“In the universities today there is no education, it is indoctrinated”

In the rubble of the Trump era George Will it has remained a moral beacon for American conservatives, those who still follow traditional principles of economic freedom and little government intervention. His columns, published since 1974 in ‘The Washington Post’They are capable of unleashing real political storms, as when in 2014 he wrote about “the alleged rape epidemic on college campuses.” The nets caught fire, but he cares little. Now Will (Illinois, 1941) presents a compendium of 200 columns published between 2008 and 2020, entitled ‘Happiness in America and its discontent: the unruly torrent’, which contains a heartfelt tribute to Ortega y Gasset.

José Ortega y Gasset: “In order to dominate the unruly stream of life, the wise man meditates, the poet trembles and the political hero raises the barbican of his will.” Why this title right now, in this context?

—I’ve been reading Ortega a lot and I came across that quote, which seemed to me to describe our times, full of torrents, which are not always regulated, that is, they are unruly. Generally, American conservatives like things to be ungoverned. They like unfettered capitalism, the free market, and the spontaneous order of society. But those unruly torrents can also be destructive.

“Certainly an unruly torrent surrounded the Capitol on January 6.” How is American conservatism after that torrent?

—Even before January 6, the conservatism of this country had disengaged from ideas. The Republican Party, in a way, is no longer a typical political party. It is a cult of personality that will respond to everything the former president says and supports. This is amazing because when American conservatism began to advance after World War II, it did so on ideas. Conservatives in the US were very fond of that phrase by Margaret Thatcher: “First, you win the debate, then you win the vote.” That was in the late 1970s. Now he seems to have abandoned ideas. Free trade, limited government, and all of that has fallen by the wayside.

“Books and written journalism are still the main carriers of ideas”

—It seems that in Europe we are more protected from this drift by the force that the traditional parties have against the candidates. Do you think that this current can also get there?

“I think it can happen.” Political parties are born from certain circumstances and, if they do not adapt to changing circumstances, they do not survive. The Roman Empire fell. The Ottoman Empire. The Habsburg Empire. The British Empire. They fell. Political parties last as long as they adapt, in response to changing demands.

—It is impossible not to consider what effect social networks have on politics today. It is not that you are hooked on them.

“I’m not hooked and I’ve never tweeted.” Someone in my office shares snippets of my columns on Twitter twice a week. They tell me I have a Facebook page, but I have never seen it. I just don’t care. I think that books and written journalism are still the main carriers of ideas, but there is no doubt that social networks have had two effects. One is that it has facilitated mass organization. More than mass organization, I would speak of mass hysteria. On the other hand, with its brevity, social networks facilitate the free dissemination of vituperation, anger, hysteria and stupidity. They are hostile to a politics of ideas. Twenty years ago we thought they were something wonderful, that it was going to be like gathering around a campfire to talk reasonably about things. And that’s not what happened.

—Many conservatives feel discriminated against by digital platforms such as Facebook or Google. Do you think they discriminate against the right?

“Clearly they do, there’s no question.” You can tell from the data. Who is eliminated the most from those platforms? Who is tagged warning about content? We already know the culture from which these platforms emerge. It is something that is born from the culture of Silicon Valley, in northern California. And it is a monochrome political culture. I imagine people who call themselves progressives outnumber those who call themselves conservatives 20 times in Silicon Valley.

«They clearly discriminate against the right. It is something that is born from the culture of Silicon Valley, which is a monochromatic political culture, “he says about social networks.

—American conservatism has made the flag of the right to free expression. Many of those accused of the insurrection on Capitol Hill say that they simply exercised that right, that they demonstrated to denounce an injustice. What do you think?

“It’s silly.” When that crowd gathered in front of the White House, listening to the harangues of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, that was free speech. When they marched to the Capitol, that was free speech. But when he attacked the Capitol, when he tried to disrupt the constitutional process, which in fact he did briefly, that was an attack. That is not free speech. And by the way, we have the same on the left. There are people who say that a speech that offends their feelings is as harmful as bullets. At both ends of the political spectrum, it is denounced that freedom of expression is violated, is their slogan. I think there is nothing more worrisome in the US today than jurisprudence that tries to balance freedom of expression with other freedoms that are supposed to be equal, such as personal well-being, a sense of community, or respect in college. If you go to a campus in the US today and ask the students, you will see that they do not want freedom of expression, what they want is to be free from any speech that annoys them, that damages their feelings.

—You published a notorious column in 2014 about microaggressions in the American university that sparked a national debate. He denounced that “universities have become victims of progressivism.” Is it still like this?

—After the political and cultural wars of the 1960s, many left-wing radicals were recruited into universities, obtained their chairs, and have been reproducing themselves through the recruitment of younger professors ever since. And then there is an academic culture not of education, but of indoctrination. It is no longer about a culture of reasoning that favors democracy, but about training warriors for social justice. Once the basic educational mission is abandoned, anything goes, and what happens in this monochromatic academic culture is, as I say, indoctrination at the expense of education. This is very alarming because any society that cannot produce elites who believe in the country, who think that the country is essentially sound and decent, and that the nation is worth preserving, is not going to last.

– Spain is at the center of a debate on its national identity, on the rule of law and on colonization. Spain is asked to apologize to America. Does this have to do with what you just said?

“I am not against nations apologizing for the mistakes they made, inside or outside.” The US, for example, formally apologized and paid reparations for the internment of people of Japanese origin during World War II. That is part of the confidence of a mature nation that allows it to admit that it made a mistake and regrets that it did. However, I have one question: Will it ever end? Will there be an endless list of complaints to apologize for? Apologies are appropriate. But the apology is usually in the service of a political agenda. And to the extent that apologies are supposedly obtained to advance a political agenda, it seems to me that one should resist them. Spain has a long history of resistance to its national cohesion. It is something that precedes the current difficulties with Catalonia, but today it is well reflected in them. Sure, there is always the temptation to think that since the integrity of the nation is at stake, desperate times call for desperate measures. And you have to resist that. Here in the United States we had in the South, in the first half of the 19th century, all kinds of measures to ban anti-slavery literature. It did not result in anything good: 600,000 dead in the civil war. I hope that Spain will not implement any restrictions on freedom of expression to resolve a dispute that is regional, even if it is deep.

– Speaking of your famous column from 2004, and now that there is so much talk of canceling those with whom you disagree. A newspaper, the ‘St. Louis Post-Dispatch ‘, he overruled the column. Did you feel canceled?

“The ‘St. Louis Post-Dispatch ‘canceled me, that’s indisputable. But I had, at that time, 460 newspapers in which my column was published. The digital mob in networks tried to get me canceled in the 460. Only the ‘St. Louis Post-Dispatch ‘to the pressure of that mob. I can live with that.

“One of the most discouraging things about conservatism today is this populist sentiment against the elites.”

—Your own newspaper, the ‘Washington Post’, describes you this way in the review of your book: ‘It is the last remnant of the old guard of the East Coast intelligentsia.’ It matches?

“I hope I’m not the last vestige of anything, even though I’ve lived in Washington for over 50 years.” I grew up in central Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln is from. So I suppose I represent the intelligentsia of the east coast of this country, which by the way is in constant renewal. I am very happy to be a part of it because I believe it has served the nation honorably.

“The elites, who have been so valuable, are under attack today, left and right. The caste, the usual ones, wants to end them.

“One of the most discouraging things about conservatism today is this populist sentiment against the elites. In France they complain about the elites in Paris. In Spain, I am sure, of those of Madrid, when they do not complain of those of Barcelona. Such is contemporary society, intellectuals congregate in cities, they make cities fertile ground for ideas and innovations for society. And that breeds resentment. Intellectuals must have tough skin, and just live with it because a society will never be as healthy as it can be if it doesn’t have intellectuals debating amongst themselves.

Lastly, can the damage that Trump has done to American conservatism be repaired with his attempt to perpetuate himself in power?

Well, as he continues to tempt his followers with the possibility of another presidential campaign, the Republican Party is paralyzed. The damage was done not only by constant lying, anti-intellectualism, the incitement of passions. Beyond that is his complete disdain for the traditional role of principles and ideology. Ideas give politics weight and dignity. And the only ideas of Donald Trump are just a series of hostilities. Your own happiness is the unhappiness of the other. Now Trump comes and degrades even the idea of ​​happiness. He arrives and says that happiness is in attacking the other tribe. It’s like with Vox in Spain. If you ask the militant why he is in Vox, like many Republicans who support Trump in the US, they will tell you that because they do not support the other side. And that way of doing politics is just pathetic.


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