The Corner

Douthat on Breitbart & James Q. Wilson

I understand that Ross Douthat was probably just trying to find a way to write about both men in a coherent and interesting way. I think, as usual, he succeeded with the interesting part, but I’m not so sure he completely nailed it on the coherent front. 

I agree entirely with his view that the media is returning to normal after the great parenthesis that began in the late 1930s and ran through the 1980s (I’ve been making a similar argument for years). But I think his comparison of Breitbart and Wilson is pretty strained. Yes Ross makes it clear that Breitbart and Wilson “were completely different animals, who embodied different eras in public discourse and different models of political engagement.”

But he still forces the comparison. The problem, I think, is that Ross treats Wilson as if he was a media figure of some kind. But he wasn’t. Nor was Breitbart a scholar of any kind — a point Andrew would happily concede. Breitbart didn’t “replace” or supplant Wilson any more than Davy Jones did. They were always on completely different tracks. There are still sober scholars today, quietly advancing deeply learned arguments, and  there were Breitbartian figures in the old media days as well (though most were on the left). Are those scholars as influential as Wilson was? For the most part no. But that’s a sign of Wilson’s greatness, not an indication that the new media has cut short the Wilson approach to politics. Wilson’s style of political engagement is not dead nor is the “Andrew Breitbart world” really at war with it. And, let it be noted, that James Q. Wilson was never a household name in the era of the old media either. If anything, that’s an indictment of the old media, not the new media.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More