Why a reader has had it with VFR

David B. (not David B. from Tennessee) writes:

I am a longtime reader of your blog, but I am about ready to stop. What turns me off is your insistence that you are the sole judge of what constitutes acceptable opinion on the traditional right. Just as you are not interested in distinguishing between various shades of anti-Semitism, I am not interested in learning where exactly Srdja Trifkovic steps over the line into anti-Semitism. If politics were theology, there might be some point to insisting on doctrinal purity, but to me it seems like a group of monks debating about the Trinity while the Vikings storm the walls.

There is only one battle which has to be won right now, and that is the battle over immigration. If we lose that battle, we lose the country. If we win it, we still have a long intellectual struggle against the theology of liberalism—one which will probably not be won until the last Baby Boomer is dead or in the nursing home—but win it we will. A lie endlessly repeated does not become the truth. What every man of good will hopes for is not a violent counterrevolution from the right, but a quiet return to common sense and sanity. In such an atmosphere, the differences between Jews and Christians will seem trivial indeed.

LA replies:

There are many important battles going on, and any one of them could be used as a reason for not discussing some other battle. But even those battles that we think are the most important may be a distraction.

Take immigration. You write:

There is only one battle which has to be won right now, and that is the battle over immigration. If we lose that battle, we lose the country. If we win it, we still have a long intellectual struggle against the theology of liberalism

In fact we are not fighting the immigration battle. We’re only fighting the illegal immigration battle. Legal immigration continues every day, not debated, not contested by conservatives, but rather completely accepted by conservatives, and it is steadily turning us into a non-European country where whites and their culture and civilization will not longer be in charge. So one could say that in your exclusive focus on the illegal immigration battle, you are tragically failing to focus on the main and challenge to our nation’s existence. You’re getting caught up in a distraction, just as you accuse me of getting caught up in a distraction.

Of course the illegal immigration battle must be won. If it’s not won, everything else will be lost. But even if we win it, we have not won the larger immigration battle—a battle, once again, that we have not even begun to fight. Read the Introduction of my 1990 book, The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism. In the opening passage, I say that we’re so caught up in the illegal immigration issue, that we fail to see that legal immigration by itself is a mortal threat to the country. So, 20 years later, and nothing has changed.

As to what’s being posted right now, VFR is on a kind of extended semi hiatus at the moment, and I post on a handful of things that particularly impress me on any given day. There’s no system or policy to it. I tend to write about things that strike me as remarkable or revelatory or as unfolding the meaning of something in new ways. The recent symposium at Alt-Right was such a thing. A federal judge’s decision stopping enforcement of the Arizona law was such a thing. But because I have not been in good health lately I am not energetically pursuing all the issues I would normally pursue. If you’re bored with or turned off by the issues I’ve been writing about, then I would suggest taking a break from the site for a while.

However, even when I’m in top form, there will always be the problem that not everyone is happy with the mix of things I write about. There’s nothing I can do about that. It may simply be that VFR is not for you.

But your problem with me seems more specific and deeper than that. If you are offended by my ongoing criticisms of various conservatives or of anti-Jewish writers or whatever, if you don’t like the way that I articulate standards and criticize people according to those standards, if you don’t like the fact that I attempt to define such terms as conservatism and on that basis determine what I think is or is not valid conservatism, then I’m surprised that you have read me as long as you have, because it is what is most basic to me that you don’t like. The act of defining terms and articulating standards is central to what I’m about. I have no ambition to be the “sole judge of what constitutes acceptable opinion on the traditional right.” However, it is my calling to attempt to define such terms as traditionalism, liberalism, and so on. The act of defining terms and articulating standards is an act of intellectual leadership which is indispensable for society and particularly for conservatism, and almost no one does it today. I have no desire to control or direct other people. At the same time, the act of intellectual articulation in which I instinctively engage, as my calling, is by its nature an act of intellectual leadership. Many people in our society, including conservatives, are strongly offended by such an act of leadership. They want everyone to be free to think what he wants and to define terms as he wants. Therefore they will see someone engaging in the act of intellectual leadership as a bossy egotist imposing himself on others. If that’s the way you feel, then, once again, VFR would appear not to be for you.

LA adds (August 9, 2010):

I wrote:

At the same time, the act of intellectual articulation in which I instinctively engage, as my calling, is by its nature an act of intellectual leadership. Many people in our society, including many conservatives, are strongly offended by such an act of leadership. They want everyone to be free to think what he wants and to define terms as he wants. Therefore they will see someone engaging in the act of intellectual leadership as a bossy egotist imposing himself on others.

I would add this. In rejecting the articulation of standards and the definition of terms, such conservatives are behaving as liberals. Conservative discourse consists in the attempt to get closer to the substantive truth of things. A conservative writer or cultural critic puts forth standards, and to the extent that other people agree with him, those standards begin to become authoritative for society, or at least for the conservative part of society. Or else other people disagree with him, and offer their own views as to what the standards ought to be. Either way, whether conservatives agree on substantive truth or disagree, they believe that there is a substantive truth which we can discover and that this truth ought to be authoritative.

Liberals, to the contrary, object to the very idea of authoritative standards based on substantive truth, and they call any attempt to advance such standards dictatorial and fascist. And this is exactly the way my various overheated right-wing critics constantly react to me. Instead of arguing that my standards are wrong and offering their own standards which they think are better, they attack me personally as a would-be dictator, a self-annointed pope, an insane bully, a person “who banishes everyone who disagrees with him,” and so on. And by the way I have done nothing to make my personality the issue; that has been purely the work of my enemies, through their continuing ad hominem attacks on me. These supposed rightists are thus carrying out the central task of liberalism as explained by James Kalb in his seminal 2000 essay, “The Tyranny of Liberalism”: the suppression of discourse—through a variety of means including personal smears and ostracism—about the substantive truth and standards by which man ought to live.

(Of course, as Kalb shows in his essay and as I’ve expanded on many times, liberals in reality have their own authoritative standards which they impose in a dictatorial manner on society, but they conceal this fact under their rhetoric of equality which formally rejects all authority and power because power means that some people have more power than others and so are unequal.)

[Original August 2 entry continues.]

LA continues:

On a side point you raised, it is not true that I take no interest in different degrees of anti-Semitism; my remark about that to John McNeil was made in a particular context which does not apply generally. To the contrary, for years I have tortured myself on when it is appropriate to use the term anti-Semitism. For example, I declined calling Patrick Buchanan an anti-Semite although all his other critics freely do so. Thus I’ve called him (with an explanation of why I’ve done so) an “anti-Israel bigot,” but not an anti-Semite. I’ve even been denounced and called an enemy by a certain Jewish anti-Islamization writer (who just before his denunciation of me had praised me for my honesty) for saying that Buchanan’s statements in the early ’90s for which he got into trouble were not anti-Semitic. Thus the charge made by some of my enemies that I promiscuously throw around the anti-Semitism charge is the opposite of the truth. However, more recently, with the advent of Alt-Right and its openly anti-Semitic agenda, it is true that I have used the term more freely than I used to.

- end of initial entry -

Kristor writes:

It is interesting that David B. draws an analogy between what you are trying to do in drawing careful distinctions at VFR and the discourse of theology. The Church is often viewed by the unchurched as a big meanie, trying to control everyone and tell them what they must believe and do. “Who is the Church,” runs the complaint, “to tell us that our beliefs about God are wrong?” But to object in this way to what the Church is doing is a complete misapprehension of the nature of religious doctrine, which must to qualify as such insist upon its own unique competence in grasping the truth. If the Church did not believe utterly that its doctrines are correct, it would not be a Church at all, but a bootless debating club, devoid of moral or spiritual oomph; and its precepts would be, not doctrine, not teaching, but mere hypotheses advanced for the sake of discussion.

The Church is not trying to be mean, or exclusive, or to trample on anyone’s feelings. It is trying only to be adequate to the truth, and thus, implicitly, faithful thereto. If the Church believes it has a uniquely good grasp of the truth of things, and if it is morally good, it cannot but desire that all men should be convinced one day of the truths it has understood; for truth sets us free, and enables us to be truly human. And if the Church is to have any traction in this undertaking, it must at the least forthrightly proclaim that wrong or false or wicked or simply mistaken doctrines are simply that. Such proclamations will hurt feelings, no doubt. But what would its critics have the Church do, rather than to proclaim the truth and name falsehood with its proper name? Do they want the Church to lie?

It is striking to me that you are so often, likewise, accused of being mean, or of being rigid and doctrinaire, or of excommunicating those who fundamentally disagree with you. If you are confident of your grasp of some basic principles, and have been faithful and careful in trying to work out their implications, and if you should then see that there are those who do not seem to grasp the connections between first principles that seem to you now, after so many years of working through them, to be so obvious, how on earth could you do otherwise? If you were to do anything else, would that not constitute a betrayal of the principles you espouse?

God forbid that we should make room for relativism or nominalism within the conservative tent. If we are to do that, we might as well take down the tent, snip it into pieces, and cast them to the four winds.

LA replies:

Well, this is why the reader’s complaints make me doubht that he has been a long-time reader of VFR, and is only now getting fed up with it. People who view things the way he does tend to dislike VFR from the outset.

Anna writes:

You posted a great reply to David B. (who is not the one from Tennessee).

[ … could be a great start to a poem.]

The reason for my message does not refer to this. I have noticed a lack of energy in your postings lately and quickly felt the import of your semi hiatus comment. I, too, have felt better and so wish us both—Get Well Soon!

Here, by golly, comes a poem …

In reply to David B., not the one from Tennessee,
I say to judge is right, because I’m free.
Even if you’re not from Tennessee.

Why do you say I cannot choose
what I stand for? Win or lose?
Even if you’re not from Tennessee.

You choose your battle and I choose mine
In a war that you cannot simply define.
Even if you’re not from Tennessee.

Here’s a quote you can take to bed:
Be always sure you are right—then go ahead.
Davy Crockett—from Tennessee.

August 3

Patrick H. writes:

You do not insist on being the sole judge of anything. You state your opinion and back it up with arguments. I must confess to a feeling of despair when I read people like David B (not the one from Tennessee) who seem to think that strong statements of one’s views are some kind of command, or that criticism of someone is a kind of censorship, or worse, excommunication. You do not have the power to censor anyone, excommunicate anyone, or expel anyone from anything anywhere (other than your blog and your home). All you can do is what you’ve done: state your opinions, back them up with argument and evidence, and hope like hell someone is listening. Your blog is not an act of censorship or excommunication, it is an act of faith: faith that words do matter, that reason does exist, that people can be persuaded to change their minds about things—or even just start thinking about them.

What is the matter with people today? If they’re not constantly grasping at water bottles to maintain their constant supply of fluids, or checking the weather every five minutes in case a STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT (i.e., rain or snow is falling), they’re whingeing on about how somebody disagreeing with them is somehow trying to silence them. I ask again, what is the matter with people today?

And I cannot grasp the mentality of someone who thinks that anti-Semitism would not be fatal to the success of a movement to limit immigration to the U.S. Does David B (not from Tennessee) think a pro-American immigration policy would have any chance of being enacted if significant numbers of its proponents were people who’d come down with a case of the Jew thing?

LA replies:

On your last point, that shows the stunning blindness of the “far rightists” as well as their true intentions. Since success of the immigration issue (or any issue) on their terms would require that anti-Semitism become broadly accepted in America, they must believe that their anti-Semitism is about to become the dominant ideology of America. And that in fact is what they are working for. They are working to make anti-Semitism broadly accepted. This is the fundamental thrust of their movement, whether they consciously recognize it or not.

Gintas writes:

Perhaps David B. could join the ranks of the disaffected over at Dennis Mangan’s, which has about a post a day with commenting open for a meeting of Auster Anonymous, where they get together and share about all the vile and cruel injustices suffered at your hands. Everyone gets a fair turn. Everyone’s experience is validated. Everyone shares the pain. Everyone goes home feeling affirmed.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 02, 2010 09:57 PM | Send

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