Brian Anderson was kind enough to offer to send me a copy of his new book, South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias. This is my review of the book.
If South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias has one failing, it is that its name would more appropriately be The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias: Antiliberalism in America, as its primary focus is on liberal media bias and the people and institutions that are helping to combat it. South Park Conservatives (which is essentially a colloquialism for young neo-libertarians like myself) are only the focus of one of the chapters, roughly 16% of the book. The rest of the book, although maybe not the pro-libertarian read that I was hoping for, is a well rounded look at the continuing fight against liberal bias in the media. It is a fight that I am well aware of, so reading about the details of the debunking of CBS’s fake National Guard Memos was a bit tedious, but to someone who is unfamiliar with the events, I imagine it would be quite interesting.
One thread that Anderson starts early on in the book and maintains throughout is the idea that the current “liberalism” seen in America is actually extremely illiberal. The American Heritage Dictionary defines liberalism as “[a] political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.” That couldn’t be further from what today’s liberals stand for. Anderson refers to this faux “liberalism” as “illiberal liberalism,” a deliciously snarky jab that surfaces a number of times.
Libertarians and conservatives have a great deal of common ground, best summed up as “anti-liberalism.”
If there’s one thing that unites FOX News, the blogosphere, conservative talk radio, and South Park, it’s a rejection of such liberal elitism.
Brian Anderson: South Park Conservatives, p165
Absolutely. As far as that thesis goes (and it is a major theme of the book), it perfectly describes the situation. It may just be that the title led me to think that this was a book written for South Park conservatives (which it is not) or about South Park conservatives (which is only a small part of the book), but while reading the first few chapters, I sort of got the feeling that the new generation of neo-libertarians is only seen as a useful pawn to those with a decidedly conservative agenda. Particularly, the support of harsh views on homosexuality come as a bit of a surprise in a book so-titled. While a valid critique is made of liberals who push for “celebration” of all sexual lifestyles instead of acceptance, the fact that South Park conservatives are generally in favor of equal rights for homosexuals is not really addressed until the last chapter titled “Campus Conservatives Rising,” where some fabulous libertarian-minded quotes from college students are followed by Anderson stating that “[i]f cultural conservatives want to win the long-term argument over same-sex marriage, they’ve clearly got to do a better job persuading younger right-of-center types.” That’s true… cultural conservatives are losing that battle among the young, but it seems as though Anderson is telling conservatives what they should do, instead of just making an observation of one way that neo-libertarians differ from conservatives. Neo-libertarians may share some goals with convservatives, but you shouldn’t mistake them as hardline conservatives in the making.
Anderson’s coverage of the rise of right-leaning radio shows and the rise of FOX News and CSPAN and their effects on the country is exceptional. I’m only 22 years old… I wasn’t exactly up on politics in the late 80s and the early 90s. G.I. Joes and Legos were more my thing. I expect that younger people who pick up this book will enjoy that chapter immensely as it covers the history well and provides some fabulous quotes, including this one from Rush Limbaugh: “What I am… is anti-liberal. Liberalism is a scourge. It destroys the human spirit. It destroys prosperity. It assigns sameness to everybody. And wherever I find it, I oppose it.” There’s a quote that libertarians and conservatives can rally under.
Again, my main complaint with South Park Conservatives is the lack of time given to the rise of actual South Park conservatives. Neo-libertarianism is embraced by the young (whether they know it or not), and by weblogs. Most of the big right-leaning blogs such as Instapundit, INDCJournal, Dean’s World, Outside the Beltway and Buzzmachine are very much libertarian-leaning, but their influence is more seen as part of a conservative movement in the book, which I expect many of those people would contest.
The bottom line is this: if you’re a conservative, you’ll likely love this book. If you’re a South Park conservative, you’ll likely be disappointed, not because it isn’t a good book, but because it won’t be what you expect.