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Making a case for the surly 'Liberal Overlords'

The Princeton Tory is the bastion of conservative thought on campus – that is, if any bastion can be a ramshackle, ill-defended affair and still be worthy of the name. A typical issue has a photograph of Nassau Hall on the front and an invitation to contribute on the back. Inside there will be a long article on the evils of affirmative action. For variety, this is sometimes broken up into several short articles under different names. This will be followed by some canards like "Multiculturalism: the new fascism," "Social Security: Let them eat cake, but not on my taxes" and "Understanding the Bell Curve Debate: why heritability is the same as your inheritance."

One can read the Tory for its unconscious ironies – it's nice to see Ilya Shapiro congratulating Libertarian candidate Murray Sabrin for having qualified for state funding in the recent gubernatorial election – but its real attractions lie elsewhere. The best thing about the magazine is the way it cultivates an air of genteel victimhood. One might think that a professedly conservative magazine would never attempt to portray itself as the unjustly condemned casualty of a prejudiced world. In fact, the Tory does little else. Each issue mixes self-pity and self-congratulation in equal measure. In a world apparently run by liberal zombies, the staff of the Tory fight the good fight. Enduring insult and calumny, they keep Edmund Burke's fragile flame burning for Princeton.

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The current issue is full of it. Responding to a derogatory article in the Nassau Weekly, Timothy Byron Webster complains that "we were unprepared to be maligned in the media individually." Their writers were "harassed in dining halls" as their attackers tried to "pry the Tory staff apart" by making them feel ashamed about who they were and what they stood for. Such persecution is hardly to be borne, but they stood firm. Emma Goldman would have been proud.

Elsewhere, a contributor worries that he is being politically incorrect (though one suspects that he's really enjoying it) and finds it "unsettling that those who dare to challenge the liberal establishment can be brushed aside with irrational responses, blanket insults and ad hominem attacks." Off to the Gulag with you, my friend! Such dissent will not be tolerated by our Liberal Overlords! They indulge their sense of persecution to such a degree that the editor himself goes so far as to quote Samuel Johnson, saying that "Martyrdom is the test" of one's beliefs. These new conservatives no longer pity plumage – they just pity themselves.

Joining the Church of Christ the Crucified Republican does not appeal to me. The Tory knows one good trick and, like an eager puppy, never tires of it. Its staff has listened to those who claim to be victims and discovered that you can beat them at their own game. Been criticized? Cry backlash. Had an argument? Claim insult. It's easy! Why didn't we think of it before? Those welfare queens have been doing it for years: they must be smarter than we thought. Let Princeton Conservatives be the new oppressed minority.

The Tory neatly blends wounded feeling and civilized hauteur in a manner appropriate to a wronged defender of civilization. All they want are some "respectable opponents," but those liberals are cads. Downtrodden on the moral high ground, they get to have it both ways. The strategy works best for students. If our Universities are swarming with liberals, feminists and other pinko fauna, then you can be a victim in your own dining hall and still control Congress in the outside world.

Nevertheless, it's only rhetoric. Their true colors show through here and there. For example, each issue of the Tory has a box of statistics reassuringly titled "Just the Facts." The editors have the decency to source the numbers (this month they come from a book published by the Heritage foundation), but this little section is the most disingenuous part of the magazine. In the box we read – without context or comment, just the facts – "Black Illegitimate birth rate in 1955: 22%. In 1991: 68%."

Never mind that there is no longer a legal category of "illegitimate birth" in the United States. Never mind that teenage mothers are no more common today than they were in 1900. Forget that the rate of births to unmarried women has almost quintupled since 1950 for whites, but increased by only 21 per cent for blacks. (Those are Census Bureau figures, by the way). Pay attention only to that fact, dangling there. It's the bait the Tory fishes with. They're waiting for you to see it and respond. Then they can deny that they implied or insinuated anything by ferreting it out and printing it. It just jumped off the page; you can't hide the truth; what do you mean, racism? They're ready be offended, so that they can be vindicated in their own minds and remain as patronizing as ever. My advice is, don't bite.

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Just the facts? Don't make me laugh.

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