I’m a regular reader of various cultural blogs and magazines, especially those devoted to books, film, and classical music. Some of them have fed my mind and soul since college days. But over the past six months, I have watched as many of them bash Donald Trump and his “deplorable” followers month after month and week after week.
What does it say about me that I am still reading most of them? These are the editors and writers who have directed much of my reading, listening, and viewing during my lifetime. What does it say about me that I valued my relationship to them for many, many years? I want to ask, “Was it all a lie?” but I know that’s melodramatic. Still, it bothers me enough to want to think about it, aloud.
Some may consider this an unimportant, perhaps trivial, concern on my part. However, these matters of books, music, film, and other visual arts have formed the deepest part of myself. They led me into the Catholic Church, which I chronicled in my conversion memoir, into the high calling of teacher, and, from there, to writing, publishing, and editing.
Trump bashing has abounded in the magazines, newspapers, and blogs I deeply respect, such as the venerable Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Guardian Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, Slipped Disc (classical music), complete-review.com (books), lithub.com, worldliteraturetoday.org, and wordswithoutborders.com.*
I have known for quite some time that most of these publications are firmly in liberal hands, but, for the most part, I have learned from their usually intelligent discussions of books, culture, the arts, history, and politics. In other words, I could read these writers, with whom I often disagreed, with pleasure and edification. What’s different now? I realize they have no respect for me, one of their readers.
I have been described, along with other Trump supporters, as a “menace,” “dangerous,” “uneducated,” “a Nazi,” “a Fascist,” “a Racist,” a threat to world order and a facilitator of nuclear war. Come to think of it, perhaps it’s an understatement to say, they have no respect for me, because the condemnation they announce is something closer to hatred and repulsion.
When these screeds began to appear, I took the time to email or tweet them, asking if and when any critical articles on Hillary Clinton would appear. There was never an answer and, of course, not a whisper about Clinton’s obvious, and now corroborated, corruption.
Liberalism, as many have noted, used to stand for fairness, justice, the willingness to consider differing opinions. Over the past forty years, liberalism has morphed into a moral crusade of unapologetic self-righteousness. All who disagree are to be dismissed and branded as moral inferiors, probable rapists and misogynists, and certainly not worthy of respect.
Many conservatives, strangely, have not yet accepted that liberal disagreement is not merely an objective matter. Liberal opinion imposes implicit moral judgment, a judgment which has now been made explicit.
One other thing has been made very clear: The editorial staffs, reviewers, and columnists of these publications are chosen and cut from the same piece of cloth. Such scoffing at President-elect Trump and the 60,583,838 Americans who voted for him can only arise from a hothouse of fellow, and “true,” believers. No diversity to be seen on those mastheads!
There’s really no immediate answer to my dilemma. I am not going to stop reading reviews of books, music, or film, because good reviewers enable me to sift through a multitude of titles to find the best way to spend my time. My conservative, Christian antennae will remain vigilant to the warp and weave of the reviewers’ prejudices, but it will be hard, going forward, to feel that kind of congenial friendship one feels when enjoying a good writer. I will trust them less, and, sadly, enjoy them less.
My best answer to the question I posed is this: In the end, we all must manage to become our own best critics. We have to care less about what, for example, George Steiner, James Wood, or Zadie Smith think, and make our own judgments worthy of articulate and reasoned expression.
Finally, some will ask why I have not mentioned the already-established conservative alternatives to these publications. Though there are writers of great merit to be found there, with the exception of The New Criterion, none of conservatively oriented publications treat culture with the appreciation, sophistication, and intelligence of those favorites I have named. (Conservatives, generally, care more for ideas and politics than the various art forms that comprise much of our culture. Yes, Roger Scruton is a notable exception!)
Thus, I am left lonelier but wiser, still seeking the Absolute in all things, but more aware than ever that the elite class of intellectuals disapprove of my journey and, perhaps, my destination.