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Smearing Ryan T. Anderson

Left-wing McCarthyism in the Washington Post's news pages
Ryan T. Anderson (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Forgive me for repeating myself, but this is really bothering me. I’ve said in this space on a number of occasions that a few people I know who had lived under communism are now saying that they are seeing signs in the West of communist techniques coming back. One of my friends lives in the UK, to which he defected decades ago:

Reading articles in England and listening to TV commentators, I feel I am back in my youth, in communist, totally  intolerant Hungary, where character assassination was the norm, and the  writers were just lying. Terrible. I am very pessimistic.

When I inquired further of this man and of other former East bloc citizens who have the same opinion, their analysis is always the same: that people on the Left, including within the mainstream media, have no compunction about lying and slandering people for the sake of the Cause.

We saw it this week with the way many leftists, including some prominent journalists, slandered Ross Douthat as a running dog of white supremacy for saying that immigration hardliners deserve to have a voice in working out any ultimate compromise legislation. Damon Linker, a man of the center-left, got similarly hammered this week for writing that liberals are behaving stupidly and unfairly by calling “racist” everyone to the right of them on immigration.

(Of course I got the same treatment for writing a blog post admitting to having mixed feelings about Trump’s obnoxious shithole remark. I said that it was cruel and dismissive, but on second thought, the president, despite his vulgarity, was touching on an issue that we ought to be thinking about: what kind of immigrants do we want to admit to our country? The post was about my ambiguity about the issue, and inviting constructive reader input to the debate (which I got, from all sides). Many on the Left, though, went to town denouncing me as a hater of the poor and a racist too. Molly Roberts, an excitable young wokester working for the Washington Post, accused me of saying people from shithole countries get what they deserve.

At least she did that in an opinion column. Ariana Eunjung Cha, a Washington Post news reporter, delivers an extremely unprofessional news report — not op-ed column, news report — today attacking Ryan T. Anderson’s forthcoming book on transgenderism. It’s shocking. It’s mostly a farrago of LGBT activist talking points. There is no evidence — zero — that Cha read the book, which has been available for a while to media. And get this at the end:

“Amazon is giving credibility to an anti-trans book by allowing it to gurgle its way up to the #1 spot in the category of Gay & Lesbian Civil Rights History, a place it could not possibly deserve less to be,” journalist Matt Baume tweeted.


Dan Avery wrote on NextNowNext that as a result, “Many uninformed people will see this book branded a bestseller and assume it’s well-researched, objective and informative. Some of those people may be looking for advice about a loved one who’s come out as trans, or grappling with their own gender identity.” He urged people to buy other LGBT books to lower Anderson’s ranking.

The complaints may have gotten Amazon’s attention. While the company did not respond to questions about “When Harry Became Sally,” the book was no longer on Amazon’s Gay & Lesbian Civil Rights list Thursday, although it remains on the Natural Law bestseller list.

The idea seems to be that activists have a right to demand that Amazon ought to refuse to sell a book that offends them. If Cha is going to repeat Baume’s slur, ought she not offer some sort of evaluation of the claim, or provide a quote from some more neutral source who has read the book, and who can? Or offer that analysis herself by reading the thing? Or by picking up the phone and asking Ryan T. Anderson for a comment? 

You could say that Cha is simply reporting on a controversy, but she does so in an extremely lazy way, quoting a single conservative opinion writer up top, and three LGBT activists. Not only is that unbalanced, it’s also unprofessional. Anderson is a lightning rod for sure, and nobody is obliged to agree with him. But he always argues logically and respectfully. His books are well-researched, tightly argued, and so clearly written that even a journalist can follow it.

To be sure, I have not read this new one, so I’m in no position to judge it. But if Anderson’s past work is anything to go by, the Ryan T. Anderson slandered by LGBT activists and their media sympathizers is very far from the actual Ryan T. Anderson readers meet in his books.

Anderson’s response to the story:


This too shall pass, but to me, it’s one more piece of evidence that justifies the fearful observations of the emigrants from communist countries. Yes, we know that the Right is full of loudmouths who smear liberals (and conservatives who disagree with them). Shame on those people. What’s so dismaying about the emerging media environment is that institutions (e.g., academia, media) who declaim with presumed authority, are so disinterested in fair treatment of certain hot-button issues. Error has no rights in their eyes. Media bias has always been a concern among conservatives, but now it appears that it is becoming justified among the power-holders in media to flat-out lie about conservatives.

I wrote the other day that the left conflating Ross Douthat with Richard Spencer doesn’t marginalize Douthat, but draws Spencer closer to the mainstream. What I meant is that when leftist journalists and commentators dismiss views held and advocated by mainstream people as intolerably bigoted and evil, they don’t make people ashamed to hold those views. They make people conclude that the designation of certain ideas and the people who advocate them as “bigoted” is meaningless, is nothing more than leftists trying to consolidate and enforce power through lying and character assassination.

Every time I see the word “bigot” in a column or comment by a liberal, I imagine that it has the same value as the word “heretic” in public discourse in previous centuries. I have pretty much given up trying to counter those who make those assertions, because they almost certainly have no intention of trying to get at the truth, but rather simply want to shut up people who disagree with them.

Thing is, there really are bigots, and they really ought to be opposed. All this idiotic virtue signaling among the left is making it harder to resist actual bigots. Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, himself a liberal, said in his controversial book The Once And Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, that in his classes, students of the left, unlike their (few) right-wing counterparts, often don’t make arguments about ideas, but rather simply assert their feelings. This is a big, big problem. Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with Lilla: 

One of your most important insights is that liberal politics, by becoming driven by identity, have largely ceased to be truly political, and have instead become effectively religious (“evangelical” is the word you use). Can you explain? 

We are an evangelical people. How we ever got a reputation for practicality and common sense is a mystery historians will one day have to unravel. Facing up to problems, gauging their significance, gathering evidence, consulting with others, and testing out new approaches is not our thing. We much prefer to ignore problems until they become crises, undergo an inner conversion, write a gospel, preach it at the top of our lungs, cultivate disciples, demand repentance, predict the apocalypse, beat our plowshares into swords, and expect paradise as a reward. And we wonder why our system is dysfunctional…

Identity politics on the left was at first about large classes of people – African Americans, women – seeking to redress major historical wrongs by mobilizing and then working through our political institutions to secure their rights. It was about enfranchisement, a practical political goal reached by persuading others of the rightness of your cause. But by the 1980s this approach had given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow self-definition. The new identity politics is expressive rather than persuasive. Even the slogans changed, from We shall overcome – a call to action – to I’m here, I’m queer – a call to nothing in particular. Identitarians became self-righteous, hypersensitive, denunciatory, and obsessed with trivial issues that have made them a national laughing stock (drawing up long lists of gender pronouns, condemning spaghetti and meatballs as cultural appropriation,…). This was politically disastrous and just played into the hands of Fox News.

What the new identitarians demand is more than mere recognition, though. They demand that you see this country exactly as they do, reach the same moral judgments about it, and confess your sins (which is what the word “privilege” is a secular euphemism for). The most recent books by Ta-Nahesi Coates and Michal Eric Dyson are quite explicit about this need for repentance. The subtitle of Dyson’s is A Sermon to White America. And the use of the term woke is a dead giveaway that we are in the mental universe of American evangelicalism not American politics.

True. The hard right constantly criticizes conservative “cucks” like me who believe in fair play and reasoning with opponents, saying that we are patsys for thinking that the other side is interested in that. Best to use their own tactics against them, they claim. My view is that if we give up on the idea of commitment to truth and justice, which also requires the ability to recognize that we might be wrong (and that even people who are wrong have rights), then we have surrendered to a war of all against all.

That might be coming. But hear me: it will not have been the alt-right alone who brought it about. Those who lived under communism recognize something in the air. Pay attention.

And buy Ryan T. Anderson’s new book on transgenderism. If leftists are so eager to smear him over it, you might want to see what it is they don’t want the rest of us to see. The book won’t be released until February 20, but already there’s an Amazon reviewer who can’t possibly have read the thing, but who is parroting the party line:

The entire thesis of this book is not only inaccurate, but potentially harmful to an already vulnerable and at risk community of people in this country who are consistently targets of violence. Not only is this author not a mental health clinician, but he is targeting the transgender community for political gain. In an administration that has already sought to actively limit the civil rights of law abiding transgender Americans, this will only fuel the backlash against a group of people who simply seek to live as their authentic selves. I am appalled that someone who promotes gay conversion therapy, which is banned within the APA, is now releasing this poorly researched and inflammatory book to make money and gain points with a base of people who see transgender individuals as mentally ill.

This person is not a media figure, and has almost certainly not read the book. But this is what all right-thinking people must say. You just get so fed up with this crap after a while, with this bogus Narrative, propounded from all the pulpits of The Cathedral.

Yes, that’s a neoreactionary term, and it’s a useful one, because it describes something that’s true. Every day, people like Ariana Eunjung Cha evangelize for neoreaction, and they have no idea what they’re doing.



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