Go on Twitter and you will see plenty of prominent conservatives attacking each other. Instead of trying to work together, they are needlessly causing division. It’s frustrating because some of them are the brightest minds in the movement. They should be working together, not tearing each other down. But Twitter brings out the worst in people. It’s tempting to be clever and snarky when you’re safely in your armchair behind your screen.
Some are merely drunk or high, and regret their fighting later. But others see nothing wrong with attacking fellow conservatives.
What many may not realize is that they may eventually have to work together. That writer you attack who works at a magazine may end up at the same publication as yourself down the road. That campaign staffer you denigrate may end up working on the same campaign as you. From a practical standpoint alone, it’s a bad idea.
The latest feud between National Review’s David French and New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari is a classic example. Sohrab wrote an op-ed for First Things entitled “Against David French-ism.” He criticized the libertarian leanings of French. Other conservatives piled on. To be fair, Sohrab’s critique was relatively polite, even noting that “It isn’t easy to critique the persona of someone as nice as French.” It was those who entered the debate after his article who took it to the gutter level. French is an easy target because he’s a #NeverTrumper, which makes some people upset. He responded with an article, “In Defense of Frenchism,” but it was too late, the vicious attacks had already started.
The civilized debate era of National Review’s original editor, the late William F. Buckley Jr., is over. The magazine was famous for cordial debates between libertarians and conservatives under Buckley. They refrained from attacking each other personally. Jane Coaston of Vox, writing about the French-Sohrab kerfuffle, admits that “decades of cordial friendship among different right-leaning factions are over.”
The left’s factions are constantly feuding with each other, which is expected because the left’s identity politics treats everyone as a member of a group, instead of as individuals. Those groups naturally conflict with each other. We’ve seen it happen on the left between Jews and blacks, feminists and men and most recently feminists and transgenders. It’s one reason the left has faltered in recent years.
The right has had the advantage of cohesion due to treating everyone the same. Let’s not give that advantage up. While French may not be everyone’s favorite type of conservative, he deserves respectful treatment. You can criticize him without getting rude and personal.
The same goes for other conservatives on Twitter. If you don’t like what someone says, you can block them, you don’t have to attack them. Granted there will be some people on Twitter who are just plain rude; they’re the exceptions, and they need to read this article.
It’s one thing to attack someone for being a liberal Republican — John McCain was fair game. But to viciously attack other conservative Republicans for small differences is detrimental to conservatism. National Review used to be the bulwark of conservatism. They may not be anymore, but they’re not home to liberal Republicans.
I blame social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, for the demise of politeness on the right. Armchair warriors seem to care more about getting in the last personal insult than advancing the values of conservatism.
I don’t even bother reading most of the comments after my articles because there are so many rude ones. Why not leave a comment that doesn’t insult my intelligence? It’s not necessary to sink that low. Offensive comments aren’t productive. They are demoralizing and cause weaker people to stop speaking out.
Why not save your most vicious attacks for those on the left? You’re not scoring points on the right for tearing each other down. Watch old episodes of Firing Line with Buckley if you want to see how to debate politely. Buckley would be horrified to see how the level of discourse has disintegrated since the advent of social media (he died in 2008).
It’s true that the left has gotten more vicious in recent years, using Alinsky tactics against us. So there’s an argument that we need to use those tactics back (except the lying and violence). But that’s the left. We don’t need to use those tactics against others on the right. Let’s have a return to civility.