Monday, May 25, 2009

Rod Dreher: Truman Capote Con

The Bearded Church Lady speaketh:
If you have to descend to the level of trash-talking vulgarian to prove your bona fides with the Common Man, then fine, in the aristocracy of character, I'll keep working toward being an elitist. It is hard to imagine the conservatives I admire the most, and wish to emulate -- men like Wendell Berry and Russell Kirk -- being very impressed with Mark Levin's crude shtick. Or Robert Stacy McCain's, whose perpetual blunderbuss brings to mind the inner life of a failed oyster: a constant irritation, with no resulting pearl.
(I stole that oyster dig from Truman Capote, but boy, does it ever apply here!)

What is relevant here:

  • Wendell Berry? WTF? Since when is Wendell Berry an icon in the conservative pantheon?
  • Russell Kirk was not a wienerhead. Rod Dreher is.
Russell Kirk once said, in a lecture at the Heritage Foundation, no less: "Not seldom has it seemed as if some eminent Neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States." Only a real troublemaker, a mixer, would have said such a thing. Kirk was a cultural eccentric, a man who cherished his status as an outsider, an anachronism, disdaining all things modern and "mass."

Among those thinkers whom Kirk examined in his landmark study, The Conservative Mind, was John C. Calhoun. Having long ago read the entirety of Calhoun's Disquisition on Government, I'm sure I would have noticed if Dreher had ever found occasion to reference Calhoun's most important insight:
The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax-consumers.
But this sturdy thought appears nowhere in Crunchy Cons, where instead we find the economic mysticism of E.F. Schumacher. And, as I've said before, I am aware of no evidence that Dreher has ever read Mises and Hayek. If he did, he evidently gained nothing from it.

Ultimately, it comes back to my critique of the Politics of Niceness:
So when Rod Dreher gets sniffy about Mark Levin or people act horrified by an implied slur in an RNC video, I just want to pound those weenies on the head and scream: "Wake the f--- up, you clueless dingbats! The Democrats are eating Republican babies for breakfast, bankrupting our grandchildren, and giving major industrial corporations as gift-wrapped presents to their labor goon buddies! If you want to award gold stars for 'plays well with others,' go be a kindergarten teacher and leave politics the hell alone!"
Maybe when the grown-ups are through beating the Democrats, then we'll have time to mind our manners like we were eating watercress-and-endive finger sandwiches at the Ladies Cotillion Society luncheon.
This is not debate club. The Democrats are not interested in "civil discourse," and your fearful hand-wringing is worse than useless in the present situation.

UPDATE: Rumblepak writes:
The problem reveals itself immediately when we look at the left, its heroes and media spokespeople. The average person under 40 indulges in heavy doses of Jon Stewart, Adult Swim, Bill Maher, et al, and none of these guys are particularly nice or civil. They are pretty darn "mean," in fact.
Exactly. It is one thing to condemn harsh rhetoric, per se. It is something else entirely to say that Republicans are losing elections because Rush said "I hope he fails" or because Levin told a caller to take a flying leap. There are two sides of this argument, and we don't see disgusted ex-GOP voters switching their radios from Michael Savage to "All Things Considered." Democrats are not attracting votes because Rahm Emanuel reduced his f-bombs to once every other sentence.

How many votes did the GOP lose because Ann Coulter called John Edwards a "faggot"? And how many votes did the GOP lose because John McCain endorsed the Bush bailout?


  1. Rod who? Dreher? Is this anyone worth noticing?

    He trots out the "Joooos" as arch-conservatives, I see. Does he publish an annotation and concordance to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

    I am fascinated with his ideas and would like to subscribe to his newsletter.


    What a freakin' bigot. I think I'll call him KKKrunchy Kon and see how he cottons to the moniker.

  2. Dreher seems to be clinging to this fantasy of political disputes being solved simply by reasoned discourse. But reasoned discourse simply does not exist in the present political climate. You have one side - the left - attempting to rig the discursive playing field in its favor, ensuring that any political debate will be resolved in their favor. Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom writes often about this.

  3. The sad reality of what you said applies to " Republican" leaders of all stripes as much as to anyone else.
    Newt, Colin, Bitch McConnell, Pansy Graham, Mike Steele and on and on.

  4. Levin and Kirk are both mixers, troublemakers, and roustabouts. But there are considerable differences between the two. For instance, Kirk was a man of letters, a real thinker, a man that has contributed to the intellectual foundation of the modern conservative movement. Levin, by contrast, is a bloviating asshole. He rails on the radio about this and that, and from what I gather, has no scruples or decency. This is like comparing Einstein to a 9/11 truther.

    By the way, I love the Kirk quote. He should have simply said "Neoconservatives," in general, instead of "eminent Neoconservatives."


  5. In the movie Patton a reporter asks the general about his habitual recourse to profanity and he answers something to the effect of he talks to his soldiers that way so that they remember it. (I wish I remembered the line, but I don't.)

    Anyway, Dreher, a guy I used to enjoy reading when he was a regular contributor to NRO, and haven't much cared for since he started proselytizing full time for the Church of Whole Foods, says that he's working towards being an elite in the "aristocracy of character." I don't know what it says about a man's character when that man talks about eating free range organic food as a quasi-sacramental experience (or was it a full-on visitation of the Spirit?), but certainly it shows an elitist mentality. It's indicative of a desire to be not just any Bobo, but a Brooksian Bobo --i.e. a guy who freely admits that he's into Stuff White People Like, but in an ironically, self-aware smugly superior sort of way --kind of like the addict who's got it all under control.

    I think Jonah Goldberg nailed Dreher:

    there is a lot I don't get about crunchy conservatism. But, in my own defense, I don't think this is because I have failed to turn my face to the warm beam of God's enlightenment, radiantly glowing forth from inside the cellophane oyster shell of a Whole Foods couscous platter. I think my failure is more prosaic than that. I don't "get" crunchy conservatism because, often, I simply don't know what the hell Rod is talking about.

    Then again, I'm just a knuckle- dragging mongoloid conservative who writes in run-on sentences. In fact, I'm so pathetic, I'm not even worthy to coment on Stacy's worthless blog. So what the hell does someone like me know?.

  6. Allow me to quote Lincoln biographer Allen Guelzo:

    "...for many other conservatives, populism is a dance with the devil, and American mindlessness is precisely what makes us prey to demagogues and pundits. They argue that it was ideas, not personalities, that fueled the Reagan Revolution, and the future must lie in developing a new constellation of ideas to replace the used-up ones of the 1980s. But they are not optimistic. They are not NASCAR dads or hockey moms; they sit alone at the ballet, and listen guiltily and angrily to NPR. They are the party, not of Lincoln, but of Cassandra, convinced even before they speak that, in America, they probably won't be listened to anyway.

    They are also wrong. As are the populists..."

    Regarding the Calhoun quote: every politician from the beginning of time has said that their constituency does nothing but give to the government and has gotten nothing in return. So I'm not sure what's so special about Calhoun's formulation.

  7. "Wienerhead," RS? Surely you can call a spade a spade and a dick a dick! Kind of funny given the theme of this post. LOL.

  8. I usually just lurk here, but Cody's comment has set my blood to boiling. You, Sir, are an ass. You are not fit to fetch The Great One's coffee. I rarely hear his show here in Virginia, but the times when Levin is on Hannity are glimpses of heaven. From God's mouth to my ear. He's funny, irreverent, brilliant, witty, and he takes no shit from liberals. Or pompous asses such as you. So, in the spirit of Mark Levin, get off this blog you dumb jerk.

  9. From Dreher's hit piece on you Mr. McCain-yes the very religious are very capable of doing hit pieces - think Martin Luther and his Church door drama queen scene:

    "Maybe the circles I move in are too churchy and/or educated,"

    What Mr. Dreher doesn't seem to get is that over the years we've watched him move through many circles. And then out of those circles with quite a bit of unpleasantness involved. How many denominations has Dreher publicly pledged to be a member of until his dying day only to find (at some later date) it is horribly flawed? Then he announces publicly he can no longer be a member (insert Church name here) in good conscience and moves on to his idea of the next perfect Church.

    Forget all Dreher's name calling (because basically that's what his column is), his intellectualism, his organic food fanaticism, his ancient Mercedes w/o air conditioning that he does/or did drive, and the trail of churches in his wake, what has never added up about him --thereby making all his opinions and thoughts completely suspect -- is that he says he finds IKEA's (frozen& processed) Swedish meatballs "addictive".


    The taste is awful and when you look at the ingredients you see why. Nothing free range or even home on the range about them. Then the texture is all wrong. Rubbery. Not wrong for a frozen food product because that's all you can expect with the added water content. But if you are an artisanal bread, cheese, and estate olive oil man like Dreher maintains he is, his addiction makes no sense.

    Just like most of his work.

    Oh, and to call someone an oyster is high praise these days as it's very progressive. The oyster begins as one sex and then over time morphs into the other and is capable of having procreative marital relations with itself the entire time. If you are an oyster Mr. McCain, then doesn't this make you precisely the kind of new Republican Mr. Dreher wishes to attract?

    Mrs. Peperium

  10. Ann Coulter using "faggot" was a net gain of twelve votes, because liberal comedians hate the condemning of speech.

    McCain lost the entire base that was to the right of Hillary Clinton because the bailout and failed and it was obvious it would.

    Base stayed home.

  11. You're hilarious, John Doe. You did a perfect imitation of a typical talk-radio groupie.

  12. Why is this an either/or thing?

    We don't have to be crunchies, much less "elitists," to recognize that Mark Levin is an unmitigated embarassment to conservatism.

  13. Levin is not a spokesman for me because I'm quite capable of speaking for myself.

    With that said - - he's right on the overwhelming majority of the issues, and therefore REGARDLESS OF STYLE I'm not going to take shots at him.

    Dreher is too damn busy wanting to be liked and respected by the left.

    News flash, Rod - if you disagree with them, you will be neither liked nor respected. Your choices are grow a backbone and deal with it or emasculate yourself to get a pat on the head as the "house conservative."


  14. We don't have to be crunchies, much less "elitists," to recognize that Mark Levin is an unmitigated embarassment to conservatism.All those books must be buying themselves.

    Dreher's mincing self-righteousness is autoparodying. Truman Capote?

  15. In the secret language of the neocons, this Dreher schlemiel seems something of a momser, nu?

    And he's "working towards being an elite in the "aristocracy of character." ? WTH exactly does that mean, and what exactly has he done to demonstrate any character? He reminds me rather a good deal of the kids today who are "taught" to have self-esteem without actually being taught to do anything estimable.

  16. The end of Dreher's bit:

    "Or Robert Stacy McCain's, whose perpetual blunderbuss brings to mind the inner life of a failed oyster: a constant irritation, with no resulting pearl."

    Hard talk from a man who got pearl necklace from David Frum.

    And Cody, the people still thank God you weren't sent to help.

  17. Haha. My dad is bigger than your dad! Go listen to George Straight or something, booger face.

  18. Whatever your opinions of Dreher (or Levine, for that matter - I've never found any compelling reason to listen to him so I don't have an opinion) what's not conservative about a return, however imperfect, to some form of agrarianism and localism?

    Agrarianism encompasses many of the most important elements of true conservatism - self-sufficiency, hard work, the enjoyment of the fruits of one's labors, and no small amount of manliness earned in the process.

    For those of us raising children, it represents an opportunity to teach all of those things, offer a sense of responsibility, and provide a distraction from the mixture of sex, intellectual dishonesty, and narcissism that is the opiate of the modern masses.

    It occured to me over the weekend as I saw the second remake in so many weeks (Terminator: Salvation, after Star Trek)and watched even more trailers about more remakes and TV shows based on old ideas (to say nothing about my constant run-ins with moral tar-traps of our pornogrified society)that we've been dead for a while now, and almost nobody even knows it. It's one thing to say that there's nothing new under the sun; it's another to realize that you've been gobbling up recycled waste for years and calling it a feast.

    We don't create anymore, we destroy, or at least we revive our little pop-culture zombies and slap a new label on them. And they're hungry for our brains. It's the irony of the Hulu commercials - they're the most perfect (and humorous) example of truth in advertising.

    I don't read enough Dreher to offer a thorough defense of his thinking. But his "crunchy conservatism" taken at its most basic level is a conservatism that creates something worthwhile, and produces virtuous citizens in the process. If having good taste and favoring artfully produced craftsmanship over mass-produced dreck is "elitist", then let's throw out the entire cultural heritage of the West with the bathwater. Redneckism is not a virtue, unless you're a member of the Americanist faith.

    I appreciate the contours of a Rule 5 Sunday subject as much, if not moreso, than the next guy. But maybe that's why, if I had my choice (and I was thinking with more than my hypothalmus) I'd forego the leering for a more mature course - say, perhaps, Dreher's "Benedict Option."

    After all, we conservatives can only be hormonal, sneering, coarse, slogan-chanting adolescents for so long if we want any shot at a serious future. (And for the record, I include myself in each and every one of those adjectives.)

  19. "Since when is Wendell Berry an icon in the conservative pantheon?"

    Wendell. Wendell. It's Marvin - your cousin, Marvin Berry. You know that new ideology you're looking for? Well, listen to this...

  20. I feel at least somewhat vindicated for the stuff I've written here and here; for much of it I/we was/were reprimanded; we were being too "mean" some told me.

    But Dreher's navel-gazing of three years ago has truly become a fiddling amid the flames of Rome, or more likely, those of Obama's Bizzaro-America. Calling out Levin for a "tossed-off jibe" (reference) which could have been made by any red-blooded male working class Democrat while the current administration is working their hardest to add these to the growing list of government dependents--that doesn't strike me as a sensible or productive example of conservative action or rhetoric any more than Levin's original comment which, to the average listener, was mere hyperbole.

    So I'm glad to some degree that Dreher's flimsy ideas and whimsical knee-jerk style are being yet again exposed as such, although it should be noted that this episode will likely increase his mojo among the media elites he so admires. If he wishes to become one of them he is well on his way; let that be his Wales.