Conservative Swede goes over the boards

(Note: Links to subsequent posts about Conservative Swede’s attacks on me are listed at the bottom of this entry.)

Conservative Swede, whom I like and respect, has gone haywire. First, because of a single phrase Jim Kalb wrote in 2004, “I consider Islam better than contemporary advanced liberalism,” CS has declared, not merely that Kalb is mistaken, but that traditional conservatism as such, and thus by implication all my work, is mistaken. Second, because my disagreement with Kalb’s statement lacked the passion that CS demanded of me, CS has declared that I am in thrall to Jim Kalb, whom CS characterizes as a pro-Islam “fifth columnist.” Remarkably, CS has not even taken cognizance of my comment, posted at VFR and at CS’s website, in which I clearly laid out the differences between my position, Kalb’s position, and CS’s position on Islam. CS has also posted private e-mail exchanges between him and me that were obviously not intended for public posting.

Conservative Swede is a brilliant fellow, an original thinker, and a friend of this website. But he has lost a sense of perspective on this matter and is acting in a destructive way. That he would suddenly shift from warm and even extravagant admiration for my work (he told me just a week ago that I am one of only two writers he knows of, the other being Winston Churchill, who are sound on all key points) to denouncing me as a groupie of a “fifth columnist” is disconcerting to say the least. I hope he recovers his sense of proportion, as well as his amiability.

However, it’s a pattern with which I am now unhappily familiar. Someone discovers this site, develops a friendly correspondence with me, then makes too big a deal of me and overpraises me, and then, by some psychological reaction against the previous excessive praise, suddenly turns on me. I’m getting a little exhausted and burned out with this repeated experience by now, but I don’t know how to avoid it, other than not having correspondence with people.

- end of initial entry -

James W. writes:

Sorry to see the issue with Swede. I wrote his blog on this subject.

You are correct and truthful on every point about approach and attitude. This is not a sprint.

I’ve often thought how difficult it must be to take so many egos into account, and then waiting for the next egg to break. Regrettably, I expect it is not our passion for truth, but ego that is the first to crack.

I haven’t seen you write so poignantly before. I like that. Perhaps it is not all a loss then, as there is a caution and a lesson here well laid out.

LA replies:

Thank you.

I think it’s at least partly an Oedipal phenomenon. Certain people, namely younger men, look up to me intellectually and admire me, sometimes excessively, which puts their own ego in an uncertain position, and they need to re-assert their independence. And so the moment I say something that displeases them, they erupt with, not just normal disagrement, but personal attack, insult, statements that I’m crazy, accusations that I’m arguing dishonestly, even, on one occasion, accusations that I’m crushing them and putting them down. The father figure—which they themselves created, not me—has to be killed.

I do not have a metal plated ego, and having this kind of thing happen to oneself is not fun. But I suppose it comes with the territory. The kind of things I write result in this kind of response. I think it has to do with the fact that I deal in a very direct way with cutting edge issues, which people are simultaneously drawn to and repelled by.

BE writes:

Your frustration and disappointment with Conservative Swede are understandable. However, I hope you don’t give up correspondence with the people who write to you. I believe that your willingness to engage in e-mail exchanges, which are often unposted at VFR, is beneficial to both you and your interlocutors. I know that I have benefited enormously from your willingness to communicate with me. You have helped me see the shortcomings of my approaches, and led me towards a better understanding of traditionalist principles. Both your blog and your e-mail to me have helped me shed my liberalism, and I believe you would be doing both yourself and your readers a disfavor by curtailing your correspondence.

You have no control over others’ reactions to you, be they third-rate, dishonest poseurs like Undercover “Black” Man or top-of-the-line thinkers like Conservative Swede. Who knows what makes them crack? Whatever it is, it is not your fault or responsibility. However, I believe you’re right in thinking that it is due to the issues you deal with and how you approach them. Your intellectual rigor and honesty are of the highest caliber—so rare in today’s world of mediocrity.

So please keep up the good fight, knowing that for every Conservative Swede there are a hundred others who admire—and agree with—your work

LA replies:

Thank you very much. Rest assured, I have no intention of ceasing to correspond with people. As I said, given the cutting edge nature of the issues I deal with, which touch on explosive psychological forces in people, it is to be predicted that people will have strong reactions to me both positive and negative, and I just need to see that as something that comes with the territory and try not to take it personally.

LA writes:

Tuesday night, I had an e-mail exchange with Conservative Swede in which I kept pointing out how wrong and inappropriate was the language of personal attack he was using about me at his website. I said he should retract that language and just deal with the substance of the issue. He kept insisting that there was nothing wrong in what he was doing, that this was something that came out of himself that he needed to express, and that I was overreacting. Then he used further insulting language, at which point I ended our correspondence and told him I would have nothing further to say to him.

Jeff in England suggests that CS in suddenly attacking me after our long friendship is playing the role of the “younger alpha male” trying to displace me. I thought there might be something to that, but it didn’t really click with me. But then the following explanation came to me.

Conservative Swede doesn’t believe in God. He believes that power is the ultimate reality. This became evident a few weeks ago when he posted his theory of the origin of religion. Going back to the most primitive times, to small hunter gatherer groups, his idea is that power-holders require myths of gods to justify their power, and that the more complex society becomes, the more complex become the gods that are needed to justify the power-holders’ power. It was an interesting theory, but terribly defective in my view. To reduce all religion, all belief in the divine, to a myth to enable a power-class to maintain power! Only a person with no experience of the transcendent could have thought of such a reductive theory.

Similarly, there is Conservative Swede’s sexual theory of Islam: Islam as a perverse sex-and-power cult, with no notion of the belief in the divine that is at the heart of it.

So he had had these ideas, and he had said to me from time to time that he had ideas that I would seriously disapprove of. I realize now that he was hinting that the time would come when there would be a parting of the ways between us. And in fact I did write to him criticizing his theory of religion, but it didn’t lead to any big argument or anything.

In any case, I think his lack of belief in God explains what has happened. On one hand, CS likes my work because it’s pro Western, anti-liberal, anti-conservative, and anti-Islam. On the other hand he’s had an unspoken discomfort with my work because it’s based in Christianity and he doesn’t believe in God. Conflict was avoided by the assumption that Christianity is on the side of Europe and against Islam. Previously, if my memory serves, CS had described himself as a “cultural Christian,” a person who while not believing in God believes in the Christian culture of Europe. Again the implication is that this support for Christianity is based on the belief that Christianity is supporting Europe. But the fact remained (as we can infer based on his radically reductive theory of religion) that CS really does not believe in God at all and only went along with Christianity-based traditionalism on the assumption that Christianity is on the side of Europe. So, when he saw the traditionalist thinker Jim Kalb say that he preferred Islam to modern liberalism, because Islam would protect Christianity while modern liberalism would suppress it, and when he saw me, also a traditionalist, fail to attack Kalb on this point without (as CS saw it) sufficient fierceness (though my disagreement with Kalb was clear), well, that was it! Falsely conflating Kalb and me as the representatives of a single “traditionalism,” CS “saw” in a flash that Christianity and traditionalism are not good, because (as he now imagines) they posit a transcendence that will lead Christians to choose Islam over Europe. This opened the door for Conservative Swede to break decisively with me, and to start asserting his own theories, whatever they are, some Nietzschean brew probably.

Ken Hechtman writes from Canada:

This is what ideologues are like. It’s one of the reasons I’m not one. Ideologues aren’t interested in people as such. They’re not interested in the process of building up (or losing) trust and respect for a person based on the whole of his conduct and character over a period of years. They care about the Big Idea. People who seem to serve and embody the Big Idea are worshipped with the same intensity as the Idea itself, at first anyway. Potential converts to the Idea have potential value, they’re not necessarily objects of hostility. But anyone who willfully breaks with the Idea, no matter how trivially, becomes the enemy.

David Horowitz has a whole bit about this in Destructive Generation. His communist father dies and nobody at the funeral has anything to say about him as a relative, friend or member of his community—only about him as a vector for the communist idea. An old friend of David’s picks a fight with him over a political difference. There’s no thought in her mind that maybe it can wait a day because this day ought to be about a friend’s pain and loss.

In a way, this is the micro-scale version of your observations on Propositional Nation loyalty vs. Specific Concrete Nation and People loyalty.

LA replies:

That’s an interesting way of explaining his behavior. I wouldn’t have thought of ConSwede in those terms. I see him not as an ideologue but as an intellectual seeker.

* * *

Here are subsquent entries on Conservative Swede’s increasingly strange course of behavior, which began with his anger at me over what he saw as my unsufficiently strong position against Islam, then escalated into a rejection of Western conservatives and even Western civilization itself.

More back and forth with Conservative Swede

Conservative Swede on my “night-and-day” contradictions

A reader’s thoughts on Conservative Swede

Conservative Swede bids us all an unfond farewell

Savage on Swede

Conservative Swede, the West, and, uh, me

Conservative Swede’s view of me [quoting some of his attacks on me in July 2008]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 26, 2007 06:54 PM | Send

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