During my second afternoon at the NRI Summit, mid-way through yet another congressman’s address, I mused about how easy it would be to create a Right-Wing Red-Meat Speech Generator:
First, plug in some vintage Reagan and Buckley quotations.
(Hell, mix ‘em up and see if anyone notices: “I’m from the Boston telephone directory and I’m here to help you…”)
Then sprinkle on some “hard-working Mexicans.”
Squeeze in a reference to that lousy poem carved onto an old French statue.
Finally, make “America is the greatest country in the world” a default value.
I ask you:
Why do professional conservatives pay speechwriters big money when some basic java script could produce the same mediocre results — a string of empty-calorie cliches?
I’m not the only one complaining about this.
This week my friend John Hawkins released his annual ranking of the 50 best conservative columnists. A very generous guy, John included me on the list. And ahead of George Will too!
I wonder, though: what does it mean to be a columnist today?
Well, what qualifies as a column? The defining characteristics, which I invite others to dispute or refine in the comments: A) a regular appearance usually either weekly or bi-weekly, B) a standard word count in the range of 600-1500 words, and C) usually with a focus on opinion, analysis, or entertainment — not “objective,” fly-on-the-wall journalism.
But that’s the Old School understanding I learned in journalism classes in the pre-blogosphere days. Now in the New Media era a “column” counts as any piece of writing and “columnist” doubles for “writer.” And that’s fine — language evolves and we only gain so much from playing the semantics game. Here at PJ Media we call our all-star team of writers “Columnists” even though the content they produce ranges across the spectrum from blog posts to journalistic articles to traditional op/ed columns to extended essays on to Ed Driscoll’s podcasts and Zombie’s unforgettable photos.
But the truth is that the name does still fit for most of the PJ Columnists, and pressed to answer John’s challenge to provide “YOUR LIST of the best conservative columnists” I’d have to actually create two, the first of those I edit now and the second of those I wouldn’t mind editing someday. The 10 PJ columnists who predominantly write on a regular basis in the “newspaper column” style, of a 600-1500+ word, opinionated, elegantly stylized analysis (in no ranked order):
Roger L. Simon, Barry Rubin, Andrew Klavan, Roger Kimball, Michael Walsh, Andrew C. McCarthy, Claudia Rosett, David P. Goldman, Victor Davis Hanson, and Michael Ledeen
The other PJ Columnists I’d classify as top-tier bloggers (Stephen Green, Ed Driscoll, Helen Smith and Blog Father Glenn Reynolds) and deep essayists (Ron Radosh and Ion Mihai Pacepa.) J. Christian Adams’s Rule of Law, Richard Fernandez’s Belmont Club, and the mysterious Zombie transcend categorization in their own unique ways — the three of them have each taken the tools of New Media to innovate their own new mediums.
So about that second list… I decided to take John’s list and A) edit it down to my top 10 choices, B) re-order counting down to the best, C) throw on 5 more conservative columnists I adore who John neglected to include.
But here’s the problem: I’m fairly confident about the ranking of only the top 2. I could see legitimate reasons for why one should rank higher or lower than others.
So for my top 20 list of Best Conservative Columnists (forthcoming soon here at PJ Lifestyle) I thought I’d first hear the arguments of others about A) who should go where, B) which five additional columnists deserve inclusion, and C) if anyone I’ve already selected does not warrant placement.
I must commend Kathy Shaidle for effortlessly encapsulating what is most likely to earn a man a boost on the sexy scale. It really is quite simple. If I could offer an even more thoroughly abridged version, it would be: get some nice clothes, learn a few skills really well, and look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
One of Kathy’s lines, however, touched me in particular:
No one is ever surprised to learn that [Mark] Steyn is a big James Bond fan.
As a shameless Bond fan myself, I must comment on this. There is a tendency to view Bond fans as the equivalent of, say, Trekkies or gamers or sci-fi geeks: we are lumped in with sophomoric wannabes living in a fantasy world. I find, however, that most male Bond fans are much more dedicated to transforming themselves into their fictional hero (or a more realistic analogue) than are the sci-fi crowd.
Allow me to traffic in a few stereotypes here. Think of every comic-book geek you’ve ever known. Do any of them ever make an effort to transform themselves into the manly heroes they idolize? No. Most of them are idle, indolent, and inactive. If they’re scrawny, they don’t work out. They can’t fight, and they don’t take up boxing. They wear ugly super-hero shirts and argue over the canonical minutiae of whether Yoda’s lightsaber style would beat Mace Windu’s. This is horrendously un-sexy to females of any age.
I bow to no one when it comes to admiring conservative author Mark Steyn.
I’ve traveled miles to hear him speak and even own “Mark Steyn” t-shirts.
However, he and I disagree about arguably his most famous conviction:
That we in the West need to have more children, pronto.
I might joke that the best argument against Steyn’s conclusion is, well, this.
But obviously, I know Steyn’s right.
However, like Al Gore with his private jet, I just don’t plan to do my part to ameliorate this state of affairs.
I never have.
When I was playing with a doll, all of age four, some nice lady bent down and chirped, “I guess you’ll want a real one of those of your own one day…?”
I recoiled in horror. Normally a quiet (nay, catatonic) youngster, I can still hear myself bawling, “NO!!”
I have never entertained a different answer. Not even for a moment — passionate, drunken, hormonal, or otherwise.
Why is that?
(Besides the obvious answer: Because gross!)