“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” is a culturally compliant account of poor, white America. Its thesis approaches not at all the one advanced (well in advance) in a chapter of “The Trump Revolution”: “Trump’s Invisible Poor Army’s Waiting On The Ropes.”
The politically proper utterances of its eloquent and smart author illustrate that you can write a national bestseller to the resounding approval of left-liberals, libertarians, neoconservatives and other excuse-for-conservatives provided your thesis allows a convergence over agreeable story lines.
This storytelling must sport major lacunae—mainly about the racial and ethnic dispossession of poor whites—to pass muster with all these factions. (Today, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” could be heard relating to the MSNBC gendarme of PC how poor whites still had some white privilege to fall back on, when compared to poor blacks. Into The Cannibal’s Pot demonstrates that it is the EXACT opposite.)
When encountering the perennial nonsense of a self-styled conservative at The American Conservative, I’m reminded of how I miss the ornery but astute Lawrence Auster. The American Conservative was his self-imposed beat; he used to eviscerate its non-thinkers. Oh, I already said that in “Why I Miss Lawrence Auster, RIP,” where I noted how,
Brilliantly did the late Larry Auster dissect the demise of Russel Kirk’s conservatism at The American Conservative (TAC) magazine. Division of labor being part of a natural intellectual order that arises, Auster would have likely left it to me to point out the pimped intellectual principles this AC “writer” evinces in her meandering Mandela entry, in which “Madiba” is contrasted, in a manner, with George Washington. (Compare that AC crap with “Mandela Mum About Systematic Murder Of Whites.” You can’t!)
Auster was at his rhetorical best when deconstructing the “typically shapeless pieces”—or “weird and solipsistic” was another of his wonderful coinages—that this unthinking “conservative” crowd disgorged. About the American Conservative’s pipsqueak writers, Mr. Auster wrote with the studied contempt they deserve.
The founding editor of The American Conservative (known here as The Paleostinian Conservative), Scott McConnell, who has twice endorsed Obama for president yet continues to call himself a conservative, has written a typically weird and solipsistic article about me in which, among other things, he cluelessly calls me a European-style pagan fascist like Julius Evola and dismisses my work as a specimen of “radical right-wing disillusion with post-millennial America.” Because McConnell is a thoroughly emotion-driven, negative, and reactive personality, he sees me in the same light. He is incapable of grasping that I am someone who argues for standards based on truth and the good, and evaluates society according to those standards. That is not “disillusionment.” That is moral and intellectual judgment.
Also, Mencius Moldbug has a typically shapeless piece on me in which he pays me extravagant compliments which have precisely zero content. I defy anyone to say what Moldbug’s 2,600 word article means.
I’d like to write full responses to the two, but lack the energy right now. My purpose would not be to pursue the subject of myself, but to illustrate a “conservative” mindset and writing style that have become disturbingly dominant in certain quarters, as people of approximately conservative disposition have become so alienated from contemporary reality that they have given up on making sense of the world themselves, or on seeking a better and truer way. All they desire is to express their sense of superiority to the existing order of things, and they do this by spinning out whatever nonsense they feel like. And if they spin out the nonsense with enough verbal energy and pseudo-conceptual flair, they will find a devoted readership who feel that they share the writer’s superiority. It is very decadent.
Anyhow, the thesis of “Hillbilly Elegy” is sufficiently opaque and politically correct to skirt the Big Lies and The real Truth.
In case anyone is listening to me, I would recommend a scholarly alternative, not so much for its perspective, but for the richness of the data: “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” by Charles Murray.