Where Are All the Iconoclasts?

Frank Moraes

Sometimes I think that deep down I am a conservative because I really do think there should be a reason to change things. And other times, I think that deep down I’m a liberal because I honestly like change for change’s sake. Regardless of all that, there is no doubt that I am an iconoclast.

My gut reaction to anything I hear is to disagree with it. And I’m not saying that’s a good thing. In fact, I fight against it. Because I know very well that in most cases the conventional wisdom is correct.

But what’s really bugged me over the years is that almost everyone I’ve ever met who considered themselves any kind of iconoclast was actually a conservative. It’s like they are iconoclasts only in relation to who they used to be or the people they knew at one particular point in time. And that is not really being an iconoclast.

Rise of the Iconoclasts!

But I get it. If you listen to right-wing radio shows that have literally millions of listeners, they will go on and on about how subversive they are. Even while they push the default ideas of the most powerful people in society. They are iconoclasts: attacking mean college kids and protecting billionaires!

Things only got worse during the Trump era and then especially during the pandemic. Every anti-vax person considers themselves some kind of free thinker who is striking a blow against the establishment. But all they are actually doing is picking a different side in the culture war. They have, in other words, selected a new establishment. In no way are they operating contrary to the establishment.

What I’m saying here is that there is no idiosyncrasy with regard to their beliefs. Even though some of them might say they are mask-skeptical they are not. They’re anti-mask. They are not vaccine-skeptical. They are anti-vax. And they are for one reason alone: because they’ve been told to by huge media corporations.

JAQing Off!

There is this thing that conservatives love to do: pretend that they are free thinkers — skeptics. They are “Just Asking Questions!” RationalWiki refers to this as JAQing Off.

This is very similar to the way that people who embrace radical political ideologies especially on the right often start off being ironic. And so they say offensive things ironically until they aren’t. It’s like test-driving a car.

When someone tells you that you should do your own research regards to vaccines or COVID-19 or any such technical issue they don’t actually mean that. Doing your own research would involve looking at all of the information. And when it comes to something this technical, that’s really out of the question unless you’re going to hold off on any conclusions until you spend a year or two researching it.

The Conformists

No. They are telling you to pay attention to their Facebook timeline. To look at the cherry-picked evidence that they have that is designed to manipulate you into their pre-existing conclusion. And that’s all fine as far as it goes.

People have every right to be stupid and ignorant. There is a long history of it. But to think that just because you’ve grabbed on to an ideology that was adopted from the President of the United States (!) does not make you an iconoclast. It makes you the opposite. It makes you a conformist.

2 thoughts on “Where Are All the Iconoclasts?

  1. You know, it’s tricky. Every writer I’ve ever admired has sometimes taken an unpopular stance just to take the unpopular stance. And sometimes, that’s a good reason to take it! But it shouldn’t be the ONLY reason one takes it.

    Think of Dean Baker. When he believes conventional economic wisdom to be wrong, he says it’s wrong. And when he believes it to be right, he says it’s right.

    Maybe that should be a shorthand for every sometimes-contrarian writer: WWDBD?

    As for self-styled “independent thinking” right-wingers, eh. I’m sure some truly independent-minded right-wingers exist. I’m also sure coelacanths exist. Rare, interesting, and nothing I want to run into.

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