Democrats find themselves in the odd position of simultaneously suggesting 1. that Donald Trump is a closet anti-Semite and 2. that his son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, is a nefarious Jewish agent of Israel hoping to turn Washington into the Jewish state’s “Santa Claus.”
But first, a detour.
Fake hate crimes committed by progressives are by this point so familiar that they are practically a cliché. When a Muslim woman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was attacked and had her hijab ripped off, two things happened: One, the Left insisted that this announced the coming wave of pogroms against Muslims in the Age of Trump; two, people who follow this sort of thing began betting how quickly she’d be exposed as a fraud. It did not take long. Incidentally, her name has been kept out of media reports, even though she faces potential charges herself for filing a false report. These hoaxers should be publicly named, as there is no legitimate reason to protect their identities.
There were other fake hate crimes attributed to Trump enthusiasts: Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani of Cary, N.C., says that he planned to leave the United States after an Islamophobic assault on his son following harassment by neighbors who named-checked Trump. School officials say there is no evidence that attack ever happened. A gay man in Santa Monica claimed to have been assaulted by Trump partisans, but the attack seems not to have happened. The San Francisco homeowner who raised a swastika flag was not a Trump supporter but a Trump opponent. A catalogue of similarly false, exaggerated, or distorted hate crimes has been assembled by Reason.
The Left desperately wants Americans to be indecent people who go around attacking Muslims and foreigners with funny names, but, by and large, we aren’t. Campus feminists desperately want “rape culture” to be a reality, and so they invent phony rape stories from Duke to the University of Virginia, making sure to target fraternities and sports teams, which are to them symbols of patriarchy. These stories are given currency and credence by incompetent journalists such as Sabrina Erdely and her editors at Rolling Stone, none of whom had the intelligence or grit to question the transparently false claims made in “A Rape on Campus.”
Here is the thing: It is not only the hate crimes that are fake. For the most part, the hate they are intended to highlight is fake, too. No matter how many times Jamelle Bouie of Slate insists that American conservatism is an ideology founded in white supremacy, no matter how many times the halfwits at Salon claim that the neo-Confederate impulse is the motive behind Republican policy ideas, no matter how passionately every third-rate intellectual from Bennington College believes that “all heterosexual sex is rape,” it is not so. These claims are as fictitious as the made-up rape at the University of Virginia — they are simply more general.
The Left desperately wants Americans to be indecent people who go around attacking Muslims and foreigners with funny names, but, by and large, we aren’t.
There are many strands of conservatism and many kinds of conservatives. There are those such as myself whose views are shaped by the epistemic critique of central planning associated with Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who believe that all attempts to replace the spontaneous order of free exchange with purportedly rational central planning will fail for reasons having to do with the way knowledge is distributed and used in a complex society. There are moral traditionalists and Christian traditionalists and nationalists, and there are those whose main concern is that the wider world is a dangerous and unpredictable place that would be more dangerous and unpredictable without American diplomatic leadership and military power. There are green-eyeshades conservatives and anti-abortion conservatives. Most conservatives are a compound of two or more of those tendencies. It is significant that the broadly defined Right’s racists and Jew-haters — of course they exist — felt the need to identify themselves as a separate movement and a distinct political school.
The Republican party within living memory was led by a Jewish man. The Democratic party just came within a hair of elevating to its highest institutional position a man who has long associated with the worst kind of anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, racists, and lunatics, who has worked with them and apologized for them: As it turns out, Keith Ellison will only be elevated to the rank of No. 2 rather than given the top leadership position in the party. There have been pogroms in modern American history: A notable one happened after the Reverend Al Sharpton gave a number of speeches denouncing Jewish “bloodsuckers” and delivered a stirring denunciation of Jewish merchants in which he insisted “You got to pay!” at a venue in which was hanging a banner reading “Hitler Did Not Do the Job.”
Whatever happened to Al Sharpton?
Do you know why there has not been a string of fake hate crimes and acts of violence conducted by right-wing hoaxers? Because the Right does not have to make this stuff up: Left-wing rioters really did set fire to Berkeley when an unpopular right-wing speaker was invited to campus. They really did burn Baltimore. Jeremiah Wright really is part of a loony race cult. Van Jones really is a 9/11 truther and an apologist for Mumia Abu-Jamal. No need for fiction.
The Left, particularly in the English-speaking world, has been in intellectual crisis since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Left’s last really big idea was Communism. (Bernie Sanders would say “socialism,” and the difference is not entirely trivial: Communism begins with a gun in your face, socialism ends with a gun in your face.) When Communism was discredited — not only by the failures of central planning alluded to earlier but also by its horrifying body count of some 100 million victims in the 20th century — the Left was left intellectually unmoored. It has come up with strategies — environmentalism, feminism, identity politics, “1 percent” resentment politics — but no big ideas. This is a problem, because conservatism’s big idea — the marriage of free enterprise to liberal political institutions — is doing pretty well almost everywhere it has been tried. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and countries around the world from Western Europe to Scandinavia to Singapore that have adopted, however partially and imperfectly, the universal truths embedded in Anglo-American liberalism are doing pretty well.
The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.
Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.