The most reliably frustrating person in conservative media, by some margin, is National Review’s David French.
Because while he often provides elegant, persuasive analyses of the excesses of the progressive Left, he just as reliably fails at the final hurdle to offer the only prescription that would cure the disease.
Consider his excellent treatment of “intersectionality” this week. It’s hardly groundbreaking – I was telling college audiences two years ago that social justice resembled a cult and that it has replaced religion in the academy – but for NR’s elderly audience it’s a neat summary of the phenomenon. Yet French’s final paragraph is a masterclass in the establishment’s failure to fight fire with fire and its seeming desire to lose gracefully rather than be seen as lacking in manners.
America’s traditional Christian and Jewish communities need to understand this reality. Intersectionality steamrolls right over the lukewarm, leaving them converted or cowed. The answer, of course, isn’t to steamroll back — after all, our faith is supposed to be full of grace — but rather to respond with calm conviction. Christianity has survived ancient heresies. It can prevail against modern fads. But don’t for one moment underestimate the depth of the zeal that drives our latest religious divide.
The answer isn’t to steamroll back? Oh yes it fucking is. It couldn’t be clearer that this insistence on politeness is the primary reason the academy, the media and the entertainment industries are now wholly lost to us. This high-minded adherence to the supposed virtue of restraint is a disease that has crippled the West. It has left all our best fighters on strategically vulnerable ground and handed easy victories to our enemies, who do not honor the rules of engagement because they are dedicated to our annihilation at any cost.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” reads a passage in Mark, quoted often by fans of nice manners. (Probably.) But what shall it profit the forces of liberty, truth, beauty, capitalism, property rights and the rule of law if we lose the whole of our civilization because National Review writers are worried about getting the right cocktail party invitations?
Establishment conservativism seems resigned to a mild-mannered and orderly decline, in which Brooks Brothers-suited 23-year-old debate club Republicans in bow ties sip on Manhattans in DC watering holes while the feral Left tears apart America’s schools, colleges, creative industries, newspapers and everything else. Can David French look at America in 2018 and honestly say his brand of pocket-squared Republicanism has succeeded?
There is nothing about believing in the fiery God of the Bible, or in strong national borders or free expression or low taxes or gun rights, that requires conservatives to be pushovers. As Dorothy Sayers puts it, “It is the dogma that is the drama – not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death – but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.”
David French’s characteristic flaw is that, faced with a different kind of warfare – one fought not with bombs but with defiance, disobedience, protest and proclamation, he dampens the fire he surely feels in his heart, pulling back out of a misplaced sense of patrician propriety.
The same thing is happening when establishment types scold those of us on the deplorable wing for being “offensive for the sake of being offensive.” This horror at the gaucheness of the New Right reeks of entitled snobbery. Indeed, the most useful way to think of the establishment Republican versus Trumpland civil war is as a class struggle between pampered elites and proles. As ever, the robust working classes have the effective, common-sense solution while the elites look on in dismay, helpless and hopeless.
I’m proud to be on the side of working Americans against the complacent, corrupt and hopelessly compromised world of National Review and the Weekly Standard. But I’m also proud to be on the side of the warriors over the essay-writers and think-tank flip-floppers, who foolishly (or deliberately) misinterpret our love of mischief and bomb-throwing as us being assholes for the sake of it, failing to identify the strategy we are deploying – turning the Left’s weapons against it – and pretending not to notice how effective we are.
(I suspect they do notice, and hate us for it – but that’s a subject for another time.)
The root of the establishment Right’s handicap may be theological: a Protestant aversion to “works” in favor of faith alone, as though merely praying is enough. As a Catholic I know better. And as a friend reminded me this morning, the Bible only mentions “faith alone” once, in James – who denounces the heresy. Faith without works is dead, and of no practical use to anyone.
David French’s faith should be the motivating factor behind his actions – instead, he uses it as an excuse to do nothing. Our faith in God and America and our faith that our ideas are the best ideas and that our civilization is worth defending ought to lend us the courage to act. We should burn with the desire to right wrongs and to correct injustices, sacrificing our own wealth and comfort, never sparing a thought for what polite society might say about our fervor.
We should never shy away from the truth or from the depth and gravity of our most heartfelt convictions, as National Review so bashfully, shamefully and repeatedly does; we should proclaim the truth loudly and we should wage war in its name.
Older readers will remember that a similar paradox to this one obtained with George H W Bush. He was the youngest American fighter pilot in the Second World War, but when it came to staring down the Democrats? He couldn’t bring himself to risk rudeness. And then of course there’s our own decade’s John McCain, who fits the pattern perfectly.
These are the men responsible for the weakness of contemporary conservatism, but until Trump had the nerve to say he preferred people who hadn’t been captured, to the horror of journalists and activists who had spent their entire political lives mindlessly nodding along to the words of anyone who had ever worn a uniform, no matter how stupid or useless, no one really dared to say “yeah, no, fuck off” when a veteran or a war hero spoke his mind. This is yet another reason to give thanks to the God-Emperor, who reminded us that Republicans have their own brand of political correctness, too, just as wrongheaded as the Left’s.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian general and military theorist, long ago observed the different temperaments needed in fighting men versus political and community leaders. He noticed that many men have the physical courage to overcome the fear of death, but they lack the mental fortitude to endure the crushing weight of leadership. Clausewitz’s On War provides a list of examples of famous cavalry commanders whose fearlessness on the battlefield failed to translate to effective generalship.
Does National Review really believe that thoughtfulness and prayer are the answers to baying mobs of violent, Soros-funded domestic terrorists, the combined weight of the media and entertainment industries and the entire educational establishment? Do they think the black bloc protestors who burned Berkeley last February or the window-smashing thugs screeching “BURN IT DOWN!” outside a Jordan Peterson talk can be beaten with another impassioned op-ed about humility and kindness? It’s laughable.
David French, the sine qua non of ineffectual thought leadership, is a sort of culture war homeopath, correctly identifying the problem but prescribing comically ineffective remedies – as if John McCain’s doctor had suggested cold compresses and plenty of water as a treatment for glioblastoma.
So beware the blind veneration of veterans whose bold accomplishments may not be relevant to the positions they now hold – and may even be an impediment. David French is capable of works, in the religious sense. He does not qualify as a “war hero,” though he served in Iraq, no doubt assiduously. But when it comes to the culture wars? Pfft. Less than useless, so long as his faith stops at his fingertips and the only volleys he is prepared to throw are well-turned but ultimately despairing paragraphs of prose.
Milo Yiannopoulos is an award-winning journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and host of THE MILO SHOW.
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