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The title, in case anyone is wondering, is more or less Tom Wolfe’s, which he cribbed together from the various outraged responses to his 1965 send-up of the New Yorker. In that instance, the allegedly “murderous gutter journalism” was his. I consider Wolfe’s lampooning of William Shawn’s ossified magazine neither murderous nor gutter, but it was unquestionably journalism.
Whereas Jason Wilson’s recent hit piece on me at the Guardian (along with his others on people and institutions I know) qualifies only on the two other counts. His work is certainly not journalism in the original meaning of that term — factual reporting on people and events — although it is sadly representative of what “journalism” has sunk to today, namely, propaganda in service to the ruling power.
Wilson’s MO, so far as I can tell, is to choose a few targets and then mislead, insinuate, and outright lie in order to defame and destroy them. He appears to be motivated by a combination of zeal, malice, and desire to suck up to those above him in the regime pecking order. If libel suits were not so expensive to mount and difficult to win, even if one is unquestionably in the right, I would sue him and his murderous gutter newspaper.
To see that Wilson is a liar, all one need do is compare what he said about me with my actual writings. In his latest bit of libel, he says:
The idea that the US might be redeemed by a Caesar—an authoritarian, rightwing leader—was first broached explicitly by Michael Anton, a Claremont [Institute] senior fellow and Trump presidential adviser.
The key to the lie is the word “redeemed.” Wilson does not quote me saying this, or anything like it, because he can’t. I have never said, argued, indicated, or insinuated any such thing. To the contrary, I have repeatedly restated my preference for republicanism generally and for the American constitutional order specifically.
What I have said — and you can see for yourself in chapter seven of my 2020 book, “The Stakes” — is that the American constitutional order is under grave threat and may not last much longer; that this is an outcome I dread; and that since people on the left like Wilson and his allies are doing everything possible to ensure that it happens, it behooves those of us who love our country, our people, and our original form of government to think through what might come next if Wilson and his ilk succeed.
In that spirit, I offered some speculations about possible futures. I endorsed none of them, much less argued that one of them might “redeem” my country. Wilson is either too unintelligent to tell the difference between analysis and advocacy or, more likely, is deliberately misstating my argument in order to harm me, my friends, and the institutions with which I am affiliated. That is what “journalism” amounts to these days.
Furthermore, my book came out more than three years ago. Neither Wilson nor his publication paid any attention to it then. To what extent, and for what reason, is it now “news”?
The answer, of course, is that it isn’t. It’s being trotted out so that it may be shoehorned into a narrative of Wilson’s devising, that a shadowy and dangerous group of fascists are plotting to overthrow the United States government. In this, Wilson’s latest is but one in a series of pieces purporting to be “news” but that are really a coordinated campaign of defamation and propaganda.
To see further the depths to which “journalism” has sunk, Wilson — after spending a scant few words misstating my thought and scarcely quoting me at all — then spends 12 paragraphs recounting faithfully (and reverentially) the musings of Damon Linker, a man who has made a career out of denouncing former benefactors, including me.
I believe Linker to be dishonest and of low character; I have explained the reasons why elsewhere. Wilson nonetheless quotes Linker extensively as an authority on my thinking without ever informing his readers about Linker’s and my prior dealings, which show Linker to be, to say the least, anything but a disinterested or trustworthy source. This omission, too, can only be called dishonest and dishonorable.
I wish I could ignore these calumnies in the confidence that I know what I believe and what I wrote, that honest readers will see through Wilson’s lies, and that my friends will rally to my defense. All that is true.
And yet murderous gutter “journalism” nonetheless wields tremendous power. I doubt that Wilson will succeed in canceling me. Yet I have no doubt that that’s his aim. Nor do I have much doubt that he can do real harm short of his goal. Wilson’s purpose is not to refute, nor even to discredit, but to defame — and to mobilize the more psychotic elements of his coalition to attack me in ways that may turn out to be unpredictable but for which Wilson can piously disclaim any responsibility.
In Wilson’s mind, I am evil and an enemy. Therefore, all means, fair or foul, are justified in hurting me. This is itself an evil opinion to hold and an evil thing to practice. But it is unfortunately par for the course in America in 2023.
And Wilson purports to wonder why I am pessimistic.
Michael Anton is a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and a former national security official in the Trump administration.
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