Conservatives who can’t handle the truth
The ridiculous Robin of Berkeley, writing at the website which occasionally deserves the name American Thinker, is complaining about the fact that liberals are calling the right-wing Anders Breivik … right-wing. She is outraged that liberals are not doing what she does, which is to ignore Breivik’s own unmistakable words about his anti-leftist beliefs and plans, and instead focus on the supposed environmental, parental, psychiatric, and unconscious dimensions his homicidal behavior, for which she blames … liberalism!
A madman a continent away in Norway mows down almost 100 innocent people in cold blood. The shooter, Andrers Breivik, grew up a child of divorce, estranged from his father, in a liberal home in a liberal country.In the remainder of the article Robin shows that the contemporary left is far more violent than the contemporary right. Unfortunately for her, that fact is entirely irrelevant to the question of Breivik, who is a self-identified cultural conservative and enemy of the left.
It’s one thing to say that there is no necessary, logical connection between opposition to leftism and the mass murder of leftists; that of course is true and I have said it myself. It’s another thing to say, as Robin and various other unthinking conservatives say, that the reason Breivik mass-murdered leftists was not his opposition to leftism, but other supposed motives of his having nothing whatsoever to do with what he himself clearly and at great length said was his motive.
I stopped reading Robin of Berkeley some time ago and have not read today’s American Thinker article. Taking your summary of the article as accurate, I would agree with you that Robin is a confused thinker. It is still possible, however, to question the legitimacy of the unqualified contention that Anders Breivik is a conservative. That Breivik thinks of himself as conservative might be true, but then some people think of themselves as Caesar or Napoleon. I am discontented, however, even with the description that Breivik “thinks of himself” as conservative. It would be truer to say that Breivik is a ferocious anti-leftist, in whose search for justification actual conservative discourse became useful. What else was he going to cite? Is Breivik ontologically a conservative? (If you want to know what I mean by “ontologically a conservative,” I mean someone like Lawrence Auster.) Does Breivik’s life in any way embody genuine conservative ideals? Being in outraged reaction against the painful debacle of a broken home engendered by leftwing policy might be the beginning of a conservative conversion, but it does not constitute such a conversion by itself. Neither can the applicability of the label “conservative” rest on mere self-identification, no matter how insistent. Conservatism, like everything else, has a specific nature. To the extent that conservatism is—at its profoundest level—a response both to the Greek Logos and the Gospel Logos, to the extent that the ideal of conservatism is persuasion, not coercion (much less a massacre), then Breivik is not a conservative, no matter how he identifies himself in his inner monologue or in his vast cut-and-paste testament.Thomas Bertonneau writes:
You write that Robin of Berkeley in the second half of her article “shows that the contemporary left is far more violent than the contemporary right,” but you assess this as “entirely irrelevant to the question of Breivik.” I am not so sure.LA replies:
I can’t disagree with your catalogue of the components of Breivik’s background and character, as far as it goes. But I still find your overall conclusion questionable. You say that Breivik is a product of a liberal society, and therefore his homicidal career is a product of liberal society. But we also are products of a liberal society. Our experience of that liberal society has led us to oppose it, just as Breivik’s experience of his liberal society led him to oppose it. We have an anti-liberal position; Breivik has an anti-liberal position. Breivik’s anti-liberalism led him to the conclusion that he had to mass-murder liberals. Our anti-liberalism has not led us to that conclusion. The bottom line remains that his conscious, stated reasons for mass-murdering liberals arise from his opposition to liberalism, not from liberalism.Thomas Bertonneau writes:
You wrote: “But we [Auster and Bertonneau] also are products of a liberal society.”LA replies:
I think that particular point is trivial and not worth our discussing further.TB replies:
I think this is implied when I say that Breivik was a fanatical anti-leftist who found a ready-made justifying discourse on conservative websites. So to that extent we are already in agreement.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 03, 2011 11:05 AM | Send