An Interview With Glenn Reynolds


John Hawkins:: So how did a University of Tennessee law professor become the godfather of conservative blogging?

Glenn Reynolds:: Beats me, especially as I don’t think I’m really a “conservative” in any meaningful sense. At least when you apply the term “conservative” to describe someone who supports gay marriage, the legality of cloning, and the eventual modification of the Martian climate to make it earthlike, I’m not sure what, exactly, is being conserved.

I do believe in certain eternal verities, like the inevitability of corruption in government, and the need to respond to violent attacks, well, violently. But I suspect that the war — and the noisy anti-globo Left’s reflexive opposition to it — make me seem more conservative than I would otherwise. I’m more of a techno-libertarian, really. I’m rather a traditionalist, personally, in terms of lifestyle, but I don’t believe in laws mandating that other people live that way.

As for why I inspired people — I’d like to say something flattering about myself and the inspirational quality of my writing here, but I suspect the real response was more along the lines of “hey, how hard can it be?” My youngest brother started a band when he was 14. His inspiration was going along with me when I ran sound at a Red Cross benefit concert for Oklahoma City Bombing victims. He saw all the bands that played that night and said “Those guys suck! If that’s all it takes, I can do that!” There may be a similar dynamic going on here. . . .

John Hawkins:: Why do you think there’s been such an incredible explosion in the popularity of political blogging?

Glenn Reynolds:: It’s easy, and the mainstream media are in such an unsatisfactory state: paralyzed by faux-objectivity, they can’t be interesting, but dominated by a rather narrow slice of the ideological spectrum they can’t really be fair either. People want to talk back, and now they can.

John Hawkins:: How about giving the rest of us a little advice on how to build a political blog as successful as your: Instapundit: site?

Glenn Reynolds:: I just try to find things that interest me. I try to find things that I think aren’t getting enough attention, and to look at events that: are: getting a lot of attention from a new angle. Since I’m kind of a weird guy, that isn’t usually very hard. I don’t have any great PR secrets: when I first started I emailed people (whether reporters, bloggers, nonprofits, or whatever) that I wrote about. I still sometimes do that, but that’s as close to a PR campaign as I’ve ever had.

John Hawkins:: Do you think that the conservative domination of talk radio, the web, and Fox News is finally starting to create a rough parity between conservatives and liberals in the dissemination of news?

Glenn Reynolds:: I think it’s possible to exaggerate that. Things have come a long way, but the majority of Americans still get most of their news from traditional sources: the three broadcast networks and their local newspaper. Of course, the more interested and involved people are in politics, the less likely that is to be true for them, which gives things like talk radio, or weblogs for that matter, disproportionate influence for their size: they’re talking to people who care. Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings increasingly are talking mostly to people who don’t.

John Hawkins:: What is your opinion of the Nuclear Missile Defense Shield? Also, do you think they’ll be able to get a rudimentary system ready by 2004 as planned?

Glenn Reynolds:: Rudimentary is the word. It’s easy to build an antimissile system. It’s hard to build a good one. But, you know, incrementalism is the hallmark of successful engineering. Cars used to suck; now they’re quite good and reliable. Computers used to suck; now they’re pretty good and pretty reliable. You get the idea. The real question is whether we’ll take advantage of a learning curve, or just build something, claim it works, and let it sit there. If we do that, it’ll have some propaganda value, but not much else.

John Hawkins:: What do you the Supreme Court will do with the campaign finance legislation that was recently passed?

Glenn Reynolds:: I think it will be struck down on First Amendment grounds. As the Court just demonstrated in the “virtual child pornography” case, it’s quite willing to strike popular statutes on First Amendment grounds. The campaign finance bill is more obviously unconstitutional than the kiddie porn bill (though I think the Court was right to strike that down), and less popular.

John Hawkins:: I know you have a huge interest in the music business so I was wondering what your opinion of file trading services like Napster, Imesh, and Morpheus was? Do you think they’re good for the music industry or bad for it? How will the industry handle this new technology?

Glenn Reynolds:: I think they probably sell more CDs, on balance, than they displace. That’s the experience of everyone I know who uses them. (AudioGalaxy is one that you don’t mention, by the way, that a lot of people like). The industry will handle this new technology badly. They’d have us using 8-tracks if they could.

John Hawkins:: I notice that you co-authored a book called ‘Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society.’ Can you give us a quick synopsis of the main themes of that book?

Glenn Reynolds:: Essentially, the argument is that the post-Watergate ethics explosion didn’t make people or institutions more ethical, but rather created a vast “ethics establishment” that is as corrupt and self-serving as those it purports to police.

John Hawkins:: Do you think there’s been a large and negative change in the ‘tone’ in Washington in the last two decades or so? If so, why do you think that is?

Glenn Reynolds:: I think that people have discovered that lying often works, and that the only effective response to lying is to call people liars. That isn’t pretty, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

John Hawkins:: From my perspective, the pro-2nd amendment rights crowd seems to have turned the tide in the last few years. Democrats for the most part seem afraid to be perceived as anti-gun now. Do you think that there has been a political shift in attitudes on the 2nd amendment and if so, why?

Glenn Reynolds:: I do, for several reasons. It helps that the constitutional law is on the 2nd Amendment crowd’s side, which the vast majority of constitutional scholars now acknowledge. I think it’s also the case that everywhere gun control has been tried, the result has been more crime. The British and Australian experience over the past few years just underscores that.

John Hawkins:: How about taking a crack at the question that seems to be on everybody’s minds; what will it take to bring peace to the Middle East?

Glenn Reynolds:: To break the “cycle of violence,” someone has to win, and someone has to lose: convincingly in both cases.

John Hawkins:: Give us a rundown on what you see happening in the ‘War on Terrorism’ during the rest of George Bush’s term. For example, how much longer will Saddam be in power? Do you see regime changes in Syria and Iran, etc?

Glenn Reynolds:: Saddam, I think, is a short-timer one way or another. I think that the regime in Iran is already stressed, and in some ways already crumbling. I think that Assad in Syria might hold on the longest if he keeps a low profile, but that the Israelis might just boot him on their own if he doesn’t.

John Hawkins:: I know you’re a Libertarian so I was wondering what you think it would take for the Libertarians to ‘go mainstream’ and start to be genuinely competitive in most Congressional races?

Glenn Reynolds:: Libertarians are enormously effective when they critique existing political institutions. They’re much less effective when they seek doctrinal purity above all else. Most Americans have a strong streak of small-l libertarianism, but the party seems adept at making sure that they don’t migrate to the large-L variety. I think the response of people like Harry Browne to the war is a good example. It’s principled, but it’s also obviously wrong.

John Hawkins:: What are some of your favorite web pages to hit for political commentary?

Glenn Reynolds:: Pretty much the ones on the links section of my page. I don’t update that often enough, but those are the ones I visit most. I also like: Slate,Reason, and mainstream columnists like: Michael Kelly,: Michael Barone,Walter Shapiro, and: Mark Steyn.

John Hawkins:: Is there anything else you’d like to say or promote?

Glenn Reynolds:: Anybody who can get me a picture of Condi Rice in anInstaPundit t-shirt: gets a t-shirt of his/her own for free!

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