From Tyler Cowen’s column in Bloomberg:
How and why is Conquest’s Second Law true?
by Tyler Cowen June 23, 2021 at 12:18 am in Current Affairs Education Political Science
“Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.”
You can see that in this graph:
In a recent graphic of the top 100 organizations for donations to political candidates by employees, the only two that were distinctly more pro-Trump than pro-Democrat were the Marines and the NYPD. And while 97% of Harvard donors donated to Biden, only about 70% of the Marines and NYPD donated to Trump.
Still, I suspect that scared the heck out of Democrats: they’ve got 98% of the institutions more or less on their side, but NOT the two you’d most want to have in your foxhole.
That probably explains a lot of the anti-police and anti-warriors moves by Democrat politicians over the last 13 months.
But, to be pedantic, Conquest’s Second Law is actually my friend John O’Sullivan’s First Law. The widespread notion that it is Conquest’s Second Law appears to be our mutual friend John Derbyshire’s fault.
Robert Conquest’s First Law—“Everybody is reactionary on the subjects he knows about” — is also relevant, and indeed Tyler comes to much the same point of view: the more organizations come to emphasize talking rather than actually doing, the better the left will do. As does Conquest’s Second Law: “Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents,” which was likely inspired by his working relationship with British intelligence, which was about to be headed by Kim Philby when he fled to the Soviet Union.
Confusing Conquest’s Laws with O’Sullivan’s Law is forgivable because O’Sullivan was consciously adding to an existent tradition among highbrow rightist British journalists of mordant analyses of organizations, which goes back before Conquest to Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
A commenter writes:
I challenge the whole premise that institutions become “left-wing.” We say that media is left-wing, but show me a story on crime and it will most likely be a word-for-word rehash of the statement made by cops. Same goes for stories on national security or science or economics or business. Media defers to the experts until some switch gets thrown and the narrative changes to questioning the experts, usually with support from some new set of experts.
The media depends a lot upon who is packaging the story for them. Publishing a newspaper or putting on a broadcast is a lot of work, so whoever takes on much of the burden for the reporters will likely have a lot of influence on what is published.
A lot of stories are packaged by plaintiffs’ attorneys, so they will be full of complaints about about whoever has the deepest pockets. Other stories are packaged by corporate PR departments. Many stories about foreign policy are packaged by the deep state. Lots of stories based on academic studies are packaged by university PR departments to appeal to media prejudices. Stories about how the latest nonbinary refugee Islamic actor represents the New Face of Our Time are packaged by the agent. Policy stories are usually packaged by a thinktank advocating the policy.
A reporter might call up a thinktank representing the other side for a couple of quotes disagreeing, but only rarely do reporters decide that the nice people who have done all this hard work explaining the story to them are in the wrong and stab their benefactors in the back. Janet Malcolm claimed reporters do this all the time, but I fear they don’t.
Note that one type of story—the now ubiquitous “White Men Are Bad” storyline—almost never comes with the usually obligatory demurral from the counter-thinktank. That’s because there is no It’s OK To Be White thinktank, much less a White Men Are Good thinktank. If one were to hang out their shingle on K Street, it would be burned to the ground by an indignant mob by the next dawn, and the smoking hulk would be condemned by both houses of Congress by 5PM the next day.