'Conservatives' and Cheap Virtue

Jack Kerwick
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Posted: Aug 28, 2017 8:34 AM
'Conservatives' and Cheap Virtue

More tragic, more outrageous, than the mess that everyone now knows as “Charlottesville” is the coverage of that event.

And most tragic, most outrageous, of all has been the moral exhibitionism of “conservatives” who have been falling all over one another in what appears to be a competition to convince the left of who is most “anti-racist.”  

While serving a prison sentence in Nazi Germany, the theologian and Christian pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer composed the 20th century spiritual classic The Cost of Discipleship. Following his incarceration, Bonhoeffer would be made to part with his very life for fulfilling what he took to be his Christian duty to combat the evil of Hitler’s regime.  As he was at pains to remind his fellow Christians, there is all of the difference in the world between, on the one hand, “cheap grace,” grace that, being without contrition and sacrifice, is costless, and, on the other, the real article, which demands nothing less than the surrendering of one’s whole self to Christ.

Many of our more prominent “conservative” scribblers and talking heads (to say nothing of their hard leftist counterparts) peddle what I have called “cheap virtue.”   

In the America of 2017, it requires as much courage to issue public condemnations of “white supremacy” (whatever exactly this means), “racism” (again, not really sure what this means nowadays either), and neo-Nazism as is required to publicly condemn slavery, murder, genocide, and torturing little children solely for tricks.

Public condemnations of such things require zero courage and amount to little more than attempts on the part of the condemner to signal to “respectable society”—i.e. the guardians of PC orthodoxy—that he or she does not deserve to be ostracized as a pariah like those other icky hick conservatives in flyover country, those lowbrow Deplorables, say, who voted for Donald Trump (and on whom our showboating “conservatives” have long relied for GOP votes and cannon fodder for their crusades for global Democracy).  

Cheap virtue is moral window-dressing.  It’s the homage that status-seekers, the thoughtless, and the cowardly pay to the consensus of the herd, the in-group, the “cool kids,” the bullies.

It requires no courage to blast neo-Nazis.  Sean Hannity is not going to fret a lick about whether some neo-Nazis are going to bring pressure to bear upon his advertisers to bail on his Fox News and talk radio programs.  When he leaves his radio and television studios, he is not going to think for a moment to look over his shoulder to see if there is some neo-Nazi lurking behind a car waiting to pummel him.

Neither John McCain nor Lindsey Graham nor any other GOP member of Congress is going to spend a moment’s time worrying as to whether a gang of frothing-at-the-mouth neo-Nazis is going to crash their town hall meetings.

There isn’t a college professor or administrator in the country who has the slightest concern over whether neo-Nazis are going to disrupt university activities with demands for changes in curriculum and policies.

No one, of any race, religion, or ethnicity, loses a wink of sleep thinking that neo-Nazis are going to converge upon cities in the tens of thousands, illegally stopping traffic on highways, demanding the deaths of police officers, assaulting innocent bystanders, destroying property, and calling for the extermination of their enemies.

To repeat, it takes absolutely no courage to publicly proclaim oneself opposed to neo-Nazism (or “white supremacy” or “white racism,” etc.).

Of course, it isn’t true that every moral act demands a tremendous exertion of courage on the part of the agent. But every act performed by a genuinely virtuous person most certainly does presuppose some measure of integrity or solidness of character—a trait that has been conspicuously, painfully absent from the displays of moral posturing to which “conservatives” have been subjecting us since Charlottesville.

For starters, scarcely any nationally recognized “conservative” pundit in any medium has so much as attempted to question whether the leftists who control most of the press have accurately described the “Unite the Right” rally.  As Salem Broadcasting host Dennis Prager regularly reminds his listeners: “Truth is not a left-wing value.” The one thing you’re not allowed to do, Prager says, is lie.       

He’s correct that traditionally the left has indeed been determined to advance its cause(s) “by whichever means necessary.” Yet even Prager, whose criticism of the hysteria on the part of the left over Charlottesville has been very good, deviates not in the least from virtually every one of his peers in Big Media in continually referring to a “neo-Nazi” rally.

There was no neo-Nazi rally.

Photographs feature some swastika-bearing attendees, it is true. But a little digging—and everyone who insisted upon weighing in on this event, as everyone in the media has, had a duty to do more than a little digging—would readily reveal the truth.  And the truth is that most of the attendees were emphatically not neo-Nazis or Klansmen. 

Present were some libertarians; constitutionalists; civic nationalists; Oath Keepers; the Patriots; Three Percenters; traditional conservatives; and a bunch of folks who simply didn’t want the cultural cleansers to raze a statue of Robert E. Lee.  The rally was, after all, explicitly sold as a demonstration against the removal of that statue.

Most attendees were white, yet nonwhites, including blacks, were among their number.  Jason Kessler, the rally organizer, is of Jewish ancestry. He was an activist involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement and an impassioned Obama supporter until relatively recently (According to his ex-girlfriend, a woman of Jewish descent, Kessler broke up with her because she “was not liberal enough.”).

Former police officers, military personnel—the Oath Keepers are composed mostly of military veterans who resolve to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic—combat medics, and fire fighters, right-leaning all of them, were also in attendance. 

By the accounts of the many Youtube videos made by those who were there—those who belonged to the various groups just mentioned—the vast majority of those present at the rally were anything but “white supremacists,” to say nothing of neo-Nazis.

President Trump got this right: There were indeed some very good people who attended the rally.

And he was as right as he could be when he noted that there were some very bad people who unlawfully crashed the rally with a range of weaponry, the so-called “Antifa” and Black Lives Matter.

The point here, though, is that persons with integrity will not pass judgments, particularly moral judgments, unless and until they know about that to which they speak. Since “conservative” pundits were intent upon devoting much time to discussing Charlottesville, they had a duty to make sure that they gathered all of the facts before they pontificated. But they did no such thing.

Instead, they reduced the several hundred or so demonstrators to a single homogenous blob of “white supremacy” and “neo-Nazism.” In so doing, they managed to defame and demonize some good Americans. Why?

It’s clear that these “respectable conservatives” didn’t care to attend to their due diligence because their first priority was to ensure that their enemies on the left wouldn’t depict their efforts to be truthful as sympathy for those who the left had already decided were nothing more or less than Evil incarnate (as if the left doesn’t already view these “respectable conservatives” in the same light).

In other words, those “conservatives” who have spent the last couple of weeks wailing and gnashing their teeth over “white supremacy” have shown neither courage nor integrity in doing so.   

They have opted for cheap virtue.