He burst onto the Catholic Right a few years ago, seemingly out of nowhere. I've wondered about him since. This essay contains this concise summary.
During his short career as a writer and journalist, Ahmari has already undergone more political transformations than most intellectuals manage in a lifetime. Born in Tehran and raised in Utah after his parents divorced and his mother fled theocratic Iran for the US, Ahmari began his ideological journey by renouncing Shia Islam, devouring Nietzsche and the existentialists, and then embracing Trotskyism. This, he later wrote, “assuaged my own class anxieties,” but it did not provide spiritual satisfaction. Nor did “Lacanian psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, post-structuralism, queer theory or any of the other fashionable philosophies I tried on, each in turn.” So, for a while, Ahmari became a liberal Reaganite foreign policy hawk. As a passionate and eloquent supporter of those struggling for democratic freedoms in the Middle East and beyond, he co-edited (with Nasser Weddady) a stirring collection of essays entitled Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out for Freedom and Justice from North Africa to Iran.
The convulsions catalyzed by Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency in 2016 produced another unexpected shift. Ahmari had converted to Catholicism the same year (a move he documented in his 2019 religious memoir From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith) and quickly ditched his NeverTrumpism in favor of the GOP’s new populism. “To hell with liberal order,” he tweeted when he discovered that drag queens were allowed to read stories to children in America’s public libraries. “Sometimes reactionary politics are the only salutary path.” Today he is a Catholic social conservative preoccupied with the decline of religious piety, social cohesion, moral standards, and traditionalist codes of dress and conduct. He takes particular exception to the sexual deviance and “degeneracy” that he now believes is the logical outcome of Western liberalism, and has developed a corresponding sympathy for the authoritarian systems he once despised. “I’m at peace with a Chinese-led 21st century,” he declared in 2021. “Late-liberal America is too dumb and decadent to last as a superpower. Chinese civilization, especially if it recovers more of its Confucian roots, will possess a great deal of natural virtue.”