Conservatives Jostle Over How, When to Critique One Another

RedState‘s Ben Howe on Tuesday committed a cardinal sin in partisan media. He critiqued the work of his ideological colleagues. Worse, he did it via a non-conservative publication– BuzzFeed.

“I want a culture shift, and I want conservative artists to be taken seriously,” Howe writes in his piece. He uses a short movie and music video produced by the Tea Party Patriots, a conservative group, as an example of poorly conceived conservative art. “It is my opinion that this Tea Party Patriots film does great damage to such an effort. Instead of pulling people into a story that espouses the underlying tenets of liberty, it slaps them across the face with all of the subtlety of a campaign commercial.”

Essentially, Howe was saying that if a piece of art sucks, everyone should say it sucks– whether the creator shares your politics or not. He made the argument on BuzzFeed in the same spirit.

“To the extent I can populate such an innovative, widely-read site with conservative commentary, that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Howe told FishbowlDC.

The article, headlined “Another Terrible Conservative Movie,” drew in a wave of praise and criticism from other conservatives. Conservative blogger “Sooper Mexican” said the piece was “worth reading.” Breitbart News blogger Lisa De Pasquale said it was a “good article.”

Others weren’t so thrilled.

“We all need to take criticism but the conservatives I know don’t read BuzzFeed,” tweeted Richard Grenell, a Republican communications strategist. “Who really was the audience?”

“[W]hy on BuzzFeed Politics?” wondered Breitbart‘s John Nolte. “Why publish there instead of within the conservative family at RedState? Why single out and ridicule your own at a left-wing site that considers the exploiting of conservative infighting … as its mother’s milk?”

The Breitbart crew, Nolte in particular, are by and large virulently anti-BuzzFeed.

Howe explained to Nolte that he “wanted to reach beyond conservatives.”

More from Nolte’s piece:

Imagine the excitement over at BuzzFeed headquarters (which is probably in a hollowed-out volcano) as they were handed the imprimatur of a RedState editor to trash the conservative film movement as a whole.

Howe was backed, however, by conservative media heavyweight Dana Loesch. “No battle was ever won by staying in the camp. No opponent was ever turned by refusing to engage them and sticking only to conversing with your own side,” she wrote at RedState. “I think it’s wonderful if anyone can plant any sort of seed on websites that may normally be hostile to our viewpoints. Are they using us or are we using them? I guess that’s subjective according to your prejudice.”

Howe says he hasn’t lost friends since his piece was published, though he says he’s found out who his friends “really are.”

As for Nolte: “For some reason John is determined to ensure that the only people listening to us are the ones that are already on our side,” Howe said. “There’s no middle and no left that needs to be reached apparently. I guess we learned different lessons from 2012.  Mine was to stick to your guns, always be honest, but reach beyond your comfort zone. His was to publicly flog anyone that stepped out of line.”

We requested comment from Nolte. Update: Nolte wrote FishbowlDC: “Howe assigned himself the role of The Savior of Conservative Creativity and made a spectacle of himself. Howe’s piece was riddled with errors, and he got played by BuzzFeed when they turned his review of a single project into an attack on the entire conservative film movement. He still won’t admit it is not ‘helping the art’ to savage what he believed (incorrectly) was an unfinished project an ally was still hoping to raise money for.”