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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Book Notes: Webb's "Born Fighting" Offers Lessons for Blogosphere

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, I picked up James Webb's "Born Fighting" last week and found it to be among the best, if not the best, historical and sociological treatments of the role of the Scots-Irish in winning the American Revolution and subsequently providing the core characteristics and values that have shaped the American nation. I should also add that, being the product of a midlands Scot ancestry on my mother's side and having grown up in the urban Oklahoma of the 1950s and 60s, my enthusiasm for Webb's work perhaps lacks a certain objectivity.

Even so, there is a passage in Webb's book that I think offers an intriquing insight into the Blogosphere's success in shaping to a great degree the urgency and direction of the 2004 campaign. But first a little background. Webb's central thesis is that the descendants of the Scots-Irish settled the mountain South, then expanded westward all the way to California and into the American Midwest.

Over the years, the fierce individualism, patriotism, identification with evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant Christianity and uncompromising anti-authoritarianism that marked the Scots-Irish came to be the underlying and defining strengths of America generally. Today, these characteristics are at the center of the Red State culture and political outlook.

But to a great extent the descendants of the Scots-Irish remain outsiders because many of the issues most important to them are either purposely unaddressed or merely given lip service by the WASP GOP and New Left Democrat establishments. Webb notes that:

"...America's political elites, both Republican and Democrat, have grown together into an almost indiscernible 'hybrid royalty' that offers [outsiders] little to choose from in terms of how the nation is actually being governed. Grand useless speeches are made on issues such as flag-burning, homosexual marriage and abortion, but little is said or done about such vital matters as the near-nationwide breakdown of public education, the mind-boggling rate of incarceration in America's prison system or the blatant, government-sponsored discrimination inherent in what are now called diversity programs."

One need not agree with every jot and tittle of Webb's analysis in order to see a strong parallel here with the Blogosphere's impact on the MSM. One way of viewing that impact is understanding that the new media has largely forced the MSM to address lots of issues that would otherwise have remained invisible.

Perhaps one measure of the new media's impact on government and public policy will be in how successfully new issues that concern millions of Red State Americans such as the catastrophic consequences of public education's ongoing collapse, government-sanctioned racial discrimination and the continuing crime rate that feeds the prisons are addressed during President Bush's second term in the White House.

We might add to these concerns noted by Webb others such as the continuing failure of Washington to secure America's borders and ports to terrorist infiltrators, the inability of Congress to get off the pork barrel drug and the virtual exile from public places of all expression remotely linked with the generally Christian faith, values and traditions of the clear majority of Americans.