Barstool's Last Leg
It is time to rid the Right of prideful, fake-virtue.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ instructs us to “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”
To the conservative movement, “Barstool Conservatism” is that wolf. The alternative Barstool Conservatives present to leftism – the fake virtue of winning and achieving glory in itself – is dangerous, and should, in the words of our Lord, be “cast into the fire.”
The term Barstool Conservatism is terrible and has to go. This prideful mindset has existed forever, and Barstool Conservatism does a bad job describing it; neither part of the phrase does the concept any justice. The Barstool part irrevocably ties the uniting folly of Andrew Tate, Walter White, and Alexander the Great to Dave Portnoy’s sports blog, all because Mr. Portnoy found himself relevant in 2020 for criticizing COVID lockdowns while eating pizza. Such a dated reference makes for a dated phrase, leaving us without a good word for a timeless, dangerous adversary. The word conservative also makes for a dated phrase. To call this outlook conservative just because its adherents tend to hate the Left’s excesses is a fatal mistake. Every human being before five minutes ago also hated the Left’s excesses. To call both frat bros and Joseph Stalin “conservatives” because they would not support “thruples” and “furries” both cheapens what it means to be a conservative, trapping an eternal discourse of human morality into our modern left-right paradigm.
A useful exercise to highlight this limitedness is trying to place pre-modern politicians onto our modern political compass. Was Julius Caesar left wing or right wing? What about Cato the Younger? How about Cicero? Catiline? These figures fall on completely different sides of the Barstool Conservative question. Yet, they are all “trad” by modern standards in that they would all be extremely right-wing in their opposition to the Left. The same classification-difficulty applies to today’s fake-virtuous right-wingers. It makes perfect sense that a group whose rallying cry has been to “reject modernity” has difficulty fitting into modernity’s labels. Thus, Andrew Tate & Co. are certainly not lefties, but they are not conservatives either. Being conservative (that is, being interested in conserving true virtue) is not just about being “trad;” you can reject modernity's evils all you like, only to embrace other sins in turn.
To the untrained eye, the alternative these “conservatives” give to modernity’s horrors can look very compelling: Who doesn’t want to be a rich, jacked winner on a yacht who eats crab legs for breakfast, right? However, the Roman historian Sallust described the beginning of fall of Rome as a “desire for glory [which] came over” the Roman people. He further described the ambition for honour and glory as “though a vice, like a virtue.” This ambition falsely resembles virtue because winning – be that financially, athletically, or status-wise – makes us look like capable champions of our own domains who nobody can hold down. Unrestrained by rules, winners go from masters to servants who can only relish in the roar of crowds, the fruits of their riches, and ultimately, their own excellence. The words used in that description: capable, champion, domain, boss, unrestrained, winner, master, riches, and excellence – those are the sheep’s clothing.
While the Barstool outlook may describe itself as anti-liberal, it is only because they spit at liberalism’s most openly fervent rituals (the renunciations of “privilege”, the hatred of the past and the self, the eccentric sexual ideologies. Liberalism fosters this fake-virtuous outlook just as the fake fake-virtuous hold a similarly liberal anthropology. Liberalism, per Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’s views on the state of nature, is based on what Leo Strauss calls “political hedonism,” the belief that we are “sovereign individuals,” a popular term among Andrew Tate & Co. This makes our only obligations those of self-service. This explains why, along with love of glory, the fake-virtuous also have a strong libertarian, Yuppiesque, small government streak, while also embracing other, particularly sexual, vices. It is no wonder that the fake-virtuous have been able to find comfort in mainstream American “conservatives,” most of whom can be more accurately described as classical liberals, that is, liberals themselves.
Conservatives, on the other hand, see faux-virtue as a lie. They can see the chase for domination and glory for what it is: pride, plain and simple, the deadliest of sins. For a proper, truly virtuous outlook, we can turn to Christianity for help. In The City of God, St. Augustine argues that the single-minded lust for status, money, or domination produces misery by making us incurvatus in se (curved inwardly on ourselves), which causes us to reduce the world to a device for empty pleasures. Instead, St. Augustine calls us to recognize that we “are only men,” called to “love and worship God” as humble “pilgrims” on this earth. In acting as a servant rather than like a master, we point our attention outwards rather than inwards, thereby filling us with a true love of life and a pure soul guided by hope, faith, and charity.
What we currently call Barstool Conservatism robs its victims of a truly virtuous and happy life, while disguising itself as an ally of the good. Therefore, it is up to conservatives to bring the good life to a world in need of real virtue. Unfortunately, our flock has been infiltrated by wolves who peddle a life of strain, pain, and empty promises. It is time to change that and stand against them.
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