The flagship organ of Conservatism Inc. is suddenly worried about intellectual diversity after The Atlantic fired former National Review contributor Kevin Williamson. David French thinks it is “cowardly” [On the cowardly firing of Kevin Williamson, April 5, 2018]. Jonah Goldberg thinks it is a victory for mob rule. [Kevin Williamson, Thought Criminal, April 6, 2018] Michael Brendan Dougherty denounces “the sudden onset of illiteracy and bad faith of people writing about my former colleague, Kevin Williamson” . [Imagine a genocide, April 6, 2018] The phrase which comes to mind, six years after the purge of John Derbyshire from National Review, is “self-discrediting.” And Conservatism Inc. has put itself in this position by triangulating and “purging” itself into irrelevance.
The comments which terminated Williamson’s brief Atlantic career were his supposedly ironic musings about whether women who had abortions should be given the death penalty. Goldberg is particularly outraged by this because Williamson never made this sardonic argument in the pages of National Review, let alone The Atlantic. “Kevin was fired for what he thinks,” intones Goldberg, with the italics in the original.
Of course, John Derbyshire’s version of “The Talk,” which advised people to avoid African-Americans in certain circumstances for their own safety, was similarly not published in National Review, but in Takimag. Yet this did not save Derbyshire’s job. This is especially odd considering Derbyshire’s advice wasn’t about hanging or hurting people, but keeping them alive. Indeed, many naïve white people would still be alive had Derb’s advice been followed.
To take another example, Robert Weissberg, was also fired from National Review for actions unrelated to his job there. His sin: appearing at an American Renaissance conference—even though his speech there actually denounced “white nationalism” as impossible. NR Editor Rich Lowry actually thanked the antifa cum hall monitors who alerted him. Among those publications rejoicing at Weissberg’s fate: naturally, The Atlantic [Racist Writers Are Right To Feel Threatened, by Elspeth Reeve, April 11, 2012].
Sample Tweet from 2012 (one of many)
For the record, I find my colleague John Derbyshire's piece fundamentally indefensible and offensive. I wish he hadn't written it.— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) April 6, 2012
Still, while tu quoque is satisfying rhetorically, the Williamson episode does show that the limits of permissible opinion are narrowing rapidly—despite (or perhaps because of) Donald Trump’s election. It was The Atlantic which hosted a serious discussion on The Camp of the Saints in 1994 [Must It Be the Rest Against the West, by Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy, December 1994]. Back in 1971, the magazine was discussing racial realism; today, it’s mad there aren’t enough black riots.
As Ben Domenech notes darkly:
This story is a predictable continuation of the Left’s ownership not just of media but indeed of all institutions…If you have wrongthink, you will not be allowed for long to make your living within any space the Left has determined they own – first the academy, then the media, then corporate America, and now the public square. [Firing Kevin Williamson Is Just the Beginning, The Federalist, April 6, 2018]
This is true. But Domenech is not exactly a model of intellectual tolerance himself: he has denounced his critics on the right, such as the late Lawrence Auster, as “Evilcons,” [VFR’s Editor Attacked As “Evil-Con, View From The Right, August 11, 2003].
Domenech, who appropriately is now Meghan McCain’s husband, has also attacked Donald Trump and those on the authentic American Right for pursuing “identity politics” instead of “limited government.”
But given that Williamson is being punished by the “free market,” and not “the state,” what is Domenech even complaining about? Here’s your limited government, good and hard. After all, as long as there’s not a government bureaucrat giving the order, that’s “freedom” right?
Indeed, in one of those little moments which makes one believe in divine justice, Williamson’s first (and last) Atlantic column was precisely on this theme, bemoaning the fall of “classical liberalism” and blasting Victor Davis Hanson for advocating regulation of tech companies, “perhaps on the public utility model” [The Passing Of The Libertarian Moment, April 2, 2018].
Just hours before the news of Williamson’s termination, Hanson responded in National Review:
In light of what is revealed near daily about Silicon Valley, Facebook, I do not think I was in error in worrying about either its agendas or methods, or the paradox of the tech sector thus far receiving a pass from the usual muckraking Left... Sadly, I think Kevin Williamson will soon find that National Review was far more tolerant of his controversial views than will be true at The Atlantic. [A Response To Kevin Williamson, April 5, 2018]
And so indeed Williamson did.
Not to belabor the point, but on Saturday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey approvingly cited a story interpreting current American politics as a “civil war” in which conservatives must be driven completely out of institutional power, as they have been in California [The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War, by Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira, Medium, April 7, 2018]
Great read https://t.co/O2djSQf8Qv— jack (@jack) April 6, 2018
Ensuring those who want to destroy us have more money and power to do it isn’t much of a program. Yet that’s Williamson’s conservatism.
Indeed, rendering conservatism toothless is something of a specialty for Williamson. “He loves to take arguments to the breaking point in hopes of shocking readers with his cold, unbound logic,” writes Jack Shafer in Politico, calling him a “conservative fire-breather”. [Congrats, Jeff Goldberg. You Just Martyred Kevin Williamson, April 6, 2018]
But it’s not really true. Williamson finds a problem with the Left, deconstructs it with colorful prose, and then forces it into a normal Conservative Inc. frame which is guaranteed to fail. Positioning the likes of Kevin Williamson as a “fire-breather” is just another way Main Stream Media journalist/ activists are trying to move the Overton Window ever leftward.
This isn’t to say Williamson is stupid. He may be something worse. He probably knows more than he is letting on.
Yet Williamson’s signature technique is not to take ideas to their logical conclusion, but to take idiotic Beltway Right premises to their logical conclusion. Thus we get all-or-nothing, eliminationist rhetoric about abstract ideological stances and a refusal to recognize demographic realities.
For example, writing about Detroit, Williamson pins the city’s woes on “progressivism in its final stages of decadence” and blames it for “the death of its children”. [Progressivism Kills, February 1, 2014] Yet Portland is so progressive that Republicans who want to march in a parade get threatened with death. However, (as long as you are quiet about your politics) Portland is consistently ranked one of the best places to live in America, and, not coincidentally, one of the whitest.
Speaking of Portland, the Leftists there are renaming schools once dedicated to Thomas Jefferson because he was a slaveholder. Nationally, the Democrats’ traditional Jefferson-Jackson dinners are also being renamed because of concerns about “racism.” This defies Williamson’s 2015 column declaring this would never happen.
People are not driven by party labels but more primal forces such as identity and power. The truth is we are not at “peak Leftism,” and the Left won’t stop until it is forced to. Leftists have no reason to pay attention to Conservatism Inc. complaints. Not only do conservatives have no institutional power, their intellectual leaders are constantly lecturing them that it is immoral to pursue power.
If there was a serious American Right, we’d be having discussions about nationalizing social networking sites or at least guaranteeing free speech online. Instead, after a desperate struggle during the 2016 campaign, the only meaningful accomplishment of the united Republican government is a tax cut for the people who are openly vowing to destroy us.
It’s not surprising we get such stupid, self-destructive ideas because “the Conservative Movement” has systematically expelled and disavowed anyone who had anything interesting or creative to say.
Now, after decades of internal purges and appeasement, the cuckservatives of Conservatism Inc. are complaining that Leftists won’t give them a platform.
But why should they? The cucks have performed their function. They neutered the Beltway Right. Leftists don’t need them anymore.
Luckily, neither do American patriots.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.