Peter Hitchens vs. *First Things* on COVID-19 and free speech

Peter Hitchens is a conservative journalist and author who writes a blog at DailyMail.com. Last week he published a post titled, “Please Protest against the Censorship of First Things magazine.”

Here is a taste:

For some years I have written occasionally for a thoughtful American magazine called First Things. Last week, they asked me to censor what I had written. They said: ‘We are trying to be slightly less critical of the lockdown measures on the site these days (though criticism is of course warranted), so we’ve made a few changes to the final paragraphs.

‘The First Things board has concerns about some of the pieces we have published on Covid. They have asked us to be less dismissive of Covid-19.’

They then asked me to ‘revise’ what I had written (which I have now published unrevised on the Peter Hitchens blog). I said no, and have ceased to write for them. It is a sign of the deep damage this panic is doing to Western freedom that the censor’s stupid, heavy hand should reach even into such gentle places.

Here is a taste of the piece that did not make into First Things:

The events of the past few months, in which men have tried to hold back the spread of a sub-microscopic virus with plastic screens, five-foot gaps, loose cloth muzzles, mass curfews and the closure of the world’s economies, have reminded me of the walls built to hide the Trill Mill Stream, and of my smug laughter at the story when I first heard it. Can such measures really be the answer, even if they are proportionate to the problem? We seem to be back in the era of making moonbeams out of cucumbers. Worse, most of us seem never to have heard or understood the fable of King Canute, who ordered the tide to turn back, to show his flattering courtiers that the power of governments, especially over nature, has very severe limits.

Energetic testing seems to show that the virus has slipped past these modern defences with ease, though in most cases without troubling its carriers all that much. But what it has also shown is that the more you test , the more you find and that in most cases, the virus is not that dangerous to those who catch it. Yet this discovery has absolutely no effect on government policies or on media accounts of the problem, which continue as if this was an exact repeat of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Many, in fact never even have any symptoms. Yet up go the plastic screens and on go the muzzles (a beloved library known to me, supposedly a quiet refuge for thought and research, has followed this trend, so making it almost unbearable to go there any more). Does the clue to our current state of wilful folly lie in Donne’s warning that learning without an understanding of the true nature of the universe is hubristic and will never get us very far, that ‘all knowledge that begins not, and ends not with His glory, is but a giddy, but a vertiginous circle, but an elaborate and exquisite ignorance’?  

So what is going on here? First Things, especially its editor, R.R. Reno, has taken a lot of heat for questioning the COVID-19 lockdown. We blogged about Reno’s coronavirus columns here and here and here.

The names of the members of the First Things board can be found here.

The First Things e-mail to Hitchens suggests that there may be some tension between the board and the editorial staff. Meanwhile, Hitchens is upset because his piece downplaying COVID-19 will not get an airing at this conservative magazine.

I should also add that I learned about Hitchens’s blog post when court evangelical Eric Metaxas shared it on his Facebook page. Metaxas, who has been doing his radio show from a bunker in his house, also seems to think that COVID-19 is not a serious threat.

By the way, Hitchens and Metaxas did not seem to be entirely on the same page a few months ago when they were discussing topics such as COVID-19 and “taking a knee.” This is unusual for a Metaxas interview. He mostly interviews people who agree with him.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

A spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center thinks someone is trying to cancel Christianity. Not sure how that is possible. It’s kind of like “removing God” from public schools.

Al Mohler will vote for Trump“because the alternative is increasingly unthinkable.”

Eric Metaxas had English conservative journalist Peter Hitchens on the show to condemn England’s response to the coronavirus, but Metaxas just wanted to talk about Black Lives Matter. He tried to put words in Hitchens’s mouth, but Hitchens wouldn’t let him do it. Hitchens said he is opposed to Brexit and rejects the populism of Trump’s friend Boris Johnson. Metaxas got on his hobby-horse about how the American Left is influenced by “cultural Marxism,” but Hitchens, a true conservative, rebuked him for his use of this phrase and essentially told Metaxas that  he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Metaxas squirmed. Finally, Hitchens said that Trump is “ludicrous” and mentioned how John Bolton’s book will expose Trump’s incompetence. At one point, Metaxas compared Trump to Winston Churchill and Hitchens came just short of laughing at the suggestion. Metaxas didn’t seem to know what to do with all of this and was probably wondering why he booked Hitchens, a writer who does not fit very well with the pro-Trump propaganda machine that is the Eric Metaxas Show.

Here is Trump wonder-boy, evangelical Charlie Kirk:

Wait, now I’m confused. I thought Trump WANTED us to talk more about his rally:

Gary Bauer had some things to say about Trump’s Tulsa rally on Saturday night:

Here is Bauer at his Facebook page:

The left tried everything it could to prevent Americans from gathering together to hear a speech from our president. The protesters pulling down statues and marching in four-lane highways say they are protected by the Constitution. Yet those same people tried to prevent the president from giving a speech.

We were told that Trump walking to a church represented a threat to the Constitution because protesters were blocking the way. Those same people went into the courts to block the president’s speech. They also blocked entrances to the stadium where he spoke. They harassed attendees when they left.

The Constitution is under siege, my friends, but from the radical left, not President Trump.

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network interviewed Trump. It will air tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:00am. Here is a taste:

David Brody: I want to ask you, on the evangelical front. I’ve asked Sarah Sanders, Mike Pompeo, they all give me the same answer I say, was President Trump put in office for such a time as this. Did God put President Trump in office for such a time as this? I never asked you that question. What do you think?

President Trump: Well, I don’t know what they said. 

David Brody: They said yes. 

President Trump: Okay. Because I have, Ben Carson said the same thing. You know, Ben Carson came to me because he ran a very effective campaign. And he did a good job. He really did. You know, he came in one of the top people. And he said to me, you know, you’re gonna win. I said, Ben, I’m running against you. What are you telling me? He said you’re going to win because God put you here for this occasion. I said, What a lovely thing to say. That was the first one that I heard from Ben Carson. And it was during the campaign, I was running against him, and he was saying, I’m gonna win. He’s a very high-quality guy. He’s done a great job in the administration.

David Brody: Do you buy that?

President Trump: I almost don’t even want to think about it. Because you know what, all I’m gonna do is, I hope it’s true. All I’m going to do is I’m going to do my best. And part of what I’m doing my best one is for the religious community beyond evangelical, evangelicals a very big part is very important to me. You know, we have great support. I was so honored when Franklin Graham said that his father voted for me. And that was something that Billy Graham has never announced, who he was voting for. But Franklin Graham said his father voted for me. He went public with it. As you know, to me that was a big moment because I have such respect for Franklin and for the family and Billy Graham is really great. Like when he said that his father, his last vote was for me and his father never announced who was voting for, would never talk about it. Now I think I have great I think I have great support. There’s a lot of hidden support. People in our country that don’t riot, don’t protest, that don’t you know, they work hard. They never had a voice into like, meaning over the last long period of time. We call them the Forgotten men and women, they would have forgotten. They were very successful. They were, they do a great job. They’re smart, they have everything, but they were forgotten by the politicians. They showed up in 16. I think they’re going to show up in larger numbers in 20. 

Is this true for First Baptist-Dallas?:

Or in other words, vote for Trump:

Until next time.