The company they keep

Brett Kavanaugh's old pal, a rightwing asshole

The emergence of Mark Judge as a person of interest in the sexual assault accusation against Brett Kavanaugh — or, as Judge once apparently fictionalized him, “Bart O’Kavanaugh” — caught me up short. I've been making fun of Judge’s wingnut writings for years. I always thought he was just a hapless nut of the sort who fills space in the lesser-read conservative journals for peanuts, and probably subsists on checks from pater or his church benevolent society (and welfare, which he strenuously opposes, and the cashing of checks from which fills him briefly with self-loathing); I had no idea Judge was so mobbed-up with the rightwing elite -- and certainly not that he would be named a witness to the next Supreme Court Justice's alleged attempted rape.

I first noticed Judge in the late nineties, when he was working as Mark Gauvreau Judge -- adding the extra name, I assume, to notify readers that he was a serious pipe-puffing intellectual sort of right-winger, like R. Emmett Tyrell, L. Brent Bozell, and George Lincoln Rockwell. He wrote a redemption narrative about his youthful self called Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk. Part of his redemption was apparently a violent swing from left to right, and he played the zealous conservative convert at publications like New York Press and First Things, where he talked about "winning the culture war" -- meaning, as it always does with culture warriors, tendentious readings of pop culture dross like popcorn movies ("twenty or even ten years ago, Blast from the Past would have been dismissed by liberal critics and pop culture watchers as reactionary") and comic books ("conservative moralists and lovers of good storytelling could do a lot worse than to follow the latest round of superheroes flying above the streets of Metropolis and Gotham").

When not assuring conservatives that pop crap signaled the triumph of the Right, Judge also counseled a return to the old ways -- like swing dancing. You remember that retro revival, right — young weasels dressed up in A-line skirts, bow blouses, and zoot suits? In Judge's view, the swing fad wasn't just about music, movement, and high spirits, but also about the earnestness that leads to rightwing politics -- which you wouldn't find in "urban clubs" where patrons listened to "lounge faves like Dean Martin — swing on ludes — or even the latest dance music," and "the atmosphere is as thick with irony as cigar smoke." No, said Judge, in such low dens “people might dance, but it's not swing" — the true swing, he wrote, was performed in the suburbs and "can teach a lesson that was lost during the Sexual Revolution: that there can be gradations of contact between the sexes... Glen Miller's blast of horns signaled a desire for an alternative to the dominant 'alternative' rock culture, with it's predictable power chords and mirthless celebration of alienation and nihilism..."

When the swing revival faded and young people continued to have sex and listen to jungle music, Judge tried to coin his own rightwing equity: "metrocons."

I am a conservative metrosexual.

As most people know, a metrosexual is a heterosexual man who has good taste in art and music, and likes to pamper himself with nice clothes and expensive grooming. There's only one drawback: I can't stand much of the so-called common-man culture celebrated by the Right.

In this bizarre American Spectator essay, Judge goes on to tell us how he hates NASCAR and songs like Redneck Woman, and sighs, "People once read Reader's Digest to keep up with the best books and thinkers. They felt guilty about not understanding classical music. They shamed those who dressed like pigs." But Judge had risen above this -- not only finding Jesus and Bill Buckley but also fancy clothes and after-shave:

As a young socialist my uniform was studied rock and roll grubbiness -- mullet (hey, it was the '80s), ripped jeans, rock band T-shirt. Yet when I sobered up and became a conservative -- which also meant a return to Christianity -- I began to experience the second growth that von Hildebrand speaks of. I went from Levis and punk rock to Saks and swing dancing. I poured out the Old Spice and went to Nordstrom's for a bottle of Truefitt and Hill of London (founded, the bottle reminds us, in 1805, when Lord Nelson won the great battle at Trafalgar)...

Many of us have known reformed drunks like Judge who latch onto objects and behaviors that make them feel clean and confident and right. But, in my experience anyway, most of those people also tend to be nice -- because they have survived a fall and so feel blessed, and grateful to be blessed. And if they're sometimes a little zealous about passing on the good news, that's easy to overlook because their good-will is self-evident.

But Judge is apparently a total prick -- an editor at the Washington City Paper, where he sometimes freelanced, tells us Judge "expressed his displeasure of a decision of mine by suggesting I deserved the fate of Matthew Shepard." Also, though he himself had written a memoir about being a drunk jerk who then reformed, Judge publicly slagged the late journalist David Carr, who wrote a memoir about being a drunk and coked-up jerk who reformed, for being a drunk and coked-up jerk.

This elevates Judge from asshole status to Christ, what an asshole status -- someone who thinks salvation is for the elect, who you will know by their reet pleats and Truefitt and Hill cologne, and everyone else can go fuck themselves.

I can dish you many pieces from Judge's oeuvre relevant to his current status; for example, his qualified defense of Bill O'Reilly when the Fox star was brought down for sexual harassment, which you have to admit is good training for Judge’s present role ("The left is cheering the demise of O’Reilly, but liberals have nothing to boast about. Propaganda sites like Vox and the Huffington Post are just as reactionary as Fox...").

But for me the key to Judge’s whole journalistic persona is a short column he did for New York Press in 2003 called "Bring Back Hate/It’s a lost virtue in lost times." In this column Judge recalls hearing, in his mulleted liberal days, a woman asserting abortion rights more loudly and proudly than he thought fit; though he was unable to acknowledge at the time what that made him feel, he says that "today, older and wiser, I have come to embrace what I felt, and feel, as a good thing. I felt hate. It’s time to bring back hate." Judge goes on to celebrate those conservatives who celebrate hate -- for example, Bill O’Reilly, who "makes a living off exposing the lack of good clean hate in America" -- and even includes among his righteous hatemongers the Prince of Peace: "I dare say that even Christ was capable of hate -- a hatred born of righteous anger, to be sure, and directed at sin and not people, but hate nonetheless."

Come to think of it, it's not really a shock that Judge is in with Brett Kavanaugh and the conservative elite at all.