Tomi Lahren, conservative pundits like us need to, you know, read
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The right-wing media is in a transition phase, as it comes out of eight years in the opposition and morphs into the new mainstream. With it, the most popular and influential commentators — many of whom are young and inexperienced — must adapt as well and live up to the expectations placed on them.

These “conservakids,” as Townhall’s Kurt Schlicter terms them, use their youthful energy to spread a conservative message to other young people in particular and fight the misconception that conservatism is incompatible with younger generations. Conservakids are fond of humor and creative ways to convey their message to a young, easily-distracted audience but the mediums they use can have serious tradeoffs. Social media is an easy breeding ground for short viral videos by popular commentators, which are often flashy and fun, but also can leave out necessary arguments and substance.

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For instance, the “Final Thoughts” videos by Tomi Lahren, former commentator on The Blaze, amassed millions of views thanks to the convenience of the share/retweet buttons. Millennials enjoy her provocative sound bites and flashy graphics, but it is important to properly balance entertainment and the pursuit of knowledge.

 

As millennials quickly become a dominant force in politics (after all, not only are we the largest living generation, we now practically equal Baby Boomers in our size of the American voting public), we inherit the mantle of political activism, and we must do so responsibly and wisely. Thanks to the internet, we have the methods to reach a massive audience and convey our ideas in entirely new ways. While we can be entertaining, witty, and hard-hitting, we should first be educated and grounded in the message we convey.

As a “conservakid” myself, I am all too aware of how powerful a popular Twitter page or an entertaining viral video can be to advance a cause. People like me, who without social media would otherwise not have a platform, now have the ability to influence others in seconds. It is important to push out a message, but more important to ensure that we do not allow our own arrogance or vanity to taint our work. Millennial-age journalists and commentators must learn, read, and listen before promoting agendas and talking points we may not fully understand.

This doesn’t mean taking the fun out of communication, which proved effective at bringing people into the movement, but it means having popular commentators that devote themselves to honesty and integrity.

Lahren’s ban from The Blaze — which came after she came out publicly as pro-choice despite a recent history of pandering to her fanbase with pro-life messages and tweets — should be a wake up call for those who are in, or aspire to be in, the same position to better develop their own ideas about life and politics. As we get older, our positions on some issues are bound to change, but this should be the result of gaining more knowledge and insight as opposed to simply telling an audience what they want to hear or picking a position that will amount in more fame.

Even more concerning than Lahren’s decision to call her pro-life fan base hypocrites, is a 2016 interview with the Daily Caller in which she said: “I’m not a reader. I don’t like to read long books. I like to read news. So I couldn’t tell you that there was a book that I read that changed my life.”

If the conservative movement’s future includes leaders who do not read, and cannot even recommend a good book to others, then I am fearful about the future of conservatism. To assume that the news alone, or others’ opinions of it on social media, is sufficient to understanding conservative thought or how the world has operated in the past and in the present is immature and dangerous. Aspiring conservative millennials look up to people like Lahren as role models. Such a position of influence should not be taken lightly.

As young people, we lack wisdom and will gain it by admitting this and learning from our own experiences. In order to prove ourselves worthy of the platform we hold, we must compensate for our youth by actively seeking knowledge.

Does this mean that young conservatives should not seek an audience at all, as many now argue? It depends. If young commentators can place their ideology in a broader context beyond just their Twitter page, and can offer a track record of honest, insightful commentary, their age should not be a disqualifier. In contrast, if a commentator’s only claim to fame is a pretty face, quick wit, and overenthusiastic use of the retweet button, they should think twice about the position of influence they seek.

As James Madison once wrote: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

“Conservakids” should seek out knowledge above showmanship. In an age where information is distributed in 140 characters and short videos, we are effectively spreading our message and growing in numbers. We must now take our role seriously and holding ourselves to a higher standard, one that requires us to adequately educate ourselves before educating others. Our message should be guided by those who have gone before us, adapted for the modern times.

So conservakids, get out your books and start reading.

Kassy Dillon is a junior at Mount Holyoke College studying International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies. She is the MHC College Republican President, the Massachusetts YAL state chair, and she is also the founder of LoneConservative.com She can be found on Twitter at @KassyDillon.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.