In Defense of Buchanan and Rockwell (original Carney article)

I’ve been biting my tongue when it comes to Lawrence Auster’s war against the Buchananites and denizens of Lew Rockwell’s website. A good street fight now and again is a good thing, and Mr. Auster is well within his rights to challenge those whose political ideas he finds stupid, silly, obnoxious or evil. What’s more, Buchanan, Rockwell and their respective fellow-travelers are perfectly capable of defending themselves.

There is a certain point, however, where a political position starts to resemble a party platform. I’m afraid Mr. Auster’s interest in the Buchananites and Rockwell’s denizens has started to take on the appearance of a VFR platform. Because I didn’t sign onto View From the Right in order to wage a campaign against Buchanan or Rockwell, I find myself reluctantly needing to make clear where I think Mr. Auster has gone wrong.

Mr. Auster’s latest post refers readers to a website sporting an entry he refers to as “Lew Rockwell and the Annoying Paleocons.” This caught my attention because I wrote one of the few articles that Mr. Rockwell felt necessary identify as making a particularly paleoconservative argument (presumably to distinguish it from the more standard paleolibertarian articles that run on the site). In point of fact the Punch the Bag entry’s title does not refer to “paleocons”�it refers to “paleos” in general, that is both paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians.

This distinction may have gotten lost by innocent error. Regular readers of VFR will know that I’ve been known to misspell names and even common words, transpose references, and bungle links. But I suspect that it was something more. Although he acknowledges that Buchananites are not “hate mongers” (he reserves that attack for the Rockwell denizens), in his writing he blends the two together as perpetrators of an “intellectually debasing technique.”

Punch the Bag is an ugly website that traffics in mind-numbing and uneducated smears. Take this line: “These romanticists of the Old South will say silly things like ‘an estimated 65,000 African Americans assisted the Confederacy cause.’ Oh really? So 65,000 slaves �assisted� the southern rebels. Uh, ok.” Almost every clause of this statement is a lie. I couldn’t locate anything on Lew Rockwell’s website that claims that 65,000 slaves assisted the Confederacy. In fact, the one reference I did locate was an article approvingly quoting a professor who claimed “that there was no documentation about specific numbers of blacks fighting for the Confederacy.” What’s worse, Punch the Bag dismisses out of hand the claim that any African Americans assisted the Confederacy. It is, however, well documented that African Americans did assist the Confederate armies, and there are substantial reasons to believe that some even bore arms for the Confederacy. Mr. Auster’s resort to Punch the Bag while criticizing the “intellectually debasing technique” of his opponents is ironic, to say the least.

Beyond the details of this dispute, I simply do not see why we need to excommunicate anyone for their position on the issues involved in the Civil War. To begin with, the idea that Lincoln worked mischief on our Republic has a long and prestigious heritage on the American right. Are we to condemn posthumously Willmoore Kendall, Mel Bradford and Russell Kirk for challenging the predominate views of Lincoln, the role of equality in our founding or the Civil War? And it seems particularly unfair to blend complaints against those who “hate Lincoln” with complaints against Buchanan, who has often written approvingly about Lincoln.

And then we have Mr. Auster’s repeated insistence that there is something loathsome in Pat Buchanan’s reference to the “War Party.” Mr. Auster insists that Buchanan engages in “demagogic characterizations designed to create dislike and resentment of the named enemy” and that this “incantatory repetition” serves as an “all-purpose substitute for critical thought.” Unfortunately, Mr. Auster never bothers to confront the proposition that there is indeed active in our country’s politics a War Party, a more or less allied faction whose members can be counted on to support (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) almost any war under serious consideration. The phrase “War Party” is simply a short-hand for this faction, and is no more a “demagogic characterization” than the various other political labels which we commonly utilize in talk about politics. I find it difficult to understand why Mr. Auster is outraged by references to the War Party.

Now nearly six months after the event, I still cannot make sense of the cause of Mr. Auster’s break with the Buchananites over Buchanan referring to Sharon as “the raging bull of Ramallah.” It’s perfectly understandable to disagree with Buchanan over the proper U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, or over where the scales of justice balance out in the conflict between the two, but Mr. Auster goes further. He accuses Buchanan of portraying Sharon as an “animalistic aggressor” and a “freelance killer.” I realize that in our era of heightened sensitivity it is always risky to engage in even commonplace animal analogies. But isn’t Buchanan’s phrase merely a colorful play on the concept of a “bull in a china shop” rather than an attempt to dehumanize Sharon? And don’t we often use heads of state as synecdoches for their people? Mr. Auster has misread Buchanan. This is not ad hominem argument, it is engaging writing.

There is a lot about the world that Mr. Auster sees more clearly than almost anyone writing today. His writing is courageous and reading The Path to National Suicide is vital to understanding our current dilemma. But his powers of perception have gone astray when it comes to the Buchananites and the denizens of LewRockwell.com. If he is marching against Buchanan and Rockwell, he goes a marching without me.
Posted by at September 26, 2002 06:01 PM | Send
    

Comments

I have an honest, innocent question only tangentially related to Mr. Carney’s article. The debate over Iraq I think I understand fairly well, and I think good arguments are possible on both the pro side and the con without resorting to insult or demonization. Furthermore, I think it is indispensable to attempt an objective evaluation of what went right and what went wrong in the Civil War and other historical occurrences, and of how various attitudes affected events.

What I do not understand is: of what use is it to attempt to assign absolute moral blame or moral innocence to Lincoln or Jackson or Lee or anyone else involved in events a century and a half ago? It seems to me that such an activity creates darkness rather than shedding light. If Lincoln was a demon then anyone who now attempts to explain things in terms other than “Lincoln was a demon” is silenced as a demon-sympathizer. No additional understanding - and therefore informing of current circumstances — can even be considered. If Lincoln was a saint then no criticism has merit — everything bad that occurred was the fault of others. Again we stop up our ears and shut off our minds to the lessons of the past.

I am all for clear distinctions between good and evil in general, but this strange moral polarization in historical analysis is just a way of declaring that we can’t discuss or learn anything from history. I am hard pressed to think of a more antitraditional proposition.

Posted by: Matt on September 26, 2002 6:39 PM

The point of VFR is to advance analysis and discussion. I think it’s right to say we have no definite platform here even though topics wax and wane and one or another of us may pursue a line of argument for a while.

I’m not sure what was wrong with using the Punch the Bag link as Mr. Auster did. He didn’t vouch for the site, he just referred to a list available there. And if he wanted to lump Buchananites and Rockwellians together he would have done better to retain “paleo” rather than change it to “paleocon” so I see no grounds to think the change was a rhetorical maneuver.

I agree that abuse and excommunications are out of place at least as directed toward participants in a discussion one wants to continue. And I think we all agree that it would be a good thing soberly to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Northern and Southern causes and the virtues and vices of the participants.

Posted by: Jim Kalb on September 27, 2002 9:03 AM

I agree that Mr. Auster’s use of Punch the Bag wasn’t objectionable. I’m still not a fan of the website, but there’s no reason Mr. Auster shouldn’t have referred to it in his post. I’ve amended my post to reflect this. One of the nice things about writing in this medium is the ability to reflect, rethink and rewrite.

Posted by: John Carney on September 27, 2002 2:26 PM

I have answered Mr. Carney’s article in a separate article, “Reply to John Carney,”

http://www.counterrevolution.net/vfr/archives/000806.html

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 27, 2002 4:20 PM

Perhaps a future poll might ask visitors to VFR, concerning the War on Terrorism and our relations with Iraq, whether their views are closer to those of William Kristol or PJB. It would be interesting to compare or contrast the results with those of the earlier poll about the Israelis and the Palestinians.

WW

Posted by: Wm. Wleklinski on September 28, 2002 5:02 PM

I confess that I got it from The Corner on NRO, but it is appropriate to assessing the current threat:

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=574&ncid=721&e=1&u=/nm/20020928/wl_nm/turkey_uranium_dc

This a short car ride from Iraq.

Posted by: Matt on September 29, 2002 12:23 AM

Also, I’ll note again that with that package and a well equipped machine shop I could probably personally make a few nuclear bombs. I don’t think any assessment of war and peace in our era can ignore this sort of stuff and claim to be reasonable.

Posted by: Matt on September 29, 2002 12:26 AM

Regarding Mr. Carney’s criticism:

Punch the Bag is an ugly website that traffics in mind-numbing and uneducated smears. Take this line: “These romanticists of the Old South will say silly things like ‘an estimated 65,000 African Americans assisted the Confederacy cause.’ Oh really? So 65,000 slaves assisted the southern rebels. Uh, ok.” Almost every clause of this statement is a lie. I couldn’t locate anything on Lew Rockwell’s website that claims that 65,000 slaves assisted the Confederacy. In fact, the one reference I did locate was an article approvingly quoting a professor who claimed “that there was no documentation about specific numbers of blacks fighting for the Confederacy.” What’s worse, Punch the Bag dismisses out of hand the claim that any African Americans assisted the Confederacy. It is, however, well documented that African Americans did assist the Confederate armies, and there are substantial reasons to believe that some even bore arms for the Confederacy. Mr. Auster’s resort to Punch the Bag while criticizing the “intellectually debasing technique” of his opponents is ironic, to say the least.

__________________________________

London Telegraph (Lew Rockwell linked this article last May). My mistake for not linking to it in my column.

_____________________________________

Spirit of Dixie spurs a battle
(Filed: 25/05/2002)


Americans clash over the heritage of the Civil War, reports Oliver Poole in Atlanta


Every Saturday evening at Stone Mountain, a granite monolith outside Atlanta carved with giant sculptures of the South’s most cherished Civil War heroes, the spirit of old Dixie still beats strong.

Hundreds gather for a spectacular laser show celebrating the region’s history and to sing old war songs, as the Stars and Bars and Confederacy Battle Flag flutter on flagpoles.

The last shot of the Civil War may have been fired almost 150 years ago but anyone visiting the South soon learns that “Yankee” is still a term of abuse for those from the North.

A new battle is now raging across the South over the ideological heritage of the Civil War. It pits those who claim it is their right to feel pride in their forebears’ endeavours against those who do not want to celebrate a fight to preserve slavery.

It is a war with many fronts. Mississippi recently voted to defeat a measure to change the state’s flag as it included a miniature version of the Confederate battle flag.

In New Orleans the owners of the Confederate Museum, which owns the nation’s second largest collection of Civil War artefacts, had to launch a legal battle to prevent its closure after local black groups protested that its symbols were racist.

In Franklin, Tennessee, there was outrage when a Pizza Hut was built on the site where General Patrick Clebourne, one of the South’s ablest generals, fell storming Union artillery.

Local Civil War remembrance bodies believe “insults” such as this have helped spur a boost in membership.

Whatever the reason the result has been that those who see themselves as the modern heirs of the men who donned grey uniforms are launching their own campaigns. Enthusiasts are also visiting schools and community centres to compete with what is seen as Union propaganda.

In North Carolina one pamphlet was issued stating it is a “popular myth that the war was fought to free slaves” and “an estimated 65,000 African Americans assisted the Confederacy cause”.

It is here - on these historical assertions - that concern over what this longing to protect past memories is growing. Though few historians have difficulty with attempts to protect the past, many do oppose what they see as attempts to rewrite history.

William Davis, director of programmes at the Virginia Centre for Civil War Studies, said that although some southerners brought along their servants there was no evidence that more than a handful of blacks fought.

“[People] are clinging to the part of the history that never was,” he said. “You see it’s bad enough to be the only Americans to have lost a war; it’s worse if you lost it for a bad cause.”

It is a view rarely heard from Georgians at Stone Mountain. There “The Cause” is still talked about in semi-mystical terms.


Posted by: punchthebag on October 5, 2002 9:38 AM
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