"the American Conservative" Magazine: Neither American, Nor Conservative

by James Kirchick | May 9, 2008

The American Conservative -- that wonderful publication founded by Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulos -- has a thought-provoking, unsigned item in its current issue (not available online). It's entitled, "Sect's Crime," and concerns the April raid launched by Texas officials on the Yearning For Zion Ranch, a polygmous sect operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The purpose of the raid, unsurprisingly, was to prevent the abuse of young women (girls, really) who were being married off to adult men. Lest you think the presence of a polygamist community in 21st century America would stir the passions of TAC, this is actually an outrage because "around the world and across history, however, their lifestyle is scarcely unique."

The editors state that the raid constituted a violation of "privacy in sexual matters," an act of hypocrisy for "a society unwilling to impose sexual constraints," that "suddenly located a moral compass -- and set it down amid the most buttoned-up crowd imaginable." It is true that the anonymous call which spurred the search was later proven to be a hoax, yet, according to the Dallas Morning News, "investigators say they saw enough pregnant teenagers and young mothers on the ranch to suspect minor girls were being married to much older men." Given the inherent nature of polygamy and the long history of sexual abuse that occurs within its grasp (the ranch's founder, Warren Jeffs, was placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List in 2006, was sentenced to prison for 10-years-to-life for rape as an accomplice in Utah, and faces further charges in Arizona) should we not at least give the Texas Department of Child Protective Services the benefit of the doubt until the investigation runs its course?

Nay, says The American Conservative. The men of Yearning For Zion are not potentially dangerous, abusive pedophiles, they're just "immune to modern gloss." Just like, I presume, Randy Weaver, the Montana Freemen and all the other crank folk heroes of the paleoconservative, black Helicopter crowd of which TAC is the respectable face.

The piece ends with a bizarre, random attack on the gay civil rights movement. "Anyone seeking precedent" for the Zion Ranch, the editors intone, "will unearth countless cases of polygamous and teenage coupling. He'll search in vain for historical accounts of gay marriage." If we're going to use historical "precedent" for the justification of contemporary phenomena for which civilized humanity has a collective revulsion, one could also look back in history and find "countless cases" of slavery. Yet I doubt The American Conservative would tout the enslavement of human beings*.

The American Conservative is consumed with the bizarre obsessions of the paleoconservative right: Jewish conspiracies, Mexican hordes, home-schooling, America First, an enthusiasm for Russian chauvinism, et. al. I was unaware that polygamy and "teenage coupling" (a delightful euphemism for the sexual enslavement of girls) were now part of the paleocon agenda.

* To be sure, The American Conservative does host the blog of Daniel Larison, member in good standing of the League of the South, a neo-confederate, secessionist organization.

 --James Kirchick

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