April 15, 2016
In Commentary Magazine, Bill Kristol’s son-in-law Matthew Continetti laments that William F. Buckley isn’t around anymore to police the Right and make conservatism respectable to the New York media and cultural elite:
“Buckley changed things when he founded National Review in 1955. He introduced the philosophers to the populists. He published the traditionalists, the libertarians, the Cold Warriors in the same pages. Not only did he aspire to fuse free markets with traditional values, he wanted to be taken seriously by the New York media and cultural elite. …
Why the transformation? Part of the reason is that Buckley and his editors spent an enormous amount of time and energy during the early years of the magazine disassociating their conservatism from its atavistic and gnostic forebears. National Review is a great example of media gatekeeping theory: By exiling anti-Semites, Birchers, and anti-American reactionaries from its pages, the magazine and its editor determined which conservative arguments were legitimate and which were not. By denying a platform to quacks and haters, they broadened their potential audience. …
But anyone with the Internet can write a blog or tweet or Facebook post or can Skype or record a podcast. The castle no longer has walls. The gatekeepers are mostly useless. Yes, the rise of social media may have helped conservatives—it allowed them to investigate, report, opine, entertain, and influence politics and policy by giving them the means to bypass liberal outlets. We’ve gone from a universe with half a dozen conservative journals publishing on infrequent schedules to one where there are dozens of center-right websites operating 24/7. I edit one of them.
But there is also a cost. As conservative media has proliferated, the authority of any one man or publication or radio show or television network has receded to the point of invisibility. For a time conservatism may have resembled the Catholic Church, with Buckley as pope, issuing bulls and ex-communicating heretics. But conservatism these days more closely resembles Islam, with untold numbers of mullahs issuing contradictory fatwas, with antagonistic schools of thought competing for adherents, with not a few radicals eager and willing to blow the whole thing up. …
The nasty mouth-breathers Buckley expelled from conservatism have returned. The proximate cause of this efflorescence of the pre-Buckley right is Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Trump has dog-whistled at racists so much for so long that they feel resurgent. They call themselves the “alt-right,” a grab-bag category that includes nativists, eugenicists, bigots, anti-Semites, misogynists, reactionaries, aristocrats, monarchists, isolationists—basically anyone who hates today’s America and the modern world and the men and women, of any race or religion, who flourish in it.
For a while the alt-right was confined to the comment sections on websites, then it moved to Twitter, then it created websites of its own, and now, most disturbingly, its ideas, such as they are, are being published and defended and celebrated on sites associated with the conservative movement and Republican politics. …”
It is a terrible tragedy.
Because of the internet and social media, conservatives no longer have the power to banish people to the fringes by calling them names and denying them a platform. Instead, they are forced to engage people and ideas they dislike, which requires them to defend their policies with compelling arguments.
In The Federalist, Cathy Young has a long whine about the “bigotry” of the Alt-Right:
“In a nutshell, the article argues that, while the alt-right does have some actual—but, worry not, utterly irrelevant!—white supremacists and neo-Nazis in its ranks, it is mostly a loose alliance of maverick intellectuals, traditionalists who feel unrepresented in the mainstream political establishment, and cheeky young rebels who post racist slurs and memes just to annoy the pearl-clutching guardians of political correctness.
While this taxonomy of the alt-right is interesting, it is ultimately—as it were—a whitewash, full of far-fetched arguments and misleading claims that consistently downplay this movement’s ugly bigotry. …”
I’ve personally been to several hotels where our reservations have been cancelled because we were holding a public protest or a conference. I know people who have been physically attacked in the streets. I know people who have lost their jobs because of their beliefs. I know people who have been deported or banned from foreign countries because of their political views. Yet for some strange reason we are the ones who are labeled the “bigots” by people who want to silence our ideas?
The word “bigot” has lost its meaning. It used to refer to someone who couldn’t stand another point of view. I’m not the one trying to stamp out dissent, get people fired from their jobs, or harassing hotel managers.