Rod Dreher: How to Primal Scream Your Way To The Pinnacle Of ‘Conservative’ Punditry

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By Juvenal Early

The American Conservative: From Pitchfork Pat to The Crunchy Con Castrate

The Rob Stove article, recently posted here on BAB, reminded me that I hadn’t thought of Rod Dreher (Old Dreary) in many months.  I thought I’d check up on him. I know he’s living in Hungary now. He’s divorced, or about to be. Upon investigation, it turns out he’s on his own now, no longer under the auspices of The American Conservative (TAC), a lone blogger.  Perhaps Dreher’s February exit from TAC was hastened by a piece he wrote last December, after he’d recently discovered (courtesy of a lefty doxxer) that his father (deceased for several years now) had once been in the KKK.

The normal semi-public figure, on learning such a thing, might put out a short statement: “This was a shock to me. I certainly never knew of it. I’m not now, nor have I ever been a Klansman or a fellow traveler, etc.” Something like that.

My G-d, this creep posted a 9400 word screed, an anxiety attack directly from the heart to the blog. I scrolled through it, reading fair-sized chunks, more than enough to get the point.  The thing just went on and on, and often strayed from the (putative) central topic. All this hand-wringing self-pity. All Virtue signaling,  with the obligatory reminders about how wise the great Christian (he wasn’t) MLK was. How he, Dreary, had moved back to Louisiana to be with his family 12 years earlier to help them out and to be helped. But they were mean to him, they rejected him, and he went on at length about how their meanness eventually destroyed his marriage. Like he couldn’t screw it up on his own. Oh, the horror. An endless hissy fit, replete with spluttering lines like, “I thought he was a horrible reactionary whose judgment could not be trusted on anything.” You say that word “reactionary,” Mr Dreher, like it’s a bad thing.

I mean, you don’t say the things he said about his family and put it out there for public consumption. It should be a private matter. Share it with a confidant, if you must. Talk to the family directly—and privately. Don’t squeal on and on about how awful your family is and put it out there for the whole world to see.

Apparently, the family mostly hates him—down to the aunts and uncles and cousins. Even the dead don’t have much use for the guy (although Dreher makes use of them; posting a hazy image of his late father, as he lay dying). Gee, I wonder why.

After reading large portions of Dreher’s apologia, a line from an old war movie, “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,” came back to me, viz., “Where do we get such men?” Irony very much intended. What does it say about TAC, that they would publish such melodramatic tripe? They’ve come a long way from Pitchfork Pat to the Crunchy Con.  You’d think conservatism’s flagship publication might stand up for traditional values, e.g., honor, personal responsibility, family loyalty, toxic masculinity, etc. You’d at least think that the material they publish was—and it’s a low bar these days—conservative. But, then, TAC didn’t even stand up for their founder, Mr. Buchanan.


“Juvenal Early” is a contributor to Barely A Blog and an all-round bon vivant for literature and high-culture. His 2020 piece, “The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem,” created quite the buzz.

*Articles About Rod Dreary on BAB

7 thoughts on “Rod Dreher: How to Primal Scream Your Way To The Pinnacle Of ‘Conservative’ Punditry

  1. Ilana Mercer

    Rod Dreary is a shit writer. I think it’s obvious to any strong writer with critical faculties.

    But the rotting cherry on the pile of dung that is the Dreary oeuvre has to be this vomitous essay, alluded to by our author, Juvy (who is at his delinquent best in this follow-up):

    An image of a man, Rod Dreary’s dad, in his most fragile, private state, letting go of his mortal coil! Posted by his son, Rod Dreary!

    I must say, though, that even in death; Dad is better looking than his effete son, Rod Dreher.

    ilana mercer

  2. Kellen B

    The missing word here is “parricide”. Mr Early is spot on. I used to think Dreher had basically good instincts, but my goodness, what evil he exhibits! One does not throw ones father under the bus for what was, perhaps, in his mind, a noble cause! (I assume of course that he didn’t call for random lynchings.) I had no idea that Dreher was alienated from family and is divorced; what is happening to his little compound in Louisianna?

    I’m reminded of Franky Schaeffer who threw his father Francis Schaeffer under the bus and became a leading “religion” writer at Huff Post. This father is he who had made him what he is and who he now pimps as his cachet to fame.

  3. Rob Stove

    Glad to learn that my musings upon the nature of Australian Judaism appear to have interested Juvenal Early. I hope that they might interest other people too.

    Long before Dreher and I came into the world (he was born in 1967, I six years earlier), the British singer-songwriters Michael Flanders and Donald Swann had come up with a witticism that seems relevant to Dreher’s relentless narcissism. “Nowadays,” Flanders and Swann observed, “you can say things in public that you would hesitate to say in private.”

    Like most literate people who cared about modern American literature at all, I enjoyed Dreher’s Crunchy Cons. If Dreher had kept mining that Dave-Barry-like vein of gentle satire with intermittent sharp edges, he would be less famous yet incomparably more trusted.

    But no, clowns who want to play Hamlet are a spectacle familiar enough to have become a proverb. Thus it was that Dreher, not content with the entirely honorable role of being – as it were – the bayou’s Dave Barry, insisted on metamorphosing into Pope Rod The First, issuing one solipsistic ukaze after another in the belief that his titles to moral gravitas included the pontificate, the caliphate, the rabbinate, and whatever job description the Dalai Lama has.

    Heaven knows that I, and lots of other readers, cut Dreher plenty of slack. True, his elegy to his unfortunate sister periodically adopted tones that I myself would be leery of using apropos Madame Mao, let alone a close relation; but, well, grief will do strange things.

    Then he wrote about Dante, with the most sublime indifference to such arcane concepts as learning the Italian language, or making the slightest effort to differentiate between world-views marinated in Thomism versus world-views marinated in Oprah. Count me among those who still wished Dreher well – even if he had managed, no doubt without the slightest malice aforethought, to set Dante scholarship back by around 600 years – on the grounds that at least he’d heard of Dante, even if the poet who emerges from the resultant pages bore an alarming resemblance to Raymond Oliver Dreher Junior himself.

    Nevertheless, whereas until this point Dreher had made the occasional attempt to include non-autobiographical elements in his prose, “A Darkness Revealed” obliterated, once and for all, the distinction between the authorial role and the primal screamer’s. Honestly, anyone who takes 9,400 words to tell both his living relatives and his dead relatives “I hate you I hate you I hate you” has shown himself not just content with forfeiting all claims to literary precision, but devoid of numerous claims to the most basic decency. I remain baffled as to why TAC felt the need to publish it, though if there is truth in even half the allegations about Dreher being bankrolled by Texas Pentecostals who wanted to subsidize his anti-Catholicism, magazines’ managing editors – who must count the pennies at least as much as the rest of us – can be forgiven for not inquiring too closely about such largess’s origins.

  4. Ilana Mercer

    My work is done, here. Grin. I think I have achieved what all good op-editors should aim for, but don’t these days:

    Getting the gladiators going.

    In our case, these polemical gladiators are the illustrious Rob Stove and the scrappy, mystery-man nicknamed Juvy.

  5. Juvenal Early

    Thanks to my friend Kellen & to Rob for their comments to provide depth to the Dreary story. Kellen sent me the following excerpt from Dreher’s Wikipedia page. This tends to reinforce Rob’s allusion to a sugar daddy bankrolling the histrionic Louisianan. No wonder AmCon put up with his overwrought musings for as long as they did.

    This, from wiki:

    In March 2023, funding for Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative was withdrawn. According to Vanity Fair the departure was prompted by a withdrawal of support for Dreher by philanthropist Howard Ahmanson Jr. who, per Vanity Fair, single-handedly funded Dreher’s salary at the website in an unusual arrangement which also allowed Dreher to publish without an editor. Ahmanson had become dissatisfied with the tone of Dreher’s posts, describing them as “too weird”, citing as the prime example one particular blog post where Dreher reminisced about a Black elementary-school classmate of his, who had an unusual-looking uncircumcised penis that Dreher described as a “primitive root wiener”. Dreher said he intends to continue blogging on Substack and may also contribute to The American Conservative with editorial oversight.

    Incidentally, Dreher’s farewell to his home state contains a couple Rod = Dante lines. He says he’s leaving home for good, going into exile, fated to wander out his days. Here I thought he was just going to Substack.

  6. Rob Stove

    Until Juvenal Early mentioned the Wikipedia article, I was unaware of the precise details involved with Dreher’s financial “angel” at TAC. I had been under the impression that more than one individual backer existed, and I cannot recall encountering Ahmanson’s name previously.

    Nevertheless, it had been perfectly obvious to me and every other reader of the periodical that someone was protecting Dreher from the copy-editing processes habitual with any magazine which aims to rise above the intellectual level of Popsugar. Several periodicals nowadays make special provisions for star columnists, by which copy-editing of their work will be not merely skimped, but actively banned. These provisions are particularly common with magazines which would otherwise struggle to continue (and TAC, unfortunately, has been close to folding several times over its two-decade-long life).

    Ages ago, indeed back in the 1980s, the Sydney-based monthly Quadrant had a likewise absurd arrangement by which one Frank Knopfelmacher, a Dreher-style egomaniac of Central European rather than Dixie provenance, was allowed to include in his column whatever came into his head, regardless of how many outright libels or elementary errors of fact these effusions contained. It is entirely possible that Knopfelmacher was himself subsidizing the column on the sly, in a manner which probably would be difficult to get away with today (because today the money trail for all periodicals and think-tanks is so straightforward to follow, thanks to Google), yet which was a frequent Cold War modus operandi, at least in Australia.

    Still, Cold War publications had standards. I would have been much surprised if Knopfelmacher, however outrageous, would have been permitted to get away with Dreher-style unsolicited discourses upon other males’ hypertrophic uncircumcised penises. In fact, my own capacity, pre-Dreher, for even thinking about, let alone writing about, other males’ penises – whatever these virile members’ status in the circumcision department might be – was somewhere near to zilch. No doubt this cognitive shortcoming on my part will confirm my “homophobia.”

    How many Dreher-type embarrassments will it take to convince editors of the simple truth that every author, however illustrious, needs to be copy-edited? Editors once realized this. After all, Homer nodded. Shakespeare several times committed grammatical and chronological mistakes. Balzac, if memory serves me, once (because of the sheer speed at which he wrote) ended up crediting a fictional character with three hands.

    Guaranteeing automatic acceptance for every ebullition of an author’s untrammeled id is nothing better than midsummer madness; and upon this madness, Dreher will now have abundant leisure to dwell. The great magazine editors of the past – the Cyril Connollys, the Harold Rosses, the William Shawns – never countenanced such guarantees. Their attitude resembled that of the disenchanted Scottish newspaperman circa 1920 who, when assured that a piece needed no further sub-editing, retorted in his unmistakable Caledonian accent: “Mon, Ah cuid soob-edit the Lord’s Prayer.”

    Spiritual descendants of this admirable fellow still existed in the print media during my 1980s-1990s antipodean youth. Now they are all gone. Let no-one say that we are the better for their departure.

  7. Ilana Mercer

    Well, well, Rob Stove: Reading your latest missive I congratulate myself for hunting you down in 2011, to edit “Into the Cannibal’s Pot.” And again, in 2023 for similar purposes.

    As rich and rewarding as is the exchange between yourself and Juvy—I have to fundamentally disagree with both of you.

    As I see it, nothing in the provenance of Rod Dreary’s sponsorship explains or redeems TAC. Why saddle Rod Dreary for the piss-poor editorial policies and content on TAC over the years I’ve been tracking the rag?

    Here is a 2006 entry about the ghastly “Crunchy cons”: , but also a selection of atrocious writing on TAC in 2006. To wit:

    Is Dreary to blame for the standard issue American Conservative female, here in the person of “Marian Kester Coombs (the magazine has a preference for the double-barreled pretension)? Now, even if a reviewer like her thinks a book is Bible from Sinai (not a metaphor TAC would tolerate, mind you), he ought to use some critical faculties to examine its flaws. That’s presuming such faculties exit.

    Coombs, quite typical of the females at TAC, is also a crappy writer: Wal-Mart, she informs us, is a “CLOSE-MOUTHED ENTITY”; or “WAL-MART KNOWS THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING AND THE VALUE OF NOTHING.” I suspect both are mixed metaphors, and that Oscar Wilde is writhing in his grave (now that his aphorism has become a cliché).

    Juvy mined a rich vein of female puke factor in his Myself I had the honor of having my work fielded by one Annie Holmquist. Whomever she is—nobody knows her now and nobody will; nothing she will ever say will be of import, Rob, even if Random House publishes her. I did post a few of her grammatical infelicities:

    The indubitably great Paul Gottfried debased himself by deputizing Holmquist and her ilk as his editorial brain trust at Chronicles. I am to Holmquist as Mencken is to Rod Dreary. These people are also engaged in a profound conflict of interest, both acting as publishers of their pulp on the op-ed page they edit, thus in a position to oust their competition, as a matter of practice. Unethical, but typical of journalistic practice in America.

    (In that old Canadian ethical journalistic scene, editors, following traditional journalistic strictures, didn’t use their position to publish themselves constantly as our own publications often do, in direct conflict of interest. They edited. Since these professionals had no conflict of interest – they had no incentive to oust competition so as to hog the page with their inconsequential pabulum – they recruited the best. That’s the way division of labor is meant to work. It enforces ethics, too. In American journalism, lines are blurred. It’s all very radical, non-hierarchical and, in the meta-sense, unconservative.)

    Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative, beloved of “rightist” libertarians, certainly rejected my copy since 2006. My last piece in TAC was in 2006: “Mackinnon’s Textual Harassment.” “American Creed” was an earlier piece, hardly shabby. His attitude in editing these super pieces was truly unpleasant. McCarthy is an unpleasant little man, if ever there was one.

    But that’s nothing. It’s one thing to reject controversial copy from independent, unaffiliated scribes like myself, even as I was becoming the public face of paleolibertarianism. The same “editor” rejected his own publisher’s not-insubstantial essays. Oh, the sanctimony! Oh, the pomposity!

    McCarthy, in his self-righteous sanctimony (it bears repeating), tells publisher Ron Unz—he who paid the piper—that his “analytical study of American urban crime” belongs in a White Nationalist hate-site!

    Still, The American Conservative, remarked the intellectually honest Mr. Unz, had “a uniquely vigorous opposition to Bush’s foreign wars.” As did I, starting on 9/19/2002. Yet TAC, and most libertarian outlets, for the most, could be relied on to reject my own (dare I say more powerful?) anti-war copy. These people are execrable. There is nothing worse than intellectual dishonesty, copped to by the culprits, and chronicled here:

    Conversely, Jason Richwine and political operative Jack Hunter were embraced by TAC, but not Ron Unz’s work (and certainly not my own, whose writings preceded the first two youngsters by at least a decade). I wonder why?

    Hunter, says Mr. Unz, brought with him to TAC the usual libertarian worship of Ron and Rand Paul. (Oh, I see: I’ve criticized the two plenty although I like ’em. Libertarians pray to their sacred cows like mainstream.)

    Behold the pimped intellectual principles this AC “writer” evinces in her meandering, 2013 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!)

    Brilliantly did the late Larry Auster dissect the demise of Russel Kirk’s conservatism at The American Conservative (TAC) magazine. 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 (The Paleostinian Conservative), Scott McConnell (good writer, though), had twice endorsed Obama for president yet continued to call himself a conservative. Way worse was McConnell’s proffering of the identity theft that is Palestinian Liberation Theology, over the pages of TAC with a lot of sleight-of-hand.

    In the face of the critical mass of TAC crappiness—including anti MAGA and anti-Trump agitation as good as that of Liz Cheney—I do not understand the urge, unjustified in reason, to exonerate TAC of responsibility for publishing Dreary or for anything.

    The central thing about Rod Dreary is that he belongs, root-and-brunch, with The American Conservative.

    I can safely say that were Mencken to submit a tract to The American Conservative, he’d have been reprimanded by a one of their millennial or Generation-Z female “editors” for being mean-spirited. He would have been told, “Thanks, but no thanks, Henry. We’ll pass.”

    You know it. No, as ghastly as he is; Dreary is far and away the lesser offender here.

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