Rod Dreher is an American journalist and one time film critic. His book, The Benedict Option has been described as “the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.” Dreher has been involved in multiple controversies regarding his views on race. He is a conservative Christian and has often been accused of homophobia and racism in his writings. But he is also a very intelligent and articulate critic and for that reason he is a sought-after interview by various mainstream media outlets. He was chief film critic for the New York Post. His commentaries have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and he has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Court TV, and other television networks.
Friday he was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Show and found himself paired off with the brilliant and charismatic Eddie Glaude Jr, Glaude is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, and the former head of the Religion Department at Bowdoin College. It was a fiery discussion as Dreher was taking a shot at progressives for fostering a kind of “soft totalitarianism” by stifling free expression. It was like watching a heavyweight boxing match, but of minds, not fists. It was the kind of debate that hardly ever happens now on TV, with the news media so badly polarized that people tune in for validation of their views, not for information. When it was over, host Joe Scarborough commented that he wanted to see a lot more of this kind of discussion. I hope it does become more common.
Although it is not hard to find Dreher’s views on race and sexuality offensive, he makes a valid point when he makes the case that the progressive or left movement is no longer synonymous with liberal. In fact, it is arguably decidedly illiberal through the imposition of sanctions such as cancel culture and shaming. In his latest book “Live Not by Lies” Dreher argues: elites and elite institutions are abandoning old fashioned liberalism based on defending the rights of the individual and replacing it with a progressive creed that regards justice in terms of groups. It encourages people to identify with groups—ethnic, sexual and otherwise and to think of good and evil as a matter of power dynamics among groups. A utopian vision drives these progressives– one that compels them to seek to rewrite history, and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social justice.
I was interested in his line about the reinvention of language. It is something I have increasingly noted in political discussion and in media interviews. I sometimes think that the people who talk about inclusion most, have themselves developed a vocabulary that sets them apart from ordinary people. Words like “intersectionality” for instance, are used to talk ABOUT people with multiple barriers—race, poverty, gender—but certainly don’t talk TO them.