Later today, I’ll have more video from interviews at the Western CPAC conference, but I want to offer a few final thoughts from what I found to a disappointing effort from the event. First, the event did not turn out a large number of attendees despite its fifth year in existence, showing that not much momentum has been made by the organizers. The exhibitor “hall” consisted of about five vendors, one of whom got kicked out (more later on that). The agenda included activist such as birthers and impeachment activists, along with candidates who did their best to distance themselves from them.
The nadir of the conference for myself personally, as well as some of my colleagues on Blogger Row, was the panel that featured many of us on the impact of New Media. The inclusion of one panelist, unknown to any of us, had some of us stumped; it turned out to be a sponsor who apparently demanded time on the panel, even though he runs a fax-blasting service. He proceeded to call me “rude” for expressing my opinion on this blog of the presentation of impeachment for “criticizing my hosts,” which proved an immediate buzz-killer for an audience that had just built energy from Stephen Kruiser’s hilarious take on how easy it was to get Twitter (“It’s just typing,” Kruiser told the audience.) The same sponsor then proceeded to trash blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and every part of New Media with the exception of …. fax blasting, leaving most of us wondering why he was considered for a contribution on New Media and its potential.
The Western CPAC event is not officially part of the traditional CPAC convention, but the ACU is listed as one of its sponsors, and ACU chair David Keene was in attendance in the entire time. In fact, our friend John Ziegler attended for the express purpose of getting Keene to answer for his pay-for-play shenanigans with FedEx earlier this year as well as Keene’s attacks on Sarah Palin. The situation turned ugly, as Mediaite reports; Western CPAC ejected Ziegler after he followed Keene into the speaking hall, which followed Keene calling Ziegler an “asshole” and saying he wanted to punch Ziegler. I only caught the aftermath, where Ziegler tried to get Keene to write a nice column about Palin for the cash Ziegler on hand:
Unfortunately, this got even uglier afterward. Ziegler had been selling his Media Malpractice documentary as one of the exhibitors, for which Western CPAC got paid, and only one of five such booths at the conference. Ziegler was expelled and removed from his panel, and had agreed to go if the organizers didn’t make a big deal about it. Instead, one of the organizers decided to make it public from the dais during Saturday’s lunch rather than letting the situation go, which prompted Ziegler to grab the mike and answer the allegations, and Ziegler got escorted from the premises. John’s going to have much more at his site later tonight, so be sure to keep up with it there, and he’ll be on my show tomorrow to talk more about it.
This comes as a piece with the New Media panel and the fringe nature of some of the sponsors. While I had several great conversations with Floyd Brown and believe him to be genuine about his pursuit of impeachment, it was made clear to me by several sources at the conference that they included it primarily as a fund-raising mechanism instead of a serious argument. The general theme of the conference appeared to be mainly a sales job for the personal benefit of the sponsors, and not the promotion of real conservative ideas. And quite frankly, after spending several hundred dollars to attend an event just to be told that dissent is “the heighth of rudeness” and that bloggers should shut up and defer to their movement elders was just a little too much too take.
I won’t return to events sponsored by the same organizations in the future. The big problem with the conservative movement has been its self-appointed leaders telling others to shut up and follow in lockstep, and I don’t think any so-called movement leaders taking that approach have the first foggy clue about what the New Media and Tax Parties mean.
Addendum: I did enjoy talking to candidates like Steve Poizner and Chuck DeVore, two potential bright spots for California conservatives, as well as the terrific bloggers on Blogger Row: Melissa Clouthier, Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, John Sexton and Morgen Richmond from Verum Serum, John Schulenberg from Infidels are Cool, Caleb Heimlich, Rachel Alexander, Stephen Kruiser, and my old friend Ed Driscoll from Pajamas Media. Elizabeth Crum was wonderful as the Blogger Row coordinator, and we all owe her a lot of thanks for her support.