National Review lies

Is it punching down to pick on NR — that dying mastodon, which, inexplicably, continues to hold sway in some circles — while desperately trying to grab a mouthful of ankle?

Now we’ve had our fun obliging the giant “kick me” sign that Jonah Goldberg &co have become (pretty much from Derb’s dismissal going forward) but we have not been able to catch these folks red-handed engaging in outright, blatant deception. Until now.

Case in point: the latest hatchet job by one Ian Tuttle, and this bit in particular:

The alt-right is a hodgepodge of philosophies that, at their heart, reject the fundamental principle that “€œall men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”€

Now the inner quotation is from the U.S. Declaration of Independence and I am aware of only one modern interpretation: Equality of all citizens under the law. To avoid repeating this phrase in the sequel, I shall write (*) in its place. Nothing I have read anywhere, on the left, right, or center, suggests any other interpretation — and if Tuttle had something radically different from (*) in mind, he should have said so.

The phrase “reject the fundamental principle” was marked with an html link, which by convention we expect to contain evidence for the assertion that the alt-right rejects the premise of (*). Instead, the link leads to another article by Tuttle, just as content-free as the first one.

Here at PTT we have a motto: You shall know a weasel by his preference for vague generalities over precise specifics. And sure enough, Tuttle’s salvos are aimed at no particular individual but rather at a nebulous and diffuse ill-defined entity loosely known as the “alt-right”. The 1488ers make an obligatory appearance, followed by a grudging admission that there’s only “a handful of neo-Nazis […] and nobody likes them anyways”. Tuttle doesn’t provide any direct quotes by any alt-right author (respected or otherwise) suggesting any rejection of (*). Small wonder: you won’t catch any of PTT’s favorite anti-semites rejecting (*); certainly not Derbyshire, nobody at takimag, and not even folks like this.

The alt-right I know and respect deals in clear, empirically testable propositions. For example, disparate impact is an empirical reality acknowledged universally both on the left and on the right. Blacks are overrepresented in prisons and underrepresented among university faculty; there is no argument on this point. The point of contention is the cause of the disparity. You can hypothesize (among other possibilities) discrimination and HBD; any empirically testable explanation is a priori valid. Nor is this mere scholastics, as quite a bit of social order is at stake.

Jonah Goldberg has accused individuals (viz., John Derbyshire) of personal racism, but not (to my knowledge) of rejecting (*). Tuttle is accusing a fairly large (though poorly defined) group of people of something even worse than personal racism — if such a thing is possible. One might be tempted to excuse this as mere sloppiness, but that’s letting the Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow at the National Review Institute off the hook too easily. Is he just playing dumb?.. And is that better than actually being dumb?

4 thoughts on “National Review lies

  1. To quote from John O’Sullivan’s recent tweet:

    @JohnOSullivanNR Nov 17
    NR is “not relevant,” proclaims James E. Miller in Takimag (a magazine I enjoy.) So why is he writing about it?

    There are plenty of weak, overlong, pointless, pretentious, or downright wrong (like in the case of Tuttle) pieces in NR. Posttenuretourretes (PTT) does a great service in pointing this out. However, there are limits to the conclusions one can draw from this type of bottom fishing. NR also publishes some of the best conservative writings, like that of O’Sullivan, Andrew McCarthy, Victor Davis Hanson, and Maggie Gallagher, which is why, I believe, “it continues to hold sway in some circles”.

    Should we expect NR to follow the mastodons on the road to oblivion on account of Tuttle, or hope for its continued flourishing for the sake of the authors named above? Is there another outlet that comes close to matching the best of NR?


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