Sunday, July 09, 2006

Con vs. Con . . .

Jason, a reader commenting on Rod Dreher's post about Robert Stacey McCain's "review" of Crunchy Cons in Reason Magazine; invites me to take up the cudgel against McCain's book promotion blog, Donkey Cons. "I hope Clark Stooksbury comes across that web site. He'll have a field day."

Actually I came across McCain's blog a few months back, altough I'm not sure that I have posted anything about until now. I came across it when I was writing a review of McCain's (and Lynn Vincent's) book, Donkey Cons : Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party, which will be published in the August issue of Chronicles.

But as Maria von Trapp would say, er, sing, "Let's start at the very beginning." The June issue of Reason published the aforementioned review, which was in reality a dismissive little sidebar filled with non sequiturs. McCain's follow up post responding to Dreher indicates that he believes that Dreher is simply engaging in conspicuous consumption:
By "non-factory-farmed meat," Dreher refers to modes of production which add significantly to costs. It is all fine and good for the affluent educated elite to seek out organic vegetables and free-range meat, since they have the money, knowledge, and time to do so. This option is not really available to the poor, who must eat cheap or go hungry. Because there are (and always will be) more poor than rich people, the ostentatiously "moral" eating habits of the elite will have no measureable effect on the welfare of feed animals in general.

What Dreher's adoration of the organic diet is really about is Veblenesque conspicuous consumption. In this case, the status display involves moral virtue. Dreher apparently believes that his grocery shopping habits make him morally superior to those of us who just buy whatever's on sale at Food Lion. If I refuse to "engage" such an argument, it is because no sober person could take it seriously.

What nonsense. Factory farming and agribusiness don't produce "cheap" food-- they externalize their costs. It is safe to assume that Robert Stacey McCain doesn't care at all about the environmental damage done by the "meat-industrial complex," but that doesn't mean it that there is no reason for concern.

The real reason for McCain's antipathy seems to be jealousy. In Reason he wrote, "Right now, I'm envious of Dreher, whose anti-materialist conservative book is selling like crazy at" On his blog he added, "Last I heard, Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons was in its third printing, having been promoted with its very own theme blog at National Review Online. But Dreher, not content with having pocketed fat royalty checks from Crown Forum . . ."

I guess more people are into Crunchy than Donkey. I noted in my forthcoming review in Chronicles that, " Donkey Cons holds little appeal for anyone who isn't already a partisan Republican, and it enters a market already saturated with the products of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bernard Goldberg, Michelle Malkin, and many others." It must stick in McCain's craw all the more since, to the extent that the books are aimed at conservatives, Dreher is offering up (organic, hippie-grown) spinach; while Donkey Cons offers ice-cream (store-bought, from factory-farm cows whose unhealthy bodies are crammed with antibiotics -- and he likes it that way, dammit!). It is a big heaping bowl of "DEMOCRATS ARE BAD!!!!!"

I guess that even many on the right want more nutritional value.


Richard said...

Speaking as somebody who has bought perhaps four copies of Crunchy Cons thus far (one for me, three as gifts)--

What I find most interesting about some of Dreher's detractors is that, when you ask why they scream and yell so loudly about him, in unguarded moments they'll say something that amounts to this: "We don't care if he wants to support family farms and encourage people to eschew new construction in favor of bungalows. The real issue is that somebody like him could come along and split the party at just the moment we need to not be split."

That's a fascinating response for a couple of reasons: 1) It appears to acknowledge, however subtly, that modern conservatism does a rather bad job of representing certain groups of people who would self-identify as conservative, and that there is concern that those groups represent votes tenuously held. 2) Given that one of Dreher's tenets is that politics will not save us, implicitly not classing politics as one of the "Permanent Things", this claim that Dreher and people like him represent a potential split vote, and therefore a threat to the good the Republicans wish to do for this country, only rings hollow.


Jason said...

Good points, Richard. They do protest too much.

Sean Scallon said...

Any idiot can write that Democrats are bad. I see that all the time on Etherzone. Apparently Mr. McCain has never heard or doesn't want to believe that the Duke Cunningham's of the world do exists and have existed for long time. Corruption knows no party and knows no ideology. So why should anyone outside the Hate-Democrats crowd buy 200 plus pages worth of screed?

What it comes down to is this: Dreher has something interesting to say while McCain is nothing more than regurgitator.