Josh Hawley is a neo-Confederate at war with modernity. A Republican senator from Missouri, he opposed renaming military bases honoring rebel generals and was the sole vote against a bill to crack down on anti-Asian hate crime. After the supreme court ruled that federal law protects employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation, Hawley bemoaned “the end of the conservative legal movement”. That the decision was written by Neil Gorsuch, an arch-conservative, was irrelevant.
On 6 January 2021, Hawley gave a clench-fisted salute to Trump supporters at the Capitol. After the deadly riot, he voted against certifying the 2020 election. His last book, The Tyranny of Big Tech, featured a blurb from Tucker Carlson – the now former Fox News host who fantasized about the murder of a Black man, dabbled in “testicle tanning” and produced a series called The End of Men.
In December 2021, after Hawley delivered a talk about the dangers of pornography, Carlson hosted the senator to vent some more. Hawley’s latest literary contribution, Manhood, picks up where he left off. His timing is priceless.
Last month, a grand jury in Manhattan indicted Donald Trump in connection with a hush money scheme to silence a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who claims a sexual affair. This week, a federal jury on the same island determined that Trump sexually assaulted and defamed the writer E Jean Carroll. The six men and three women ordered the predator-in-chief to pay $5m in damages.
But Hawley is a plutocrat-populist as well as a hectoring moralist. For all his smut-bashing, the latest developments affecting Trump have left him profoundly unmoved. After all, Trump delivered tax cuts and helped bury Roe v Wade. Hawley attacks Disney but took $10,000 from the Citizens United Political Victory Fund himself. According to the senator, corporations may shell out – but then shut up.
After Trump pleaded not guilty in the porn-star case, Hawley professed continued loyalty.
“Trump is going to be the nominee, I think it’s inevitable,” the senator intoned. “After what [Manhattan district attorney] Alvin Bragg did, I think that Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the nominee, and yeah, I’ll support him.”
This week, asked about the verdict in the Carroll case, Hawley knocked the court.
“The New York legal system is – this is my sense of what people think on the Republican side – is that it’s off the rails when it comes to Trump.”
Between Hawley and Carroll, there is no love lost. In May 2021, as he promoted The Tyranny of Big Tech, she aimed her fire his way.
“Please stop pestering me with your constant emails about your crappy book, you seedy little racist creep,” Carroll wrote on Substack.
“Anyway who wrote this piece of shit? You can’t type due to the blood of the insurrection dripping from your hands. And I certainly don’t want anything signed by a jive sexist who thinks men have rights over women’s bodies.”
He has nothing to say about Trump: the man who said, ‘When you’re a star … You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy’
Now, in Manhood, Hawley takes aim at Andrew Tate, the social media influencer and so-called “king of toxic masculinity”, for “sleeping with as many women as possible, berating them, abusing them and celebrating it all as manly, as ‘freedom’”.
Next to that, he has nothing to say about Trump: the man who said, and has defended saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Tate is under house arrest in Romania, on charges of human trafficking, rape and organized crime. Not so long ago, Carlson interviewed Tate, calling him “really smart” and “completely real”. His arrest, Carlson said, was “obviously a set-up” and a “human rights violation”.
On the page, Hawley blames “Epicurean liberals” for the failures of American men. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” is liberalism’s credo, he claims.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Whatever.
Hawley neglects to mention his source: the second verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes, authorship traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, successor and son to King David. Reflecting upon life as vanity is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition too. It is not solely pagan. In reaching for Scripture, Hawley is being – surprise – selective.
Beyond that, as much as liberals supposedly view life as meaningless, Covid and gun death rates are higher in the heart of red America. In Hawley’s Missouri, Covid mortality exceeded the national average. The Missouri gun death rate is more than four times higher than that of New York.
Hawley is also selective – surprise – about his philosophers. He is critical of Rousseau and Marx but delivers a bouquet to Burke. For what it’s worth, Burke cared about British plunder of India. These days, Hawley is at best agnostic about Ukraine.
He ignores Bentham and Mill, the intellectual fathers of 19th-century English liberalism and utilitarianism. It is as if – surprise! – Hawley wishes time and progress would stop.
Not content with blaming America’s ills on the progressive financier George Soros, Hawley targets the late Isaiah Berlin. An Oxford don, Berlin posited the notions of negative and positive liberty.
“If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree,” he said, in 1958.
To Hawley, Berlin’s implicit rejection of the deity as a touchstone of liberty is simply unacceptable.
“Liberty is available only when the individual orders his life by God’s law,” the senator writes. “Isaiah Berlin decided, in the end, that self-rule and liberty had no necessary connection.”
Hawley protests way too much. He seeks to avail himself of the positive liberty posited by Berlin. In early 2021, he complained that Simon & Schuster abridged his “free speech” when it refused to publish The Tyranny of Big Tech. To Hawley, the fact the first amendment regulates only government conduct was, apparently, irrelevant.
Hawley got himself published anyway, by Regnery, a conservative imprint. He’s doing fine. He seems to believe, however, that he possesses a God-given right to be heard.
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