Politics & Policy

We All Live in a Beige Submarine

An appeal for NR and NRO

I’ve been going over my 2014 work for National Review and National Review Online, and I am reminded that on New Year’s Day, I was in a brumal mood. I know this because I used the word “brumal” and because I was writing about the indifference of passing time, intimations of mortality, etc.

I did not perk up immediately.

What came next was my report from poverty-stricken and welfare-dependent Appalachia, “The White Ghetto,” a nauseated reaction to the imperial spectacle that is the State of the Union address, and a plea to stop the persecution of homeschoolers, “Don’t Destroy This Family.” There were some lighter moments — Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s creepy Fifty Shades of Gross take on the midterm elections (“Grabbing us by the hair, pulling us back . . . ”), taking great pleasure in beating up on dopey left-wing celebrities and documenting their disturbing antics, and causing a kerfuffle by suggesting that the category “Women” and the category “People Who Have Penises” are not the same category. The Republicans’ big showing in the midterms cheered me up a bit, too: I enjoyed seeing Mia Love and Tom Cotton win almost as much as I enjoyed seeing Wendy Davis and Sandra Fluke getting sent off in disgrace to the political knackery. But by year’s end, my mood had turned a little bit wintry again, thanks in no small part to executive amnesties, race riots, economic stagnation, and the like. Conservatives will be in a better political position come January, but there is a long and ugly fight ahead of us — a fight that will not end in November of 2016, or any time soon after.

And that is why I, both as a writer and a reader, thank God, William F. Buckley, and you for National Review.

For years, beginning when I was a teen-ager, National Review provided a fortnightly dose of good sense, good reporting, and good cheer that could be found nowhere else. Now, National Review Online offers a digital IV drip of news, argument, and perspective that is more valuable and more crucial than ever before. Long before I came to work here, National Review was the first and last thing I read every day, and the magazine was by far the best thing that showed up regularly in my mailbox. National Review brings me Reihan Salam and Victor Davis Hanson, so I can know what I’d think if I were a smarter person; Kathryn Jean Lopez, so I can know what I’d think if I were a better person; Ramesh Ponnuru, so I know what I’d think if I were a person who cared more about child-tax credits and NGDP targeting; the endless enjoyment of Jonah Goldberg and Rob Long; Jay Nordlinger’s compact bursts of wisdom and exasperation in “Impromptus,” the wisdom of Rick Brookhiser . . . And, if I may be so vulgar as to offer a very un-Buckleyesque word of praise for the boss, there is no better bulls**t detector writing about the national scene than Rich Lowry: e.g.

I thought the country was in trouble in the 1990s, when our great national crisis was Bill Clinton’s perjuring himself over a messy mound of girl trouble. We are living in different times now. True, some things never change — the 2016 presidential election could, conceivably, pit somebody named “Bush” against somebody named “Clinton” — but we’ve come a long way since the early days of the 21st century: Now, when there’s an alleged Republican gay-sex scandal, it involves openly gay Republicans.

So, that’s something.

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. President Barack Obama is attempting to redefine presidential power along Eric Cartman lines: “Whatever! I do what I want!” Harry Reid and Senate Democrats seriously attempted to repeal the First Amendment. We are having to fight in the courts to protect basic religious liberties. Around the world, are allies are nervous — and our enemies aren’t.

With all that going on, it’s important that National Review be, as it is, more than a fortnightly magazine. We’ve always had writers on Capitol Hill; now, we have them in Ferguson, Iraq, and — because culture is upstream from politics — at the porn Oscars. And as a longtime newspaper editor who has worked everywhere from big media companies to scrappy little start-ups, I can assure you of this: We do it on an amazingly small budget. Partly this is because our publisher, Jack Fowler, is also our plumber and handy-man, and partly because we operate out of a raggedy beige cubicle farm that one of our benefactors affectionately compares to a submarine (it does get a little stuffy), but mainly because National Review is a magazine with a mission.

But standing athwart History yelling “Stop!” ain’t cheap.

The Suits do a wonderful job insulating us writers from the financial realities of publishing a magazine like ours. Nobody has ever asked me to write something because we thought that it might bring us an advertisement or inspire a donation. (Other than this, obviously.) But I’ve spent enough time in this business to know that the printing and postage bills alone must be terrifying, to say nothing of payroll, travel expenses, electricity, Charlie Cooke’s daily magnum of champagne and caviar service . . . 

Sorry, thought I was at Vox there for a second.

Many of you give generously every time we ask, and I have had the pleasure of meeting many of our benefactors, who sometimes visit our New York City office to confirm for themselves what a dump it is. (“I thought it would be . . . different,” one said, politely.) Some people shell out for the print magazine (which you should — not everything we do is available online), some people support us by going on cruises . . . and some people are on the web site 20 times a day (We have the metrics!) without throwing a nickel in the jar. If you don’t want to throw a nickel in the jar — because, in your defective judgment, you don’t think National Review is worth it — I understand. But if you do cherish National Review the way I do, and it’s just never occurred to you to stuff a couple of Andrew Jacksons into an envelope and send them to Jack Fowler, then let me help it to occur to you: National Review is worth it, and an enterprise such as this is always going to need your help. That’s just the nature of the game: If we’d been in it to make money, we wouldn’t have started a website about conservative politics — we’d have started one about . . . whatever the hell Gawker is about. (Who knows?)

Working at National Review is a pleasure and an honor every day, and for making that possible, our readers and supporters have my deepest thanks. I am happy to be aboard this beige submarine. We are going to have a great many bombs to drop, plentiful idiocy to dissect, and important arguments to make this year. If you are inclined to help us do that, we could use the help.

— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent and the author of The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome.

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