The Smallest Minority

Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics

[Amazon Link]

Pun Salad value-added: the Cyrillic footnote on page 60, систематическая, translates to "systematic". You're welcome.

If you're used to Kevin D. Williamson's writings at National Review and (occasionally) elsewhere, the first thing you'll notice is that, wow, this book has a lot of profanity. That's OK with me. I do watch Tarantino movies now and then. But unexpected from (specifically) KDW and (generally) the kind of "serious" non-fiction books I usually read.

KDW, semi-famously, was hired away from National Review by the Atlantic magazine. His ostensible gig was to do the kind of reporting he was occasionally known for at NR: a tour of White Working-Class Dysfunctional America, land of alienation, opiates, poverty, and pro-Trump voters.

But after a few days, KDW was fired. The proximate cause being the outrage his almost-coworkers expressed that an opinion writer for a conservative magazine actually had conservative opinions. Specifically, KDW refused to bow to sentimentality about anti-abortion laws; they should target both the (ex-)mother and the doctor. Otherwise, you're not treating the (ex-)mother as a responsible individual with free will.

But the genesis of the book (KDW says) was actually considerably before that, as he observed the public shaming of convenient individuals in social media. Typical example: Justine Sacco, who tweeted out an unfortunate, unfunny "joke" about AIDS as she was going to South Africa, and returned to America to find herself fired, a victim of the Twitter mob. Many examples since then, of course.

KDW is unsparing in his contempt for such mobs and their constituents, comparing them to poo-flinging monkeys. (And when they're not poo-flinging, they're masturbating.) But he takes the discussion in unexpected directions. Although, unlike the profanity, I probably should expected some of those unexpected directions: excursions into literature, sociology, economics, and more.

KDW's insights deserve to be described fully and evaluated carefully. If you expect that from me, ha, sorry. But let me give you a few cheap examples from the index: following the entry for Moby-Dick is … Mojo Burrito. Just before Dante Alighieri is Daniels, Stormy. Between Jefferson and Jesus? Jeong, Sarah. (Who managed to survive an attack of a social media mob.)

So: not what I expected, but still good. I remain a KDW fan, at the highest level, the one with the label: "If he says something I disagree with, I'm probably wrong."