By Juvenal Early
Some time back, I did a survey of some particularly ineffective (flaccid, ILANA might say) conservative voices. It’s time to provide an update on one of them: Crunchy superstar Rod Dreher, or Dreary, as I call him, a blogger who needs no introduction—unfortunately. Evidence that there is no justice on this side of the grave: Dreary has one of the most coveted platforms on the right, plus he has a publisher ready to print whatever 90,000 words he can throw together in any given year.
Dreary spent a few months in Budapest earlier this year, and I think he should move there permanently. Or to Paris, which also seems to hold a special place in his heart. No malice or disrespect intended toward either city, holy places of the West, I would say. But Europe does wonders for Dreary’s attitude—and his opinions. He’s actually good writing about Gothic cathedrals and haute cuisine. Europe is right in his wheelhouse.
Plus, a European posting would more or less preclude him from commenting on the local scene. In America, Dreary is the apotheosis of the craven, sniveling, virtue-signaling Conservatism Inc. (Con-Ink) apparatchik. I think we’d all be a lot happier if we never again had to read his Never-Trumpisms; or his faint and hollow praise of the Founders; or his weaselly approbation of Confederate memorial removal. Or to never again have to see him expound on race and racism in America.
He was doing very well in the land of the Magyars, and near the end of his three-month stay he enthused over Tucker Carlson, who had taken his show to Budapest. Dreary commended Tucker for courage (true) for interviewing Orban and highlighting Hungary’s common sense immigration policy. It was as good as you can expect from the old Crunchy Con.
This was early August. Dreary posted at least one long article in TAC praising Tucker’s efforts. John Derbyshire—of VDARE and “The Talk” fame—praised Dreary’s article, in his own Orban piece. Dreary saw that story reposted in Unz, liked it, and tweeted it out to all his followers, with the message “Good piece by Derb.” Subsequently, he was called out by lite-libertarian Robbie Soave for commending the work of a racist. Dreary, at first disavowed all knowledge of VDARE, claiming that he didn’t know it was a white nationalist site (it’s not, btw). Then he deleted his original tweet.
It brought to mind other times when Dreary virtue-signaled about race. He doesn’t like being associated with anyone on a SPLC list. The trouble is that anyone to the right of Rich Lowry is likely on a SPLC list, and if a conservative wants to stay off the list, he’d better start off conceding about 90% of the playing field (argument) of any given issue to his left-wing opponent.
Back in 2017, Dreary threw a real hissy fit over Pat Buchanan’s post-Charlottesville column. Pugnacious Pat (God bless him) took issue with the Left for labeling enveryone connected with Unite the Right a white supremacist. By present day standards, Pat reminded us, all of the most historically-important Americans were white supremacists. Typical for Pat, he laid out the facts and left it to the reader to decide—although he wasn’t shy about sharing his own conclusions. In this case, the Founders were great men in spite of whatever we think they might have done, and the nation they gifted to their posterity was a generous offering indeed. Read the column and see what you think.
Poor Dreary couldn’t deal with the nuance of it all. His takeaway? “Buchanan is defending white supremacy, straight up.” When I saw that “straight up,” I couldn’t help being reminded of that cutting edge mediocrity Janeane Garofalo on Keith Olbermann’s late, unlamented MSNBC show. That’s not a bad role model for Dreary to emulate, come to think of it.
Dreary, of course, like the rest of the craven horde that is Con-Ink, was quick to point and splutter when it came to Charlottesville. Whereas, Buchanan gathers facts, analyzes, and decides based on firmly-held principles, Dreary is the type to see how the wind’s blowing, then jump on the bandwagon as close to the front as he can. Thus, you had a man of principle being smeared by a drone of the hive mind.
This, of course, was wrong on so many levels. Back in 2003, when Dreary was writing for pro-war National Review, Buchanan was putting his considerable reputation on the line to co-found the American Conservative, a magazine explicitly started to provide a home for anti-war right wingers (with the assiduous exclusion of Mercer, so even that attempt wasn’t an honest reflection of the reality on the right). One of Dreary’s associates at the time, David Frum, wrote a famous article in NR condemning the likes of Buchanan as “unpatriotic conservatives.”
Later, when the Iraq war was exposed for the deceitful quagmire it was, Dreary was able to slink his way over to TAC. By then, Buchanan had left (as had Moneybags Taki), but, let’s face it, there would’ve been no TAC without Pat. Thus, I think Rod Dreher is not only a mediocre dolt, but an ingrate too.
He’s also an ad hominem hit-and-run bandit.
In October, in a particularly egregious case of the pot calling the kettle black, Dreary called out a couple of fellow religious conservatives, John Zmirak and Eric Metaxas, as Beta males, when they backed Donald Trump’s call for a Boycott of the GOP in 2022, should they nominate a lot of RINOs and Never-Trumpers. The tack Dreary took was rather odd, sort of a variation on a theme I first took notice of in a classic Seinfeld episode, “The Outing.” Seinfeld fans will remember the repeated line from that show; “I’m not gay!!!….Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Dreary took issue with a conversation between the two men on Metaxas’s radio show. Both voiced strident opinions about Never-Trump conservatives, like the truly awful David French. I have no problem with strongly-voiced opinion, especially those I agree with. I’m sure you don’t either, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But Dreary didn’t think they had a right to attack French, because French had been a soldier (Ooooooooo!), “a manly thing to do.”
Of the Catholic Zmirak, Dreary—in his oft-confusing style, writes:
“He is a short middle-aged man with a belly as big and as soft as a beanbag. Hey, I’m not short, but I’m only two years younger than Zmirak, and I have the same belly he does. We are men who make our living writing. Unless you’re Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, … it’s not especially the occupation of badasses.”
Of the objectively handsome Metaxas (author, by the way, of the definitive Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography), Dreary writes:
“Eric is an expensively groomed dandy who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This is not a criticism; I like his style! But the idea that Eric Metaxas, of all people, was urging people to give their lives for Donald Trump, is risible.”
Notice what he did there? Dreary basically says, Zmirak is a fat-ass (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so he doesn’t have the right to attack manly-man David French. Metaxas is a fop (though Dreary aspires to that as well), so he should be proscribed from talking tough too.
Incidentally, that “dandy” unkind cut seems particularly misplaced with regard to the urbane Metaxas, who most 58-year-old men wouldn’t mind resembling. Could it be envy on the part of the bedraggled, shirt-out and wispy-goateed Dreary, he of the Mies van der Rohe spectacles? Eric dresses in the stylish manner that at one time was a requirement for grown-up American men, especially those who lived in New York.
In the Who/Whom Era in which we now live, Dreary’s only going to attack the people and ideas he doesn’t like (or can’t understand). If he likes who you are and what you’re peddling, you can conjure up the whiniest hissy-fit in the universe to proclaim it, and he’ll gladly blog it to all the minions who come to his trough for their daily quota of slop.
Once upon a time, the epistolary fluff ensconced at The American Conservative was detonated daily by the “pugnacious” Lawrence Auster. When Auster died, a void opened up. The “typically shapeless pieces” coming out of paleoconservative quarters, at once “weird and solipsistic”—Auster’s delicious descriptions—have escaped scrutiny. Going by the pen name “Juvenal Early,” a disillusioned former donor to Chronicles has stepped forward. I’m more than delighted to have launched and to continue to unleashing Juvenal.