Michael Anton, who penned â€œThe Flight 93 Electionâ€ back when he was hiding behind a pen-name, articulated very well in an exchange with me what millions of conservatives believe to be true:
The old American ideal of judging individuals and not groups, content-of-character-not-color-of-skin, is dead, dead, dead. Dead as a matter of politics, policy and culture. The left plays by new rules. The right still plays by the old rules. The left laughs at us for it â€” but also demands that we keep to that rulebook. They donâ€™t even bother to cheat. They proclaim outright that â€œthese rules donâ€™t apply to our side.â€
I disagree with Antonâ€™s prescription â€” to surrender to identity politics and cheat the way our â€œenemiesâ€ do â€” but I cannot argue much with this description of a widespread mindset. Many on the right are surrendering to the logic of the mob because they are sick of double standards. Again, I disagree with the decision to surrender, but I certainly empathize with the temptation. The Left and the mainstream media canâ€™t even see how they donâ€™t want to simply win, they want to force people to celebrate their victories (â€œYou will be made to care!â€). It isnâ€™t forced conversion at the tip of a sword, but at the blunt edge of a virtual mob.
I could go on for another 2,000 words about all of the double standards I have in mind. But letâ€™s stick with the subject at hand: Kevin Williamsonâ€™s views on abortion put him outside the mainstream. And he was fired from The Atlantic merely for refusing to recant them.
Meanwhile, extreme views on the left are simply hot takes or even signs of genius. Take the philosopher Peter Singer. He has at least as extreme views on a host of issues, and he is feted and celebrated for them. He is the author of the Encyclopedia Britannicaâ€™s entry on â€œEthics.â€ He holds an endowed chair at Princeton. He writes regularly for leading publications. And he argues that sometimes itâ€™s okay to kill babies, as in his essay â€œKilling Babies Isnâ€™t Always Wrong.â€ â€œNewborn human babies,â€ he writes, â€œhave no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.â€ He cutely asks whether people should cease to exist. (He ultimately and grudgingly answers â€œNo.â€) Oh, he also argues in favor of bestiality.
And heâ€™s been profiled favorably in the pages of The Atlantic.
And thatâ€™s okay. I canâ€™t stand his utilitarian logic-chopping and nihilistic view of humanity, but at least going by Nockâ€™s Ark of the Covenant rules, he should be free to make his arguments anywhere willing editors want to publish them. We have a right to be wrong.
But thatâ€™s not the point: Singerâ€™s work does not render him anathema in elite circles, it earns awards, praise, and celebration for its ruthless consistency and edgy provocation. He is not fired for what he writes never mind what he thinks. I have no doubt some people donâ€™t think this is a perfect example of a double standard, and I could come up with some objections to it myself. But if you canâ€™t see why some people â€” fellow American citizens â€” see it as a glaring double standard, you are part of the problem.
Kevin was hired by The Atlantic because he is among the best of the homeless conservatives in the Trump Era. Thatâ€™s why Bret Stephens went to the New York Times, and itâ€™s probably why Iâ€™ve gotten my share of strange new respect from some liberals. But what Goldberg â€” or his boss â€” and countless others fail to appreciate, I think, is that the Trump Era is merely one facet of the larger age of tribalism that we live in. In an age when evangelical Christians and constitutional conservatives can overlook the sins of a Roy Moore, itâ€™s easy to see how people could mistake a Trump critic as a useful voice in their chorus. But Kevin isnâ€™t one of them. He sings from his own hymnal and he stands athwart the tribalisms of Trumpism and the tribalisms that gave us Trump. He is in The Remnant (which Nock described in, of all places, The Atlantic). And I am honored to be a happy warrior by his side, hopefully at National Review once again.
It seems to me that The Atlantic disgraced and embarrassed itself so badly that it really did far more damage to itself than to Kevin Williamson.