The Corner

PC Culture

Notes on the Purge

(Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

The Washington Post has published a 3,000-word exposé, a double byline for two senior staffers, about the fact that a woman nobody’s ever heard of at a Halloween party years ago wore a costume that somebody didn’t like. The woman has, of course, immediately been now fired from her job.

Tom Toles, the liberal Washington Post cartoonist who hosted the party and then lied when asked about it, has not lost his job, as of this writing. It’s nice to be in the family.

I hate to say I told you so, but I %@$&*!ing told you so, at raging book length, a few months back, in The Smallest Minority, my little book about online ochlocracy and the effort to turn the real world into Twitter. With your indulgence, a little bit from my National Review essay on the book:

Funny thing about my new book: I had begun shopping around the proposal for writing it long before my brief period of employment with that other magazine and the subsequent witless chimp-brained media freakout and Caffeine-Free Diet Maoist struggle session that followed and climaxed with my being fired by Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg on my third day of employment there and after a good deal of stink eye from some seething young woman with an unfortunate All-Lesbian World Bowling Champion haircut loitering glumly in the coffee room. I was, for a few days, a writer who was much more read about than read. After the ninth (or so) New York Times denunciation of my soul and my work, my professional dance card began to fill up with pleasing speed.

That’s the upside of being in the controversy business: I always get paid. Hooray for me.

But why was I flogging this book way back before I got involved in what I must with some genuine disappointment characterize as only the second-most-infamous episode involving a shady right-winger skulking around the Watergate complex? There were good reasons. A number of disturbing sociopolitical meltdowns combining deep stupidity with casual authoritarianism already had taken place: the firing of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich for his views on marriage, and the IRS’s criminal leak of the National Organization for Marriage’s confidential tax documents in the service of a campaign to harass and attack its donors; the firing of James Damore for the crime of being stupid enough to believe that his po-faced ham-souled Caitlyn-haunted superiors at Google were being anything like halfway serious when they asked for dialogue about diversity in the firm; the campaigns against Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss at the New York Times; the “deplatforming” of conservatives and other nonconforming voices on social media; the violence and firebombings targeting unpopular speakers at Berkeley and other college campuses; and much more. The blackshirts and the American Association of Outrage Professionals were as creepily tumescent as Anthony Weiner cruising a Hello Kitty boutique, and there was outrage-porn aplenty, rampant, unapologetic, depraved — but my little book proposal was met with almost no excitement until I became, for a couple of weeks, the headline in the story.

I revisit that tawdry little episode in the book, to the extent that it is necessary to the story, but it isn’t a memoir. My subject is not the life and times of Kevin D. Williamson. My subject is what Coriolanus called “the beast with many heads” — mob politics, on social media and in what passes for real life, which increasingly is patterned on social media — and its effects on our political discourse and our culture. It is the most important political issue of our time.

The thing that sucks about being Cassandra isn’t that nobody believes you — it’s that you’re right when you don’t really want to be.

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