On the February issue:

The Counter-Revolution

To the Editor:
Abe Greenwald is correct that a counter-revolution is underway (“Yes, There Is a Counter-Revolution,” February). And the left is terrified that the gains they’ve made in the past couple of years will be lost. In response, they have launched a campaign to delegitimize the counter-revolution as an extremist, conspiracy-theorizing, violent, far-right threat to democracy. This line of argument is popular in national media and is trickling into coverage of local politics as well. In reading a local California newspaper about the successful recall effort against Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty, I noticed that the authors emphasized that those conducting the recall were “extremists” or “militia” members who deal in “conspiracy theories.” This was just the reporting. To drive home the point, the same paper featured an editorial decrying how “extremists” are putting democracy itself in danger.  Seems like recalling a supervisor is the very essence of democracy, but such is the response to the counter-revolution.
Breck Henderson
Arlington, Texas

To the Editor:
Abe Greenwald’s “Yes, There Is a Counter-Revolution” gives a clear view of the macro events and cultural patterns of the present-day U.S. It’s a great piece. I just wish the balance between good and bad news was better. There can be no doubt that the enemies of liberalism are winning right now. But Greenwald is right that the battle is joined. And COMMENTARY is on the front lines, which gives me hope.
David Breckman
Los Angeles, California

Atlantic Anxiety

To the Editor:
I appreciated Christine Rosen’s fresh, incisive thoughts on the ever-darkening tone of the Atlantic (“The Atlantic’s Nervous Breakdown,” February). What didn’t make sense, however, was her criticism of the magazine’s having a target audience—educated, affluent, left-leaning readers. Serving the needs and interests of a target audience is a foundational principle of magazine publishing. Additionally, Rosen’s final line left me in disbelief. The starkly real possibility that America is on track to becoming an autocracy is anything but an “astonishingly petty anxiety.”
Deborah Boldt
Santa Fe, New Mexico

To the Editor:
Thanks for publishing Christine Rosen’s column on the Atlantic. What she writes is entirely true. I am a political conservative and thought, last year, that I should read more of what’s being written on the other side of the ideological divide. I subscribed to the Atlantic and have found it very depressing. So much so that I sometimes don’t even want to open it. At first I diagnosed the problem as merely Trump Derangement Syndrome, but even now, with Donald Trump mostly gone, the Atlantic continues to be depressing. I greatly appreciate Rosen’s thoughts on the matter.
Mark Green
Los Altos, California

To the Editor:
I agree with Christine Rosen, and I cancelled my subscription to the Atlantic because I cracked the code on its teeter-totter trope: Brace thyself! The end of civilization is nigh! And now in happier news, squirrels, BBQ potato chips, and naps bring unexpected joys.

May the managers responsible for debasing this once-proud journal move elsewhere to peddle their alarmism. Perhaps a periodical titled Exploding Sun—a guide to living, laughing, and learning during the pre-vaporization epoch—would best suit their talents.
Jeff Kramer
Jamesville, New York

To the Editor:
Hear, hear for Christine Rosen’s incisive, entirely deserved, and timely takedown of the Atlantic. As someone who fits Rosen’s description of the Atlantic’s target liberal demographic, I recognized the problem in the past few months and became a former subscriber. While substantive insight into legitimate concerns is always welcome, the clickbait that the magazine promulgates isn’t worth the time or money of a subscription.
Christopher Smith
Lake Forest, California

Christine Rosen writes:
I appreciate Deborah Boldt’s reminder that most magazines aim to reach a target audience. Where we differ, however, is that she assumes that the Atlantic aims to speak only to that target audience, when in fact the magazine’s writers and editors frequently scold the general public for failing to conform to their own more narrow (and large-
ly elite) concerns. If these writers and editors were only proffering advice to one another, there would be little to admonish. But in seeking to tell everyone else how to live, they often overstep. Additionally, I did not label the particular idea that America is on track to becoming an autocracy “astonishingly petty.” I disagree with that premise entirely and seek to challenge the Atlantic’s constant doomsaying about democracy. I am far more optimistic about our democracy’s ability to overcome challenges and thrive, as are, I believe, many of the Atlantic’s readers.

Mark Green is quite right to identify Donald Trump as someone the Atlantic loves to loathe—and someone to whom it devotes a great deal of time and energy, even after he lost reelection. One would hope that the magazine would spend as much time analyzing the political decisions (and missteps) of the current president as they do those of the former one. Likewise, Jeff Kramer is correct that alarmism fuels a great many narratives in the Atlantic’s stories these days. Those narratives, as well as the clickbait articles that Christopher Smith notes, are the lifeblood of the website. If that alarmism and apocalypticism are alienating thoughtful liberal readers like Mr. Smith, as well as driving away potential conservative readers such as Mr. Green, the magazine will ultimately lose its broader general-interest appeal, to say nothing of its subscriber base.

Wagner and the Jews

To the Editor:
Eric Nelson argues convincingly that, for Wagner, Wotan and his regime of laws and contracts represents the liberal world order as corrupted by the influence of “Jewishness” (“Wagner and the Anti-Semitism of ‘the Ring,’” February). And this Jewishness is traditionally thought to be embodied by Wotan’s nemesis, Alberich. It’s interesting to observe that these two characters are much more profound and convincing artistic creations than the “free hero” Siegfried, the young idol who defies the manipulations of gods and dwarves and yet seems to exist more as an abstract ideal than a real person. I’ve long thought that the milquetoast Siegfried predicted the banality and unironic kitsch of Nazi-sponsored art, with its wholesome specimens of German manhood. The fact that it’s Wotan’s struggles and despairs that capture modern audiences’ sympathies (more so than Siegfried’s death) redeems the Ring as a work of dramatic art, despite the repugnant views of its creator.
Elie Glyn
Watertown, Massachusetts

To the Editor:
Wagner’s music is undeniably marvelous. Siegfried’s death and funeral march, the Entrance of the Guests in Tannhäuser, and the Sailor’s Chorus “Steurmann, las die wacht” come back to me undiminished after all the years.

Of course, I had encountered various theories of Wagner’s anti-Semitism filtered through friends and intermission lecturers. Eric Nelson’s analysis is the most coherent analysis I’ve read or heard. That it appears in our era of leftist dogma is an encouraging omen that the truth will yet unravel the fabric of lies, the orchestrated narrative from which we hope to extricate ourselves.
Michael Dodaro
Seattle, Washington

Russia and Ukraine

To the Editor:
I thank Brian Stewart for his article on Ukraine, and I commend COMMENTARY for publishing it (“Protect Ukraine Now,” February). I joined the Army National Guard in 2014 after watching with shock and horror the annexation of Crimea and the hybrid war started by Russia in eastern Ukraine. I saw a bully and a victim, and I felt a very
American rage. Alas, I was never sent to Ukraine. Crimea is still Vladimir Putin’s, and Joe Biden is now bungling the larger affair. It isn’t entirely his fault, of course. Many factors went into where we are now. But he’s not doing a good job of dealing with Putin.

Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan sent me spiraling into despair, and I continue to be eaten up with dread that more of the same is coming. It used to feel as if the U.S. stood for something, but we are becoming just another wishy-washy, wealthy country, bloated on the successes of our glory days, and slowly succumbing to cultural decay. If we’re not trying to make other people’s lives better, what’s the point of being such a powerful country?

All this is to say, I’m glad some people are honest about what needs to be done. I just wish I could believe that we’ll do the right thing.

Thanks for all the good that COMMENTARY does.
Samantha D.
Hometown withheld

Brian Stewart writes:
At a time when many Americans have grown weary of global leadership, it’s heartening to see that some still believe in the concept and are capable of mustering outrage at the sight of authoritarian bullying against a sovereign nation on the edge of Europe.

This aggression should evoke the strongest possible response from the West that prudence allows. Thus far, in the councils of Western governments, that response has been mixed. Some of the policies I endorsed in my essay to deter and counter Russian aggression—from suspending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to providing military equipment to Ukraine—have begun to be implemented by Washington and its NATO partners. Nonetheless, much more remains to be done to check the Kremlin’s ambitions and wear down its morale. A coordinated program to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas is also long overdue.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine today poses the most severe challenge to the notion of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace” that we have witnessed in the post–Cold War era. The United States and the rest of the free world should regard and treat it as such. 

CORRECTION: An editing error introduced some confusion into Kevin D. Williamson’s review of Sam Quinones’s The Least of Us. It was Ricardo Quinones, not his son, Sam, who was president of the Association of Literary Scholars and who served on the board of the National Council for the Humanities. COMMENTARY regrets the error.

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