Is the neocons’ real motive despair?

A reader made some thoughtful observations about my 2003 commentary on Irving Kristol’s article “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” among which was an interesting theory of what drives today’s younger neocons. His comment is below, followed by a further comment by Spencer Warren.

You conclude your comments with the observation that neo-conservativism is a fraud and is all about power, not principle. I can’t disagree with that. However, my tentative thesis is that this new Jacobinism is a product of despair, and is akin to a bankrupt embarking on a wild spending spree as he descends into self-destruction. It’s much easier for Lowry, Goldberg, D’Souza, et al. to think about playing “founding fathers” in Iraq (which is just a game to them) than to think about the immense cultural and social degradation in America over the last 40 years.

I think the Jacobins have simply despaired of America as a concrete social reality. It simply no longer matters, except to the extent that public order is threatened, and even then, as with the case of immigration, it is neatly denied or avoided. This also explains why the Bush administration, even with control of both houses of Congress, has made no appreciable moves in the direction of American conservatism or traditionalism, and has in fact behaved as a typical liberal administration on domestic matters.

Spencer Warren replies:

Permit me to disagree with your correspondent’s tentative thesis about neocons’ despair.

I do not think Lowry, Goldberg, or any of the other young neocon hot shots believe that America has undergone “immense cultural and social degradation” over the past forty years. They have grown up in the muck and have little idea that much is wrong—in part because they show little appreciation of what that culture and society were before the sixties. If they did, they could not virtually ignore the mammoth immigration and the cultural changes that are ruining our country. This is also why culture criticism is so weak in neocon publications, which more often embrace our degraded popular culture. (Not long ago VFR called for the firing of National Review’s online editor for publishing a movie review which belonged in the Nation, not a conservative publication.) When I wrote about this problem in an article called “A Conservative Generation Gap” a couple of years ago, I was treated to a hysterical tirade on the website of the Weekly Standard by its then literary editor, J. Bottum, who is today—amazingly—editor of First Things.

Indeed, as noted several times in VFR, the Animal House conservative, Jonah Goldberg, is a poster boy for the degradation of our society and the precipitate decline in standards. Such a person could hardly be in despair about its decline, nor, for that matter, could the person who presumably hired him and publishes his infantile scribbling, Rich Lowry. The callow Lowry’s position as editor of National Review, and the product he puts out, are themselves indicators of cultural decline.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 23, 2005 12:29 PM | Send

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