VFR’s editor attacked as “Evil-Con”
For my recent article, “What is European America,” I have been charmingly described as an “Evil-Con”—along with other, less inventive epithets—at The Ben Files, the website of Ben Domenech. I’ve replied to the attack. Whether or not these particular critics are worthy of a thoughtful answer, they reflect the general attitudes of liberal society that any serious and principled traditionalism is going to encounter. Below are the two comments I posted at that thread (and here is a follow-up thread where Domenech ups the attacks from “Evilcons” to “Faster, EvilCons! Kill! Kill!”):
Since my article, “What is European America,” makes the racial dimension of our civilizational crisis explicit, I guess I have to expect the kind of names being thrown at me here. It’s a mark of how far we’ve declined as a society that a view that would have been endorsed as the common sense understanding of most Americans and all major American political leaders up to the mid 20th century—that America is a creation of the white race, and that the white race represents something uniquely valuable in history as well as being our own race to which we ought naturally to have some attachment—is now seen as utterly repugnant, inconceivably disgusting. Think of the reversal of values that has been worked by modern liberalism and conservatism that has brought us to this point. Today, a person who endorses race and immigration policies that are leading to the marginalization and extinction of the white race—and with the white race, its entire culture—is a good person. But a person who says that the white race and its civilization ought to be defended from marginalization and extinction, is an evil person. With the charge of evil waiting for them if they speak up, no wonder Americans are afraid to debate immigration publicly, even though a majority of them would like the present third-world immigration drastically reduced.Here is a follow-up comment by me in that same thread, where I responded to another critic and explained my views further.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 11, 2003 08:15 PM | Send
It’s really amazing, isn’t it? Mr. Auster is scathingly attacked by “conservatives.” What kind of “rights” do these “conservatives” think they will have in the future? Can’t they stand outside themselves and see what is happening?Posted by: David on August 11, 2003 10:20 PM
David has pointed out yet another similarity between “conservatives” and liberals: that the conservatives, like the liberals, are devoted to ideals that must lead to the destruction of the very society and the very kind of people—i.e. themselves—who are uniquely desirous and capable of practicing those ideals. The meaning of liberalism and of its variant, conservatism, has become clear: it is the pursuit of non-existence. And one of the chief features of this quest for nothingness is that anyone who seriously tries to dissuade the liberals and conservatives from their suicidal course is considered evil.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 11, 2003 10:54 PM
Here is some food (I hope) for thought that I wrote over at the Website Mr. Auster referred to:
“I don’t see why Mr. Cella abandons the analogy of what liberalism is doing to racial differences, national difference, and cultural differences to what liberalism is doing to sexual orientation. National allegiance, cultural allegiance, and sexual allegiance can all be learned; race cannot. What makes one more important than the other, from the point of view of liberalism or of whatever point of view is being defended with this Website?”Posted by: P Murgos on August 12, 2003 12:04 AM
I am not sure that we need on the high falutin’ epistemological and ontological speculation to explain this particular case (i.e. the young Ben). If you take a look at his bio (on the website) you see he is is a bit of a swinger— working for Human Events, then on some specially appointed panel for Pres. Clinton, then receiving some award from the Hispanic Journalists Association , etc. For him and his ilk (J Goldberg comes to mind) “conservatism” is a a brand targeted at a niche market. The world is full of ‘liberal’ pudits, so these jokers claim the title conservative.
Marketing, sheer marketing.Posted by: Mitchell on August 12, 2003 3:04 PM
That’s an interesting and probably accurate point by Mitchell. But the analysis of various left-leaning “conservatives” from the point of view of their socio-economic background or self-interested career motives can only take us so far. The world view Domenech reflects is commonly held throughout our society. Its name is liberalism. It is liberalism itself that we have to refute and resist, whatever the biographies and motives of the actual persons who subscribe to it.
Mitchell’s argument, by the way, is analogous to the familiar conservative critique of the elites. The idea is that there is this group of self-interested people who advance a certain politics because it advantages them. While this idea is certainly true, the problem is that it assumes that the society is a whole is “conservative,” and that it’s only the elites that are pushing society in a liberal direction. So conservatives end up ranting endlessly against the “liberal elites,” while failing to oppose the general liberal belief system to which everyone in America, elites and grass-roots alike, subscribes. And so liberalism, unresisted in its essentials, keeps advancing.
I’m not saying that this is Mitchell’s view, I’m making a general observation about a certain type of argument that has been very common among conservatives and that partially explains their failure to resist the ongoing march of liberalism.
Mr. Auster writes: “So conservatives end up ranting endlessly against the ‘liberal elites,’ while failing to oppose the general liberal belief system to which everyone in America, elites and grass-roots alike, subscribes. And so liberalism, unresisted in its essentials, keeps advancing.”
So far so good. Now the next question is: how did “everyone in America, elites and grass-roots alike,” come to subscribe to “the general liberal belief system”? In 1960 that wasn’t the case; for those readers who are too young to remember, there are lots of published analyses that testify to the change.
One excellent source is David Gelernter’s brief book Drawing Life, which he wrote after surviving permanent injuries inflicted by the Unabomber. Gelernter’s meditation on the reasons why Americans have stopped calling evil by its name, and substituting nonjudgmentalism, is worth a careful reading. He traces the change to the enormous expansion of the intelligentsia after World War II and its taking over the social-leadership role hitherto played by the old social and business elites. The intelligentsia soon consolidated its rule, he contends, by founding a new religion: “civil rights,” the basic value of which is “tolerance,” soon applied to other topics as well. That new religion replaced the traditional ones, which the intelligentsia couldn’t, of course, believe in. I don’t agree with all of Gelernter’s views, but I do think that this combination of ideas, and the tracing of the change to shortly after WWII, provides a good entrée into the problem.Posted by: frieda on August 12, 2003 4:13 PM
I believe Gelernter’s thesis is basically correct. But what does it add to our understanding of liberalism, and how does it help us combat liberalism now? All societies—dictatorships as well as democracies—are led by elites of some kind or other. By definition, any major change in the beliefs of a society is going to be sparked by some elite. As Toynbee said, societies are led by creative minorities who have some creative vision (or some false idea), and then, through a process of mimesis or imitation, the rest of the society follows along. But for that idea to become dominant, it has to be _accepted_, first by the elites and then by the followers. If that idea is to be resisted, it must be resisted, and then perhaps a different elite, opposing the older elite and its idea, will arise and attract support. Also, as Toynbee said, a given order of society breaks down when mimesis breaks down, in other words, when the grass roots stop following the elite.
The upshot is that I don’t see how complaining about the liberal elites per se accomplishes anything useful. They possess the power that they possess because the rest of the society, through mimesis, follows them. If the rest of the society stops sharing the vision of the elites, the elites will lose their power. That’s what politics is about. The current liberal elites have a vision of the good, and most people agree with it more or less, or at least they don’t oppose it enough to topple it. If other people want to oppose the existing elite more effectively, they need to generate their own vision and attract people to a mimesis of it. That’s why I’m always saying that we must oppose liberalism on principle, that we must stand on ground separate from that of liberalism. Only from such a position can we begin to build an alternative vision that could replace liberalism.
The constant complaints about the liberal elites are analogous to the Buchananites during the war debate muttering dark imprecations about the neocons. The neocons won the war debate because they had much better arguments, and those arguments won the support of the country. The Buchananites didn’t want to deal with the fact that a majority of the country supported the war, and so they had to pretend and still pretend that some sneaky, illegitimate crew is running America from behind a curtain. In the same way, if we keep saying that the problem is the liberal elites, we fail to see that the liberal elites have the power they have because they’ve won the support of the country. If we want to change that, we have to win people to our own vision, not just keep blaming the liberal elites.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 12, 2003 4:51 PM
Are we even ruled by an intelligentsia? I think the managerial class metaphor is probably more apt. People in positions of power today are there because of a competence in dealing with others in a certain way. I think that the principle of creative vision may not be as important in our political system as it has been in others. Namely, the communist and fascist systems.
To me, liberalism appears to be a very populist morality, with its ideological forms amongst the intellectuals (Marxism, Feminism, and what not) being consequences of a deeper current felt by nearly everyone. Modern economic forces which emphasize meritocracy in wealth distribution are one generating force for this current. Another is the political system and the way in which it drives discourse. The media also acts as a sort of dynamo that grinds up certain types of ideas and energizes others, though the internet is changing that in unpredictable ways. And finally, our centralized universal schooling system is probably the most important force. Just look at who is teaching the children, and you’ll find an explanation for the universality of certain ideas.
If liberalism is a cultural force rather than an ideology, then the people who do not share it are ones who are outside of the mainstream current that is pushing everyone else along. A number of people are outside of this current because of psychology, which explains a number of the pathologies on the right. Others are moved by other cultural forces which are weaker today than they were in the past, or run counter to prevailing streams, which means that fewer people are propelled along.Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 12, 2003 5:43 PM
In my previous comment, I didn’t mean to give the impression that the leadership and direction of a society is dependent solely on ideas. Material factors obviously play a role. For example, the development of modern societies with enormous organizational and technical complexity will naturally lead society in the direction of managerialism, and so people with those abilities and orientations will tend to become the elites. Or a society with a lot of racial diversity will tend in the direction of some kind of multiculturalism and group rights. Yet these sorts of factors, as important as they are, are not determinive. The direction of a society is finally determined by the spiritual choices of its people and leaders.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 12, 2003 6:57 PM
I am unsure spiritual choice is the dominant cause of a direction change in a society. There might be examples to support this. But there also are examples that contradict this. Japan was not a democracy until America defeated its undemocratic system and instituted a democratic one. Germany in 1933-1945 is a similar example. I am not sure Henry VIII gave his subjects a choice in their religion. Lenin, Stalin, and Huey Long did not give any choice. The U.S. Supreme Court surely has no intention of giving any choice. In summary, the idea is that nonspiritual forces often play decisive roles in the direction of a society.
This of course is not attempt to be contentious. Hopefully, others besides Mr. Auster will share the burden of a response.Posted by: P Murgos on August 12, 2003 9:54 PM
The examples Mr. Murgos gives of societal change are mainly of military conquest and despotism. I was thinking more along the lines of the organic development of a society from within. However, I don’t have any theory of society I’m trying to present here.
As for the federal judiciary, they have stepped far outside their bounds, with no real protest from the proper authorities (i.e. the president and the Congress). Sometimes a society can lose its freedom to illegitimate elites. But the society only really loses its freedom if it fails to resist those elites.
As for the slow pace of the discussion, it is August, and I think many people are away. :-)Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 12, 2003 10:12 PM
[Warning: this is a digression from the main string.]
The more I read about skulduggery surrounding the arguments of the administration leading up to the war in Iraq, the less convinced I am of the dubiousness of the Buchananites charges about a neocon cabal. I don’t dispute Mr. Auster’s claim that the neocons won the argument, or that the country supported their view; I have begun to wonder whether the neocon victory was fair, and their arguments honorable.
See the link below for a good example of what leads me to this ambivalence. Also note that I do not underestimate the extent to which bureaucratic grudges and infighting can exacerbate these things — which makes sorting them out all the more tedious.
http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=19604Posted by: Paul Cella on August 13, 2003 12:29 AM
I wasn’t complaining about elites per se, I was just trying to point out that people like Domenech don’t really deserve much thought or effort, at least at the philosophical level.
However, I do believe that liberals — or what are essentially liberals — being able to claim the title ‘conservative’ is dangerous. To use a tool from the deconstructionists toolbox, liberalism that disguises itself as conservatism becomes hegemonic.
How to fight against the hegemony? Well, again it might be necessary to resort to tools which are associated with ‘leftists’, deconstruction. I will give two examples.
NRO and NR have featured the work of Raul Damas and Robert George — the later esp. during the Trent Lott business. These guys are supposedly the new, hip and inclusive conservatives. Yet it you look at their business, you find that far from being uninterested parties on the side of the angels in fighting against racist troglodyte paelo’s, you find they have quite a stake in driving ‘inclusive’ conservatism/republicanism. George (Afro-American) runs some sort of consultancy helping conservatives/republicans ‘outreach’ to the Black community. I.e. he makes his bread exploiting his race, group solidarity among blacks, etc. His positions are more palitable than Al Sharptons, but the concept at root is the same — Black solidarity and the need to get someone who ‘looks like them’ to promote ‘conservative’ ideas.
Damas is basically the same. He specializes in polling ‘Latinos’. He, naturally, supports Bush’s outreach efforts. He supports republicans advertizing in Spanish. His position on crucial questions in this regard is no different from La Raza. And he make (a probably decent) living doing this, again exploiting ethnic solidarity.
(Andrew Sullivan could be a third example, substituting homosexual solidarity for ethnic)
Expose the contradiction between these guys’ positions on ‘identity politics’ and the supposedly ‘identity politics’ free National Review and you begin to make headway in unraveling these ‘conservatives’ arguments.Posted by: Mitchell Young on August 13, 2003 9:48 AM
That’s interesting information from Mitchell Young. George (who also publishes frequently in the New York Post) never struck me as other than a mediocrity, and I’m not surprised by the information and what it reveals about mainstream conservatives.
Just to clarify, I was not trying to dismiss the practical importance of knowing who our adversaries are—their background, their motivations, their funding, and so on. That’s a necessary part of politics. But this discussion began with Mr. Young’s apparent attempt to dismiss _any_ discussion of our opponents’ ideas. And that’s what I disagreed with. All people act on a combination of motives, of self-interest combined with general beliefs about the good. We could expose the self-interested motives of various liberals from now until doomsday and it would accomplish nothing by way of turning back liberalism—unless it was combined with a principled resistance to liberalism itself.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 13, 2003 10:10 AM
Well, I do believe that ideas have consequences. But there are very few of these establishment conservatives that actually can make argue a deep and persuasive case. Maybe Ponuru, some of the Cato guys, but c’mon — Rich Lowry? George? Even J. Goldberg is pretty shallow.
Tangentially, I think that many of these mainstream conservatives know they are being outmatched. Lately the line of argument seem to be ‘well, paleos have interesting points, but they are irrelevant today.’ That’s how Eli Lehrer critiqued (or rather didn’t critique) Zmirak’s arguement (at vdare.com ) and I’ve noticed the same sort of non-reasoning from John Derbyshire (to paraphrase — probably the founders thought of the US as an ethnostate, but too bad, things just didn’t turn out that way, no going back now).Posted by: Mitchell Young on August 13, 2003 2:26 PM
It would seem that, just as being a liar is a condition of being a leftist, refusing to think in terms of first principles is a condition of being an establishment conservative. The reliance on mere process and polling in discussions of fundamental issues that one sees at NR, especially under the Lowry dispensation, is an example. Still, whatever their limitations, the NR people are rational and sane, and also, I think, largely dependable on questions of fact, and those things are not nothing, especially given the wild irrationality and bigotry that characterize so much of the left and right sides of the political spectrum today.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 13, 2003 2:49 PM
Perhaps the repentance from liberalism that others speak of can be done in many helpful ways. It would be helpful if most traditionalists repented of publications such as National Review and NRO and began their own media. Certainly learned men such as Mr. Auster and Mr. Kalb are able and willing to delve into such publications, identify the slant, and tell the truth they find. In this way, traditionalists are using LIBERAL sweat to traditionalists’ advantage instead of the other way around.
But for the most part, the liberal media is using traditionalist sweat to the advantage of liberals. Liberals do this by, for example, endlessly picturing Republicrats calling for spending more money on “underprivileged” (instead of under disciplined) schools suffering either because of “the history of racism in America” (instead of the history of black racism in America) or because of lack of “compassion” (instead of spoiling the students rotten).
Brainwashing by Republicrat media is not limited to telling lies but includes, for example, telling the truth or partial truth about selected events, in selected ways, and at selected times. The dominant media has brainwashed with ineffective opposition for over fifty years, about one-fourth the duration of America.
For most people, viewing liberal news publications (which most news publications are) confuses and demoralizes more than informs. For example, most people have never heard that multiculturalism means culture is meaningless. So most people do not understand what they are reading when they read a publication that uses the word without this explanation. Traditionalists, as the sponsors here point out, need a measuring system, a culture they can count on to make sense of what they see and hear.
More recently, people are lamed by an ever-changing slant spoken by an ever-changing racial adherent, religious adherent, political adherent, sexual adherent, or money worshiper.