Here’s how a scandal works in 21st-century America. First, a series of women came forward to say that senate candidate and hairless southern cowboy Roy Moore tried to mess with them when they were teenagers. Then Sean Hannity said they were probably in it for the money, or Democrats. Then Keurig, maker of coffee machines for Air BnBs, stoped advertising on Hannity. This led certain conservatives to boycott Keurig, or do whatever the version of a boycott is where you have already bought the product and simply destroy it.
This is like when Martin Luther King bought thousands of Montgomery city bus passes and then burned them to protest racism. All funning aside, though, it’s a classic example of backlash to backlash. Hannity the conservative icon said something most people found disagreeable; a brand punished him for it, and that brand became an icon of people who find conservatism disagreeable. Enter the iconoclasts, because if contemporary conservatism is about anything, it’s about gleefully defying people who disagree with conservatism.
Maybe that’s why this video of a man throwing a Keurig off a balcony is packaged the way it is. “Liberals are offended by this video of a Keurig being thrown off a building,” young Colin Rugg says. “Please retweet to offend a liberal.” I question how many liberals would describe this video of a man dropping his coffee machine of a balcony as “offensive.” I’m no scientific pollster, but I think you’d get “baffling” and “badass” first. Rugg is sure these liberals have followed the Moore/Hannity/Keurig news as closely as he has, though, and this video has them twitching. He includes “politically incorrect” in his Twitter bio, so the idea that liberals are scandalized by what he does seems like an important component in his sense of himself.
That’s the thing about conservatism today: it feels so self-conscious. Maybe that’s just because we see it through the lens of social media, where everyone performs themselves. Yet lifestyle conservatives consciously identify with particular signifiers—guns, trucks, uniformed service, that goddamned frog—in ways that lifestyle liberals do not. Liberals may be known for their organic diets, effete childrearing, and fuel-efficeint cars, but that’s not how they think of themselves. These signifiers are ascribed to them from outside—not embraced as public expressions of their liberality, as things they do to drive the conservatives nuts. I guess what I’m saying is that liberals don’t have a persecution complex.
Maybe they do, and I don’t see it because their politics is closer to mine. But when was the last time you saw liberals defying conservatism by smashing things? They burned one limo in Washington, and they’re still fretting about it. I don’t see the analog to Keurig-destruction videos on the left. Maybe liberals aren’t doing that because they’re winning, and they feel no need to perform their defiance. Or maybe there’s something antisocial about contemporary conservatism.