Category Archive 'Rod Dreher'

30 Jul 2017

A Pleasure to Read

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Michael Thau comes to Donald Trump’s defense, in the process totally demolishing that exquisite twit Rod Dreher.

Last week, the American Conservative published a headline that, with the addition of a little profanity, would fit right in on the bathroom wall of some Leftist dive: “Donald Trump, Treacherous Loon.” But the piece isn’t by an antifa graffiti artist seeking mainstream attention; its author is one of the site’s senior editors, Rod Dreher.

If you haven’t yet heard of Dreher or his recent book, The Benedict Option, it’s definitely not his fault. You probably never visit The American Conservative, where he’s used his perch as senior editor to write 17 posts plugging the book in the last four weeks alone. That’s on top of the thousands upon thousands of words he’s written about the book since its publication in March.

For those unfamiliar with his work, Dreher became prominent in the early 2000s as a writer for National Review. His most famous NR piece begins, “One day this summer, I told a colleague I had to leave early to pick up my weekly fresh vegetables from the organic food co-op to which my wife and I belong.”

Legions of men, in Dreher’s circumstances, have courageously told their wives that buying food labeled “organic” is a waste of both time and money; legions more have capitulated in silence. But it takes a truly self-absorbed man to publicly rationalize his capitulation into a heretofore undetected strain of conservative thought; and a hopelessly twee one to label it “crunchy conservativism.” Monetization quickly followed rationalization, and a book with a title as lengthy as it is nauseating was born: Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party).

Besides sucking up to liberal elites, Dreher also showed his flair for self-promotion in his NR days. He got them to run, as lone dissenter Jonah Goldberg called it, “a blog entirely dedicated to [his book], in which most of the contributors seem committed to finding new and exciting ways to illustrate the genius of the book and the insights of its author.” …

Dreher’s penchant for turning self-absorption into self-promotion reached almost artistic levels in a later essay explaining his conversion from Roman Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy. His reason involves the gravest of matters: disillusionment by the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals. But, his essay reads like Dostoyevsky’s caricature of Turgenev’s account of a ship wreck. …

When Dreher summarizes his remarks, the actual victims of abuse get pushed aside to make room for the true subject of interest: “I have talked about how the Church itself failed me in all this . . .” Dreher’s mania for self-promotion also manifests itself; he refers to his book twice; indeed, the very title of this allegedly serious piece about religious depravity and conversion is, almost unbelievably, “Crunchy Con’s Conversion Crisis.” He’s even so immodest as to brag of his modesty: “you won’t see me ballyhoo my conversion to Orthodoxy as I did with my conversion to Catholicism.” Nope, no ballyhooing here at all. And the above is just a taste of the unseemly narcissism exuded by Dreher’s story.

So, as you can probably tell, Dreher isn’t just a simple Christian. Christianity is an essential part of his commercial brand and, hence, the Eucharist isn’t the only kind of bread the Lord provides. Thus, his self-absorption notwithstanding, it’s surprising to hear a man who lauds the “Amish example of forgiveness and detachment from anger” call the president a treacherous loon. My first thought was that maybe hurling abuse is, like vulgar egotism, a habit for which he hasn’t yet managed to follow Christ’s example and break. So, I searched for some headlines about President Obama that were equally nasty. But, the closest I could find was “Obama Disses Chaput,” which only the most fanatical admirer of both Obama and the Archbishop would find at all offensive.

So, what had Donald Trump done to deserve the appellation of “treacherous loon”? Surely, he must have exceeded Obama’s many transgressions. Had Trump sold guns to Mexican drug lords? Had he used the IRS to target his enemies? Did he secretly send billions of dollars in cash to Iran? Perhaps, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he lost track of $6 billion in government money or used a charitable organization as a pay-for-play service.

No, in fact, the president hadn’t done anything. Dreher’s crude insult had nothing to do with Trump’s actions. The fuss was, rather, about something he said; namely, that if he knew Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia probe, he wouldn’t have appointed him attorney general.

Now, at worst, the president’s remark is a perfect example of Michael Kinsley’s famous definition: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

RTWT

02 May 2017

Two Photos

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New Yorker profile photo of Rod Dreher by Maude Schuyler Clay.

Rod Dreher writes prolifically, at some times even well, and his recent book, The Benedict Option, which argues that the secular Left has won decisively, there is no hope for America or Western Civilization, and traditionalist Shventobazdies* like Dreher ought to emulate St. Benedict of Nursia and retreat from the world to private Christian communities resembling the monastery at Monte Cassino attracted enough attention on the part of the wicked, fallen world that he was profiled by the New Yorker.

*anglicized spelling of a sarcastic Lithuanian term for a person of publicly conspicuous piety, for someone sanctimonious, for a holier-than-thou, meaning literally “holy flatulator.”

Maude Schuyler Clay’s New Yorker photo (above) of Dreher makes him look like D.H. Lawrence Jr., like one of those mad British poets or writers (Henry Williamson or T.H. White, Gavin Maxwell or even T.E. Lawrence) who took to living somewhere deep in the English countryside in a thatched-roof cottage with a Goshawk or an otter. In her photo, Dreher looks like the suffering artist or visionary.

The photographer sent along to Dreher photo 2 (below), which prompted Dreher to write up another column, publishing both photos, and confessing that he thinks he really looks more like the latter.

And what a photograph the latter is. Dreher looks precisely like the very typos of the metrosexual hipster. As P.G. Wodehouse would probably observe: His knotted and combined knots part and each particular hair stands end on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine. And he is wearing glasses every bit as hideous as the glasses Marine Corps recruits are issued at Boot Camp, known universally as “Birth Control Glasses.”

Give that man a Pabst.

Hat tip to Maggie Gallagher.

26 Mar 2017

Philosophy Professor Writes: “Tolerance Is Not the Goal”

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Alan Levinovitz is (God help America!) an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at James Madison University.

Rod Dreher was appalled.

that a Stanford and University of Chicago-trained philosophy and religion professor (who holds an M.Div) believes that the proper way to address Charles Murray’s arguments is by shouting them down. Let the record show that a Stanford-and-Chicago-trained philosophy and religion professor believes that we should not allow the arguments of C.S. Lewis — C.S. Lewis! — to be heard, because people might come to believe them. And let the record show that this did not appear in a magazine of the radical left, but in a center-left publication owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world.

Alan Levinovitz declared in Slate that Tolerance is not the goal, “the truth” of which he personally happens to be in possession of is.

Progress today depends, as it always has, on the refusal to tolerate falsehood and immorality. In certain circumstances proper intolerance will demand reasoned discourse; in others it will demand shouting and breaking the law. We may disagree about how to fight for what’s right, but that disagreement should come in the context of recognizing our proud participation in a long, necessary history of virtuous intolerance. Only then can we hope to defend truth unfettered by hypocrisy and self-contradiction.

Back in the 1950s, when supporting Totalitarianism was looked upon as reprehensible by normal ordinary Americans, the Left cried out for Tolerance. We still hear constantly about the horrors of McCarthyism and the national reign of terror in which a small number of disloyal radicals faced social and professional disapproval for supporting an aggressive alien ideology that 37,000 Americans had recently laid down their lives to oppose in Korea. In those days, the University of California at Berkeley prohibited the on-campus distribution of Communist propaganda and used the laws of trespass to exclude outside agitators.

The Left responded with the so-called Free Speech Movement of 1964-1965 demanding Tolerance. The Left got its tolerance for political agitation, propagandizing, and on-campus organization and recruiting, and a half century later the Left owns all the campuses. Now, the necessity and desirability of Tolerance is over. All of which proves that the fainting liberals of the 1950s and ’60s who were moved by the Left’s hypocritical please for tolerance were simply suckers.

18 Aug 2016

Duelling Nostalgias

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NorthMainLinen375

Rod Dreher reviews Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism:

According to Levin, the great conceptual barrier to reforming and modernizing American politics is baby boomer nostalgia for the 20th-century Golden Age of their memories. He writes:

    Democrats talk about public policy as though it were always 1965 and the model of the Great Society welfare state will answer our every concern. And Republicans talk as though it were always 1981 and a repetition of the Reagan Revolution is the cure for what ails us. It is hardly surprising that the public finds the resulting political debates frustrating.

What neither side can see is that they expect the impossible. Generally speaking, liberals want maximal individual liberty in personal life, especially on matters related to sexual expression, but demand more state involvement in the economy for the sake of equality. Conservatives desire maximal economic freedom but lament the social chaos and dysfunction—in particular, the collapse of the family among the poor and working classes—that afflict American society. The uncomfortable truth is that what each side loathes is the shadow side of what it loves.

As Alan Ehrenhalt pointed out in The Lost City, his 1995 book about Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s, contemporary people lie to themselves about what things were like in the Golden Age. The thick social bonds and sense of community Americans enjoyed back then came at a significant cost—including cultural conformity and a lack of personal and consumer choice—that few of us today would tolerate. Ehrenhalt wrote that beginning in the 1960s, however, Americans embraced “the belief in individual choice and suspicion of any authority that might interfere with it.”

America’s political, social, and economic life of the last half-century has been a working-out of that belief—thus, the Fractured Republic. The inability of the U.S. political class, now dominated by boomers, to deal with the consequences prevents them from coming to terms with realities of the 21st-century world. We are stuck in what Levin describes as a “politics of dueling nostalgias.”

Read the whole thing.

28 Jul 2016

Peter Theil Was Wrong

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PittengerLetter

Rod Dreher has an excellent retort to Peter Theil’s claim, made during the RNC, that the Culture Wars were only “a distraction.”

Culturally speaking, to be born in many places in the US is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat. If you come from a culturally conservative region, or family, you understand that the people who make the decisions in this culture are on the other side. At best they regard you as irrelevant. At worst, they hate you, and want to grind your nose in the dirt. Whatever the case, the things you value, that are important to your identity, and your sense of how the world is supposed to work, are either fading away or being taken from you — and you can’t do anything about it.

Consider the bathroom debate that Thiel finds so irrelevant. Thiel lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Perhaps he genuinely cannot understand the sense of violation that many of his fellow Americans feel when they are told that men dressed like women must be allowed to use the women’s bathroom in public places. But it’s real. And maybe he doesn’t get the utter hypocrisy of corporate elites on this issue, captured by one North Carolina Congressman:

(see above)

Believe me, a lot of us notice. Ordinary people who have never had a thought about theory in their lives see the world they took as normal, as stable, as comprehensible, disappearing in front of their eyes, driven by forces they cannot understand, much less control.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

06 Mar 2016

Rod Dreher Sees the Same Things, But Does Not Buy Into Trump

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TrumpUgly

Rod Dreher understands, and sympathizes, with the anger that is causing a lot of people to rebel against the Establishment and support Donald Trump. He’s just sad at recognizing that Trump is a phony and that rebellion is going nowhere.

I’ve been pretty explicit in this space for some time about how I think the Donald J. Trump phenomenon is based in something real. I mean, the grievances to which he speaks are not phantoms. What I find impossible to accept is that Trump is anything other than a voice of resentment. If he offered some kind of way to redress those grievances, to do something concrete about them, things would be different. If he had the moral probity and personal character to lead others to solutions, things would be different. I keep wanting to think he does, and have been trying to give him the benefit of my own severe doubts about him. But after last night’s deplorable show on state in Detroit, it could not possibly be clearer that Trump will deliver for nobody. If he wins the presidency, he is going to betray the people who believe in him. That’s who he is. …

My own “burn baby burn” moment regarding the GOP was learning last fall from Congressional insiders that the party’s leadership had no plans for religious liberty legislation post-Obergefell. They don’t want to have to be told by the media that they’re all bigots. And, plainly, their deep-pocketed donors are embarrassed by the church people who give the Republicans their votes. So, screw us, is the thought.

I understand that Republicans cannot achieve, post-Obergefell, what people like me would like to see them achieve in terms of protecting traditional marriage. That ship has sailed. The culture has shifted. It’s unreasonable to expect the moon.

But for pity’s sake, when the Republican Party cannot bring itself to defend religious liberty, and the right of church people who don’t sell their Christianity out to be left alone, what bloody use are they? …

We are …watching the ongoing dispossession of people in this country of their history, at the hands of progressives — and the forces of political conservatism are saying nothing about it. From the front page of the Stanford University newspaper yesterday, a report about a move underway to purge the campus of all references to St. Junipero Serra, a Catholic missionary who was a pivotal figure in California history. Excerpt:

    Leo Bird ’17 introduced the resolution in the ASSU senate. Bird, who prefers to be referred to by the gender neutral “they,” said that they were motivated by what they saw as the discrepancy between Serra’s actions toward Native Californians and his legacy on Stanford’s campus.

    “It really started out of conversations that I started to have my freshman year at the Native American cultural center,” Bird explained. “I started to get involved with Bay Area activism and started to recognize that there was this historical figure [Serra] that was represented that was sort of praised, honored, in a way that I felt really did a disservice to a lot of the California Native community as well as to my own identity, being here at Stanford.”

“They.” Good lord. This is the kind of person who triumphs, over and over, because our universities and the elites they serve have gone corrupt and insane. Who stands up to this? They win and they win and they win. If people conclude that they are being dispossessed in their own country, and the Republican Party is effectively colluding with the dispossession, then who can be surprised by a backlash that takes the form of support for Trump? When the left wages culture war, as it constantly does, it should not be surprised that at least some conservatives see the only one on their side who brings any kind of fight to the battle is an extreme vulgarian named Donald Trump.

I’m not defending Trump. I’m trying to explain his appeal. Believe me, my heart wants the Republicans to be spatchcocked and grilled, but my head says that the country would take an unacceptable risk with Trump in the White House.

Good article, read the whole thing.

04 Sep 2014

Mr. Charley Made French Hard Just to Screw Black Men Over

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Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates sports one of those preposterous made-up African personal names, which is, I suppose, a vital fashion accessory for a fellow who makes his living as a professional angry black man.

TNC (as other writers often refer to him) is a college drop-out who (for some completely mysterious reason, what could it possibly be?) has managed consistently to fail upward. Starting in 2000, over a period of seven years, TNC was hired and then quickly fired by the Philadelphia Weekly, The Village Voice, and Time magazine in succession. Naturally, with a resume like that, the Atlantic was quick to hire him as national correspondent and senior editor.

At the Atlantic, TNC has a comfortable gig. When he doesn’t feel like turning in any copy, he simply posts a sign reading: “The Lost Batallion,” and that’s cool with his employers. They keep TNC on, despite his tendency to punt, because when he does write an article, he produces 200-proof, double-distilled racialist venom. Back in May, TNC argued for reparations to be paid to gentlemen of color like himself to compensate for “395 years of preferential treatment for white people” and an “early American economy built on slave labor.”

More recently, TNC has been off at Middlebury in Vermont studying French. His French lessons, you might suppose would be racially irrelevant, but you’d be wrong.

TNC, you see, finds learning French hard, and that is your fault, whitey!

There were years when I failed the majority of my classes. This was not a matter of my being better suited for the liberal arts than sciences. I was an English minor in college. I failed American Literature, British Literature, Humanities, and (voilà) French. The record of failure did not end until I quit college to become a writer. My explanation for this record is unsatisfactory: I simply never saw the point of school. I loved the long process of understanding. In school, I often felt like I was doing something else.

Like many black children in this country, I did not have a culture of scholastic high achievement around me. There were very few adults around me who’d been great students and were subsequently rewarded for their studiousness. The phrase “Ivy League” was an empty abstraction to me. I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed. These observations cannot be disconnected from the country I call home, nor from the government to which I swear fealty.

For most of American history, it has been national policy to plunder the capital accumulated by black people—social or otherwise. It began with the prohibition against reading, proceeded to separate and wholly unequal schools, and continues to this very day in our tacit acceptance of segregation. When building capital, it helps to know the right people. One aim of American policy, historically, has been to insure that the “right people” are rarely black. Segregation then ensures that these rare exceptions are spread thin, and that the rest of us have no access to other “right people.”

And so a white family born into the lower middle class can expect to live around a critical mass of people who are more affluent or worldly and thus see other things, be exposed to other practices and other cultures. A black family with a middle class salary can expect to live around a critical mass of poor people, and mostly see the same things they (and the poor people around them) are working hard to escape. This too compounds.

Rod Dreher read the same TNC article, and he, too, was a bit ticked off by TNC’s revolutionary racialist BS.

TNC goes on to draw some sort of black nationalist lesson from his summer at French camp, culminating in this line: “Sometimes you do need the master’s tools to dismantle his house.” OK. Whatever. Reparations scholarships to Middlebury for all!

I snark, but honestly, the idea that the enormous privilege of spending a summer studying a foreign language at a verdant Vermont college should conclude with a resolution to become even more of a militant race man is depressing. Exactly whose house will TNC be burning down as a result of the tools he acquired this summer at Middlebury? François Hollande’s? I don’t get it. I seriously don’t. Seems to me that learning French as a middle-aged American can only do one worthwhile thing: make you more of a humanist. TNC thinks it has done that for him, I guess. Recalling his past self, he writes:

    I saw no reason to learn French because it was the language of the plunderers of Haiti.

    I had to be a nationalist before I could be a humanist.

What does that mean? That he had to learn to love his people before he could love all the world? I guess I understand that, but if a rural white Southerner had the same thought, what would TNC think of him? I know good and well what the overclass that TNC spent his summer with would think of that Southern kid.

Anyway, it seems that TNC is, in fact, learning French because it was the language of the plunderers of Haiti. I don’t know how else to read his conclusion, referencing Audre Lorde’s line, that the meaning of his summer spent immersed in the language of Baudelaire, Racine, and Rimbaud is to be found in how it empowers him to resist white supremacy. That does not sound like power to me. That sounds like impoverishment.

He is part of the Establishment now. He writes for a well-respected national magazine, about things he enjoys. He takes summers to go to language camp to learn French. That’s great! Why is he such a sore winner?

TNC is a sore winner, of course, because that is actually his profession. TNC is a professional angry black man, employed by the elite editorial board of the Atlantic, sitting atop the heights of establishment American culture, to be a kind of in-house Caliban, to rant, to rage, to emote and accuse America generally in order to solidify and confirm that Atlantic editorial board’s claim to top-people-ship. If TNC were reasonable and rational, he might actually have to find a real job and meet editorial deadlines.


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