The fall of conservative institutions is disappointing news.
It’s easy for factions to take pleasure in victory over their internecine opponents, but it’s not good news if, as Emerald Robinson writes on her Substack (via Instapundit), large swaths of what my MAGA friends call “Conservative, Inc.” have been bought out by big tech (emphasis in original):
Meanwhile the funding of [National Review] now relies even more heavily on Big Tech money: the back page of the June 1, 2021 issue was a full-page Facebook ad. Inside the same issue, in case you missed the point, there was a two-page ad from Google. The National Review didn’t bother trying to win back its old subscribers by becoming more conservative. Instead, it flipped them a giant middle finger. This final insult might lead us to think the unthinkable about the soy boys who sank Buckley’s flagship. The same feeble metrosexuals who attacked the Covington Catholic boys, and printed pro-Jeffrey Epstein articles, and tried to discredit Carter Page, and pushed the Russia Hoax might not actually be conservatives after all. Their role does not seem to be halting the Left. Their role seems to be: pretending to be conservative in order to persuade actual conservatives to lose gracefully to the Left.
I’ve known some of the relevant people a little bit, and I’ve respected their thinking. For that reason, I’d suggest that Robinson goes too far in disclaiming their conservatism. They’re people in an industry that has been on the ropes in a culture that is increasingly imposing consequences for expressing conservative beliefs, and in the space of a few years, along came a disruptor (Donald Trump) and oligarchs with endless money.
Even true conservatives can fall into expanding sinkholes like that. Moreover, there are factions within factions, so it’s more a question of which conservatism has a controlling voice.
To me, the most damning part of Robinson’s review of her knowledge and experience is Jonah Goldberg’s condemnations of her. Not only was Goldberg a prominent anti-Trumper, but he explained that position on the grounds of the importance of character. Yet, as Robinson began to report her findings, his response was pure insults, starting with that most dreadful of weapons: the mean tweet. “LOL. Love the idea you have sources.”
Now, there is certainly space between the facts Robinson reports to suggest she’s reading more into things than is justified and adding a note of bad faith. (I’m not asserting that to be true — merely leaving it as a possibility.) Still, Goldberg’s behavior (like that of David French, among other anti-Trumpers) strikes at the heart of any defense they might raise. Rather than attempt to stay engaged and moderate the their allies, that coterie of conservatives broke with the leading edge of the conservative movement (including the most conservative-in-action president since Ronald Reagan) on the grounds that his behavior was intolerable.
To behave in like fashion (while running ads for a civic enemy) suggests that the position is not principled, whether the underlying motivation is emotional or corrupt.
Featured image by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash.