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Norman Mailer Was a Left-Conservative

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, America produced men and women with the ability to evade category. No one quite knew how to classify Walt Whitman’s poetry when America’s bard made his debut in 1855, not even Ralph Waldo Emerson, who called Leaves of Grass “American to the bone.” When Elvis Presley first hit the airwaves in 1954 with his gas pedal cover of “That’s Alright,” white listeners thought he was black, black listeners knew that he wasn’t, but neither knew quite what to call it. Blues? Not really. Country? Definitely not. Rock and roll? What is that?

Among the gloriously unclassifiable was the novelist Norman Mailer, who cautioned readers to avoid “playing the Tuesday morning music on Saturday night.” Full of music and multitudes, Mailer wrote in the individualist tradition of not adhering to any particular genre or style. He was a novelist of wildly different types—war epics, historical fiction about the CIA and Ancient Egypt, murder mysteries, experimental writing. He was one of the creators of literary journalism, a polemicist, essayist, and biographer. A winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and one National Book Award, he was also one of the great writers of the 20th century.

His politics were equally difficult to place and offer a demoralizing contrast to the contemporary era of excessive labeling. Never boring or predictable, Mailer presented challenging surprises to his audience. He claimed his literary ambition was to fuse the ideas of Marx and Freud into a project that would “cause a revolution of consciousness” in the American public, but he was no ideological box-checking leftist. In fact, he was an opponent of feminism (some of his concerns become increasingly relevant and insightful, while others have aged quite poorly), a warrior against political correctness, an advocate of religious belief, and a proponent of small-scale communities and economies.

To frustrate and flummox his admirers and critics, when interviewers would ask him to define his politics, he used a term of his own invention: “left-conservative.”

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Mailer’s leftism was easy to identify: he despised corporate power and its influence on American culture, he hoped to subvert most traditions that governed American life, and, from John F. Kennedy to John Kerry, he uniformly supported Democrats in national elections. The conservative aspect is more subtle and interesting. Hayek would have appreciated it, because it was Mailer’s own avoidance of the “fatal conceit”—the belief, as Hayek described it, that human beings can predict, solve, and troubleshoot every communal problem, large and small.

As much an affirmation of the complexity that is often missing from contemporary debate, Mailer’s left-conservatism serves as a warning against the vices and excesses of today’s left-of-center agitators and activists. In an interview with fellow novelist Martin Amis, Mailer explained:

Liberalism worries me. It strikes me as a cover story for people who are essentially totalitarian. They want it their way. They often have one point—a single-minded agenda—and they tend to exclude all the other possibilities. The best thing that can be said for conservatism, and there are a great many terrible things to say about it, but the best thing to say about it is that they (conservatives) do tend to have a certain appreciation of the world as a whole. I become uneasy when I find people drawing up solutions, which is, of course, the great vice of the left, to solve difficult problems, because I think they cut out too many of the nuances. So, “left-conservatism” is my way of reminding myself that you have to deal with everything in context. A solution that works in one place doesn’t work in another.

In an interview with The American Conservative, Mailer admitted that “left-conservatism” is an oxymoron, and as such he has to “redefine the term every day.” For Mailer, the “remains of left-wing philosophy” worth preserving are those that caution against excessive wealth inequality: “The idea that a very rich man should not make 4,000 times as much in a year as a poor man,” as he put it.

In his novel about Jesus Christ, The Gospel According to the Son, Mailer emphasizes the Christian Messiah’s instruction against the pursuit of wealth and concerns for the souls of the rich. He was not an adherent of any organized religion, but the idea that religion has value in society appealed to Mailer, and further separated him from many of his friends and associates on the left. He also excoriated those he called “flag conservatives”—a term that currently resounds, as it indicts people who care more about nationalistic power than conservatism’s dependable values.

“Liberalism depends all too much on having an optimistic view of human nature,” Mailer told TAC, “But the history of the 20th century has not exactly fortified that notion. Moreover, liberalism also depends too much upon reason rather than any appreciation of mystery.”

A practitioner of the literary arts and a self-described “amateur philosopher,” Mailer, in an expression of conservatism, admitted that it is uncertain how his ideas would move from pathos to the pavement. “We do not really know what works in a modern society,” Mailer said, but he did offer his own idiosyncratic hypothesis when he ran for mayor of New York in 1969. Pollution of the air and noise varieties, a vanquishing of the spirit of citizens, the burial of the genius of the poor, and an emptying of lives into drug addiction are the problems Mailer hoped to address with his mayoral campaign, which featured the delightful slogan “Throw the Rascals In!”

“The face of the solution may reside in the notion,” Mailer wrote in an essay making his pitch to voters, “that the Left has been absolutely right on the critical problems of our time, and the conservatives have been altogether correct about one enormous matter—which is that the federal government has no business whatever in local affairs.”

He continued to juxtapose the New York of his youth with the barely recognizable city of his adulthood: “The style of New York life has shifted since the Second World War from a scene of local neighborhoods and personalities to a large dull impersonal style of life which deadens us with its architecture, its highways, its abstract welfare, and its bureaucratic reflex to look for government solutions which come into the city from without.”

Mailer’s plan of restoration was less a large-scale solution than the creation of a system that would have allowed for small-scale experimentation. He advocated that New York become an independent city-state, and that each borough have autonomy to dictate its own policies, rules, and regulations. “Power to the neighborhoods!” Mailer would often declare during his reportedly rollicking speeches.

Left-conservatism gains coherence if one understands it as an overall disposition instead of a systemized set of beliefs. It is an attempt to assimilate leftist critique of society, along with many of the political positions that logically follow, into an overarching conservative awareness and attitude. Norman Mailer’s construct of it, which enjoys a kinship with the writing of Christopher Lasch, might or might not allow for the alleviation of the varying sociopolitical crises that are currently manifest in American life, but it would lead to essential psychic improvements in the lives of many.

Left-conservatism offers valuable instruction for much of the right wing, especially “flag conservatives” who seem stupefied as to why young Americans with debilitating student debt, unreliable health insurance, and high housing costs feel resentful of capitalism. It would also introduce a little sanity and perspective into the thought patterns of leftists who boast of their desire to “burn it all down,” condemn anyone who expresses an opinion slightly dissenting from their totalizing ideology, and seek to transform every institution—especially those of higher learning—according to their latest designs.

Many social critics and commentators have made the obvious point that Americans have become increasingly emotional, prioritizing feelings over facts and all other intellectual and rational means of evaluation. But for all the contemporary emoting and shrieking, there is something cold and programmatic about present-day debate. It seems to have banished the imagination in its insistence that everyone recite lines from ideological scripts authored in committee by their respective political tribes.

In his magnificent book on the Apollo 11 space mission Of a Fire on The Moon, Mailer writes, “It could be said that the psychology of machines begins where humans are more machinelike in their actions than the machines they employ.” Left-conservatism is beautifully human because it is full of creative contradiction. Americans now obsessed with machine-like consistency from their writers and leaders would do well to remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say for that particular vice in disguise as virtue. He called it “the hobgoblin of little minds.”

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky), Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing), and the forthcoming Half-Lights at Evening: Essays on Hope (Agate Publishing).

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Norman Mailer Was a Left-Conservative"

#1 Comment By BCZ On February 14, 2018 @ 2:30 am

Strongly recommend ‘American Burke: the uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan”

And there are still some of us New Dealing Anti Great Societism Anti-New Left Burkean Liberals out here 🙂

#2 Comment By Doug On February 14, 2018 @ 7:40 am

Wonderful piece.

#3 Comment By connecticut farmer On February 14, 2018 @ 8:14 am

“Liberalism depends all too much on having an optimistic view of human nature,”… “But the history of the 20th century has not exactly fortified that notion. Moreover, liberalism also depends too much upon reason rather than any appreciation of mystery.”

Amen! Particularly the last sentence.

#4 Comment By Youknowho On February 14, 2018 @ 8:17 am

His opinion on feminism was that it deligitimized violence against women, something he was very much in favor of (he beat one wife and stabbed another).

At a time when the latest (how many and counting?) of the Trump Administration involves domestic violence, it is not proper to eulogize an abuser, and say that he had valuable insights on the subject. Maybe he had valuable insights on other subjects, on the relationship between men and women, he had only his fists, and those are not arguments.

#5 Comment By TR On February 14, 2018 @ 10:40 am

“Left Conservative” is not an oxymoron, but an anti-laissez-faire branch of conservatism going all the way back, in Britain, to Coleridge, Carlyle, and Ruskin.

I think Mailer called himself conservative for one basic reason: he believed in Der Teufel–i. .e, Original Sin.

His Laurentian emphasis on the centrality of sexuality, however, will turn off a lot of people hereabouts.

#6 Comment By Kent On February 14, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

Back in the day, we used to call Mailer types “Texas Democrats”. They were generally anti-big (except for Texas) everything. Didn’t like big government or big business. Believed everyone had a responsibility to pull their weight, but always had an open hand out to someone in need. Good folks. Unfortunately all we get out of Texas these days are big government Republicans.

#7 Comment By Jon On February 14, 2018 @ 2:01 pm

Decentralization? Huh! NYC was rather decentralized before the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Brooklyn was a separate city and Queens likewise was divided into separate towns of which Jamaica and Flushing come to mind.

And what did we have? Power brokers in two boroughs: Brooklyn’s political machine and Tammany Hall of lower Manhattan. The merger and centralization of New York in 1898 was an attempt to butt both machines against each other as they vied for domination hoping that they both would collapse in the power struggle. Alas, Tammany Hall prevailed expanding its dominions into Brooklyn and beyond. The excrescence grew as a malignant tumor fed by this merger.

Rather than a case against centralization this corruption had thrived when local government had more authority with Brooklyn an independent town etc. And it became so deeply rooted into the body politic that this unification of 1898 could not quell the festering wound.

The despotism that Norman Mailer proposed in his bid for the mayoralty is no different than the totalitarian tendency he identified with Modern Liberalism. His so-called libertarian alternative of small government would have led to fostering corruption at the bottom and repression to protect the nascent machine which would rapidly become ensconced onto the body politic.

We had witnessed this at about the same time as his bid for the mayor’s office. Community control of New York’s public schools had already become a reality, and the local school districts were granted budgetary control. This resulted in street-level corruption as the standards of education continued to rapidly deteriorate. The city’s voting citizens found themselves between the tyranny of city hall and that of borough hall.

#8 Comment By Dan Green On February 14, 2018 @ 2:13 pm

I am a confirmed Realist, therefore not tied to no political theories. I admit I cannot understand neo liberalism , the new term bantered about.I just cannot believe in Fantasy.

#9 Comment By Paul Clayton On February 14, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

Loved the piece as I am a great fan of Mailer’s books. I also would have been hard pressed to ‘label’ Mailer, but I think Left Conservative works well. Mailer understood the need for, and complexity of, the feminist movement, but I believe he was put off by some of the lesbian hardliners who ended up running it. I think Mailer saw the problems it would pose for society in the long run. In the ‘Larentian’ way, Mailer certainly loved women. I read somewhere where he stated that he would only have sex without contraception, feeling that the possibility of conception gave it more animal delight.

The other point I want to make about Mailer is that there will be no more Mailers, at least no more male, manly, Larentian Mailers, as the women who have successfully taken over the publishing business will make sure of that. The closest we’ll get will be writer/thinkers like Camille Paglia. Any upcoming, brilliant non-label-able male author will NOT be published by the Big Five publishing houses in NYC, nor reviewed, nor promoted, nor even mentioned. He will be ‘disappeared’ by the Left, and especially, the radical feminists.

#10 Comment By The Scientist 880 On February 14, 2018 @ 3:56 pm

“The prolific writer and liberal celebrity spurned feminism, political correctness, and overreaching government.”

So an old dead white guy who didn’t work in big business was liberal in regards to the treatment that big business received but didn’t like feminism. Well considering that he stabbed an ex wife, I fail to see why we should take any critique a guy like this would have about feminism seriously since he is simply looking to excuse his behavior. You can always find old white men who are against minority advancement. The Trump base is made of countless men who are exactly like this guy. I see no reason to praise a man who stabbed a woman. He stabbed her in the stomach and back. He also was married 6 times. It seems strange that a blog that allegedly cares about social conservatism and allegedly doesn’t view said political philosophy as simply justifying white male dominance to praise such a person.

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#11 Comment By Hexexis On February 15, 2018 @ 9:49 am

“considering that he stabbed an ex wife, I fail to see why we should take any critique a guy like this would have about feminism”

Or, really, about anything else: I only recall Mailer as a celebrity on talk shows; a guy brought on to add “depth” to innocuous conversation. (“Depth” apparently being Mailer’s curt assessment, as I recall, of Reagan: “a twit”)

“a blog that allegedly cares about social conservatism”

Seems to me that when one’s determined to publicize one’s opinions, what that one cannot be is “conservative”: social or otherwise.

#12 Comment By VikingLS On February 15, 2018 @ 11:47 am

@The Scientist 880

Again, maybe the problem here is that you’re just a really shallow thinker?

#13 Comment By VikingLS On February 15, 2018 @ 12:01 pm

@The Scientist 880

To elaborate, this article barely touches on Mailer’s feelings about Feminism. It appears all you did was read far enough to find something to start with, and then launch into yet another rant about “old white men”.

Mailer was one of the most important writers of the latter 20th century and had some very unconventional views. The way you’re responding to this article is like totally dismissing the legacy of Chuck Berry as the work of “one more perverted old black man.”

#14 Comment By Stephen Hartwell On February 15, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

Mailer seems a name from the distant past. And I love the guy! The time when something like ‘The Executioner’s Song’ made an impact on the culture is long gone. Unfortunately.

#15 Comment By The Scientist 880 On February 15, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

Viking,

What do you do for a living? I have 2 graduate degrees and a STEM background. I make my money based off of my ability to reason. I am sure I am a much deeper thinker than you are.Mailer’s views aren’t much different from the average white guy of his generation who was a democratic voter; they were’t socially liberal at all. They cared about economic issues because those were the only real issues that they were on the wrong side of. His brand of economic populism but social conservatism aptly describes many Trump supporters outside of the south who aren’t big flag wavers.

#16 Comment By redfish On February 15, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

“Liberalism depends all too much on having an optimistic view of human nature,”… “But the history of the 20th century has not exactly fortified that notion. Moreover, liberalism also depends too much upon reason rather than any appreciation of mystery.”

Amen! Particularly the last sentence.

I find all this questionable interpretation of 20th century liberalism actually. Postmodern liberalism has been based on a heavy critique of the idea that people act rationally; rather its blamed human irrationality for war, global warming, bigotry, etc., and has criticized appeals to reason over empathy. Postmodernism, sci fi like Star Trek and so on were linked to the hip with the rise of liberalism. Of course, there is a positive appraisal of science, but joined with an attack on philosophy and metaphysics. The distrust of a priori reason led to an overemphasis on empiricism; and its the same distrust of metaphysics that led to distrust of religion, not a spurning of mystery. So, Carl Sagan could wax on the mysteries of the universe from an atheistic perspective, and it would be appreciated.

Of course, I understand this type of argument against liberalism is common among conservatives; but it seems more honestly a critique of classical liberalism, the same critique modern liberals have engaged in, and so to me, it feels they’re mired in the same postmodern morass. Except while modern liberals’ distrust of reason leads them to embrace appeals to science in its place, for conservatives, it means religion.

#17 Comment By Colonel Bogey On February 16, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

“I have a graduate degree and a STEM background. . . I am sure I am a much deeper thinker than you are.”

Brag much? So it appears. I have edited and corrected far too many articles by people with graduate degrees to be impressed by paper qualifications such as you have. Holders of Ph.D. degrees today tend to be less literate than high school graduates in, say, 1914. Can you read Latin? If not, you needn’t boast about your erudition–it just ain’t there. Norman Mailer didn’t have much, either.

#18 Comment By VikingLS On February 16, 2018 @ 1:05 pm

“What do you do for a living? I have 2 graduate degrees and a STEM background. I make my money based off of my ability to reason. I am sure I am a much deeper thinker than you are.”

Look, I am sure you DO think that, but theres absolutely no justification for it, you still are a very very shallow thinker. All a STEM degree means is you can follow and apply formulas. That doesn’t mean you are a deep thinker or reasonable.

I have a BA in Religion and Philosophy and an advanced degree in Communication. A lot of the other commenters here have advanced degrees as well. Your degrees don’t make you stand out here.

While I do admire the ability of people with STEM degrees to do STEM related tasks, I am tired of the arrogant presumption that that means you have some unusual degree of insight into fields outside your discipline.

The reality is that you are a shallow and lazy thinker and have demonstrated it repeatedly here, frequently not addressing the majority content of the articles you comment on, or the conversations you inject yourself into.

“Mailer’s views aren’t much different from the average white guy of his generation who was a
democratic voter;”they were’t socially liberal at all. They cared about economic issues because those were the only real issues that they were on the wrong side of. His brand of economic populism but social conservatism aptly describes many Trump supporters outside of the south who aren’t big flag wavers.”

Okay, so if all this is true, why shouldn’t TAC take an interest in Norman Mailer? That sounds like he’s right up our alley. TAC (and if you would spend some time looking at the content of this magazine, instead of arrogantly coming in and telling us what we believe according to your formulas you’d know this) has always taken an interest in thinkers who have some overlap with the right. This magazine has also had time for Oliver Stone, John Mellencamp, Camille Palagia, and if we include the online addition, Ralph Nader and Malcolm X.

There’s more in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Try learning some humility.

#19 Comment By Basil On February 16, 2018 @ 1:53 pm

The Scientist 880

Yours was a comic response! But what does your “stem” background matter beyond your job? where the life-death questions arise, and even mathematicians–yes-even them–often l0se their “reason.” On such matters–and on the politicial issues that also often cause even STEMies to go gaga–a Mailer is more reliable. STEM means very little in such matters

#20 Comment By The Scientist 880 On February 16, 2018 @ 2:35 pm

VikingLS,

“All a STEM degree means is you can follow and apply formulas.”

It’s clear you have no idea of how actual science works if you think its just “applying formulas”. You are the commenter who doesn’t seem to understand what the meaning of racism is so how well has that communications degree served you? Norman Mailer isn’t some influential thinker. There is nothing groundbreaking about a white guy who is economically liberal (because he doesn’t control the means of production or work in management or high paying industries) and socially conservative (because the status he receives from our society derive from the immutable characteristics of his race and gender). This stuff has been documented in our society for generations. The idea of the wages of whiteness is nothing new.

#21 Comment By Thrice A Viking On February 16, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

Scientist 880, at risk of piling on here, but I have a problem with your analysis which Colonel Bogey and Viking LS didn’t mention. To wit, you criticize Mailer for embracing feminism and then immediately lurch into a generalization about “old white men” being against minority advancement. But feminism, since it’s dealing with women, is about *majority* advancement. Unless you’re relying on something you didn’t mention – such as a “theory” of intersectionality – it’s very hard to see how you can rationally get from one to the other position. I put “theory” in quotes, BTW, as I regard that particular idea as simply an excuse to rant and rave about “The Man”.

#22 Comment By Mont D. Law On February 18, 2018 @ 8:48 am

Here’s what I know about Mailer.

He wrote Execution’s Song to prove he could write a better book than In Cold Blood. His failure irked him. He hated the fact he couldn’t out write a drug addled homosexual.

He was an Archie Bunker democrat to his toes.

#23 Comment By norman On February 18, 2018 @ 2:42 pm

“Here’s what I know about Mailer. “

He could be hysterically funny.

#24 Comment By Jeffrey Obser On February 18, 2018 @ 8:26 pm

I’ve been thinking of myself as left-conservative for years and years – but it’s a disposition that has had hardly anything written about it. Once again I am delighted to check in with this publication and find it a forum for high-quality, convention-bucking political conversation.

#25 Comment By VikingLS On February 18, 2018 @ 9:18 pm

Sorry that should have been:

I suppose we can call that a cocktail of racism, ageism and misandry, but it’s definitely open bigotry.”

#26 Comment By VikingLS On February 18, 2018 @ 9:20 pm

oh and “process” not “precess” Oh for an edit function.

#27 Comment By MM On February 18, 2018 @ 11:57 pm

Sci-880: “I fail to see why we should take any critique a guy like this would have about feminism seriously since he is simply looking to excuse his behavior.”

Well, that’s your unqualified opinion of his motivations, since you didn’t cite any of his specific criticisms of feminism.

But for the sake of argument, at least he’s consistent. I’ll take that sort of thing any day over say, President Obama, who after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, presided over 3x as many U.S. military casualities in Afghanistan as President Bush, with 2010 being the deadliest year for civilians, and intentionally blew up a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in 2015.

Given that, and I’ll avoid your supercilious use of “we” in an online setting, why should I take any argument that the former President was a moral leader seriously?

#28 Comment By TR On February 19, 2018 @ 9:44 am

Actually, I probably know more about Mailer here than anyone else, having published several pieces on him. But I’m not getting into this fight.

I just can’t help pointing out re: STEM, that Mailer’s degree from Harvard, believe it or not, was in engineering.

#29 Comment By VikingLS On February 19, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

The Scientist 880

It looks like my reply to you may have been lost.

“It’s clear you have no idea of how actual science works if you think its just “applying formulas”.”

I didn’t say that, I said your STEM degrees just tell us you know how to learn and apply formulas. I wasn’t making a statement about science in general. You, personally, are not science.

“You are the commenter who doesn’t seem to understand what the meaning of racism is…”

I don’t know what meaning you’re expecting me to know, but claiming you can dismiss a person’s arguments because they are white is racist by most standard understandings of the word.

#30 Comment By The Scientist 880 On February 19, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

“I don’t know what meaning you’re expecting me to know, but claiming you can dismiss a person’s arguments because they are white is racist by most standard understandings of the word.”

This is a strawman argument. I’ve stated that you should be highly skeptical of any white person who isn’t an academic when they attempt to tell you what the feelings, thoughts, and proclivities are of non-white people. I have never stated that you should dismiss a person’s arguments based on them being white. Please feel free to provide the quote where I have said as much. The vast majority of white people have no idea how non-whites feel because they don’t interact with them in any significant way. Most admit to having zero non-white friends. This is the opinion that you need not take seriously, not their feelings on top marginal tax rates or the size of government or social spending. All those opinions should be engaged with on the merits. You just shouldn’t believe the average white guy when he says “Black people have X values” or “Most Asians actually care about Y”. There usually aren’t very many good opinion polls on these groups specifically and said white guy is almost certainly not speaking from deep personal experience.

#31 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 21, 2018 @ 10:14 am

What do you do for a living? I have 2 graduate degrees and a STEM background. I make my money based off of my ability to reason.

I’m scientifically trained too, and work as a postdoc biologist now, although in fairness I have to specify that your description of your background suggests you’re probably smarter / more eminent in your field than me.

I quite like some of Mailer’s ideas, specifically his interest in a sort of neo-Manichaeanism (that was the big reason he stated he could never be a Catholic). I find the Manichaean (and more generally, dualist) view of the world really really fascinating. I don’t, to be clear, support domestic violence by him or anyone else. I also don’t see how that’s relevant to whether Mailer had some ideas worth considering.

And yes, “left conservative” (more specifically, economically left / culturally conservative) ideas are very much worth considering, especially in the pages of TAC, largely because they represent a point of view that doesn’t get much play in the American or Western European establishment (although Europe has more of a space for it than America). Speaking for myself, I’m culturally reactionary for the same reason I’m economically on the left, because I value the tribe and the collective more than the individual.

#32 Comment By MM On February 22, 2018 @ 11:56 am

Sci-880: “The vast majority of white people have no idea how non-whites feel because they don’t interact with them in any significant way.”

Yes, 75% by the PRRI’s estimate. And 65% of black Americans have totally black social networks.

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So what?

#33 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 24, 2018 @ 12:06 pm

Sci-880: “The vast majority of white people have no idea how non-whites feel because they don’t interact with them in any significant way.”

The fraction of white people who interact with Black Americans is, by your own citation, 25%, which is not an insignificant minority of the population. (It’s a lot bigger than the fraction of the population that’s gay, Muslim, Jewish, Episcopalian, or has a scientific education). They’re especially likely to be represented in the comment boxes here since they skew towards the more educated.

If your point is that there’s a lot of ignorant stuff said by white Americans about the social attitudes of Black people, which probably is related to the fact they don’t know many Black people, then I would entirely agree with you. That’s not a reason, though, to automatically discount the claims of individual who claims they know a lot of Black people, because 25% isn’t that rare. (Leaving aside the fact that it’s kind of problematic to apply prior probabilities in this way anyway).

#34 Comment By Richard On March 9, 2018 @ 3:10 am

Brilliant article, David. Speaking of dark horse candidacies: one can’t help remembering it was Mailer, in another avowal of left conservatism, who once asked Patrick Buchanan to switch parties and save the Democrats! I seem to recall Pat’s response was a great belly laugh.

As you argue, for all its inherent contradictions, Mailer’s hybridization gives us a plausible path through the extremes of ideology. We need to be open to such avenues as we face the cultural upheavals now upon us and the ones sure to come as a far less reasonable left marshals its forces for another demented run at utopia.