It’s Time for Conservatives to Start Acting Like Adults

Universal Pictures

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Rich Lowry is not a college student. He is not 21. He is the editor of National Review, the premier conservative publication in the United States. Today he discusses To Kill a Mockingbird:

Atticus Finch Was on the Wrong Side

The setting is Depression-era Alabama. [Atticus] Finch is unpopular in town because he has decided to take on the defense of a black man named Tom Robinson who is accused of rape by a young white woman. And this is where the story, in contemporary terms, goes off the rails. Atticus Finch didn’t #BelieveAllWomen….In a gripping courtroom scene, Finch cross-examines Mayella Ewell, the 19-year-old daughter of an abusive drunk from a dirt-poor family who is Robinson’s accuser. With all the vehemence and emotion she can muster, Ewell insists that Robinson attacked her after she got him to break up a piece of old furniture at her house.

….Without mercy, Finch takes apart her account. In contemporary internet argot, he “destroys” her. He brushes right by her tears….It is revealed that Ewell is lying. She had made an advance on Robinson and gotten caught by her vicious, racist father. The charge of rape against Robinson was a cover story, although the bigoted jury convicts him anyway….

Yuk yuk. It’s one thing for conservatives to disagree with liberals. What else should we expect them to do? But do they really have to engage in endless juvenile mockery like this whenever the subject is racism or sexual assault or workplace harassment? I swear that National Review has published at least a blog post—often more—for every imaginable case where it’s even remotely possible that a white man got a raw deal. These probably outnumber 10:1 the items they’ve written acknowledging in some seriousness the hundreds of cases of cold-blooded racism against blacks or Hispanics that are reported every year. Ditto for sexual assault and workplace harassment, which is usually treated like some kind of middle school joke.

Twenty years ago, Susan Sontag asked a provocative question: “Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader’s Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or the New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”

I would ask the same question today: “Imagine, if you will, someone who read only their local newspaper between 1990 and 2020, and someone in the same period who read only National Review or watched Fox News. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of racism, police misconduct, sexual abuse, the LGBT movement, and the culture of university campuses? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”

It’s too early for conservatives to see just how apt this comparison is. Someday they will. In the meantime, though, they’re still adults, not adolescent smart alecks. They should at least act like adults and take questions of racism and sexism seriously, even if they don’t take them seriously enough. It’s way past time for their choices to be limited to either ignoring this stuff or writing about it with a barely concealed snicker.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate