Talking Points

The New Yorker hears out a supposedly mortal enemy

Readers of The New Yorker will find an informed and fair-minded profile of social conservative author Rod Dreher on the magazine's website today. And that's a very good thing.

The piece provides a valuable glimpse of how the world looks from Dreher's distinctive point of view. Dreher thinks he's living at a time of moral and spiritual collapse for the Christian West — and witnessing the rise of a new form of "soft totalitarianism" in which progressives use a potent mixture of cultural, political, and technological power to drive social conservatives out of public life. The last few months that Dreher spent in Hungary as the guest of an institute with close ties to Viktor Orban's explicitly anti-liberal government have only reinforced this view. (Dreher played an important role in orchestrating Fox News host Tucker Carlson's widely publicized recent visit to the country.)

Of course the progressive left that Dreher views as his mortal enemy sees the world, and Dreher, very differently. They consider him a bigot who wildly overstates the threat of Christian persecution and regularly falls prey to paranoia. As far as they're concerned, Dreher warrants strong rebuke for encouraging authoritarian impulses of his own in order to smite vulnerable groups and subvert democracy at home and abroad.

As a centrist, I look askance at both extremes, considering each to be a threat. In my nightmares, I see Dreher and his opponents goading each other to a political precipice that, under some future set of circumstances, could well plunge the United States into a postmodern form of civic violence that blends elements of the 17th-century English Civil War and the decades-long Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Which of us — right, left, or center — is correct? And are these the only options? Such questions are difficult to ignore while reading and pondering Wallace-Wells' respectful treatment of Dreher's ideas in one of the premier high-circulation outlets of American liberalism — a magazine that published an even longer and equally respectful profile of Dreher just four years ago.

Could it be that liberalism, along with genuine intellectual pluralism, is doing better in America than we typically assume? I'm not sure. But I do know that The New Yorker deserves praise for doing its part to ensure that its readers maintain a genuinely open mind.