It’s terrible when essentially good people turn on their own side.
But that’s primary season for you. Particularly this year, it has former allies at each others’ throats. It almost makes you miss the days when SJWs weren’t irrelevant! Almost.
The latest salvo in these internecine conflicts comes from Cathy Young, one of a growing number of libertarians and conservatives who are turning their guns on their own side. Her latest salvo was against a well-known, bestselling conservative author and Trump supporter.
Lots of people try to garner attention by attacking this particular pundit, with invariably terrible results. It’s a wonder journalists haven’t learned–and that their name-calling is no more sophisticated today than it was in the 2000s, when every television host was doing it.
Still, it’s Cathy who was the aggressor in this instance, attacking her latest target with the disturbingly leftist tactic of guilt-by-association and unsubstantiated name-calling.
Because the commentator had a column syndicated at VDARE — an important distinction; she has never written for the site — which is frequented by the alt-right, Cathy alleges that she must therefore endorse the worst of its authors’ opinions. A tired line of reasoning, one used by those who prefer to debate with shame and taboos instead of arguments.
I’m less interested in a lengthy rebuttal of Cathy’s allegations — so silly and overwrought that I won’t even say what they are! — as I am in understanding why she, and so many others in conservative and libertarian circles, have adopted the language and tactics of the left during this campaign season.
First, there are the obvious points. They’re in a panic because of the unstoppable rise of Donald Trump, who represents a serious risk to the influence of the DC think-tank set.
Then there’s the alternative right, who many mistakenly believe are as bad, if not worse, than the identitarians of the left.
Cathy Young probably shares both of these inclinations — she wrote a lengthy rebuttal last month after my colleague I decided to co-author an explainer on the alt-right that didn’t descend into meaningless virtue signalling.
But I think the problem runs deeper with Young. She’s often very sensible. But, ironically, that moderate impulse makes her susceptible to fallacies — in particular, her implicit assumption that the “extreme” of the regressive left’s opponents must be as bad as the extreme of the regressive left itself.
This isn’t the first case of friendly fire on Cathy’s part, unfortunately. There’s also Mike Cernovich, excommunicated in her Real Clear Politics column for “vile tweets,” and later blocked for using the word “cuck.” Then there’s Vox Day, an icon of the anti-SJW resistance, lambasted by Young as a racist and misogynist — a charge his wife no doubt stridently objects to.
None of these people is remotely so dreadful as the worst actors in the third-wave feminist movement or Black Lives Matter.
Anyone who has met Day or Cernovich in person — I have met both — knows that they harbour no animosity toward other races or genders. The same is true of almost everyone I’ve met in the much-lambasted alternative right.
Sure, they may be merrily outrageous in their blogs and on social media, but a few hours of conversation with them reveals none of the wild zealotry you see in the eyes of campus feminist or black activists. Yet, because Day and Cernovich also dabble in identity politics, Cathy treats them the same — if not worse.
The truth is, Cathy has never bothered to really get to know her targets, instead preferring to shame them with regressive-left buzzwords. I’m afraid that she isn’t really opposed to the left’s social ostracization machine: she just wants to choose where it’s aimed.
It’s a shame, because Cathy has frequently been a target of that machine herself. In the early 2010s, she was one of the few writers who dared to question the “rape culture” panic that was underway on American campuses.
Despite being vindicated in the wake of the UVA rape hoax and the collapse of the Columbia “mattress girl” case, she was repeatedly branded a “rape apologist” by her detractors on the left.
At the height of the new wave of sexual assault panic, the Federalist Society even dropped Cathy from their list of campus speakers, with a former president of the society citing pressure from feminist activists as the likely reason.
So it’s disappointing to see someone who has so often been a target of the irrational taboos that govern modern debate be so quick to use the same weapons in a vain attempt to appear balanced.
Because that, I suspect, is Cathy’s real motive — to be seen to be taking a stance that’s equidistant between the identitarians of the regressive left and the identitarians of the alternative right.
It’s a worthy goal, and Cathy is far from malicious. But there’s a problem. For her stance to be valid, you must first accept that both sides are equally powerful, equally dangerous and equally zealous. They’re simply not.
The rise of cultural libertarianism, the alt-right and Generation Trump is turning conservatives on each other like perhaps no other time in recent memory. At least there’s one glimmer of hope: history suggests that after their initial squabbles, American conservatives and libertarians tend to get over themselves and come together eventually.
It’s a uniquely American phenomenon, that, and one that terrifies the progressive left, which is more prone to permanent rifts. Let’s just hope the #NeverTrump types come to their senses soon…
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