Panels, Politics, and the Future of Conservatism

You likely didn't notice but my posting volume has been lower of late. This is in part because of my work on a new theme for NewsBusters but also because over the past few days, I've been at the Personal Democracy Forum, an internet technology conference where I was asked to speak on the topic of online video based upon my experience as executive producer of our comedy show "NewsBusted."

Despite being the lone center-right panelist in a room full of liberals, the experience was quite enjoyable. My thanks to Micah Sifry of PDF for inviting me to join in.

On the panel with me were Steve Grove of YouTube who served as moderator (see his excellent summary of the discussion here), Josh Marshall of the Talking Points Memo blog, and Robert Greenwald, a left-wing producer of films attacking "the corporate media."

The exchanges were potent at times, with one audience member taking offense at my statement of the obvious that in the online world, videos with attractive women tend to fare better than others. Admitting that seemed to ruffle her left-feminist sensibilities, to which I replied that I found it funny hearing a liberal say that considering the large number of vile sexist insults that we routinely receive from angry lefties in our YouTube comment section.

Things were very cordial otherwise for the duration of the panel. Two things did strike me coming away from it and from PDF as a whole. The first: despite the very big difference in our respective shows, we all agreed that it's important to build web video programming around an existing web infrastructure. This point is not rocket science and yet it's one that many in the political and media worlds haven't quite figured out yet.

The second thing is that it is imperative that the right renew its interest in the technology of politics, not just in the mechanisms of using computers and other devices to get the word out but in the techne or art of politics as a whole.

We've lost that edge, that sense of enthusiastic innovation that permeates the writings of early 20th century American conservatism and of 18th century liberalism. Instead, our institutions have become too full of ourselves, not willing to try new things out of a mistaken belief that stagnation is equivalent to conservatism thereby shutting out younger voices, who while less experienced at old things are actually more experienced at new things.

Luckily, there are some people on the right who are aware of the epochal changes that the past 15 years have wrought. I'm proud to be joining a large group of them next month at the RightOnline conference in Austin, Texas sponsored primarily by Americans for Prosperity. Texas NBers (and others able to make the trip), I hope you'll be able to join me for this important event.

Update 19:54. I should add that probably the main reason there weren't more righties at PDF was not due to any fault on the part of the conference organizers. Micah was very welcoming to my efforts to get more conservatives involved in the event. I applaud his commitment to pluralism. It's my hope that future PDF conferences will have large conservative and libertarian contingencies.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013