You may have noticed that even mainstream liberals are starting to chafe at the painful duty of taking conservatives seriously. At the New York Times, for example, Michelle Goldberg recently wondered why we have “affirmative action for reactionaries” that elevates dumb wingnuts to major media posts, and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote in “The Final Surrender of Anti-Trump Conservatism” that the movement’s capitulation to Trump has “revealed that conservatism has no neutral or abstract standards of good government.”
Three conservative mass effusions last week — defending the honor of a prominent troll, attacking (yet again!) the Parkland students, and celebrating the Roseanne reboot as a cultural touchstone for Trumpism — demonstrate why.
On March 22 it was announced that Kevin D. Williamson, a rage troll whose insult humor National Review has indulged for years, would now write for the Atlantic, a venerable intellectual publication founded by the poet James Russell Lowell in 1857.
Some liberal commentators learned of and expressed shock at a few of Williamson’s fringier opinions, including that women who have abortions should be executed. Reason’s Cathy Young rose in defense, claiming liberals had Williamson all wrong — he “was talking about what he believes should happen (both to women and to medical staff participating) after abortion is outlawed and declared a homicide. Laws don’t apply retroactively.” See, Williamson only wanted to kill women who have abortions in the future.
Why were liberals getting all worked up over that? Young’s explanation was that they were censors, as she explained later in a Medium essay called “The Kevin Williamson Two-Minute Hate” — liberal “outrage mobs” wanted to “excommunicate people” and get them “declared ‘beyond the pale’ ” just because of their challenging, counterintuitive death-to-women-who-abort beliefs.
Young’s whine was taken up by others, including the New York Times’ Bret Stephens, who addressed Williamson directly, as one conservative victim of liberal censorship who somehow still had a six-figure major-media contract to another: “You had the right to remain silent. Now every word you’ve ever uttered, and every one you ever will, can and will be held against you.” It’s like Soviet Russia, only the cells have park views and maid service.
Stephens wept that his friend Kevin had seen his “character assailed and assassinated,” despite his “great prose and independent judgment” (of which Stephens offered a few feeble examples) just because of some things he wrote, which were clearly irrelevant to his job as a pundit.
Stephens added that if liberals were uninterested in the “broader understanding” Williamson’s long-form slurs would bring to them, they were like a “nine-year-old sticking fingers in his ears and saying: nah-nah-nah-nah-nah,” and then delivered what in his world must be considered an unanswerable argument: “Anyone still wondering how Donald Trump became president need look no further.” Wait’ll Pennsyltucky hears about the censorship of Kevin D. Williamson!
At least Stephens mentioned the reason people were appalled by Williamson’s remarks; a number of his conservative defenders, such as National Review’s David French, omitted that salient detail, in favor of the sweeping liberal-fascist charge. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, for example, admitted only that Williamson was “heterodox,” and that the “philistine progressive mob” was angered, not because his ideas are psychotic, but “because he won’t bend the knee…to them.”
Liberals were not just trying “get every conservative fired as soon as they’re hired by a MSM outlet,” complained living meme Dan McLaughlin. Rather, their “ultimate goal” was “to make it seem as if conservative ideas are ‘controversial.’ ” If killing whores is off the table, I ask you, how can we have a dialogue at all?
My favorite so far on this topic is Ben Domenech, who scored liberal intolerance without mentioning Williamson’s abortion stance (though the article was tagged “abortion”), and ruminated:
A smart intellectual magazine is a difficult thing to run because of the need to manage conflicting personalities and opinionated writers who clash constantly, whose clashes make the publication better. It is exhausting and draining and honestly the only thing that’s harder is probably running a university.
The punch line: Domenech is the editor of the Federalist.
Meanwhile, Roseanne Barr successfully debuted a revival of her old sitcom, which excited many conservatives, not because of the show’s artistic or entertainment quality, but because Barr is a Trump supporter in real life and on the show. This stroked the brethren’s culture-war hard-on, and they took one of their occasional breathers from yelling that all art-pinkos should just shut up and sing to applaud Barr’s bold Trumpism.
At the Washington Free Beacon Matthew Continetti praised Barr as “the type of swing voter who decides elections,” and claimed “Democrats fail the Roseanne Test,” in part because “illegal immigration leaves the Conners worse off.” Maybe next episode will be about a Mexican taking Dan’s job.
“Roseanne revival is a wake-up call for Hollywood,” kvelled John Podhoretz at the New York Post. Podhoretz gloated that while this year’s gayed-up Oscar show, with “performers talking about ‘intersectionality’ and Dreamers and jokes about how an Oscar-nominated movie about a gay awakening was made to annoy Mike Pence…got the lowest ratings in history,” Roseanne’s debut “got the highest ratings of any network program in six years.” (This is, one might say, conservative math: The recent Oscars, though down from previous years, pulled 26.5 million viewers in the U.S. — not counting their global viewership — while Roseanne drew 18 million.) Podhoretz also noted Roseanne got better ratings than Will & Grace, which is significant because [minces around, flails arms limp-wristedly, lisps].
Podhoretz portrayed the size of the debut audience as proof that America was hungry for a show “that wasn’t going to use Trump as a punchline or use a Trump supporter as a comic punching bag,” and a message from “the world between the coasts” to “the major domos of our popular culture” that — and here we may imagine Podhoretz affecting the folksy dialect of the World Between the Coasts — “we’re conscious enough of our differences to shut you down when you set yourselves against us (the Oscars) but we are ready to provide enthusiastic support for your efforts if you treat us with respect.” I have to admit, that sounds like colloquial American speech, all right.
After President Trump phoned his self-congratulations to Barr, her tweets were exhumed, revealing that she subscribes to the QAnon theory that prominent Democrats run child molester gangs — and if that sounds like Pizzagate to you, yep, she believes in that too. (Maybe we’ll get an episode where Roseanne and Dan go to Comet Ping Pong and shoot the place up!)
Rush Limbaugh rushed to defend Barr and — sounding a lot like the defenders of Williamson — downplayed what she actually said, preferring to focus on her critics’ liberalism. “Roseanne is not a conspiracy theorist like you would think,” he told his followers. “The conspiracies that she believes in are those that supposedly exist to destroy Trump.” Which makes them legit by nature, right? Besides, Limbaugh continued, people are only mentioning it because they “want this show to fail precisely because its success, they think, is tied to its support for Trump.”
Later Barr seemed to soften her stance on Pizzagatean child-rapists, at which BizPac Review roared, “Haters break Roseanne; Barr vows to shut up after getting viciously bullied for pro-Trump tweet.” She’s a victim — just like Kevin Williamson! And she’ll probably suffer every bit as much.
But the biggest woe-is-me-I’m-being-persecuted of the conservative week was over Fox News scold Laura Ingraham, who joined the goons and bots of deep Trump Twitter in making fun of David Hogg, one of the Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors, for not getting into the schools he applied to. But — here’s a switch! — Ingraham actually suffered for it, losing a bunch of sponsors. She then made an obviously insincere apology, which Hogg treated with appropriate contempt; she is still leaking sponsors and “on vacation” at this writing.
Conservatives insisted the Fox News star was the real victim here, as Hogg had unfairly exploited his power as a popular Florida high school student over her.
“These boycott campaigns have become far too common,” complained Joey Wulfsohn at the Federalist. “The most successful one to date took down Bill O’Reilly after he was exposed for sexual harassment almost a year ago.” One weeps at the injustice of such a thing.
At RedState, Kimberly Ross first affected sympathy for Hogg and his classmates, then demanded their parents “step in” to “chastize their teenagers for unfairly labeling individuals as blood-stained accomplices to a tragedy simply by believing in a long-established right.” But, Ross added, back of wrist to forehead, “I know I’m asking too much.”
At the Hill, Joe Concha fretted that the Ingraham boycott could be “the kind of precedent that will forever change what the First Amendment is supposed to stand for” because — well, he didn’t actually explain, so I’ll assume it’s because the boycott is working.
Concha did reveal what bugged him about Hogg, though: He “has the benefit of being protected from any criticism while being free to level it” — a weird claim, as Hogg and his classmates are under ceaseless propaganda assault; even now, for example, crackpot Twitter creeps — and their mainstream right-wing equivalents, like former CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord — have been trying to blame Hogg and his classmates for “bullying” Nikolas Cruz into shooting up their school. And rightbloggers scan salacious rumors about the kids so eagerly that whenever they hear a new one, they go nuts — as a RedState factotum and others did last week, suggesting Hogg wasn’t even at school during the shooting. (Not to mention the wrath of Frank Stallone!)
I can’t say with certainty this is the craziest conservatives have been since I started paying attention; their Iraq War froth, and their rage at a black president, were pretty nuts. But I will say that the Age of Trump has had a weird effect on them. It’s as if they’ve taken a lesson from their constantly lying, bloviating Leader: Not only is it OK to say the quiet parts out loud when it comes to bigotry and authoritarianism, it’s also OK to ditch the tedious intellectual efforts (like the “Reformicon” scam) with which they used to dress up their cruelty and cynicism. Who needs that hassle anymore?
Since they’ve stopped trying, one needs less labor to scrape the veneer off their ridiculous ideas and lay them bare. That’s good for me, of course, and who knows, maybe good for the Republic too — because maybe more voters will catch on.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 2, 2018