Try to imagine the following: For nearly three years as managing editor of a conservative newsweekly, you’ve established a solid track record as a capable and loyal staffer. Over the course of your employment, you’ve worked closely and well with your colleagues, and you and your family have mingled with theirs at company picnics, Thanksgiving luncheons and Christmas parties. Moreover, you share what you believe is your employer’s overall conservative outlook: a commitment to family values, lower taxes, limited government, strong national defense, and America’s civic traditions.
One morning at the office, you receive a strange telephone message from a staffer of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)—a wealthy, left-wing group opposed to everything conservatives stand for—inquiring about your work with two of your firm’s publications and a third periodical you edit entirely on your own free time. Later that day, the SPLC staffer also calls your boss and other office colleagues, asking intrusive questions about you and accusing you of being an editor for a “white supremacist” publication in your free time.
Just before the end of the work day, your boss escorts you to a conference room where you are sternly greeted by another superior as well as the company’s vice president. After a brief interrogation, focused not on your job performance or any other work-related issue, but concerned exclusively with your free-time activity, you are told you have one choice: resign or be fired. You are given only a few seconds to think it over. After deciding how you would prefer your job to be terminated, you’re ordered to clean out your office immediately.
Stunned at being forced out of a highly compatible job with your “conservative” employer at the evident behest of a group that ruthlessly promotes far left-wing causes, from uncontrolled mass immigration to gay marriage, you wait until later in the evening when your two daughters are asleep before you break the news to your wife.
If this sounds like a plot from a Tom Wolfe novel, it isn’t. It happened to me last January. I lost my position as managing editor of Human Events—the sixty-year-old conservative weekly publication—for things I wrote and edited in my own free time, even though my work performance wasn’t in question. The real offense: editing a publication, The Occidental Quarterly (TOQ), that specializes in research and analysis on issues involving race, ethnicity, politics, and culture—topics that not long ago were routinely addressed by American conservatives—including some contributors and readers of Human Events.
Since its launch in the fall of 2001, The Occidental Quarterly’s focus has been an unapologetic and scholarly defense of Western Civilization, including the historical and biological origin of the people who founded our own nation. A genuine political need exists for such a periodical since conservative publications over the years have increasingly abandoned any consideration of ethnic or racial differences as explanations for racial disparities. That evasion has been part of a general flight by America’s conservative establishment, which has abandoned the conservative goal of preserving America’s founding and sustaining European-derived population and its values in favor of an embrace of purely ideological polemics, such as Rush Limbaugh-like baiting of this week’s demonic Democrat. The result has been conservative impotence before the ethnic balkanization of America and the ongoing cultural fragmentation of our society in the name of “multiculturalism” and “diversity,” imposed by racial and “lifestyle” minorities on the Middle American majority.
The reluctance in conservative circles to probe sensitive topics out of fear of criticism from the left is the reason why it was necessary to launch a publication such as TOQ. If conventional conservative publications were unwilling to address these issues, then there was a place for a new publication that would.
I started my tenure at Human Events in March 2002, after a 13-year stint working for Newsweek’s research library in the Washington bureau. After interviewing for the managing editor position at Human Events, I accepted the offer and looked forward to the challenges that accompany a new career.
Over the years, Human Events has been the leading pro-family publication among grassroots social conservatives with a well-known editorial view that firmly opposed the agenda of homosexual activists, such as “gay marriage.”
But one of the major concerns shared by some of the Human Events staff is a perceived need to placate one of the executives at Eagle Publishing, the parent company of Human Events, who has demonstrated support for gay causes. At times the editors walk on eggshells trying to balance the demands of Human Events’ professed conservative social values with the executive’s gay-friendly politics. In fact it is something of a running joke around Eagle’s corridors that the HE editors’ balancing act has all the makings of a new TV reality series: “The Apprentice meets Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
The executive is listed as a donor to the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a “community-based health organization . . . established by and for the gay and lesbian community.” According to Federal Election Commission records, he also contributed $500 in June 2003 to the reelection campaign of Rep. Mark Foley, R-FL, who has refused to answer questions about his alleged gay lifestyle. Foley also received a $500 contribution in June 2003 from the Log Cabin Republicans Political Action Committee, a gay Republican organization, and has received contributions from the Human Rights Campaign PAC, the leading gay organization that endorses candidates who support “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.”
Occasionally the editors would butt heads with the executive over gay-related issues. He was beside himself after the editors decided to defend Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA, in a front page piece that supported the senator’s stated opposition to the recklessly promiscuous homosexual lifestyle. The executive confronted the paper’s editor in his office in what was described by one witness as a tense and heated exchange.
In the company’s bi-monthly “recognition day,” essentially a navel-gazing exercise to recognize new employees and showcase the company’s “talented” staffers, the executive more than once referred to Human Events as an “ultra-conservative” publication—most likely, in part, because of its opposition to homosexuality.
As managing editor I had some discretion on the selection and assignment of freelance material. It was my responsibility to secure copy for the “American Scene” page, a feature often devoted to book or movie reviews, so I often selected authors for various assignments, soliciting reviewers for their expertise on subjects suitable to our readership.
I approached Marian Coombs, a well-established freelance author and regular contributor to Chronicles and The American Conservative, to write a review of Gods and Generals in early 2003. I knew she was a solid conservative and reliable author who could produce quality copy and deliver what the HE editors expected for our readership. We published scores of her movie and book reviews spanning a range of general interest topics with a conservative appeal. When I first mentioned to editor Terry Jeffrey that Marian had agreed to write freelance pieces, he was thrilled at the prospect of publishing her in Human Events.
Likewise, I thought we had found a great contributor in Wayne Lutton, the editor of The Social Contract, a former Intercollegiate Studies Institute Weaver Fellow, authority on a range of historical subjects, a recognized expert on immigration issues, and contributor to Middle American News. He had a knack for providing a fresh perspective on otherwise dry topics and proved to be a fountain of interesting information. The same was true for Washington Times reporter Stacy McCain.
But their work at Human Events has suddenly disappeared from view. Their articles—which spanned a variety of topics, from reviews of Harry Potter movies to reviews of conservative books—were never found to be objectionable in tone or content by any editors at Human Events. Their body of work, along with my own, was immediately removed from the Human Events website—the direct result of a single phone call in January from SPLC staffer Heidi Beirich.
A Surreal Ending
If grassroots conservative readers of Human Events knew—as they should know—that their flagship publication caved in so quickly to a single phone call from the SPLC, a radical leftist group whose allied website at tolerance.org contains a friendly interview with former underground radical Bill Ayers of the violent “Weatherman” faction of Students for a Democratic Society (and who remains an unrepentant advocate of terrorism), then those readers might also begin to glimpse why “conservatives” so often lose political battles with the left. The unfortunate truth is that the two groups share certain philosophical premises.
For one might think that the editors of Human Events would have sneered at the SPLC’s effort to purge one of its employees. Instead, they agreed with the SPLC’s aims, revealing that establishment conservatives have become just as intolerant of discussions of racial differences as the anti-American radicals of the far left. Under the guise of diversity and multiculturalism, the two sides have created an atmosphere of intolerance and retribution against anyone who even appears to challenge their ideological orthodoxies. But there is at least one significant difference between the left and today’s conservatives: the lefties act manfully, while the conservatives tremble and duck for cover at the slightest deviation from the new multicultural orthodoxy.
This incident illustrates how far leftward the publishing culture across the political spectrum has drifted over the years. The irony of the SPLC’s witch hunts for “white supremacists” is that the imposition of “tolerance” contributes to greater “intolerance.” Nothing is more essential to the posterity of a “free society” than the free and unhindered exchange of ideas and opinions. And nothing jeopardizes these first amendment rights more than the anti-American activities of the SPLC, except perhaps the cowardice of those who surrender without resistance.
Conservatives once defended the importance of conserving America’s heritage and cultural traditions, but the rise of “political correctness” has foreshadowed an important point that William McDougall, the pioneering social psychologist, once argued decades ago: “The essential expressions of conservatism are respect for the ancestors, pride in their achievement, and reverence for the traditions which they have handed down; all of which means what is now fashionable to call ‘race prejudice’ and ‘national prejudice,’ but may more justly be described as preference for, and belief in the merits of, a man’s own tribe, race, or nation, with its peculiar customs and institutions—its ethos, in short. If such preferences, rooted in traditional sentiments, are swept away from a people, its component individuals become cosmopolitans; and a cosmopolitan is a man for whom all such preferences have become mere prejudices, a man in whom the traditional sentiments of his forefathers no longer flourish, a man who floats upon the current of life, the sport of his passions, though he may deceive himself with the fiction that he is guided in all things by reason alone.”
Unfortunately the cultural drift of today’s political atmosphere is far worse than McDougall could have ever envisioned.
Kevin Lamb is the editor of The Occidental Quarterly.