary. This is an unwarranted fear because these programs and services will always remain, it’s just a question of when they’ll be able to be accessed. It would be political suicide for any conservative political party to remove all funding for something like public education. This simply won’t happen. Fiscal conservatives act like they do in order to ensure that our economies don’t collapse in the future like Greece or other European nations. They also act the way they do to ensure the programs we have now will be available for future generations. Sounds like a good thing right?
Libertarian conservatives are all about getting the government off their back. This has become popularized in recent years in the US by Ron Paul and his two presidential campaigns. Libertarians want there to be less government intervention and involvement in our lives. An example of this might be telling the government that they aren’t allowed to specify how much salt goes into the foods we eat or that they shouldn’t be able to tell us what we can do in our cars while driving. Libertarians in general face the least flack online since their views of personal freedom are often in tune with the leftist culture that exists.
Now comes the group of conservatives that the online world loves to hate, social conservatives. If a social conservative emerges it’s open season for anyone who is one of the above mentioned typical online residents. Big issues for social conservatives are often abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. The issues of social conservatives are something that many people do not understand. For social conservatives it comes down to moral opinions and these are often very hard to change. Social conservatives need to exist since most feel like their own way of life is often threatened.
There’s one last type of conservative that I’m going to discuss today, the neoconservative. The neoconservative is associated with free markets, larger governments (sometimes), and an aggressive foreign policy. Two prime examples of neoconservatives are Ronald Reagan and George Bush (H.W. and W.). Neoconservatives can also sometimes be fiscal conservatives, however, this was not the case with the most recent Bush administration. If a neoconservative gets elected expect to see an influx of new trade, lower taxes, and fewer economic regulations. Also expect them to use their government to their advantage which most often means larger government. Finally, they are also heavily associated with promoting democracy abroad.
In the introduction above I mentioned that I am a conservative person but I didn’t exactly say what type of conservative I was. The truth is that I sympathize with many conservative movements. In order to easily explain this I’m going to simply combine the fiscal conservative ideas with the neoconservative ideas. I’m also supportive of smaller government and less intervention on ourselves (we don’t need a nanny state) but not as much as a Ron Paul supporter would be. I’m also a moderate social conservative. If you have any questions about any of my specific stances please contact me via private message.
In the last 5-10 years the world has moved to the right. Canada has been under the rule of the Conservative Party of Canada since 2006. The UK elected a coalition Conservative government in 2010. Germany is run by the Christian Democratic Union, a centre right party. New Zealand has been run by a coalition of centre right parties lead by the National Party which is similar to the UK conservatives. Overall since the 1990s the tone has shifted to a more conservative tone and this is a good thing. The question is, why does this not persist online?
Today we’re increasingly bombarded by social media everywhere. Facebook icons are present on nearly every TV commercial we watch. Hash tags are prominent during TV shows. Twitter and Facebook are so simple to use that they’ve replaced any form of intellectual debate. By intellectual debate I don’t mean crafting a 5 paragraph forum posting, I mean actually thinking about and researching a topic thoroughly. With this kind of attitude it’s easy to see why opposing viewpoints are so easily muzzled. Rather than thinking about the ramifications of a topic it’s just easier to throw something together that fits with the general consensus using Twitter or Facebook.
Why does this happen? My hypothesis is that those who are against the consensus of the online community in general just don’t bother. The pro-consensus voice is too strong and the dissenting voices simply get drowned out. What’s worse is that in some places moderators go along with the consensus and will shut down dissenting views just to avoid any potential flare ups. How can you bring your viewpoints online? I hate to say this but in order to avoid this one must either go somewhere online where the conservative viewpoint is prevalent and nurtured or find a community that supports differing viewpoints. Alternatively it’s always best to be cautious before posting somewhere because it’s impossible to know if the moderators are either pro-consensus or pro free speech. Finally, if you must, moderate your stance in text form but be sure to maintain your ideals in what you write.
Overall I hope that everyone is able to take something from this. Whether you’re unsure about why conservative opinions never really gain traction or were curious about conservatism in general. If you have any questions please feel free to post in the associated discussion topic.