August 23, 2009


The Feminist Hawks (VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN, 8/23/09, NY Times Magazine)

David Horowitz, the conservative firebrand, is among those who have seized on the feminist-hawk position. Horowitz may not be an obvious feminist, but as someone who has dedicated his life to political media (producing or contributing to magazines, books, political ads, cable news, talk radio, blogs, video podcasts, even a pamphlet), he’s adroit at adapting ideologies for media platforms. Right now, this one is working for him.

Like many conservatives, Horowitz appears to have come to feminist-hawkism after 9/11. But in his hands, the ideology has fast became a tenacious memebrid — as Tim Hwang, a sociologist and the director of the Web Ecology Project, calls memes that unite two or more cultural phenomena.

“The neat marriage of hawkish tendencies and feminist framing of issues does this quite effectively,” Hwang explained to me in an e-mail message. Borrowing left-wing shibboleths is one way that “conservative ideas can make it big in a generally more liberal online social sphere,” he wrote. Furthermore, to depict Islamic regimes less as terrorists than as repressors of civil liberties may appeal even to traditional isolationists, as it “plays off of the strong communities of libertarians that dominate some prominent spaces.” [...]

As a fan of intensely specific forms of communication — blogs, memoirs, reality TV — I don’t believe that any idea exists apart from its mode of dissemination. But I also know that ideas that seem especially big and irresistible are usually so elegantly integrated with particular communication technologies that it’s hard to conceive of them separately. Could Rush Limbaugh’s patriotic anti-elitism have coalesced anywhere but on AM radio? Could “family values” have emerged without Christian TV?

And could the feminist-hawk position have emerged without the weird confluences of the Web? Like any wily and surviving creature, this new ideology has faced evolutionary pressures and adapted to its ecological niche.

Forget Bill Safire, David Brooks and other house Republicans, that's the most conservative thing you've likely read in the Times: evolution depends on wiles; patriotism is the preserve of AM listeners; actual concern for women is a function of conservatism, not feminism; and family values depend on Judeo-Christianity. Game...Set...Match.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2009 7:45 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus