Yoram Hazony

Guilt by association at Rome’s National Conservatism Conference

This week’s National Conservatism Conference in Rome was an important meeting of national conservatives from all over the world. Sadly, it has been sullied by disgusting attacks from British liberals against the Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski for agreeing to take part.

Publications from BuzzFeed to the Guardian pounced on Kawczynski’s decision to appear alongside European leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini as proof of ‘anti-Semitic’, ‘racist’ and ‘homophobic’ beliefs, held not only by Daniel but the political party to which he belongs, the Conservative party.

The Tories subsequently proved themselves to be utterly witless in the face of the attack (a point to which I return to below). But my primary concern is that hysterical attempts like this to decree guilt by association and thereby shut down serious discussion should be called out for what they are and held to account.

This matters because the effect is to anathemise a serious conservative idea and the many academics, students and activists who came together in Rome to discuss it. If we routinely give in to witch hunts on Twitter, the legitimate public exchange of ideas on controversial subjects will become impossible.

Astonishingly, the attacks on Kawczynski neglected to name any of the conference organizers or sponsoring organizations. These organizers include Chris DeMuth, Ofir Haivry and myself from the Edmund Burke Foundation and John O’Sullivan of the Danube Institute and National Review. Why smear a conference without naming any of the organizers?

The answer is simple: because the organizers are prominent mainstream conservatives with well-known reputations. Naming them would undermine the premise that Kawczynski recklessly attended a gathering of racists, anti-Semites and homophobes.

The claim that a conference whose organizers include Jews was in any way anti-Semitic is absurd.

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