Don’t Criticize Your In-Group in the Out-Group’s Forums

Don’t Criticize Your In-Group in the Out-Group’s Forums

Written by Aaron M. Renn |
Tuesday, December 19, 2023

If you criticize your in-group in the out-group’s forum, using the value system of the out-group, don’t be surprised if you alienate a lot of people and receive a lot of hate in return. Maybe that’s something you don’t care about or even relish. Sadly, in today’s world, hate is a commodity you can monetize. Regardless, thinking about the venue where you say something is a important as thinking about what it is you actually want to say. 

Where you say something can be as important as what you say.

It’s a good thing to want to hold your own people accountable. But where and how to do that is important.

I recently wrote an op-ed criticizing the idea of Christian nationalism. I said Yes when asked to do this because it was for the American Mind, a publication of the very conservative Claremont Institute. I would not have written it for a liberal publication or one with the reputation of being hostile to Christian nationalism.

When I worked for the Manhattan Institute, I observed that one of the easiest ways for a conservative to get positive coverage or an op-ed placed in the in an elite media publication was to criticize Republicans or conservatives using the left’s value system as the rationale. Some Never Trump types turned this into de facto full time gigs.

I myself once wrote an article criticizing Protestant church architecture for a Catholic architecture journal. I did it because I held the editor and the publication in high regard – and still do. But I realized in retrospect I should not have done that. I should not have criticized an element of Protestantism in a Catholic publication. It would only reinforce the Catholic sense of their own superiority.

I think my ideas were broadly right, but I chose the wrong venue to express them.

I resolved not to do that again. For example, I have been a critic of the how Indiana’s Republicans have governed the state. Surely one of the national publications where I have bylines would love to receive a pitch from me trashing the Indiana GOP. But I don’t want to create bad national press for my state. And I especially don’t want to do it by catering to the left’s value system, reinforcing their moral hegemony. So I elected to write a long piece in a niche policy journal American Affairs instead.

When I started this newsletter, I set as one of my guiding principles, “Don’t criticize other Christians in the liberal secular media if you can avoid it, and certainly do not criticize them from the secular value system of the publication in question.

I’d rather have a smaller audience for my ideas than gain a big one by flattering the sensibilities of people who don’t like evangelicals or conservatives.

Elite media like the Washington Post and New York Times figured out that the lure of a byline in those places would be too tempting for many conservative Christians to ignore. Those Christians were willing to write harshly critical op-eds for those publications that used the value system of the secular publications for their critiques.

We’ve seen this many times already, from Russell Moore, David French, and a relatively small group of others whose names repeatedly occur in anti-evangelical media hit pieces.

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