Hillsdale College, a lovely liberal arts college located in rural southern Michigan, is a rarity among institutions of higher learning. They do not accept any federal or state taxpayer subsidies, for one thing. And in an era characterized by liberal dominance of the academy, Hillsdale has been described by National Review magazine as a "citadel of American conservatism." Hillsdale was the first American college to amend its charter to prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, or religion (shortly after its founding in 1844 it became an outspoken opponent of slavery and a proponent of education for black students, who were admitted to its programs immediately; they were also the second school in the nation to offer four-year liberal arts degrees to women). All in all, a lovely school providing lovely opportunities for conservative students to grow and learn while surrounded by liberty- and freedom-loving students and staff members.
Hillsdale is also known for its monthly publication, Imprimis. If you have not heard of Imprimis, it is my great pleasure to tell you about it. First, it's free. Go here to subscribe. The content of the magazine is drawn from speeches at Hillsdale-hosted events. The college draws most of the heavy hitters in conservative politics, so it is worth your while to subscribe. According to the web site, Imprimis boasts a readership of over 1.8 million. It has roughly the same number of subscribers as Newsweek.
Let me switch gears for a moment. Most of us know and understand that the mainstream media is dominated by liberals. When liberals write about conservatives, odd things happen.
From a post today in The Corner, Jonah Goldberg quotes himself from an earlier column:
This was in response to this post from Kevin Williamson, writing about what he calls "Exciting New Developments in Conservative Anthropology":
I was recently watching a BBC wildlife documentary on the Discovery Channel. The narrator — a British fellow with an accent like Gandalf the White — described the scene:
The male approaches the pack. His intentions are clear: assert dominance, conquer, rule. Sensing trepidation from the younger males and curiosity from the bitches — who at this age are in a perpetual state of heat — the would-be leader-of-the-pack seizes his opportunity. He puffs out his chest and lets loose with a booming roar: "Hey, have you read the latest issue of National Review?"
Okay, I'm lying. Or, as Steve Glass or Jayson Blair might say, I'm "fabulating." (My couch just yelled from the other room: "Actually, Jonah, technically speaking Blair would say he's 'stickin' it to Whitey!' but I get your drift.") But, my point is, whenever I read liberals reporting about the goings-on of conservatives I always get the nature-documentary vibe. A liberal reporter puts on his or her Dian Fossey hat in order to attempt to write another installment of Conservatives in the Mist. I've followed this particular brand of reporting for years, it's almost a fetish of mine. Most attempts fail. Of these lesser varieties, there's fear ("Troglodytes!"), mockery ("Irrelevant troglodytes!"), condescension ("I had to explain to them they're troglodytes."), bewilderment ("Why don't they understand they're troglodytes?"), astonishment (Dear God, they're not all troglodytes!"), and a few combinations of all the above.
But sometimes they even succeed, to a point. Thus, like the real Dian Fossey, they manage to saunter into the leafy thickets of conservatism, and are welcomed into a band of gorillas. They hold out the equivalent of a banana or maybe a fistful of grubs for long enough and eventually we come sniffing around. We're intrigued by the creature lavishing attention on us. And the reporter eventually begins to feel as though he has been accepted into the band. Eventually, we conservatives grow comfortable enough around them to return to our old patterns. We scratch and fight and do our gorilla things and the chronicler dutifully takes notes. The notes eventually make their way into an article for the New York Times or The New Yorker or Vanity Fair.
"Who knew?" the readers will say over their morning bagels and coffee in Southampton or Fire Island, "I had no idea conservatives were such intelligent creatures. Why they even have the capacity for emotion and even some rudimentary forms of kindness."
This is a new classic in the genre I like to call “the anthropology of conservatives.” You know the drill: A soy-latte liberal ventures beyond his local Trader Joe’s and “discovers” some fascinating and curious aspect of the conservative world. (“Who are these strange people protesting our heroic new health-care plan? Are we witnessing the rise of American fascism?”) Although work in this field occasionally rises to the level of art, it more often founders at the level of banality. Sadly, that is the case with Jordan Smith’s startling discovery: Imprimis, which he believes to be a little-known journal, one with “samizdat status,” … with a readership about the size of Newsweek’s.
Salon’s befuddled Smith starts off with an observation almost on par with that apocryphal Pauline Kael response to Nixon’s election (“I can’t believe it! I don’t know a single person who voted for him!”) writing: “The conservative newsletter Imprimis has nearly 2 million subscribers, which is surprising because almost no one has ever heard of it.” Obviously, those 2 million subscribers have heard of it. (Have 2 million people heard of Jordan Smith?) The largest audience in talk radio—Rush’s—has heard of it. It’s advertised on lots of talk-radio shows, most of which have audiences many times larger than Salon’s readership. Let me begin a list of the people who had not heard of Imprimis until recently: Jordan Smith. (Somebody check with Pauline Kael.)
Smith notes that Imprimis is published by Hillsdale College, and he writes: “Its 1,300 students tend to see it as a bastion of righteousness in a sinful world.” Really? Name one. (Don’t worry; I’ll wait.) I know a fair number of Hillsdale students, and I have heard not one describe the college that way. (I occasionally have heard them describe the school and its administration, and a few of its professors, in colorful terms, none of which was “bastion of righteousness.”) Did Jordan Smith actually speak to a single Hillsdale student? My guess is: No, he did not. But, if so, whom? If not, what is the source of that claim? Come on, Smith: Anthropology requires rigor! Either source that claim or turn in your pith helmet.
And so, the moral of the story is . . . subscribe to Imprimis. It'll drive the liberals crazy.