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A Disillusioned Liberal Writes

Reader ZigZag writes, on the thread in which I discuss Jay Cost’s (and my own) disgust with Donald Trump and the GOP establishment:

For what it’s worth, from the Dem side, I’m nearly as disillusioned as you and Jay. So many liberals have been driven over the brink by Trump. So many think that the party should be somehow above politics, unconcerned with the popularity of policies. Immigration is a perfect example. Ten years ago Hillary and Obama had to at least pay lip service to enforcement. Now everything I hear amounts to open borders. Discussion about the need for some enforcement mechanism is met with arguments amounting to “something something Native Americans were here first, something something Ellis Island” It’s all nonsense designed to appeal to guilt and a smug sense of moral superiority.

Along those lines, I’m counting the days until our next presidential nominee is forced to support Coates’ reparations plan, so we can really find out what it’s like to lose. I had a friend tell me the other day that pedicures are culturally problematic because they put Asian women into “servile positions”. As long as we keep assimilating this strain of campus politics into the party, the GOP will keep winning elections. Trump is well on his way to a second term. As Bill Maher pointed out shortly after the election, our side would rather argue about fat shaming and police the use of made up pronouns than win elections.

Boy, is that ever the truth. I ran across this interview today with an editor at the influential Kirkus Reviews, defending the publication’s behavior in a completely outrageous situation. You need to read the whole thing to be brought up to speed, but basically the journal — which publishes early reviews of forthcoming books, and is highly influential as a signal to libraries and other institutions over which books to acquire — pulled the review of a Young Adult novel because progressive activists complained. Kirkus had earlier adopted a set of editorial guidelines establishing its craven surrender of editorial independence to progressive activists wokeness. And then:

It was with these policies in place that Kirkus published its review last week for American Heart, a YA novel by author Laura Moriarty. American Heart takes place in a dystopian future where the U.S. has rounded up and relocated its Muslim population to internment camps in Nevada. Its protagonist, Sarah Mary, is a 15-year-old from Missouri who doesn’t question the validity of the ban until she meets a Muslim woman on the run, an Iranian immigrant and professor named Sadaf. In a story loosely modeled on Huckleberry Finn, Sarah Mary ends up traveling north with Sadaf in the hopes of helping her escape to Canada.

For some members of the YA community, the premise was objectionable from the get-go (the first Goodreads review, left on September 7, begins with “f*ck your white savior narratives”). But after a research and review process including multiple sensitivity reads, Moriarty was prepared to stand by her work, and the notoriously prickly Kirkus gave the book a starred review. Published on October 10, it described American Heart as “terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching” and “a moving portrait of an American girl discovering her society in crisis.”

Only a few days later, the review was pulled amid continued criticism of the book from community members. The review was replaced by a statement from Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith explaining that the editorial board and the reviewer — described as “an observant Muslim [woman] of color” and “expert in children’s & YA literature [who is] well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives” — were “evaluating” the review. Shortly thereafter, Kirkus published an amended review that retracted the book’s star and condemned Moriarty’s choice to write the story from the first-person perspective of a white teenage girl

Got that? They farmed the review out to a reviewer who was chosen only because of her religion and ethnic background — and she liked the book! But when Social Justice Warriors raised hell about it, they retracted the review! So now, a highly influential book review journal allows extreme left-wing activists to dictate its editorial policy. Too bad for you, writer. If you don’t construct your book according to SJW standards, you cannot hope for a good review in Kirkus, no matter how ingenious your plotting and artful your prose.

More from that interview:

“Obviously we don’t like having to make corrections after the publication of a review,” Smith adds. “The plan is to beef up our editing of reviews in this section, to have further eyes before it goes to print.”

In the future, I ask, is the goal that no problematic book will escape un-called-out?

“That’s certainly the goal!” Smith says, with the caveat that Kirkus’s critics aren’t infallible. “I mean, we’re human beings.”

Emphasis mine. As a writer who has been reviewed by Kirkus — and whose future books probably will be too — this sickens me. But this is the kind of thing that ZigZag is talking about. Yes, the militant Trumpkins are destroying the credibility of the Right. But the SJWs are doing the same thing with the Left. It is genuinely frightening what these people would do in power. Mark Lilla, an old-fashioned liberal Ivy League professor, tried to stand up to it, and was savaged by the Left. For people like me, that ideologues like this are increasing their power in cultural institutions, even though many Americans simply don’t see it (how many of you have ever read a Kirkus review?), is a source of mounting anxiety. As Ben Shapiro pointed out in his must-read Weekly Standard piece covering the outrageous persecution of Prof. Scott Yenor at Boise State University, these militants and the gutless bureaucrats who kowtow to them are in a position to form the minds of tomorrow’s elites.

I can’t stand the guy, but the Left has to understand that this is partly where Trump comes from.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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