Content Warning: This post quotes a range of crude, vulgar language.
Last night saw a dustup on political Twitter over conservative writer Denise McAllister’s responses to a swipe at her from HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali (the guy who the day before exposed pro-DNC bullying by NBC News political bigwig Dafna Linzer). It appears these tweets are where it started:
McAllister was understandably miffed at condescension being slung at her marriage over an innocuous, lighthearted, and personal tweet, but she responded in a, shall we say, less-than-productive way. In a pair of tweets that have since been deleted, she shot back:
I think @yashar has a crush on me. Maybe I’m making him doubt his love of penis.
Oh so sad. @yashar is lost. He doesn’t know his purpose as a man. He doesn’t know his purpose as a human being. He doesn’t know his purpose as an Individual. So he wallows and tries to find himself in another man’s asshole. Sad.
Pretty much everyone you’d expect to chime in promptly chimed in, culminating with the news that The Federalist and The Daily Wire were dropping McAllister in response:
McAllister apologized the next day. Ali has not, and doesn’t appear to be under any pressure to do so.
To get my reaction out of the way: I think responding by emphasizing Ali’s sexuality at all, let alone in such crude terms, was gross, vindictive, and distracted from the clear moral high ground she had held when the story was just him being an unprovoked jerk. That said, responding nastily to nastiness doesn’t strike me as an automatically-fireable offense (in fairness, I don’t presume to know what other history or behind-the-scenes discussions may have factored into The Federalist or Daily Wire’s decisions).
Regardless, my interest here is not the merits of the responses to McAllister, but what the rules are and the true motives of the people enforcing them. Among the rungs on the moral ladder, it’s not at all clear to me that mocking a man’s sexuality is lower than any of the following (a list that may be updated):
- “The thing is, given his proclivities, [Roger] Stone would enjoy prison” —Commentary editor John Podhoretz (the above-quoted Mr. Goldberg dismissed objections to this one as “PC/snowflake arguments” that “make me laugh”)
- Kimberly Guilfoyle left Fox News “to spend more time with her plastic surgeon” — Podhoretz again
- “I still think ‘Uday and Qusay’ are perfectly good nicknames for the elder Trumpspawn” — National Review’s Kevin Williamson
- “The Christian right was able to make its peace with Trump with relative ease, because it is moved almost exclusively by reactionary kulturkampf considerations. ‘But Hillary!’ is all that Falwell and company need to hear, and they won’t even hold out for 30 pieces of silver” — Williamson again
- “Does Trump pay you more for anal?” — Republican consultant Rick Wilson to Ann Coulter
- “The donor class […are] still going to have to go out and put a bullet in Donald Trump” — Wilson again
- “Go on Amazon, order yourself a pointy white hat, head down to Home Depot and get the wood to build a burning cross […] you are a weak, impotent person who can’t handle the fact that there are people who don’t look like you […] your argument is based entirely on the fact that these people are brown” — Wilson yet again, to a Republican who had said nothing of the kind
- “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her real father’s Janet Reno” — Sen. John McCain
- “To stand up and take on the forces of evil, that’s my job, and I can’t steer the Republican Party if those two individuals have the influence that they have on the party today. You’re supposed to tolerate evil in your party in the name of party unity?” — McCain again, referring to then-Religious Right leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson
- Spreading the phone number of a politician’s attorney to incite harassment — Weekly Standard destroyer/The Bulwark founder Bill Kristol (Goldberg’s reaction: “Bill can defend himself quite ably. But on the major questions facing conservatism, I agree with him — if not with all of his tactics and techniques”)
- Tucker Carlson “is close now to racism, white — I mean, I don’t know if it’s racism exactly — but ethno-nationalism of some kind, let’s call it” — Kristol again
- “Adolf Hitler, one of the 20th century’s other mega-mass murderers, also found his share of admirers in the academy, among them such brilliant minds as Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger […] If such monsters could find admirers among the highly educated, it is unsurprising that our infantile, ignorant leader has found an assortment of professors to sing his praises” — The Bulwark writer Gabriel Schoenfeld, accusing Victor Davis Hanson of “sophistry in the service of a genuine evil”
- “The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester to ever serve on the Supreme Court in David Souter’s retirement.” — The Resurgent editor Erick Erickson
- Countless tweets deriding heartland conservative voters as “Gun Culture ‘Murica” and “Rube Nation,” complete with redneck stereotypes of missing teeth and racism — Twitter academic Tom Nichols
This list is far from comprehensive, and only covers a select few flavors of crudity and nastiness. It ignores countless examples of mistreating other conservatives in more mundane ways, or of these paragons of virtue misrepresenting or outright lying about the conservatives they criticize.
Some of the above apologized for, deleted, and/or got varying degrees of criticism for these examples. But none of them got fired, disavowed, or subjected to anything like the avalanche that fell on McAllister (in McCain’s case, it didn’t even stop him from being immortalized as some sort of ideal). Typically, the scolds never even mention offenses by like-minded offenders — not even when the target is a colleague at the same magazine.
I’ve harped on this before, and I’ll keep harping on it as long as it remains true: swampcons (my term for the pseudo-elite, establishmentarian, predominantly #NeverTrump clique of the Right that dominates her most prestigious publications and the consultant class) don’t actually give a damn about character, and their frequent lectures about “tribalism” are largely projection.
Their admonishments about bad behavior, meltdowns, debasing discourse, and “norms” are excuses to trash people they dislike anyway for crossing their tribe. If you’re in the tribe, you’re golden — you can be as coarse and as vicious as you want in advancing the tribe’s shared biases, and they’ll happily pretend not to notice.
Enough. These cretinous phonies who presume to set the standards for conservatism are in reality blights on the movement. We will never be able to truly heal conservatism or save America until we discredit the lie of their moral authority and shatter their claim to lead us to the victories they’ve so consistently failed to deliver in the past.