In recent days, a pair of conservative intellectuals have been engaged in a back-and-forth about their disagreements in the era of Donald Trump.
Sohrab Ahmari, an author and editorial page editor for The New York Post, wrote a piece for the conservative journal First Things last week, with the headline “Against David French-ism.” The piece is complicated and multifaceted, but it is mostly critical of the approach taken by writer, attorney, and National Review staffer David French toward culture war questions in the Trump era.
French has long been opposed to Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency, and was even approached in 2016 to potentially run against Trump, per Vox. French, unlike some who claimed the “Never Trump” mantle, has remained critical of the president, while also continuing to identify as a conservative and working in conservative media. Ahmari’s article criticizes French for, essentially, not being tough enough on the Trump-era left.
“Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions,” Ahamari writes. “Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism.”
French wrote a rebuttal for National Review over the weekend, titled “What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong,” and in it he made a reference to “the Valyrian steel that stops the cultural white walker is pluralism buttressed by classical liberalism.”
The mentions of “Valyrian steel” and the “white walker” were references to Game of Thrones, which led to a surprising reaction.
There are radicals who would like to stamp out Christian liberty. But the Valyrian steel that stops the cultural white walker is pluralism buttressed by classical liberalism, not Christian statism. (Analogy makes sense in the piece): https://t.co/QECVdwBepZ
— David French (@DavidAFrench) May 30, 2019
“In his response to @SohrabAhmari, @DavidAFrench criticizes Trump as ‘A man who proudly hangs a Playboy cover on the wall of his office,” Matthew Schmitz, a senior editor of First Things, tweeted about French. “It’s strange to hear this criticism coming from French, who proudly watches an explicit TV series, Game of Thrones.”
Schmitz wrote another tweet, which was later deleted, but posted to Twitter by writer Jerry Dunleavy, in which he listed the exact number of “nude bosoms” and other bare body parts that had been featured on Game of Thrones throughout its run. Dunleavy discovered that the counts had been originally cited by the film nudity anthology site MrSkin.com.
The reply was somewhat surprising, especially since Game of Thrones is enjoyed by people of all ideological stripes. French was surprised by it, too.
“Arguing that I can’t condemn a man for having three wives, having sex with porn stars, and appearing in Playboy films because I watched the equivalent of an R-rated movie is… a take,” French wrote of Schmitz’s tweet.