For conservatives, it was never about morality — it was about power

Upon news that Apple is going to allow Parler, the social media service that has developed a cult following from conservatives and other right-wingers trafficking false equivalencies, competitive victimhood, bullshit conspiracies, and grievances sympathetic to white supremacists, back into its App Store, I figured I would take a moment and offer a brief hint of commentary about the longstanding lie of the American brand of conservatism: morality.

A key selling point that conservatives offered in their rhetoric is that conservatism is this country’s true moral bulwark against the supposed immorality of liberal excess. You know: government spending, social welfare, equal rights, societal roles — ultimately, a view of liberalism that is more egalitarian and less conditional than the hierarchical and Darwinist view of liberalism that conservatives hold dear.

(An aside here: American liberals, American conservatives, American progressives, and American libertarians have long been liberal; just the core disagreement among the four major schools of sociopolitical thought in this country is over what exactly is the correct interpretation of liberalism. That is, until conservatives — and some progressives — have started to embrace tribal illiberalism.)

Since the New Deal, the conservative intelligentsia has consistently peddled that widescale selflessness, whether in public policy or as an avenue of social justice, was an affront to so-called American values and, in a way, immoral. How was it immoral? Their argument was and, in a way, still is, that selflessness equates to coercion and that true freedom is the absence of any force that would act as an inhibitor against acting with impunity.

Of course, the caveat being that true freedom must be achieved by adherence to Judeo-Christian ethics, with emphasis on the Christian part. But that’s a separate discussion, albeit not too far from this one.

So what the fuck does this have to do with Parler? Parler represents a microcosm of the transition of American conservative thought: from being a mediocre defense of selfish, negative liberty into an increasingly toxic tribal and populist worldview that resents anything that calls on them to be selfless on a social and economic level.

Parler is a cesspool of a grievance that conservatives and right-wingers believe to be real: that liberal and progressive overlords in Twitter and Facebook are restricting their free expression of ideas because they are conservative and because they’re not “leftist”. Regardless of the fact that a privately-owned, publicly-traded company has the right to determine what is and what is not acceptable behavior or speech on the platforms they provide access to for free. And further regardless of the toxicity of a good chunk of their rhetoric that has been fairly characterized as racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being selfish — after all, as individual human beings we have to and should look out for our own interests to maintain a healthy existence. However, when that selfishness expands to domineering over others in the name of “liberty” and “freedom” and dismiss the outcomes felt by others as just mere collateral damage and cost of said “liberty” and “freedom”, that’s when the immoral hypocrisy that runs rampant on the right becomes very clear and very present.

So in truth, it was never, ever about morality. It was definitely about acquiring power, though.

Somewhere between a classical liberal and a modern liberal.