“From the Politically Incorrect to the Nasty and Indefensible”

Matt Zeitlin commented this weekend on the firing (if that is what you can call the termination of an informal agreement with a freelance contributor) of John Derbyshire by National Review for a pretty blatantly racist column published elsewhere. As Matt said, this is a chronic issue for movement conservative journalism, and perhaps movement conservative journalists should spend some time reflecting on why that is so.

I have a more limited observation to make, which has to do with Rich Lowry’s post at NRO announcing “Derb’s” excommunication. It describes the offending publication as having “lurche[d] from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible.”

It would have been helpful if Lowry had drawn the line a bit more clearly. But I’m glad to see the line was drawn. At some point during the last few years, the term “politically incorrect” has become an all-purpose defense for any racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted remark from conservatives, as though racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry are only objectionable because over-sensitive souls or political monitors find them “incorrect” or it proves inconvenient or embarrassing to the conservative cause. It seems NR is willing to acknowledge some right-wing utterances are inherently immoral and worthy of condemnation, irrespective of “politics.” It’s a start.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.