Lincoln Memorial and the Pashas of the Right

We're sweeping past the Lincoln Memorial incident without adequately dealing with one of its crucial outcomes: the abject failure of traditional conservative media.

In fact, it's twice in the past two weeks that conservative media, instead of the thoughtful, measured approach required of them, immediately jumped through the hoops set up by the left and then lined up happily, dancing on their hind legs and barking for treats.

The first involved Steve King and his "white supremacy" oration.  Now, don't get me wrong: King clearly revealed himself to be a jackass.  At best, he's the latest in a long line of conservative pols (George H.W. Bush, Todd Akin, and Roy Moore among them) who pranced into the lair of the left-wing mass media, certain that they were pals and that they didn't have to worry about anything in speaking to them.  At worst, King is a near dull-normal who blurts out whatever occurs him to him at any given moment.

But that's all he is.  He's not the Nazi, Klansman, or demented racist that the legacy media painted him as – and that was quickly echoed by conservative media.  King misspoke.  That's what he did.  He misspoke.  He said, out of a sudden mind freeze, tiredness, or sheer stupidity, something he didn't mean.  In a sane world, he would get a do-over.  But this timeline is the one where Sandy O-C was just elected to a government office and Pelosi and Schumer are in charge of the House, so we'll let the "sanity" question go by the board.

Instead, we get calls for severe punishment based on the premise that King admitted to arranging slave auctions in the 1850s.  And the conservative media, the people on whom the conservative movement depends to both inform them and express their ideas, were running neck and neck with the lefties.  The National Review crowd was dominant, but it extended all the way to Ben Shapiro, who definitely knows better.

This was one of those Philip K. Dick moments where the distorting mirrors fall and you see the world, perhaps for the first time, the way it actually is – the nightmare scenario that you've always suspected, always feared, but could never be quite certain of.  Yes, there are people on the far side of the mirror looking back at you.  Yes, your girlfriend is a replicant.  And yes, the people whom you trust to steer your political movement are working hand in glove with the other side.

Most people simply get up after such episodes, dust themselves off, and hurry away.  But we're supposed to be smarter than that, right?

And then comes the Lincoln Memorial.  Anyone who doesn't know the facts about this incident and its true nature deserves to have it explained to him by his own personal herald wearing a square hat and a cloth-of-gold tunic.  We'll move on to the conservative reaction.

It wouldn't be fair to say that this was the equivalent of King, a public figure who is supposed to expect flak and be able to handle it.  The kids of Covington Catholic High School are no such thing.  They are ordinary kids, though, as shown by their concern for the unborn, more than a little bit above the general run in moral awareness.  They were the last in the world who deserved to be tossed onto a public bonfire by half-demented lefties and corrupt media aristocrats.  But so they were.

This brings us, once again, to our conservative elite, who were right there beside the contenders from CNN, the NYT, and MSNBC.

The major source was, once again, National Review.  The bunker on 44th Street immediately produced an uproar of a type that you'd expect from Anderson, Rachel, or Alyssa.  It wasn't just one or two, either – we heard from Rich Lowry, Jay Nordlinger, and Nick Frankovich. All of them took the same stance: the Covington kids were thugs who deserved the most condign punishment – expulsion, ostracism, up to and including physical chastisement.  (One lefty freak called for stuffing them in a wood-chipper, à la Fargo.)

All this was based on a short video clip edited to make the kids look as bad as possible.  The worst of it was 15-year-old Nicholas Sandmann smirking at Nathan Phillips as he banged his drum about three inches from the boy's face, while other boys chanted and clapped in the background.  Not much, in this age of Antifa stomping helpless victims in the streets.  In fact, the first thing you'd gather from this clip is not "look at that mean kid," but "what the hell is that old man doing to that kid?  Why is he thrusting that drum in his face?"  The only way you'd think otherwise is if you'd been primed to do so – if you'd already been told what to think about it.

That has to be true of Lowry and the N.R. crowd.  There's no other rational explanation.  These people are media professionals, trained to analyze events, to recognize and rank them in importance and effect, to realize when they are being manipulated.  They know, the same as we do, that we live in a media environment in which events are manipulated to purpose, that certain incidents are selected, massaged, and reworked to fit particular agendas.  They know the Trayvon and Michael Brown mythologies.  They know that every last one of the big-top campus rape stories from Duke through "Jackie" through Lena Dunham was fake.  They know that almost all the campus racist sagas – the ones where somebody comes across a "noose" hanging from a tree on the quad and collapses into a coma as he mentally relives his life as a slave – are also frauds.  (I say "almost" because, although I haven't heard of one of these incidents that actually proved out, I have to admit it's possible it may have happened in one case or another.)  Rich, Jay, and the rest of the N.R. gang know all this.  And yet they reacted as they did anyway.  They saw the hoop, and they jumped through it.

The worst of these was Nick Frankovich.  His title was "Covington Students May as Well Have Spit on the Cross."  The title alone clearly implied that the Covington kids had attempted to crucify Phillips (also implicitly characterizing Phillips, a liar and petty crook, as Jesus Christ).  The text echoed this in detail, characterizing the kids as Roman centurions (in their "Iterum Magna fac Americae" helmets).  "Over the top" is not an adequate phrase for this.

And when he was proven wrong, what did he do?  Abase himself?  Resign?  Kneel in the center of W. 44th and slice his belly?  No, he did not.  Several sources state that he doubled down on Twitter, insisting that he was, in fact, correct, and the Covington kids were guilty.  It's impossible to check this, since a full two days – last Saturday and Sunday – were pulled from his Twitter thread.

But it's Rich Lowry's response that's most telling.  Lowry pulled Frankovich's original column and, in an insouciant follow-up, effectively dusted off his hands and said, "That's it – all over with...now let's go and discuss whether the 1% should be taxed 99.25% or 99.5%."

Jay Nordlinger, usually level-headed, said much the same thing on his own Twitter thread.  Even Kyle Smith, another avatar of good sense, fumbled while giving the magazine's only honest description of what had happened at the memorial and how it was distorted, only to fail by insisting that the students had been "rude" to Phillips.  I confess I'm at a loss here.  How the concept of "rudeness" comes into play when a man is beating a drum three inches away from your face eludes me.  Perhaps Kyle will go into a further detail in the future.

Frankovich finally published an apology on the 21st, all of eighty words long and saying nothing at all about the damage he caused.  The day after that, "The Editors" of N.R. finally ponied up.  The first sentence will suffice: "A fuller and more complicated picture emerged.  Just so."

No, not just so.  This kind of 1890s Ellsworth Toohey prose simply won't cut it, nor will the parade of distorted excuses that follows.  Because, as of now, in these waning days of January 2019, less than a month after its ideological partner the Weekly Standard joined the Saturday Review and the American Mercury in oblivion, the conservative hierarchs of N.R. have proven themselves to be utterly bankrupt.  The left says "frog," and they leap.  The left says attack, and they pull out the clubs.  Eventually, the left will say "kill," and they will burst out howling, with the spittle flying from their jaws.

National Review has always had a liberal problem.  It will surprise many to learn that at least three effective spokesmen for liberalism emerged from N.R. back in the '60s, when it was firmly under William F. Buckley's leadership.  Garry Wills, dominant liberal spokesman for decades; John Leonard, later editor of no less than the New York Times Book Review; and Joan Didion, a great writer of fiction whether working on novels or journalism, all had their start at N.R.  I don't know how this could possibly have happened – perhaps Daddy was a friend, or they went to the right college, or belonged to the right clubs.  The truth is that even in its golden age, N.R. was a collaborationist outfit.

And today?  Today, that's all there is.  There's a quote from an unnamed N.R. staffer asserting that the magazine couldn't back the Covington students because it might "jeopardize the status we've gained among liberals."  That's what counts in 2019.

We need to keep in mind that the Lincoln Memorial incident was designed to do three things: to cow the right, to once again slander Donald Trump as a "racist," and to enflame the public temper to a point where the left will feel justified in physically attacking opponents on sight.  If those kids had done anything else but what they did, if they'd struck back, or showed the slightest trace of fear, they would have been swarmed and beaten to within an inch of their lives.

What would 44th Street have said about that?  Who can have any doubts?

The most salient characteristic of leftists today is that they don't give a damn.  The pashas of conservatism have clearly demonstrated the same thing.

We're sweeping past the Lincoln Memorial incident without adequately dealing with one of its crucial outcomes: the abject failure of traditional conservative media.

In fact, it's twice in the past two weeks that conservative media, instead of the thoughtful, measured approach required of them, immediately jumped through the hoops set up by the left and then lined up happily, dancing on their hind legs and barking for treats.

The first involved Steve King and his "white supremacy" oration.  Now, don't get me wrong: King clearly revealed himself to be a jackass.  At best, he's the latest in a long line of conservative pols (George H.W. Bush, Todd Akin, and Roy Moore among them) who pranced into the lair of the left-wing mass media, certain that they were pals and that they didn't have to worry about anything in speaking to them.  At worst, King is a near dull-normal who blurts out whatever occurs him to him at any given moment.

But that's all he is.  He's not the Nazi, Klansman, or demented racist that the legacy media painted him as – and that was quickly echoed by conservative media.  King misspoke.  That's what he did.  He misspoke.  He said, out of a sudden mind freeze, tiredness, or sheer stupidity, something he didn't mean.  In a sane world, he would get a do-over.  But this timeline is the one where Sandy O-C was just elected to a government office and Pelosi and Schumer are in charge of the House, so we'll let the "sanity" question go by the board.

Instead, we get calls for severe punishment based on the premise that King admitted to arranging slave auctions in the 1850s.  And the conservative media, the people on whom the conservative movement depends to both inform them and express their ideas, were running neck and neck with the lefties.  The National Review crowd was dominant, but it extended all the way to Ben Shapiro, who definitely knows better.

This was one of those Philip K. Dick moments where the distorting mirrors fall and you see the world, perhaps for the first time, the way it actually is – the nightmare scenario that you've always suspected, always feared, but could never be quite certain of.  Yes, there are people on the far side of the mirror looking back at you.  Yes, your girlfriend is a replicant.  And yes, the people whom you trust to steer your political movement are working hand in glove with the other side.

Most people simply get up after such episodes, dust themselves off, and hurry away.  But we're supposed to be smarter than that, right?

And then comes the Lincoln Memorial.  Anyone who doesn't know the facts about this incident and its true nature deserves to have it explained to him by his own personal herald wearing a square hat and a cloth-of-gold tunic.  We'll move on to the conservative reaction.

It wouldn't be fair to say that this was the equivalent of King, a public figure who is supposed to expect flak and be able to handle it.  The kids of Covington Catholic High School are no such thing.  They are ordinary kids, though, as shown by their concern for the unborn, more than a little bit above the general run in moral awareness.  They were the last in the world who deserved to be tossed onto a public bonfire by half-demented lefties and corrupt media aristocrats.  But so they were.

This brings us, once again, to our conservative elite, who were right there beside the contenders from CNN, the NYT, and MSNBC.

The major source was, once again, National Review.  The bunker on 44th Street immediately produced an uproar of a type that you'd expect from Anderson, Rachel, or Alyssa.  It wasn't just one or two, either – we heard from Rich Lowry, Jay Nordlinger, and Nick Frankovich. All of them took the same stance: the Covington kids were thugs who deserved the most condign punishment – expulsion, ostracism, up to and including physical chastisement.  (One lefty freak called for stuffing them in a wood-chipper, à la Fargo.)

All this was based on a short video clip edited to make the kids look as bad as possible.  The worst of it was 15-year-old Nicholas Sandmann smirking at Nathan Phillips as he banged his drum about three inches from the boy's face, while other boys chanted and clapped in the background.  Not much, in this age of Antifa stomping helpless victims in the streets.  In fact, the first thing you'd gather from this clip is not "look at that mean kid," but "what the hell is that old man doing to that kid?  Why is he thrusting that drum in his face?"  The only way you'd think otherwise is if you'd been primed to do so – if you'd already been told what to think about it.

That has to be true of Lowry and the N.R. crowd.  There's no other rational explanation.  These people are media professionals, trained to analyze events, to recognize and rank them in importance and effect, to realize when they are being manipulated.  They know, the same as we do, that we live in a media environment in which events are manipulated to purpose, that certain incidents are selected, massaged, and reworked to fit particular agendas.  They know the Trayvon and Michael Brown mythologies.  They know that every last one of the big-top campus rape stories from Duke through "Jackie" through Lena Dunham was fake.  They know that almost all the campus racist sagas – the ones where somebody comes across a "noose" hanging from a tree on the quad and collapses into a coma as he mentally relives his life as a slave – are also frauds.  (I say "almost" because, although I haven't heard of one of these incidents that actually proved out, I have to admit it's possible it may have happened in one case or another.)  Rich, Jay, and the rest of the N.R. gang know all this.  And yet they reacted as they did anyway.  They saw the hoop, and they jumped through it.

The worst of these was Nick Frankovich.  His title was "Covington Students May as Well Have Spit on the Cross."  The title alone clearly implied that the Covington kids had attempted to crucify Phillips (also implicitly characterizing Phillips, a liar and petty crook, as Jesus Christ).  The text echoed this in detail, characterizing the kids as Roman centurions (in their "Iterum Magna fac Americae" helmets).  "Over the top" is not an adequate phrase for this.

And when he was proven wrong, what did he do?  Abase himself?  Resign?  Kneel in the center of W. 44th and slice his belly?  No, he did not.  Several sources state that he doubled down on Twitter, insisting that he was, in fact, correct, and the Covington kids were guilty.  It's impossible to check this, since a full two days – last Saturday and Sunday – were pulled from his Twitter thread.

But it's Rich Lowry's response that's most telling.  Lowry pulled Frankovich's original column and, in an insouciant follow-up, effectively dusted off his hands and said, "That's it – all over with...now let's go and discuss whether the 1% should be taxed 99.25% or 99.5%."

Jay Nordlinger, usually level-headed, said much the same thing on his own Twitter thread.  Even Kyle Smith, another avatar of good sense, fumbled while giving the magazine's only honest description of what had happened at the memorial and how it was distorted, only to fail by insisting that the students had been "rude" to Phillips.  I confess I'm at a loss here.  How the concept of "rudeness" comes into play when a man is beating a drum three inches away from your face eludes me.  Perhaps Kyle will go into a further detail in the future.

Frankovich finally published an apology on the 21st, all of eighty words long and saying nothing at all about the damage he caused.  The day after that, "The Editors" of N.R. finally ponied up.  The first sentence will suffice: "A fuller and more complicated picture emerged.  Just so."

No, not just so.  This kind of 1890s Ellsworth Toohey prose simply won't cut it, nor will the parade of distorted excuses that follows.  Because, as of now, in these waning days of January 2019, less than a month after its ideological partner the Weekly Standard joined the Saturday Review and the American Mercury in oblivion, the conservative hierarchs of N.R. have proven themselves to be utterly bankrupt.  The left says "frog," and they leap.  The left says attack, and they pull out the clubs.  Eventually, the left will say "kill," and they will burst out howling, with the spittle flying from their jaws.

National Review has always had a liberal problem.  It will surprise many to learn that at least three effective spokesmen for liberalism emerged from N.R. back in the '60s, when it was firmly under William F. Buckley's leadership.  Garry Wills, dominant liberal spokesman for decades; John Leonard, later editor of no less than the New York Times Book Review; and Joan Didion, a great writer of fiction whether working on novels or journalism, all had their start at N.R.  I don't know how this could possibly have happened – perhaps Daddy was a friend, or they went to the right college, or belonged to the right clubs.  The truth is that even in its golden age, N.R. was a collaborationist outfit.

And today?  Today, that's all there is.  There's a quote from an unnamed N.R. staffer asserting that the magazine couldn't back the Covington students because it might "jeopardize the status we've gained among liberals."  That's what counts in 2019.

We need to keep in mind that the Lincoln Memorial incident was designed to do three things: to cow the right, to once again slander Donald Trump as a "racist," and to enflame the public temper to a point where the left will feel justified in physically attacking opponents on sight.  If those kids had done anything else but what they did, if they'd struck back, or showed the slightest trace of fear, they would have been swarmed and beaten to within an inch of their lives.

What would 44th Street have said about that?  Who can have any doubts?

The most salient characteristic of leftists today is that they don't give a damn.  The pashas of conservatism have clearly demonstrated the same thing.