Saturday, June 13, 2009

One Crazy Ride

Bill Hicks could be seen as the prototypical South Park conservative: an individual who promotes conservative -- in his case, libertarian -- values in a manner that offends conservative sensibilities.

Hicks, who died of cancer in 1994 at age 32, used a style since emulated by comedians like Denis Leary and Dennis Miller to rage against what he perceived as the injustices of American society. He railed against censorship, political correctness, and government waste.

Some of his ideas seem to veer outside of the traditional American conservative program. For example, he once suggested that the money spent on nuclear arms could instead be spent feeding and clothing the world. That, coupled with his criticism of the 1990 Gulf War, seems to be out of step with conventional American conservative values. However, think of both in terms of a criticism of government wastefulnes, and there is certainly a conservative flavour to Hicks' comedy.

That, of course, is the most intriguing element of South Park conservatism. It offends many of the values of traditional conservatives, particularly valuing a morally cleansed society. However, South Park conservatism recognizes that, today, it's liberals who often take -- or at least feign -- offense at the comments and ideas of their political rivals.

In this way South Park conservatism acts as a back door for politically incorrect sentiments to flourish within a conservative movement. Many social values that are otherwise considered ill at ease with conservatism can -- and do -- sneak in through that back door and effectively try their hand within the conservative movement.

The likelihood that Hicks' anti-war message would ever find traction within American conservatism may at first seem remote. But then one considers the number of Republicans who have come to oppose the Republican-initiated war in Iraq.

While many American conservatives have embraced this new breed of conservatism -- the recent rash of anti-tax tea party demonstrations is a prime example -- individuals such as Hicks certainly helped plant the seeds.

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