Conservatism’s Victim Mentality
Monday, May 15 was a bombshell news day in the US. This is the day that the Washington Post published a quickly corroborated story about the fact that President Trump leaked classified intelligence information at a recent meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.
As per usual, via Twitter the President quickly undercut his own team’s denials regarding the details and gravity of the report.
Just another day, just another crisis arising from the White House.
This is one interpretation of events. Another narrative, courtesy of Sean Hannity and Fox News, is that the real problem is a biased media out to destroy President Trump. In this telling, all we need are good patriotic Americans who zip their lips while our kind-hearted leader sets about making America great again.
The clip I posted above comes from Hannity’s show last night, and is an example of this viewpoint. In his opening monologue Hannity called for curtailing the White House press briefing in favor of written questions and answers instead. Under the terms of this proposal Sean Spicer would only answer select, pre-approved questions in person and do most of his work in writing. According to Hannity this is the only possible way to bring the hateful and destructive liberal media to heel.
Leaving aside the merits of Hannity’s claim — a classic and unconvincing case of blaming the messenger —I am struck by the ongoing victim mentality that consumes conservative media. Even with Trump as president, both houses of the US Congress under GOP control, and more than 30 GOP governors throughout America, it seems that dastardly liberals are always out to silence and muzzle conservative views. One suspects that, even if every member of Congress were a Republican, Hannity and his compatriots would find ways to spin themselves as hapless victims of the liberal “elite.”
One reason is simple and straightforward: victimhood sells. It rallies the base, stoking the fervor that moves merch* and brings voters to the polls.
Another reason is more nuanced: to an extent, conservatives have a point. When I was at college I often observed that supposedly “tolerant” liberal students were only tolerant of people who already agreed with them completely. There is no doubt that, on many campuses, it is more difficult to be a conservative than a liberal student.
At the same time, it is much easier to be a conservative evangelical churchgoer than a liberal resident of those same pews. Heaven help the church member who believes that gay marriage is legally justified or that abortion is a decision best left to a woman and her doctor.
An example: I remember receiving an insert in our church bulletin one year when I was growing up, on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. Each cross on that sheet of paper — there were many such crosses — represented “thousands” of “babies” who had been “murdered” since abortion became legal.
There was absolutely no doubt about what we were supposed to think, and no option whatsoever for expressing a contrary view.
So yes, liberals suppress conservative voices whenever the opportunity arises. But conservatives do exactly the same thing whenever they have the upper hand. This is the detail that Hannity and co. always omit.
*Those “Make America Great Again” hats aren’t free.