Those of us who have helped to found conservative campus journals envy The American Spectator. Born in 1967 into modest circumstances—as upstart samizdat published out of a farmhouse by four Indiana University students—it has gone on to achieve nationwide distribution, a distinguished list of subscribers, and a 500-page anniversary collection of its work from a major publisher (Harper & Row). The success is well-deserved—although it has long since graduated from college, the Spectator has for 20 years remained one of the liveliest journals around.
In the introduction to this book, editor R. Emmett Tyrrell says that his magazine's purpose is to defend American Orthodoxy. But the Spectator is not primarily a defensive player; it shines most when on offense. And it can be very offensive to those of progressive sensibilities. Harper & Row is living dangerously in reprinting essays like Taki's "Ugly Women":
Take Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine. That harshness, those granite glares, the shrillness of their rhetoric—it makes one want to shriek at their ugliness.
The Spectator's charm lies in its audacity. As Joseph Sobran has pointed out, people celebrated for their "irreverence"—Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, cast members on Norman Lear sitcoms—actually adhere to the code of liberal...