Mini-Feature: What is The American Mind?
In two words: the answer.
Akin to our famous Features on the main site, the Substack “mini-Feature” asks TAM editors to reply to an essay, or theme, or question. We launch by asking Matt, James, David, and Spencer how they define the publication.
What is The American Mind?
I've seen much of the rest of the online publication world. It is brutal, cruel, and dark—The American Mind is the light.
The American Mind is a web magazine engaged around the ideas that drive the debate in our national political life. What distinguishes TAM in this lane is a certain approach: that of defending America’s regime, founded through the Declaration and Constitution and refounded by Lincoln, against both ideological attack and profoundly shifting social conditions fueled by technological change. While ideological conflict often works in familiar ways, increasingly, technology has made the challenge more complex and more urgent. Venerable defenses of America must now be mixed with new forms and attitudes, keyed in to big questions of statecraft. Our commitment to equality under law in defense of natural right requires new eyes to see the new tools, policies, and coalitions that will durably reground American politics in a digital age. TAM is the place where the stakes of today’s fight over sweeping efforts to replace America with some new regime are made clear—and where a new path to preserve America is developed.
Take a look around at the publications populating the conservative intellectual world. Open (or scroll through) one at random, and I suspect that you will be able to anticipate the entire chain of argument of a given article. How boring. And worse than boring, how pernicious to the future of conservatism! Written by the same usual suspects, sitting from the same sinecures at the same conservative think tanks, advocating for the same stale arguments. Where’s the vitality, friends? Too many champagne parties enervate the old noggin? I kid, I kid. But not really. At all events, The American Mind is as far opposite of the above as one can imagine. We pride ourselves in introducing new writers, injecting new ideas, and playing host to vibrant, much-needed debates. Our founding editor likes to quip, “Come with us if you want to live.” In its most profound sense, that statement is the motto of our publication and its merry crew.
Recently the New York Times published an opinion piece titled “Reopen the American Mind.” I share the authors’ conviction that “looking back,” Allan Bloom “got some things right” in 1987 when he issued his now-infamous indictment of the American university (not everyone, I would note, had to wait until hindsight confirmed Bloom’s assessment, and those who did were so slow on the uptake that we are all now suffering for it).
But I can’t help smiling at the irony of publishing an op-ed like this in the Times, whose staff are now so dedicated to closing the American mind that their opinion editor had to resign after publishing a piece by a sitting U.S. Senator. In such an obviously captured and decrepit institution there can hardly be hope for renewal. As Matt Peterson, our founding editor here at The American Mind often says: let the dead bury their dead.
The true American mind—as another colleague, David Bahr, pointed out on Twitter—is already being opened, right here at this publication. Conveniently, it says so right on the packaging: it’s the American mind, that uniquely quirky and wondrously free creation of God, that we seek to enlighten and whose best products we seek to highlight.
We have, I think, a major advantage in this over our competition: we are not afraid. We are not afraid of the many slanderous labels that exist to stifle and delegitimate new, honest, perceptive thought about what’s really going on in this country.
Conservatives are concerned, and rightly, about the probity of their movement: we want no truck with real Nazis, with true racists, with actual bigots of any stripe. Bigotry isn’t American, so we’re actually not interested in it even as a purely intellectual matter, never mind our extreme moral aversion to it.
But our enemies know this, and they have successfully used our distaste for the vanishingly small sliver of American crackpots (hint: there will always be some, and there are many more on the Left) to spook us out of examining daring new ideas. They do this by slapping scary labels like “Alt-Right” and “Fascist” on thinkers who are nothing of the kind and often have very little in common with one another except an interest in America and in the truth. There is a reason why only we let people like Curtis Yarvin and Bronze Age Pervert say what they have to say and be evaluated on its merits: because we are not afraid.
That is not to say we don’t have a point of view: we do. We’re Americanists. We believe the U.S. Constitution is the best, truest, most liberating political document ever penned. We believe it’s a joke and a sin to call this country “racist” in any structural or philosophical way. We believe in finding new ways to articulate and support the great principles of our founding in a dynamic, fractious, and digital age. We’re looking for people that know how to do that and have no time for intimidation or scare tactics. That’s who we are. We’re glad you’re with us.