The stupidest thing to appear on the internet yesterday—excluding whatever weird racist and vampire-centric debates occurred between teens trolling each other on Yahoo Answers—was The Conservative Teen, an (apparently real) magazine written by a roster of hard-c conservatives, including a number of folks employed by the Heritage Foundation, the think tank that brought you a bunch of the Republican party’s policies. **You can read the whole first issue online.** It’s basically a print version of the Mr. Show "No Adults Allowed" sketch, where out-of-it adults transparently pretend to be hip teens. Here are the ages of the three syndicated columnists the brains behind Conservative Teen thought would be especially appealing to right-wingers-in-training:
John Stossel - 62
Walter E. Williams - 78
Michael Reagan (the adopted son of Ronald Reagan, who wrote a column called “Ronald Reagan: Our First Black President”) - 67
Conservative Teen isn’t the tryhard youth minister who rides into the school auditorium on a skateboard to the rockin’ sounds of Jars of Clay. It’s more like an old guy giving off vaguely racist vibes who takes the podium in a three-piece-suit and talks about Reagan while the kids in the stands play on their phones and finger each other. How bad is this magazine? Well, there’s the cover, which features what’s probably a stock photo of a pair of frighteningly Aryan young people. The whole magazine is filled with stock photos, actually, which is odd—if they spent money to get name-brand writers, why not pay for original images that teens might like? There’s the patronizing practice of defining difficult words for readers, like “cameo” and “sovereign” and the extremely hacky editorial cartoons (labeled “laugh out loud” after “LOL,” a popular internet expression used by young people), some of which make fun of kids for being dumb and technology-obsessed. In other words, they’re making fun of their target demographic with jokes you would find in fucking Parade magazine!
Then there’s the multiple pieces on liberal media bias, a topic that pretty much only conservative commentators and FOX News diehards (i.e. not teens) care about. There’s a piece on film that starts out by talking about Ben-Hur, which is half a century old, and ends with an extended riff on Lord of the Rings—which came out in 2003, when today’s 18-year-old was nine or ten—as an allegory for the conservative movement.
Most bizarrely, the mag doesn’t even go the obvious route and appeal to Ron Paul-loving, Ayn Rand-reading prickish I-do-what-I-want-for-I-am-a-prime-mover libertarian adolescents. The only nod to libertarians is Stossel’s one-page column about government policies concerning Native Americans in North Carolina(?). It’s enough to make you want to call them up and give them some ideas just out of sympathy. I mean, couldn’t you at least do a spread featuring awesome-looking guns and say some shit about the Second Amendment? Thing is, Conservative Teen is already a failure. It didn’t get enough subscribers to print its first issue, and its Twitter account has 96 followers. I couldn’t find any information about the publisher, William R. Smith, online, and the whole enterprise smells like a vanity project gone wrong. I only heard about it—and you’re only reading about it now—because of schadenfreude. As Buzzfeed says, it’s “wtf?” “fail,” and “LOL;” it’s like Christwire but real, and full of things written by actual conservative scholars and polemicists.
It’s more interesting to ask whether the strange, sex-fixated, but admittedly crafty men running the Republican Party and FOX News could actually do something like Conservative Teen and have it work. GOP voters are fucking old, and while young liberals might turn rightward after getting their first big paychecks and getting angry about taxes, it’s less likely that even current young Republicans will rally around social issues like gay marriage, contraception, and porn. Ron Paul is young folks’ favorite right-winger for obvious coughDRUGWARcough reasons, but he also often inspires booing at Republican debates. You’ve got to wonder if these conflicts mean that when today’s conservative teens take over the party, it’ll look a lot different. Knock on wood.
For now, Republicans—real Republicans; the strategists and players, not the doddering schmucks who backed Conservative Teen—couldn’t give a fuck about young people. They famously don’t vote and don’t have money either. The political landscape created by gerrymandering, long campaigns, and Super PACs is tilted towards incumbents, electorally-active minorities like seniors, and the already wealthy and powerful. Young people aren’t part of that equation. Can you blame them for camping in parks and yelling out of sheer frustration? It’s almost sweetly naïve that the publishers of Conservative Teen care enough about young people’s opinions to reach out to them, no matter how pathetic and propagandistic the effort is.
**Whoops, the magazine is not available online anymore, they must have taken it down, possibly due to shame.**
**Uh oh, those bastions of fine publishing just shut down TheConservativeTeen.com.**
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