Updated: Feb 11
It is so easy to get a rise out of people these days. The most obvious statement creates controversy.
Last night I was on social media - my first mistake - when the speech Adele made at the BRIT awards blew up. All she said was that she loved being a woman and that was enough to trigger a dispute as to whether her words were “TERFy”.
Whilst Twitter was debating whether Adele was a closet transphobe there was still heat on the Russia-Ukraine situation, protests everywhere such as the Canada-style truck convoys against coronavirus restrictions that have spread to other countries, natural disasters in Madagascar and Colombia, and controversial laws, like the Religious Discrimination Bill, are being passed by parliaments.
Just a few weeks ago the internet went berserk again, this time over Matt Walsh, a conservative commentator in America, going on Dr. Phil and asking some self-identified non-binary people to define what a woman is.
The gender debate is the most obvious example of how easy it is to create a stir by stating the obvious - or what was agreed upon fact a few years ago - but there are a whole host of issues like this that are “hot button” despite being completely non-controversial not so long ago.
All this airtime and headspace directed to debating things that ought not to need debating takes energy away from big problems, and more importantly, when viewed objectively it is incredibly dull.
When the idea that there are two sexes becomes controversial then it is clear that there is a dearth of dangerous ideas - and particularly on the right side of the aisle.
Mr. Walsh when talking about his appearance on Dr. Phil describes the ease of debating gender ideology and that it takes no intellectual prowess whatsoever. So much of the debates - particularly on the mainstream media - right now follow the same pattern of predictable talking points. Rarely is there anything new added.
The problem is that we live in a world of people which Fredrick Hayek described as second-hand peddlers of ideas.
Whether it is ideologies of the left being peddled (such as gender as a social construct, critical race theory, etc) or it’s equally predicable refute from the right (biological sex exists, judging people by the colour of their skin as CRT promotes used to be called racist, etc). Everyone is just falling into prescribed roles, very rarely does someone say something novel or interesting or actually edgy (and when they do - such as on Joe Rogan’s show they become a target).
At least those on the left have originators of ideas (no matter how low resolution they are) to lean on and find new things to parrot.
Conservative commentators often find themselves peddling the ideas of thinkers long dead - how very conservative! There is no reason why the thinkers are less valuable because they did their thinking in the past. But, unlike Marcuse, Gramsci, and Marx who have an army of academics that get paid to sit around and think about how their ideas apply to the present, Hayek (who I have already mentioned), Burke, and De Tocqueville don’t have quite the same force.
That is not to say there are not conservative intellectuals - they sit in think tanks (if they are lucky) or basements typing out their treatises between their working hours (such neo-reactionaries like Curtis Yarvin or anarchists like Michael Malice). But both of these groups lack prestige in a system that honours titles and tenure over pure intellect.
Sometimes one of the out-there bedroom philosophers breaks into the mainstream with a little help from sympathetic ears (such as when Yarvin went on Tucker) but more often rightwing pundits distance themselves from bedroom philosophers because that get enough blowback and controversy already, they don’t need to be actually interesting or dangerous to get it.
The problem is that stating the obvious will only take media outlets so far though at some point they are going to need to find some intellectuals that can provide fresh ideas (or at least updated ideas) to sell.