I haven't withdrawn that pat on the back because I actually don't know of a better print magazine/web site on politics and sociology, and there is still a fair amount of trenchant commentary to be found there. Other than the ideological dunce Tamar Jacoby with her commonplace open borders spiel — doing the jobs Americans won't do and all the rest of the usual sophistry — the writers are pretty sound as a rule.
But I'm starting to find the publication annoying. It seems to rattle on about the same few themes issue after issue: affirmative action, threats to free speech, ethnic balkanization, Theodore Dalrymple's latest installment on the dissolution of morality as a social value. All important issues, sure. But that word "issues" suggests why City Journal bothers me more and more — it's about issues, but in a hermetic, intellectualized style that seems aimed at persuasion rather than therapeutic action. As debate fodder, the magazine's content is impressive, but it rarely acknowledges that a 2,500-year tradition of civilization is under immediate threat and that we are called on to decide what to do, not just what to think.
Lawrence Auster has been much exercised lately about putatively conservative commentators who warn us in season and out about the dangers to the West from Islam, but who never get around to suggesting such common-sense defensive measures as stopping Muslim immigration and encouraging Muslims to remove themselves from our midst. I find a lot of the same kind of solemn, inconclusive point-making at City Journal. And the points have already been made countless times. After the fifth or eighth piece bashing sneaky college administrators for bringing racial favoritism in through the back door after a plebiscite or court decision has barred it from entering via the front door, what more is there to say? You either acknowledge that we have a social civil war on our hands, or you View With Alarm one more time. City Journal chooses door no. 2.
Currently up on the City Journal web site is a confession of sorts from Victor Davis Hanson, who acknowledges that the Mexican Invasion "has made things worse than I foresaw" when he first wrote about "Mexifornia" in 2002. I can remember that original article: he had grown up in central California with Mexicans, but now he had Doubts, albeit of a rather high-toned, academic sort. Today the scales have fallen from his eyes. We all know the joke about a conservative being a liberal who has just been mugged — well, boo hoo, friend:
Ever since the influx of illegals into our quiet valley became a flood, I have had five drivers leave the road, plow into my vineyard, and abandon their cars, without evidence of either registration or insurance. On each occasion, I have seen them simply walk or run away from the scene of thousands of dollars in damage. Similarly, an intoxicated driver who ran a stop sign hit my car broadside and then fled the scene. Our farmhouse in the Central Valley has been broken into three times. We used to have an open yard; now it is walled, with steel gates on the driveway.His piece includes many good arguments against our paper national borders, although his jaunty assurance that "the controversy over illegal immigration [has] moved so markedly to the right" is far too optimistic, in my opinion. Yet even now, he can't bring himself to say much about what to do to stop illegal immigration and repatriate the immigrant criminals who are already here. He hides behind the skirts of public opinion, the "growing national discomfort over illegal immigration." And while he says that "we forget how numbers are at the crux of the entire debate over illegal immigration [my emphasis]," he ignores the numbers that are at the crux of the debate about immigration. For a man of his intellectual attainments (he is a distinguished classical scholar), Hanson is playing the naif by pretending we're all hung up over documents — after all, as I and many others have said till we're blue in the face, if the problem is only that we have lots of illegals coming in, we can take care of that by swallowing the bait from Ted Kennedy & Co. and handing them citizenship forthwith.
Both Victor Davis Hanson and the editors at City Journal need to let go of their above-the-battle attitude and get their silk breeches dirty, or settle for remaining spectators in the drama that will determine whether there is a future for the civilization whose ancient history Hanson has chronicled.