Updated on January 31, 2020 at 9:03 p.m. ET
Jonah Goldberg, the conservative author and longtime fixture at National Review, used to have a go-to metaphor he’d deploy whenever he found himself defending one of his noisier compatriots in the right-wing media.
“I had this whole spiel about how the conservative movement is like a symphony,” he told me in a recent interview. “You need the fine woodwinds like Yuval Levin or Irving Kristol, but you also need that guy with the big gong who just smashes out the notes.” Sure, the talk-radio ranters were shouty and crass, he would reason, but they had their part to play.
These days, Goldberg has abandoned such rationalizations. “We’re holding a lot of symphonies where it’s basically all gong,” he said. “I didn’t think the gong would swamp the woodwinds quite the way it did.” Looking back, he admits even he was part of the problem: “I could be quite loud.”
Now, Goldberg said, he’s ready to “atone.” Last year, he left his perch at National Review and joined a handful of prominent conservative writers to launch The Dispatch, a new media venture with a mission that’s as straightforward as it is radical: producing serious, factually grounded journalism for a conservative audience. In interviews, editors told me they aim to fill a growing void on the right’s media landscape, which they described as oversaturated with hot takes and starved of reporting, obsessed with lib-ownership and uninterested in facts. On any given day, those who get their news from the loudest voices on the right—Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart News—are bombarded with partisan propaganda, conspiracy theories, and cynical rage-bait.