Being a public intellectual in America in the age of social media has always presented a specific problem for Conservatives: Gives the reader's expectation of engagement, how does one deal with criticism?
If you are David Brooks or David Frum, you solve the problem by having comment sections that are routinely filled up with responses from tens or dozens or hundreds of readers taking you to task for your lies or elisions or gross exaggerations...
...which you then completely ignore. You go right on writing about your imaginary alternate universes undisturbed by the noise on the unwashed masses whistling around your digital lintels.
If you are Andrew Sullivan you solve the problem by simply eliminating the comment section -- one of the most fundamental features of a "blog" -- altogether. No fuss, no muss, no irritating driftglass-types posting rude questions and meany remarks about the silly shit you say! Instead Mr. Sullivan read emails from readers and, if they are larded up with the very best butter, he occasionally respond to them.
Like, for example, this one:
Part of the thing I've always respected about your perspective is that you have always seemed very much in touch with the sense and direction of America. I think your deep love of this country, coupled with your careful study of it and your outsider viewpoint, have given you a keen sense of the overall mood of America that is quite unique.
Which is true.
Except for the bit about never being able to get it through his thick head that "Republicans" are not "Tories".
And the bit about never being able to get it through his thick head that "American Liberals" are not "Bolsheviks".
And the bit about being constantly surprised that the American Conservative movement is full of crazies and bigots.
And the bit about being in constant denial that the American Conservative movement has been full of crazies and bigots since before Mr. Sullivan was in long pants.
And the bit about not being able to understand that, in America, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and all of that were really big fucking deals, and that their grotesque legacies deeply deform our politics and culture to this very day.
And the bit about being completely blind to the fact that a huge percentage of the American Conservative movement is made of up intolerant, anti-science Fundamentalists.
And the bit about being in constant denial that the American Conservative movement has been full of intolerant, anti-science Fundamentalists since before Mr. Sullivan was in long pants.
But yeah, except for these little anomalies, Mr. Sullivan's understanding of my country's "mood" and "direction" has always been "keen".
Maybe even super-keen!