The Spectacle Blog

The Huckstering Conor Friedersdorf

By on 3.29.13 | 12:28PM

And again.

The man who has been falsely peddled to the larger world as someone who has, in the words of Mediaite, “made a name for himself over the last two years as one of the most promising conservative writers and thinkers” is at it again.

It is always a source of amazement that someone who allows himself to be peddled as a conservative when he in fact is not has the chutzpah to talk about others as “hucksters.”

Yet there goes The Atlantic’s Conor Friederdorf once again, railing against Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and also Glenn Beck as “scheming hucksters” – picking up from a Commentary piece by John Podhoretz and an old column by National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.

This from a guy who agonized in public about “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama.” The question for anybody with the remotest of conservative signals being flashed through their brain would be “Why In the World Would I Ever Even Consider Voting for Barack Obama?” – with so many reasons in the negative that it would take more Internet space than The Atlantic has available to write it out.

But, alas, not for Mr. Friedersdorf.

Instead he busies himself with yet another rant about conservative talk radio hosts, using the musings of Podhoretz and Goldberg as the hook. Writing in part:

How do you expect to stop these people who you identify as scheming hucksters doing irreparable harm to your cause if no one with intra-movement credibility ever directly critiques their bad work? It seems like you've both spent a lot more time feuding with people who call out the hucksters than with the hucksters themselves.

 A couple points here.

First, as to the idea that our talk radio friends are “scheming hucksters” let me say this. I have known Mark Levin for, well, the better part of three decades – long before he was the “Mark Levin” of talk radio fame. My friend Mark talks on the radio, philosophically speaking, in exactly the same way he did when I first met him. He was at the barricades for Ronald Reagan in 1976 – when being at the barricades in Pennsylvania was no easy thing, particularly for one as young as Mark then was. To suggest that “The Mark Levin Show” is some sort of game for gold coins is laughable on its face. It would be insulting if in fact it weren’t so laughable. I’m not sure just what young Conor was doing in 1976 – or even if there was a young Conor in 1976 – but I am sure that to say this kind of stuff about somebody who has spent a lifetime working for conservatism – especially when he was young and known to no one – is nothing other than a display of foolishness. Safe to say, Mark’s bestsellers are the result of a lifetime of serious thought – which is exactly why they are bestsellers.

While I have not known Sean Hannity as long as I have known Mark Levin, I certainly do know him as both radio/TV host and friend, and have, full disclosure, appeared from time to time as a guest on both shows (as have countless conservatives). Once again, it is laughable to suggest that this is someone who has the slightest disingenuous motive behind his work. Sean Hannity is a conservative’s conservative. He does not shimmy for ratings or blow with the wind for gold coins. The idea itself is laughable on its face.

In this corner, we are Rush Limbaugh fans and make no bones about it. He is, to the delight of millions and the fury of liberals everywhere – and yes to the bubbling jealousy of some on the Right and in the world of radio – considered to be, as far as such a thing is possible, the heir to the late William F. Buckley Jr., the latter a man who was a personal friend and mentor of sort to Rush. There isn’t a phony conservative bone in this guy’s body. And his audience knows it.

As for Glenn Beck, I’ve never met him. I enjoyed his TV show and have defended him. And yes, I once scolded him. But not knowing him I am always prepared to take him at his word, and as with anyone else, let his words and actions speak for themselves.

So what, then, is the beef with Levin, Hannity and Limbaugh?

With some, doubtless, it’s the money. Simple envy – which is, I might add, a liberal trait that is the blood relative of the Obama-esque “fair share” business. No real conservative in their right philosophical mind would give a damn about how much money anybody else earns. It is a simple fact that to be a radio or television star of any kind brings in more money than being a scribbler. Although scribbling, with enough force, weight, years of effort, and writerly creativity can eventually produce considerable dimes and nickles. To have a radio or TV show means one must have sponsors – of gold coins or anything else from Lifelock to paper clips. This is called capitalism. The free market. And hosts or their networks must sell advertising – another capitalistic endeavor.

So…what? The very criticism of this indicates a queasiness about the free market, which in and of itself is telling.

As to the criticism Friedersdorf offers from Messrs. Podhoretz and Goldberg?

First, far be it from me to speak for either. Both are exceptionally talented people with their own forums to defend themselves if they feel they need to clarify.

I agree completely with the Podhoretz view that Barack Obama is someone to be taken very seriously. As a regular listener to Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin, it is more than fair to say that all three have taken Barack Obama seriously right from the get-go, each in their own way. These are, surprise surprise, three very different people. But to suggest that the three have not taken Obama seriously is to say one is not listening to, watching or reading their work on a daily or regular basis.

As to Jonah Goldberg’s fret saying: "The movement has an unhealthy share of hucksters eager to make money from stirring rage, paranoia, and an ill-defined sense of betrayal with little concern for the real political success that can come only with persuading the unconverted”?

Doubtless there are real hucksters out there, as hucksterism can be found in any and every walk of life. But as Goldberg was not specific, I have no idea of whom he speaks.

We’ll end here simply by saying that if there is “irreparable harm” done to the conservative cause, it is by those who don’t really share its beliefs but pretend to do so. Or by “moderates” or “Republican consultants” who insist the way ahead is to always fall in behind the latest moderate Republican of the moment because said moderate is “electable” – until, of course, the votes are in and the latest moderate Great White Hope joins the conga line of GOP losers.

If there’s any huckstering going on in the conservative movement, it would be that old routine.

An old routine that Mr. Friedersdorf is trying to sell – or is that huckster? – once again.

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