Why I fight (other conservatives)

Dennis Mangan has closed the “Auster vs. Sailer” discussion at his blog (which had gone beyond the Sailer “white status” issue with which it began) with a very generous, yet not uncritical, comment about me to which he invited me to reply, and I have done so.

Below is Wade Coriell’s excellent comment in that same thread which explains why I challenge other conservatives, and why these challenges provoke such a hostile response:

At 11/17/2008 12:07:00 PM, Wade Coriell said…

Mr. Auster is often accused by others on the Right of quibbling too extensively, and thus destructively, with his purported ideological allies. He has repeatedly addressed this criticism by explaining his view that modern conservatives, despite their various “conservative” positions on the issues, are not truly conservatives because of their acceptance of the ultimately destructive liberal principle of non-discrimination. If Mr. Auster is right (as I believe him to be) that absent a clear and forceful rejection of this principle, conservative beliefs on the checklist of issues do not matter, because the liberal, non-dscriminatory principle will swamp all, then he is also right to attack the very thing in the modern conservative mind that completely disarms the modern conservative opposition to liberalism.

In other words, the tactical assaults on Mr. Auster as a “traitor to his own side” miss the boat. His critics must engage him on the issue that he is actually discussing—the ultimate uselessness at any level, tactical or otherwise, of a so-called “conservative” opposition that accepts and helps to advance the underlying liberal principle of non-discrimination. Is Mr. Auster wrong that (1) almost all modern conservatives accept the non-discriminatory principle and (2) liberalism cannot be halted, much less defeated, until our society clearly rejects that principle? I have seen nothing from his critics that takes on either point.

On the issue of status and “coolness” as a motivation for various liberal beliefs, that too misses the point. Undoubtedly there are millions of liberals who buy into liberalism largely for such thoughtless, herd-like reasons. But liberal dominance of our society and all its institutions is what creates a context for liberal beliefs to enjoy the pull of status. So the relevant question is how society got to that point. In answering that question, we must accept the sincerity of liberal ideas and deal with them as such, as Mr. Auster recommends. Blithely dismissing a bunch of college kids’ liberalism as status-driven is one thing, but blithely dismissing our society’s dominant liberal beliefs (that created the context for college kids to view liberalism as a status symbol) as such is quite another, and is quite beside the point.

- end of initial entry -

Jeff in England writes:

Have been reading recent criticisms of you a la Sailer etc. You stick to the issues and your criticism of people is within that framework only. Yet they want to call your criticism personal. Do these people understand what personal criticism is? Perhaps not. By the way, I thought your criticism of Sailer etc was spot on, definitely reductionist thinking on his part (and others too). It was so obviously so. You nailed them, so they have to respond with some mutterings about you getting personal. Ridiculous whinging whining blogging by them.

There is such a thing as uncalled for personal criticism and as far as I can see, you’ve rarely if ever done that sort of thing. People just don’t like getting “nailed” (except Jesus perhaps) and respond with the most ridiculous accusations.

Hannon writes:

Regarding the Mangan relay, when I follow these argumentations I find generally that your position strikes me as one of a dogged pursuit of the truth whatever the cost, and regardless of any social cost in particular. It must be frustrating for some of your opponents to try to match this approach to a personality they can grasp, a connection that seems to be a basic human desire. It is as if you have extracted “personality” from much of your writing (or de-emphasized it well enough) and I find this directness highly useful to the degree the assertion may be true. Whereas, your opponents seem more often motivated by asserting their position or thinking as correct by force of a personality with which their writing is more obviously suffused. It is as if what you are after, ultimately, is something you make the greatest effort to hold in objective view—you know you cannot obtain it perfectly but can only represent it according to your good faith understanding. I believe your regular readers have a keen sense of this honesty.

LA replies:

I sort of understand what you’re saying. You’re saying that I don’t use my personality in a debate, and maybe that most other people do, or do so more than I do.

Gintas writes:

Since non-discrimination is the core liberal doctrine, perhaps you could start a discussion about why discrimination is good, and open it up for comments on all kinds of specific discriminations. Obviously immigration is a major example, but maybe we could cover the gamut, and the thread could be a source for thought on discrimination at your site. We need to be armed, so as to pull the sword and strike at the heart of the Beast.

LA replies:

Good idea. It would be a good exercise in non-liberal thought, namely, in a well-ordered society, what kind of discriminations would be seen as required, as good, as neutral, as bad, or as prohibited? Liberals can’t ask such questions, because for them all discriminations must in principle be prohibited. Traditionalists can ask them, because their standard is not a unformitarian liberal idea, but the good of a particular form of society, in tension with objective moral principles.

Below, Gintas points out that people don’t like it when they’re told that their explanations miss the heart of the matter.

Gintas writes:

Going back to why you fight, I mentioned how we need to strike at the heart of the Beast. I think people want to identify the heart of the matter, and there are many answers proffered. People want to talk about PC MC, or status, or IQ, or Jews, or free trade, or whatever. I think it’s easy for people to get sidetracked onto something that is interesting, novel, rejected or ignored by the mainstream, clever, quirky, something they discovered, etc., but really isn’t the heart. So when you said of Sailer (I’m paraphrasing your argument), “Status is interesting, but it’s not the heart of the matter; and Sailer, being a reductionist, cannot get to the heart of the matter,” people don’t like that. Not all solutions are equal, are they?

LA replies:

Well said. You have really been on a tear lately.

And your paraphrase is a superb statement in itself. I wish I had written it!

Gintas replies:

Thank you.

I do feel on a roll these days. I really can’t explain it. Maybe it’s something about Obama winning.

LA replies:

I said his victory would energize conservatives.

John D. writes (sent Nov. 19, posted Nov. 21):

I agree with you that Gintas’ idea of starting a discussion about discrimination is a good one. I have told you before that something you wrote in this thread had clarified for me how destructive non-discrimination really is to Western society and its continued existence. It also brought to me a better understanding for the reasons that liberals seek its destruction. I used your idea in a letter to the editor in my hometown newspaper after having read two front page articles within the same week in which the first celebrated gay marriage in California, and the second praised New York State for having mandated a new transgender non-discrimination policy mandate in state juvenile jails where inmates had to be called by any name they preferred. I had over 30 phone calls from friends and relatives congratulating me. I directed some of them to your writings for which a few of them have since thanked me.

I’ll quote the passage here (in all its excellence) that had such an enormous effect on my understanding:

But WHY do they want to destroy it? What is BAD about reality that makes them want to destroy it? For my answer I return to the traditionalist analysis that I have advanced in various formulations: the rejection of God, the transcendent, the higher, the notion of an inherent structure in existence. Once the higher or the sense of being part of a larger whole is rejected, then the world is reduced to selves and their desires, with nothing above them, no “holarchy” (to use Arthur Koestler’s term) of which they are a part. Therefore all selves and their respective desires are equal, therefore any distinction between selves is a horrible attack on the worth of the “less equal” or excluded self and must be banned.

However, as I’m thinking about this, I don’t know that the non-discrimination and the destruction can be separated. Since the structure of the world consists of distinct things, each of which has its internal order or structure (even an alternative hair salon has its internal order), to ban discrimination is to destroy each individual thing and its order. Non-discrimination is destruction, perhaps the most efficient and thorough-going destruction ever known to man.

Thank you for the intelligibility that you continue to offer in an increasingly insane world.

LA replies:
Thanks for this, I’ve just belatedly posted it. I agree with you that the passage you like (and you’ve quoted it to me before) does get right down into the marrow of the problem, and I appreciate that you see that. I do believe non-discrimination is the crux of liberalism and its destructiveness, and thus opposing non-discrimination is the only effective way to oppose liberalism. And that is why liberalism keeps going unopposed, because even for the right wingers, discrimination is the essence of bad and non-discrimination the essence of good. So the conservatives go on uselessly decrying “political correctness” (as in, “Requiring an alternative hair salon to hire a woman wearing a Muslim head covering is a case of PC run amuck,” or, “Forcing Catholic adoption agencies to adopt to homosexual couples is a case of PC run amuck”), completely unable to articulate what is happening, because to articulate what is happening would require them to criticize the principle of non-discrimination, which people living under the mental spell of liberalism are unable and unwilling to do.

Part of what is needed is an intellectual movement that brings this argument into the mainstream. It would be radical, revolutionary. It would shock conservatives to be told, “Each of the things you oppose, each of the things you’re decrying, is happening because of the principle of non-discrimination which you yourself accept.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 18, 2008 02:48 PM | Send

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