Typically, being “cool” is about being vogue and in touch with the latest, ever-shifting trends; it’s about proceeding with an air of barefaced confidence as you trail blaze to gain the admiration—and often envy—of others.
Typically, being “cool” is being liberal.
The social and political movements of the left tend to dictate the “cool” fashions, oftentimes stemming from the fundamental disagreement between liberals and conservatives on the passage of time and what it means for the need for change—or lack thereof—in human institutions. “Cool” trends are necessarily associated with change (or the evolution of that which has gone out of style), change with liberalism, and thus liberalism with “coolness.”
For political liberals, rather than adhere to a prescribed path of tradition and faith in the wisdom of those before them, they set out on a path of their own creation that represents a breach from previous norms—a break from the past—and the unabashed freedom to forge a changed future. As such, the novelty and malleability of liberalism equates it to a broader popularity.
This liberal “coolness” has become so pervasive that even Teen Vogue—a publication whose singular purpose lies in dictating the (literally) vogue trends for young adults—has morphed into a bastion of liberal thought. The young, impressionable readers of Teen Vogue, Seventeen, and the like—many of whom find themselves in the midst of determining their own identities and values—are being advised that you can be made “cool” only by sporting the latest teen runway fashion and by flaunting your liberal convictions in pro-choice policies and in the belief that the president of the United States is “gaslighting America.”
It’s not “cool,” as a conservative, to be repelled by the overwhelming popularity of language—which often streams from places, like New York and Hollywood, of fierce liberal dispositions and influences on popular culture—that demands rights, vows to “[disrupt] the status quo,” and glorifies music rife with explicit words and implications. It’s not “cool,” as a conservative, to favor a political party that those who are “cool” (and almost necessarily politically liberal) consider as one rooted in racism and misogyny, one that they mistakenly believe caters to an audience of wealthy, white, out-of-touch men intent on reverting this country to an antebellum era. It’s not “cool,” as a conservative, to mistrust a march supposedly for women that seeks to exclude non-like-minded women, to hold an unwavering belief in the sanctity of life, to believe that every child should be brought into this world with purpose and with two devoted parents.
We live in a world where, most of the time, the loudest in the room is often the most well-liked, the “coolest,” and the realm of social media is no exception. Other than those prominent conservative cultural and political commentators who regularly appear on Fox News and conservative talk radio shows, conservatives are far less likely to voice their sentiments on political and cultural matters in a tweet or Facebook post. A primary motivation to share on social media is to receive external validation and, in the rarer occasion, social celebrity, social “coolness.”
But, in an age where some of the most popular hashtags range from #NotMyPresident to #FreeTheNipple, and where Facebook offers a range of different profile picture filters advocating social movements primarily touted by the left, conservatives realize that, amidst the raging and often domineering popularity of these liberal causes, it’s not necessarily “cool” to express your concern for preserving vital social values by keeping families together, bolstering our moral and religious lives, and committing to the ideals of limited government and pre-political civic responsibility. Nor is it the conservative mission to amass followers and galvanize support in the same way that it is for politically and socially liberal pursuits and for Democratic politics.
What’s more is that—while it remains to be determined whether there exists causation between the dearth of vocal conservative presence on social media and the unpopularity of right-of-center, views—notable efforts have been made by networking powerhouses like Facebook, YouTube, and Google to censor conservative commentary, like the intellectual videos created by Prager University, a non-profit conservative digital media organization.
And, many, if not most, conservatives find more vice than virtue in the use of social media. They shudder at the way in which the nationwide obsession with maintaining a vibrant digital life greatly contributes to our disheveling of those values that protect and nourish what leading twentieth-century conservative intellectual, Russell Kirk, describes as the conservative’s commitment to the “restoration of the ethical understanding” of human life and the “inner order of the soul.” In a virtual world in which feeds are filled with the “cool” kids (and adults) who subscribe to the trends of posting immodest, revealing, and inappropriate photos or who fail to act with discretion on the internet, “the age of social media has worked against the ideas of decorum, dignity and self-control…you can, anonymously, be your lowest, most brutish self, and the lowering spreads like a virus,” as conservative Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal remarks.
Conservatives are made less “cool” by not engaging in these digital exploits, but, more importantly, they remain fraught with the concern for how the foremost pre-political pillars of our society—our communities and our families—are wantonly jeopardized and flagrantly disregarded when, whether at the dinner table or group gatherings, the superficiality of phones replaces the genuine human connection that fortify, that give life to, our social order. “Once family and local community erode and social norms dissolve,” The New York Times’ David Brooks worries, “individuals are left naked and unprotected” and our “liberal democratic moral order” becomes compromised.
It’s not “cool” to be a conservative because popular culture tells us otherwise.
But, the goal of conservatism is not to be “cool” or to be “popular”; rather, in the words of Kirk, the conservative is impelled by the “moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us.” A commitment to a “good society,” a “society in which men and women are governed by conscience, by a strong sense of moral right and wrong, by private convictions of honor and justice,” means so much more to conservatives than any “coolness” bestowed by the shiny allure of liberalism.