I have come to see myself as a morale officer for the Deplorables. When a fellow conservative writer recently asked what I hoped to accomplish by writing about ideas the left would either ignore or demonize, I said my hope was to give support to those otherwise inclined to view the left’s ideas as irrefutable and inevitable.
There is no denying that the left now wields enormous power, both culturally and politically. This power is so strong that many see no need to debate conservatives or respond to conservative arguments. Instead, the left often responds by seeking to fire or ban the people presenting conservative ideas. They do this by declaring their ideas themselves a form of “hate,” thus marking them as dangerous to even know about, much less advocate.
Such practices were on display when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was widely denounced for broadcasting from Hungary for a week. The denunciations were striking because Hungary is a NATO ally, a democracy, and a nation that has long contributed much to the wider Western culture, not to mention a favorite tourist destination for Americans visiting Europe. If Hungary were governed by a run-of-the-mill European leftist, Carlson could have broadcast from there for a year without receiving one word of criticism.
Yet the criticism came because there is no more important morale officer for the Deplorables than Tucker Carlson, and no clearer example that cultural Marxism is neither irrefutable nor inevitable than Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.
Under Orbán, Hungary has managed to increase its birth rate, secure its borders, staunch the flow of propaganda supporting homosexuality and gender fluidity, and check the influence of billionaire activist George Soros, the principal agitator for a borderless West. Orbán believes that his most important task is the preservation of Hungary and the Hungarians, and the actions described above all enhance Hungary’s chance of remaining Hungarian.
The thought that Carlson’s Hungarian sojourn might help build an American right focused on preserving a country and its people, rather than a set of abstract propositions, was more than a bevy of neocons and their fellow travelers could bear.
The Atlantic’s David Frum asserted that Hungary was not a free country because he saw Hungarians fearful of publicly expressing their views in 2016. Franklin Foer, also of The Atlantic, said Orbán “destroyed media, crushed academic freedom, and created the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.” Bill Kristol at The Bulwark claimed that American conservatives who saw anything worth emulating in Hungary were “anti-American.” Jonathan Chait approvingly quoted the assertion that Orbán was “the ultimate twenty-first century dictator,” and Anne Applebaum chided Orbán for his “fake ‘Christianity.’” National Review’s Jay Nordlinger saw “a struggle between the illiberals—call them the Orbanistas, or the Euro-style rightists—and the remaining, clinging Reagan conservatives.”
Most of these tweets are so blazingly stupid that they hardly require a response. Any country willing to listen to the likes of Frum—who dismissed Orbán’s Hungary on the basis of his experience as a tourist five years ago—is going to be in bad shape, as indeed America has been since we heeded the advice of Frum and Kristol and marched headlong into a prolonged immersion in the Middle East, an unfolding strategic debacle from which America may never recover.
But it is worth noting that the “remaining, clinging Reagan conservatives” have been content to bleat ineffectually about leftist control of the academy and the media for decades. During these decades of bleating, the problem has only gotten worse. By contrast, Orbán has actually wrested control of much of the media and even some of the academy from the left. It is Orbán’s success in challenging the left that angers the likes of Frum and Kristol, not state control of the media or the academy.
Rod Dreher, a subsidized tourist in Hungary for the last several months, publicized these attacks and pointed out their fatuity in an article for The American Conservative. Dreher reminded his readers that the neocons braying about Orbán and Carlson were wrong about Afghanistan and Iraq and had also branded conservative critics of those wars “unpatriotic.” This is all good.
Unfortunately, Dreher felt compelled to add that he had reread David Frum’s 2003 National Review article “Unpatriotic Conservatives” and found “many of the things Frum dug up about the paleocons and the things they believe are things I find objectionable even today.” Dreher focused his disapproval on Pat Buchanan and Sam Francis, who were pointing out the high stakes in the culture war and advancing creative strategies to fight it decades ago.
If we can’t openly praise thinkers whom the left wants canceled, we will lose. Live not by lies, Rod. Live instead like that fearless Magyar, Viktor Orbán.