As great as it can be to be a conservative at CPAC, it tends to be a weekend of preaching to the choir. Well, that, and getting smeared by the dishonest media.
Media could just as easily stroll around Austin this weekend and mock the self-important, the hipster, the thousands upon thousands of conventioneers who occupy every couch, beanbag, stool and crevice to do exactly what they would be doing if they were at home — namely, burying their heads in their laptops and shutting out the rest of the world. If you’re looking for stereotypes, the city and SXSW are full of them — the non-conformist who wears the same little porkpie hat that every other non-conformist wears, the anti-corporate type checking into Facebook on his iPhone or Galaxy, the libertarian start-up dreamer who espouses every single anti-business leftwing trope known to humanity. They’re all here.
But so are the corporations.
And the networks.
Seth Meyers’ booth/tent lets you rent bikes to get around town, which is pretty helpful. SXSW has brought a couple hundred thousand extra people here, and the roads aren’t even built to handle Austin’s normal traffic. Parking is insane. A free bike is handy.
Anyway, the media won’t mock any of this and it won’t note the corporate-indie conflict or just make fun of some of the more obvious oddities of the whole thing. The corporations are here and the indie start-ups are here, somewhere, and the politics of the place has a distinctively leftish point of view, which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it. The left these days is all about conformity and one-size-fits-all. The left looks at bankrupt California and successful Texas and wants to force the latter to become more like the former, instead of allowing for differences or admitting that its way isn’t working. Tech is about doing whatever works, and then making that work better or in some new way. Tech development is about freedom. The left, and the politics the left has brought to SXSW, are not about freedom at all.
Here’s one example — a panel talk on how to organize masses online to “disrupt” the “gun lobby.” The “gun lobby” is effective because it consistently defends a basic civil right. It consistently keeps freedom where it belongs — in the hands of citizens, not government. It doesn’t need disrupting. What needs disrupting is the unchecked growth of Washington’s power over our daily lives. But you’d probably have a hard time getting that message across in Austin on a normal day, much less during the biggest so-called tech-libertarian meeting of the year.
If conservatives and libertarians really want to make some inroads with the young and earnest culture leaders and visionaries out there, we could do a lot worse than making ourselves more visible at SXSW. The contradictions between the freedom-loving libertarian vibe of the start-up and the heavy hand of centralized, ever-growing government are there to be exposed. Popping out another speech to another crowd of conservatives in Washington — and having that speech masticated out of all recognition by the mainstream media — is just not going to do the job.
I did bump into Reason’s here group earlier today, and have to credit them for some of the observations about the kudzu-like growth of SXSW’s corporate side. Now we need to start seeing more of the center-right-libertarian set here, visibly, making inroads.