Make a note of how this magic trick is done because sooner or later you're likely to see it again in another context.
Megan McArdle explains for us step by step what was - is - going on both when Barack Obama tells us not to get on our high horse, because Crusades, and when our seemingly righteous Southern Working Boy Rod Dreher "boldly" and "bravely" reminds us that, didja know?, ISIS once ran the South.
The trick? To paraphrase from her article, disguising "other-improvement" to seem to be like a brave, iconoclastic attempt at self-improvement, or as the sub-heading under the post title at Bloomberg describes it
It's easy to default to criticizing folks that you already don't like very much.
Here's how it works.
Let's say we have a tribe - call them Keith monkeys. And I want to make a pious statement about how monkeys should look at our history clearly, with open eyes, and not be so quick and smug to get up on our high horse and berate the Leopard Tribe, because the Monkey Tribe's past is full of sins itself. And so I proceed, painfully and self-effacingly, to give example after example of sins committed by Cody monkeys and Kevin monkeys - because, hey, they're not Keith monkeys, and besides, their intimate relations with their mothers are a bit suspect anyway, don't you know.
What happens is that, instead of either berating the Leopards for their predations or actually indicting the homie Keith monkeys for similar sins, I deal from the bottom of the deck and finger the Cody and Kevin monkeys instead, rival monkeys the Keith monkeys don't much like anyway and are more than happy to see beaten up in passing.
Instead of blaming ISIS, Obama blames, not any similar liberal, Northern Protestant sinners, but rather historical, traditional Catholic ones - monkeys his monkey tribe doesn't care anything about anyway and thus whom his monkey tribe won't mind being scapegoated.
Identically, Rod Dreher doesn't blame non-Southern, liberal, intellectually friendly populations for predations similar to ISIS - in fact he very rarely blames ISIS at all - but rather his surrounding-but-alienated-from Southern family and neighbors, the ones, like sister Ruthie, who just stuck with their bland, store-bought Moralistic Therapeutic Deism rather than fully embracing something more hipster exotic and intense in personal appearance as much as in theology.
Dreher can slap around his local South and the local Southern Protestantism he was born into because he isn't really "bravely talking about" potential self-improvement, he's actually bottom dealing an "other improvement" card instead, because he knows his readership, the liberal, pseudointellectual tribe he really belongs to, won't mind if he bashes a competing monkey tribe like his atavistic Southern neighbors, the ones, just coincidentally, that left him in such a "dark wood".
So: not really all that much about Islamic ISIS, who would cheerfully barbecue young Nora and Lucas Dreher to a crispy golden black if they could ever get their hands on them, but endless post after post after post about the pathetic local religion of dead sister Ruthie and her remaining, ignorant and unserious Southern neighbors.
Because everyone knows arrogant traditional Catholic Crusaders and mousy MTD Southerners alike need all the self-improvement an other can provide them with.