April 3 2012

Portrait of a Modern Feminist: Diana West

Charlotte Hays

Diana West, the famously feisty syndicated columnist, attracted a hailstorm of media attention a few years ago with her groundbreaking book, Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.

In a book praised by the likes of George Will, Judge Robert Bork, and other luminaries (but dissed by the New York Times, which nevertheless reluctantly had to admit that Ms. West is a fine writer!), Diana saw the ideal of becoming a responsible adult as having been replaced by the aspiration to remain a perpetual youth.  

West found evidence of this in the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, and our inability to come to grips with threats to the way we live because we are so determined to be politically correct and embrace multiculturalism, even at the cost of defending the historical values of our own society.   

“The common compass of the past — the urge to grow up and into long pants; to be old enough to dance at the ball…to assume one’s rights and responsibilities — completely disappeared,” West wrote.

West lamented the subsequent “quagmire of non-judgmentalism” in that phrase foreshadowed author Charles Murray’s claim in his new book, Coming Apart, that the refusal to take a dim view of illegitimacy and other destructive behaviors is harming society.

Now, West, who lives in Washington with her husband and 19-year-old twin daughters, is putting the finishing touches on a book that she describes as a “prequel to Death of the Grown-Up.” Titled American Betrayal, the book is scheduled for publication early next year by St. Martin’s Press. And it appears that the aforementioned “quagmire of non-judgmentalism” is part of the story.

It sounds from what she says that Ms. West has a message for Western civ: Oh, grow up! Being a grown-up civilization requires making value judgments and following facts wherever they lead.  

“I essentially set out to answer to this great puzzle: how is it that facts no longer lead to conclusions? I set out to unravel this riddle,” West said.

West believes that the determination not to be critical of the collectivist philosophies that asserted themselves early in the 20th century has led to an inability to weigh the facts and go where they lead. Conclusions, if out of line with the opinions held by the “right” people, are off limits.

As with the failure to become a society of grown-ups, the refusal to reach logical conclusions, West argues, leads to a “demoralization of the West,” with a subsequent diminution of the role of personal responsibility.

“I came to realize the history of the 20th century is the history of the Big Lie, an innovation of Stalin’s that was seized upon by Hitler and then, shockingly, bled into the West, where we now shorthand its basic techniques as `PC.’ Objective morality is the first casualty; individualism, personal responsibility – liberty itself -- follow.”

West is a woman who has had no trouble reaching conclusions: As an undergraduate at Yale, West was editor of the Yale Political Monthly, a conservative publication. She went from college to New York for a job with the late Irving Kristol’s Public Interest magazine. (West said she had “parted company” with the neocons in the last few years over foreign policy and what she calls the “cultural arrogance” of nation-building.) She went on to become a feature writer and editorial writer for the Washington Times and left the paper to continue her syndicated column and write books.

West doesn’t apply the term feminist to herself but she has a mission for women: “Women should be working on reclaiming morality, including in the behavior of young women,” she says. “Maybe this would trigger a discussion of how debased our culture is.”

West says that the Department of Health and Human Services so-called contraception mandate is “infantilizing” and goes a step further, saying the public discussion of an issue such as contraception represents a coarsening of society.

West has written about the mechanism by which the media makes certain Obama-related topics taboo, winning praise from the august Roger Kimball. “We end up afraid to say anything—it’s a sad state when I, sitting safely at my desk, get letters calling me courageous,” West said.

We disagree: Diana West is a courageous woman, not afraid to go where the facts lead her. 

Keep Reading... Portrait of a Modern Feminist: Sarah Steelman

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