Over time, I became more confident as a writer, yet also less confident as a conservative. The failure of the 2003 Iraq campaign made me realize that a lot of the Bush-administration cheerleading I’d done was based on an act of psychological projection: Since I enjoy living in a society anchored in the Western values of individualism, democracy, the rule of law, and ethno-religious pluralism, I assumed that this was a universal human aspiration. Turns out I was wrong, at least in the short term, and I said so in a 2006 column entitled “Confessions of a misguided hawk.”
That column made me persona non grata among conservative true believers. But it felt good to write it — and I’m glad I did. I quit law to become a writer because I wanted to speak my mind, not join an ideological or political tribe. Since then, I’ve dissented from so many right-wing positions — on global warming; gay marriage; and even, on occasion, Israel — that I’m not even sure where I’d peg myself on the left-right spectrum these days. Certainly, the 2008 financial crisis destroyed my one-time faith in unregulated capitalism. I started to write about income inequality, and even helped edit Justin Trudeau’s memoir. Yes, I still have it in me to horrify a bien-pensant Toronto dinner party with my views on GMOs or abortion. But ask, say, Terry Corcoran or Ezra Levant if they think I’m any sort of real conservative, and they’ll just start laughing.The cynic in me says that Kay is an opportunist who has moved from right to left because, frankly, there's a lot more work and popularity to be had (as well as bien-pensant dinner parties to attend) on that end of things. But, hey, he has mouths to feed and kids to put through school, so a man's gotta do, etc. That doesn't mean, though, that he has to justify his leftward drift move to the left by lambasting many on the right as ideologues and members of an inflexible tribe. As if the those on the left don't hew to their own unexamined orthodoxies, their own tribal mishegas. (Also, pace Kay, there's far more to conservatism than a belief in unfettered capitalism. For one thing, there's a distaste for "big government" and its statist intrusions into one's life, including its desire to regulate--and put the kibosh on--our free speech.)
Me? I miss the old Jon Kay. The one who, when unfairly characterized as a bigot and a racist at a "Combating Hatred" conference some years ago (a time that predates the point when I saw his thinking really start to change, i.e. when he wrote his "troofer" book) spoke off the cuff so brilliantly. That Jonathan Kay was impressive--thrilling, even--as he defended Canada and himself from the charge that it is riddled with racism and hatefulness (the bleat of most of the conference's speakers and its organizer, Karen Mock; following Kay's speech, Mock took it upon herself to lay into Kay for daring to mock--sorry--the holy confab). So taken was I with Kay's performance that I emailed him afterwards to commend him for his bravery and quick-wittedness. I believe I said something to the effect that, had angry conference attendees thought to bring tar and feathers, he would have been going home black and fluffy--and I meant it as the highest compliment.
Sadly, I haven't much use for the new Jon, the one who likes to "misbehave" at elitist dinner parties; the one who left the Post to edit The Walrus, a smug, self-satisfied, anti-Israel magazine for the Justin Trudeau-adoring dinner party set and, up till now, a real snoozeroo.
Can Kay turn it into something else, something a mal-pensant like moi would want to read? Oh, sure, maybe he'll throw in an "off the reservation" article now and then, to pat himself on the back for being such an independent thinker, and to give himself the same pleasurable frisson he gets from shocking dinner-party attendees with his abortion and GMO repartee. But since these days he's much more at home with the "right-thinkers" on/of the left, I don't expect to become a Walrus reader any time soon--or ever.