Here is an article I read with much interest from Mark Shea.  I reprint the opening few paragraphs below. Read the whole thing here.

* * *

[Joe Carter] has been one of the few voices in the conservative movement to speak out of actual conservative values and not out of the Consequentialism that dominates the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism. So I was interested in his description of “X-Cons“, the rising generation of conservatives (so-called) who have been coming of age in the past decade. I think his description is accurate, rather depressing, and a further proof that Chesterton is right when he says that each revolutionary movement is a reaction to the last revolution–and that it typically knows what is wrong but not what is right. I appreciate Carter’s clear-eyed analysis and suspect that he, like me, is not altogether thrilled that this is the desperate pass in which the Thing that Used to be Conservatism now finds itself. To wit:

• X-Cons do not have a broad grasp of history. If we have an interest in history, we are likely to have a read a few books which we hold in high esteem and consider authoritative (Paul Johnson’s Modern Times is among our favorites). At best, we may have done in-depth study on a particular historical era (the American founding, the Civil War, World War II) but we lack a deep understanding of general history. We have almost no comprehension of the intellectual history of conservatism.

• Talk radio has had a profound influence in shaping our political sensibilities. Just as William F. Buckley, Jr. provided the cast for conservatism in the 1950s, Rush Limbaugh shaped the conservatism of X-Cons in the 1980s and 1990s. Limbaugh provided not only the content but the style in which we conservatives would engage in political discourse: assured, confrontational, snarky. Talk radio taught us X-Cons to appreciate confirmation of our political views. Arguments needn’t be persuasive when you are certain not only that we are right and our opponents are wrong, but also that we are right and they are wrong-headed.

Think about these two paragraphs together. X-Cons know little about history and their deepest influence is disk jockeys, who “taught us X-Cons to appreciate confirmation of our political views.” The perfectly reasonable thing to ask in light of this crushing diagnosis is, “What, precisely, is being conserved by such a ‘conservatism’?” A conservatism that knows nothing of engagement with ideas outside the Talk Radio Noise Machine (including engagement with ideas from its own intellectual history) and which has learned, as it’s primary lesson, “to appreciate confirmation of our political views” is a conservatism that is intellectually barren and open to manipulation by demagogues who flatter its adherents and teach them to remain safe in the echo chamber.

• With confirmation came a sense of (virtual) community and a realization that a Ph.D in Political Science wasn’t required in order to express a valid opinion on politics. Imbued with a sense of confidence from a young age, we X-Cons grew comfortable expressing ourselves in a conversational style that imitated our talk radio mentors. Blogging was (and remains) a natural outlet for our mode of expression.

While it is true that one does not need a Ph.D. in Poli Sci to participate in the political process (a very Chestertonian sentiment), the notion that that the Buzz Lightyear Principle (“I’m Buzz Lightyear! I’m *always* sure!”) is a foundational conservative principle is dubious and founded, not on conservative thought (which is typically circumspect about Youthful Confidence vs. Seasoned Wisdom), but on contemporary therapeutic culture where the Highest Good is that we Feel Comfortable About Ourselves, not that we know what we are talking about. That this, again, traces its roots back to the fact that somebody like Glenn Beck has the gift of the gab and teaches our kids to be Just Like Him, does not inspire confidence that anything like what Burke or Kirk or Buckley called “conservative” is informing this phenomenon since, again, what is being conserved is not even mentioned.

• Having grown-up either in a broken home or surrounded by friends who did, we X-Cons recognize the value of traditional family structures. We may not always be successful in building permanent relationships ourselves, but we value the bonds of family more than the previous generation.

• Our pro-life convictions stem from knowing that we could have been legally killed in womb—and recognizing that we are missing brothers, sisters, and cousins because of abortion.

These two paragraphs point to the highly Chestertonian and paradoxical roots of present day Youth Conservatism: namely, that it is profoundly a reaction to Death Cult Liberalism and its Moloch Worship. Refugees from the social devastation wrought by Generation Narcissus and its perpetual self-congratulatory destruction of the family recognize that social conservatism and, in particular, religious conservatism and its celebration of stable, healthy families are a much friendlier and more supportive culture for their own dreams of a family than is the “do whatever feels right” culture that Generation Narcissus did so much to create and promote. In short, there is an immense amount of pain and suffering at the roots of X-Conservatism caused by my generation’s profoundly destructive selfishness and a deep longing for a stable family life feeds X-Conservatism. Here, above all, is a place where X-conservatism has a real point of contact with the Catholic faith, which likewise prizes the family as a huge and important natural good–and which roots the family in the revelation of the Triune God as His image and likeness. Here is the real beating human heart of X-Conservatism and the thing every Catholic should love about it and try to encourage above all.

• Irony is one of the most pervasive traits in Gen X culture. Not surprisingly, this has affected the outlook of X-Cons. For example, we tend to be ambivalent about heroes. While we have an intuitive understanding of the need for virtue and heroism, we are too realistic, and perhaps cynical, to place complete trust in politicians or statesmen. We prefer to champion ideas and principles over reliance on very real, very fallible leaders.

This is one of the more tragic aspects of X-Conservatism, in that irony and sarcasm are forms of humor that are native to the wounded, powerless and those with waning or no hope.