“I think it was naive,” Krohn now says of the speech. “It’s a 13-year-old kid saying stuff that he had heard for a long time.… I live in Georgia. We’re inundated with conservative talk in Georgia.… The speech was something that a 13-year-old does. You haven’t formed all your opinions. You’re really defeating yourself if you think you have all of your ideas in your head when you were 12 or 13. It’s impossible. You haven’t done enough.”
“I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done and started reading a lot of other stuff, and not just political stuff,” Krohn said. “I started getting into philosophy — Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers. And then into present philosophers — Saul Kripke, David Chalmers. It was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics that gave me a breather and made me realize that a lot of what I said was ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful. It wasn’t me thinking. It was just me saying things I had heard so long from people I thought were interesting and just came to believe for some reason, without really understanding it. I understood it enough to talk about it but not really enough to have a conversation about it.”
Jonathan Krohn’s original manifesto was embarrassing in a way that a 13 year old’s musings tend to be. More blame should go to those who took advantage of the freak factor here. It’s not very surprising that Krohn’s reading of philosophy pushed him to the cultural Left. The modern American social Right doesn’t do very well at elucidating a high-toned and intellectually appealing vision. Most people are not reading James Kalb, they’re reading James Dobson. This is fine when it comes to raw numbers, Dobson is more appealing and accessible to the average person than James Kalb. But for someone with raw intelligence, as Jonathan Krohn obviously possessed, Dobson will become weak tea. Truly intellectual conservatives tend to be libertarians, or often of a more sectarian bent (e.g., traditionalist Catholics appealing to traditionalist Catholics, or conservative Reformed Christians appealing to like-minded Protestants). I don’t believe that modern social liberalism offers a genuine vision for human flourishing. But to convince people like Jonathan Krohn as that move to more sophisticated lines of reasoning conservatives need to argue at the same level as liberal intellectuals.