Noah Rothman: The Progressive War on Fun

A conservative argues today's left is channeling Puritan theocrats when they try to prevent us from enjoying ourselves. Is he correct?


"That's not funny!" is the cri de guerre of contemporary progressives, argues Noah Rothman in The Rise of the New Puritans. "No longer is the American left comfortable with hedonistic pursuits," writes the Commentary associate editor. "To the New Puritan, all society's engines must be harnessed to restore a lost paradise….Enchanting diversions and happy frivolities are distractions to be avoided or even forbidden."

In a deeply researched and wittily written book, Rothman explores the totalizing philosophy of the founders of Plymouth Plantation and Massachusetts Bay Colony and argues a similarly sour and single-minded utopianism undergirds contemporary left-wing attacks on standup comedy, ethnic food appropriation, professional sports, and other culture-war skirmishes.

Rothman is smart and funny and, just as he did in his previous book, Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America, argues in exceptionally good faith. This is a deep and wide-ranging conversation and there's no question that Rothman is definitely onto something. But why then, I ask him, are conservatives such drags, too?

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