COMING OUT OF THE CONSERVATIVE CLOSET, GUNS BLAZING
BRANDING AND MARKETING IN THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAR-RIGHT
September 28, 2023
By Will and Aria Novosedlik
Illustration: Will Novosedlik/Midjourney.
The American far-right’s conflation of Jesus Christ, the stars and stripes, and automatic weaponry typifies the contradictions that contaminate the core of what passes for patriotism south of the border.
‘Creative conservatism’. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? If you saw those words together ten years ago, you’d have assumed it was a joke.
Laugh no more. It’s here.
Creatives generally share a liberal ethos, at least on the surface. By its very nature, creativity requires an open mind, not something one associates with conservativism. We tend to judge our work based on how innovative it is, not how conservative it is. You’d be hard-pressed to meet a single conservative at most agencies, at least not one who’d admit it, although that could just be a reflection of the fact that most people, creatives included, tend to avoid political discourse at work.
Well, clutch your pearls, because we’re witnessing the birth of a new beast: the conservative agency and the so-called ‘freedom’ or ‘patriot’ economy’.
It’s not too difficult to see why these agencies are crawling out of the shadows. Their appearance coincides with another phenomenon we’d never have predicted a decade ago: Trump. The term ‘creative conservatism’ is, like Trump, fundamentally contradictory. Trump thrives on creating chaos and contradiction. He leads a party that prides itself on protecting faith and family while he runs around with porn stars. Equally contradictory is that it doesn’t matter to his base. These contradictions actually seem to galvanize it.
A screen shot from Closet Conservative’s home page. It has nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with patriotism.
In the world of identity politics, string theory is real. We’re seeing the rise of parallel universes for the woke and the anti-woke. Bud Light’s choice to use trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney is now the textbook case of how brands are no longer immune to the culture wars. Now you have to pick a side. And if your side is right-wing, you’re going to want to pick a right-wing firm.
Hence the emergence of agencies in the US like 'Closet Conservative’ which has as its tagline ‘WE’RE NOT WOKE, WE’RE AWAKE’. It prides itself on being Republican and Texan. Its home page is a rotating reel of far-right dog whistles: images of families, flags, farmland, fatigues and fireworks come at the viewer like rounds from an automatic weapon. It happily embeds hot buttons in its sell copy: “Consulting is one of those vague buzz words, like Omicron”. The irony of the fact that the firm’s name references ‘coming out of the closet’ – a term historically associated with gay liberation – seems to have entirely escaped the attention of its owners.
Republicans may want to build a wall against migrants. Businesses like Mosaic are building one against liberals.
Other agencies, like the one directly above, make no bones about who they want as clients: conservatives only, please. Don’t even bother calling if you are a liberal.
Now there is a marketplace for coming out of the creative closet: enter Public Sq. Public square is a Trump-backed app that bills itself as ‘the largest directory of freedom-loving businesses in America’. It is a digital marketplace designed to connect you to ‘values-aligned businesses.’ Upon signing up, you will immediately be directed to a page that lists ‘pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom and pro-patriotism’ as their core values. Public Sq lists categories that range from apparel to restaurants to medical services. To date, apparently 65,000 business and 1.2 million consumers have signed up. One example is mobility provider Patriot Mobile, ‘America’s only Christian Conservative Wireless Provider’.
That’s right, America. The best kinda patriot is a mobilized patriot. Unless of course you’re a Patriot missile.
Publicsq is even dipping its toes into product development. Its first foray into consumer goods is a brand of baby products called everylife. The name says it all, specifically referencing the Supreme Court’s recent repeal of Roe v Wade.
Because babies are magical miracles made by God, not by women. Apparently women are just the delivery system.
There’s one last piece of the puzzle. It’s a job board called Red Balloon. It’s like linkedin for the far-right. Applicants can search for jobs that are exclusively by and for the ‘values-aligned’. If you are a conservative creative you can even search for design and marketing jobs at the ‘creative’ firms mentioned above.
The echo chamber is now sealed. No longer does anyone have to interact with anyone whose views conflict with their own. There are layers and layers of irony in all of this, but at the core lies the uncomfortable truth that the best creative often results from the collision of opposites. There’s a reason we bounce ideas off of each other. When there’s no room for opposites in the creative process, we’re left with a vexing conundrum: if liberalism is the acceptance of different ideas, should liberals accept the belief of the right that we shouldn’t have differing opinions?