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When Should A Conservative Speak Out?

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A reader writes:

In yesterday’s post (“DoD Decline Into Wokeness”), your anonymous correspondent wrote this:

Regarding purging outspoken conservatives, everyone should think of social media as an information-gathering system for the secret police. Practice ketman or some other form of hiding within your organization. You may choose to sacrifice yourself by being a profile in courage, but once the activists and partisans who praise you move on, how will you feed your family? These are the economic realities of today’s America. If you are not being asked to renounce your faith, then consider that you can probably put up with a lot to protect your job.

I’ve seen this type of advice before, in your blog and elsewhere, and I see the sense in it. But a big part of me wants to push back: If conservatives stay quiet in public spaces, won’t we just facilitate the decline of those spaces and of culture? What we need, I want to say, is not fewer quiet conservatives who keep their heads down, but more outspoken conservatives who stand up straight. The time may come for all of us to hide in the shadows, but I don’t think we’re there yet — and hiding now will only hasten the day.

Of course, not all silence is cowardice. This decision must ultimately be a personal one, and there are plenty of good, prudent reasons for people to practice ketman: particularities of employment, the need for income stability, etc. For my part, I work at a nominally Christian college that is obviously shifting left but still has a formal commitment to genuine freedom for dissenting voices, so I’m much more outspoken than I would be if I worked at a secular company. Even so, I expect my job to be less secure in 5–10 years than it is today (which is to say, it will never be easier to speak my mind than it is right now).

I’m under no illusions that my social media posts are doing much good in stemming the progressive tide. But they may be doing some good, right? Even if I am only preaching to the choir, sometimes the choir needs a good preaching-to. My quieter conservative friends, or those in less sympathetic employment, may find themselves fortified and encouraged, may learn arguments and explore resources that will help them to live not by lies, or, at the very least, may read something that makes them say, “I’m not alone; I’m not crazy; someone else sees this, too,” and I have to believe that’s not nothing.

All of which is a long way to ask: How should people decide whether to practice ketman or to practice small, visible acts of defiance? Not people with tenure or with significant platforms and name recognition, but everyday people with everyday jobs and everyday lives who look around and think, “No, I’m pretty sure women aren’t men — may I not say so?” I know what Jordan Peterson would and perhaps should do, but what about my buddy Kyle?

I’m curious to see what you or your readers might advise.

That’s a great letter. I find that I am being asked the same thing more often in interviews for Live Not By Lies. It’s a hard question to answer, because I don’t want some poor soul who is a family breadwinner to blow that up on my advice, when I don’t know all the pertinent facts. The fact is, there is no way to do this without risking suffering — and that’s okay. What I usually tell people is to talk about it with their pastor and with others whose wisdom they trust before doing it. But that seems unsatisfying too. I want to give people clear, unqualified advice, but I find that to be impossible without knowing more about their personal situation.

What do you think? I will only take serious answers in the comments — no progressive trolling on this question.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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