The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem By Juvenal Early

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Introducing “Juvenal Early,” a new contributor to Barely A Blog. (Myron Pauli, where are you?)

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 begun the healing, here on Barely a Blog. Why “healing”? Well, bad writing is plain hurtful. It is healed by a brutal take down.

The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem
By Juvenal Early

Annie Holmquist has a by-line at Chronicles Magazine, the long-time stoic voice of paleoconservatism, now flagship of the Charlemagne Institute. I’ve been reading Chronicles for nearly 30 years, have even made donations over that time (so singular and important did I think their work), since back when they were the most important publication backing the first Pat Buchanan Presidential campaign. That was just before the editor (who’d rather remain nameless where Chronicles is concerned these days) began unashamedly labeling his monthly column “Hard Right.” Times have changed. Annie’s there now and whoever holds the purse strings at Charlegmagne clearly wants chipper Annie there, and is banking on the cult of youth over hardened realists; passive and silly over strong, strident voices.

Annie was at it again recently, bless her heart. In an election postmortem on the Chronicles Blog, she wrote:

“I was feeling the oppression of these gray days when a note from a friend landed in my inbox. He made some joke in relation to election voter fraud and suddenly I found myself giggling.”

“Laughter Will Win Against Totalitarianism.” (11/20/20)


I tried to picture past Chronicles writers and the many subscribers I know giggling over the prospect of Kamala Harris being one senile heartbeat removed from the Oval Office. Oh yeah, that’ll show the bastards! Didn’t someone tell Annie? The Revolution is on the march. Angry old reactionaries like me (who, I’d argue, comprise most of the dwindling Chronicles readership) want red meat, realism. In any case, I wondered who’d be telling us jokes as the “peaceful protesters” approach. Laughing at a knee-capped Antifa is one thing, sure, but this?  Typical Annie.

The night before the election, Annie had protested vehemently (vehement for her) about Chronicles’ recent defenestration from Facebook:

“Though we feature articles and concepts that are typically right-of-center, we are not dogmatic and feature a range of ideas and authors. In fact, 60 percent of our audience is Democrat or Independent…”

                                    “Facebook Throttles Outsider Voices On Election Eve.” (11/2/20)

She might have been describing U.S. News & World Report. Old-time Chronicles people might label themselves a lot of things, e.g., Dissident right, paleocon, cultural warriors, the aforementioned hard right, even Southern Agrarian, but “right of center?” Check the masthead.

Did Rich Lowry take over, when I was sleeping? And what’s with the implied diversity: “range of ideas and authors…60% Democrats or Independent?” Sure, we’re not all registered Republicans, but that’s only because, Trump aside, who’d want to admit he’s a Republican, tepid and pusillanimous as they are. It was like Annie was ceding 90% of the argument to the left. Sure, there are plenty of extremists out there, but not us. Why should Facebook shut us down? We’re safe.

Only the inertia of old age keeps me from cancelling my subscription right now, but I can’t see myself renewing it.

The Dissident Right has a mediocrity problem. It’s an old story. Bosses promote mediocrities who don’t threaten them. Mediocrities entrench. Mediocrity takes over and promotes those who don’t threaten them. It’s a downward spiral. Just a guess. I’m the customer. All I know is I read a lot of bad prose, and then I need to search in increasingly obscure places to find quality writers.

Annie reminds me of a writer at The American Conservative (TAC), Gracy Olmstead. Another soft, passive, inconsequential voice. Conciliatory, or, in a word, boring. Early on, TAC wasn’t bad. Pat Buchanan was a founder. Pat is smart, well-read, genial, but don’t be fooled. Pugnacious Pat won’t give an inch where principle is concerned. He pulls no punches. Pat set the tone for TAC. Hardened, principled writers predominated. Anti-Iraq War conservatives unafraid to be called unpatriotic by the likes of David Frum (“The Frumbag”).

Pat’s gone from TAC now. Enter Gracy.

Contra Pat, Gracy may not even know what a punch is. In an election year piece, she was warning pro-life Christians to unhitch their wagon from the Trump train, lest they finally come a cropper, when the Real Trump emerged. This, in spite of the fact that Trump had recently demonstrated great courage by becoming the first sitting Republican president to address the annual Right to Life March in person. No, you can’t trust him, Gracy warned, stressing Trump’s past peccadilloes. He was a hypocrite. Presaging what was always going to be a brutal, polarizing election, Gracy tut-tutted that we needed to get past all that. She wrote:

“To remain true to one’s conscience…(is) far more important than party allegiance. … This could apply to the unborn, to refugees at the border, or to the victims of our proxy wars… where has the partisan spirit made us blind? “

                             “How Political Parties Kill Our Commitment to the Good,” (2/18/20)

Not exactly the ally you’d want on the ramparts. Was she saying we should we be bipartisan with the Democrats (truly, the Evil Party now)? “Refugees at the border?” Does this woman take NYT reportage at face value? Well, possibly. She has started writing the occasional piece for the “Old Grey Lady,” joining NYT’s other safe, house conservatives David Brooks and Ross Douthat, those two unbending champions of, oh, the hell with irony at this point.

I noticed that after she’d been at TAC for a while, Gracy seemed to find her niche in a post-Pat section called The New Urbanism, “New Urbs” for short, created in response to the rise of gentrification or at least in the spirit of it: cities are fun, cultural, good for the whole family. Good place for Gracy, who seems like the nurturing type, steeped in the early millennial culture of therapeutic America. A couple of years ago, in an article bemoaning the collapse of our civic institutions, she pulled out all the stops, sparing, it seemed, not a single therapeutic buzzword when positing a fix for “Institutional disillusionment”:

…hopefully it will… force us to press into the good… communities that nourish our souls. …. foster circles of trust—that can slowly nourish and heal what’s broken.”

-“Our Civic Institutions Are Self-Destructing” 8/28/18

“Communities that nourish our souls?” Sounds like an ad for a great big hot tub full of oatmeal to me. That was two years ago. By now, I hope the New Urbs is recommending bulletproof glass and fire-retardant building materials for the family’s urban fixer-upper. Something BLM-proof.

Do Annie and Gracy represent the new wave of the Right? Soft, passive, mushy, inconsequential bunk! To paraphrase the late Harry Dean Stanton in the 1983 Cult Classic “Repo Man:” Dissident Righter (writer) spends his life getting into confrontations.

Time is short. Barbarians are inside the gate. When it comes to right wing writers, I’ll suggest two rules: Avoid bad, boring (“flaccid”) prose and women who go by diminutives.

Two sob sisters, sure, but don’t bad things come in three’s? I’ve always thought so, thus, I offer TAC blogger Rod Dreher, whose surname looks like “drear” to me. Call him Dreary. You’ve seen him: metrosexual, Mies van der Rohe glasses, soi disant “Crunchy-Con.” He’s got a sweetheart book deal. Dumbs down Dante, astroturfs Solzhenitsyn—seems like his publisher will take any 90,000 connected words pissed out of his laptop and put them between hard covers.

I check Dreary’s blog occasionally. My observations: his favorite peers seem to be Douthat and Brooks; a Never-Trumper, he has a hissy-fit over every POTUS tweet; he still reads the NYT; his racial masochism surpasses even that of Nicholas Kristoff; he thinks being born in a Southern state and saying y’all makes you a real Southerner.  I believe the Dissident Right needs real Southerners: Stonewall’s at the barricades. Can’t say what Dreary thinks of the real Stonewall Jackson, but one can guess, given how he once described the greatest Southerner, Robert E. Lee. In an article in defense (sort of) of not tearing down the Lee statue in New Orleans (Dreary is from Louisiana), he wrote:

“I think it a blessing that the Confederacy lost the war. Lee fought for a bad cause. But Lee, for all his sins, was a complex figure, one worthy of honor — again, despite his sins…I would have left the Lee statue alone…”

                                                                   –The Day They Took Old Dixie Down, 5/19/17

In other words, “I don’t really care if they tear it down or not.” Would he care to elaborate on why Lee’s cause was bad or about all those sins Lee committed? I doubt Dreary would argue the point at a meeting of the Baton Rouge Sons of Confederate Veterans. Better to keep virtue-signaling from the safety of his blog at those antiquated racists. (He deletes unfriendly comments from his blog.)

Maybe the fault lies with TAC, who, since Pat left, hired both Dreary and Gracy, plus a bevy of other lukewarm scribblers, too numerous to mention. TAC, born in opposition to Dubya’s Iraq War, was once at the vanguard of the Dissident Right. Nowadays, they’re outpacing the Overton Window in leftward movement. I say we vote them off the island. But even then, what’s the matter with Chronicles? Whoever said all right-wing organizations eventually move left, knew what he was talking about.

Thus, Annie, Gracy, & Dreary, sob sisters all. Basking in the comfort of their sinecures and book deals. You can’t blame them for taking the money. The fault isn’t with the author; the fault lies with the people who published it, marketed it, and bought it. That’s America; we get what we pay for, or maybe we pay for what they give us. I forget which.

13 thoughts on “The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem By Juvenal Early

  1. Thorsten J. Pattberg

    „That’s America; we get what we pay for, or maybe we pay for what they give us. I forget which.“

    The facts are free. We only pay for their delivery.

  2. Luigi

    I still like Chronicles, but Juvenal is spot on about TAC. I quit reading recently. For a while I stayed on for Hunter Derensis, Jim Bovard, Bill Kauffman, and the occasional good article from other writers. I just couldn’t take any more crappy prose or limp-wristed pointless columns.

    The conservative Catholic writer John Zmirak wrote a funny takedown of one of Rod Dreher’s “weird and solipsistic” neurotic diary entries (I refuse to call it a blog) last year, it’s well worth the read.

  3. paul gottfried

    Although ITO and Chronicles are both published under the aegis of the Charlemagne Institute, they do not follow a single party line. If Mr. Early reads Chronicles, he may notice that it has not changed in its orientation since the 1980s. Whether that makes it “hard right” depends on the perspective of the reader.

  4. Bob Geraci

    One of the things I loved about the column written monthly by the unnamed former editor of Chronicles magazine was that it sometimes left me laughing out loud or it put a grin on my face a mile wide. What was it about that column that is different from what the author of this essay laments about Annie Holmquist’s prescription that we need to laugh more about the antics of the other side? There is no question as Holmquist maintains, that the left has no sense of humor; they are by and large miserable people and that becomes evident when one is engaged in any form of conversation with them. The “right” side has a deep sense of humor and no one displayed and hopefully still displays that feature more than Pat Buchanan – he was always a treat to watch on the long-gone McLaughlin Group show on PBS as no matter what, he would find a reason to chuckle and laugh out loud (just realized as I am writing this that inside McLaughlin is the word laugh!). Yes we need to laugh, and perhaps Annie is suggesting we laugh for the same reason Buchanan or the unnamed editor does, which is a laughter emanating from an understanding that the situation at hand, whatever it might be, is so ridiculously absurd in terms of its premises or arguments, that laughter is all that it deserves. But that laugh, I think is different than what the writer of the essay above is lamenting. It’s a laughter that has a bit of legitimate viciousness about it. Not just cynical, but more of a contempt while still being able to see how funny in the macro what is being laughed at really is. It’s a laughter that you know immediately that the person laughing has a grasp of history and culture which makes the perspective being offered that much richer. In addition to this critique of Holmquist, the essayist makes a sadly valid point that the right has lost to a large degree its warrior spirit.
    Bob G.

  5. Ilana Mercer Post author

    Bob Geraci: It helps to be a warrior writer (check), but one should be first and foremost a damn good writer. The one woman (Gracy I have not read; I’ll leave that torture for “Juvenal Early”) is the equivalent of barefoot and pregnant in the editorial room. She should be paid NOT to write, as my late father was wont to say about bad writers, musicians, etc. And AH litters another full website with her incontinent prose. No excuses for such prolific porridge. “Dreary” from TAC is terrible, too. I could never get through a paragraph of his.

  6. Musil Protege

    This is a pretty amusing read, especially in the case of Dreher, long a pet hate of my own. In fact one could devote an entire article to his shortcomings as a writer and a conservative. Or an article about TAC in general. They really did go off course the moment PJB left. I kind of remember Sam Francis wrote some articles for TAC in the early days. Wouldn’t have been many, since he died in 2005. Later, Dreher had the nerve to say what a repugnant man Francis was, in the blog he runs under the TAC aegis. TAC, as Mr Early says, should be voted off the island.
    As for Mr Early himself, he certainly seems a splenetic fellow, almost to a satiric degree. He puts me in mind of a novel I once read, “Poison Pen,” by the late George Garrett. Interesting, since Garrett, a novelist who should have been better known (isn’t that the way with a lot of good ones?) was associated with Chronicles magazine over the years. He was also an English professor at UVA, a poet and a highbrow belletrist. In “Poison Pen,” Garrett was slumming to a degree (& the book put off a few people). The first person narrator (Garrett’s Alter Ego?) simply goes from one rant to another, picking his targets indiscriminately, choosing especially to focus his bile on actresses, supermodels, and other academics who write novels, who were probably friends of Garrett in real life. Sometimes hilarious, bordering on cruel, Garrett has what seems to be a good time settling scores or pretending to, and you often can’t tell what’s real and what’s a put on. I mention this book because I get the idea Juvenal Early took the same obscure novel as a model of sorts. Not only was Garrett a friend and contributor to Chronicle, he was, I think, a fan of the original satirist Juvenal, even wrote parodies of some of Juvenal’s poetry. Mr Early would certainly know who Garrett was. And of course, General Jubal Early was Robert E Lee’s friend, Lee’s “bad, old man,” and, postbellum, purportedly the man whose own efforts to provide a Defense of the Southern Cause led many Yankee court historians to label it The Lost Cause. Anyway, I hope we hear from Mr Early again, perhaps when he’s wielding not quite so poison a pen.

  7. Ilana Mercer Post author

    Yes, “Early” is a smart and easy going fella, Musil. He seems so full of details I can’t hope to absorb, that I forgot to ask whence his pen name came. I liked it; so I left it. I wonder if your guess is correct.

  8. Dissident Mama

    Agree with Early’s overall assessment, especially re: Dreher, who tries to be everything to everyone when he’s just your average liberal dipshit. If he would just embrace that, he might be more tolerable.

  9. Juvenal Early

    I had meant to skip the comments section but was alerted to a couple by a little bird (I suspect it was the perspicacious

    Mr Geraci (well-known among the crowd who summered in Rockford, when Chronicles was published under the aegis of the Rockford Institute) I am grateful for your own memories of the magazine’s Golden Age.

    Mr Protege, your speculations on the great George Garrett should remain, as they are: speculative. I was tempted at first to tell you to stick your own poison pen in your ear, but I know you are a faithful reader of this website and the fine lady who rules this oasis of sanity with benevolence. I’m old enough to remember all the Buckley purges at National Review, and the disastrous consequences they had on the conservative movement, such as it is and was. Certainly, I don’t wish to go creating any new schisms in the ranks, as the post-iceberg Titanic begins its descent.

  10. S. Patel

    the article bemoans the lack of good writers on the right, based on a selection of sites that conservatives stopped reading years ago. no mention why the idiocracy is not a problem for the left. or the idea that even if the best writers were still at TAC and writing the good stuff it would still change nothing. or whether any Trump supporters ever read TAC. and the author is afraid to mention the only site that still issues bold opinions, mixed with bunk as well, but nobody is forced to read everything. Ilana posts on that site, so author must know it, but pusillanimity spread fast??

  11. Bill Meyer

    One of our largest challenges is liberals read, and too many conservatives still watch TV, wanting their comfy pablum spoon-fed. I have a local talk show and struggle at times getting citizen involvement on issues. It takes reading, comprehension, and writing skills to combat the Communist blob admin state, but many prefer watching the “right cable shows” as if that’s an accomplishment.

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