1995, three months after the stunning Republican takeover of the House of Representatives led by Newt Gingrich, I gave a talk to Herbert London’s New York Discussion group that was strongly critical of Gingrich and his philosophy. I thought that I had published it at VFR long ago, but just realized today that I hadn’t. Here it is.
Gingrich, Toffler and Conservatism
New York Discussion Group
Lawrence Auster, April 6, 1995
Conservatives have been understandably euphoric about Gingrich’s great success in the election, the crippling of the Clinton administration and the resulting transformation of American politics. But in my view, thoughtful conservatives should be deeply alarmed by the futurist ideology Gingrich has been aggressively promoting since the election, particularly his embrace of Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave futurism. A few weeks ago I heard Speaker Gingrich on C-SPAN delivering a speech at the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom on the subject of “America’s Future.” Never before had I heard him be more explicit about his agenda. It made me think that Gingrich may be more akin to Marx or Magaziner than to Burke or Washington. In any case, he is no conservative.
Gingrich embraces Alvin Toffler’s “Third-Wave” idea, the notion that literally the whole of civilization as we’ve known it, the “Second Wave” or industrial age, along with nation-states, the nuclear family and other outmoded institutions, is about to disappear in a new age of advanced technology, and we’d better get on the train fast or be left behind.
Gingrich is quite explicit about this. Of his five goals that he repeats in every speech, the first is “to make the transition into the Third-wave information age that Alvin and Heidi Toffler describe.” Now the very idea of a “Third Wave” should instantly make conservatives suspicions. As several commentators have already pointed out, the Third Wave fits the pattern of all modern ideologies, with their vision of a third and final realm of perfect freedom at the end of history, which of course turns out to be achievable only through the systematic denial of freedom.
I received an odd confirmation of my suspicions when I picked up a copy of The Third Wave. As I was reading the introduction, it occurred to me that Toffler’s aggressive invocation of materialistic forces controlling history had a distinctly Marxian ring. Then, just two lines later, I came upon a sentence that began, “When I was a Marxist in my late teens and early twenties…” Then, turning from the introduction to the Chapter One, the first sentence goes: “A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it.” I hope I don’t need to point out the similarity to a famous political pamphlet in the 19th century which begins, “A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to cut down and exorcise the specter.”
On every page Toffler speaks of trends “surging” across the planet, of peoples’ lives being “shaken” by change, of societies being shattered like eggs being thrown against the wall, etc. Toffler’s world, like that of Marx, is a world of overwhelming material forces, relentlessly described in the most hyperbolic fashion.
I’d like to give you the flavor of Toffler’s thought from a few brief excerpts. [Read from p. 10; p. 11; p. 12; p. 18; p. 16.]
Similarly, Gingrich says that we must “either move into the future or collapse into the passions of the past.”
Well, the “past,” which Gingrich and Toffler want us to dispense with, just happens to include the entirety of Western civilization—our religious, intellectual, national, ethical and aesthetic heritage. To make politics an either/or choice between an ideal and inevitable “future” and a contemptible and defunct “past,” as Gingrich and Toffler do, is to speak the language of progressivism or totalitarianism. When Daniel Burstein addressed the group recently he also described the debate as one between the past and the future. With the debate defined in such loaded terms, there is no debate. Anyone who wants to preserve the past is automatically wrong, just as anyone who wants to preserve the patriarchy, or white hegemony, or Eurocentrism or any other bugaboo is automatically wrong.
Returning to Gingrich’s speech, one of the things that he says must die in order for this New World Order to be born is the nation: “Technology and global trade will dissolve much of what we thought of as the nation-state,” he declares. Now when I discovered that Strobe Talbott had said virtually the same thing a couple of years ago, I wondered in amazement, how come the Republicans didn’t expose Talbott during his nomination proceedings for a high-level policy position in the State Department? Well, now I have the answer. The Republicans also believe in the end of the nation. How can conservatives follow a man—and a party—who promote or passively accept the dissolution of our nation and of other historically constituted nations?
Gingrich always emphasizes that the Third Wave technologies will free people from centralized bureaucracies into new forms of choice and creativity. But what the Third Wave will really free people from is any kind of moral order. The Internet is the symbol of the Third Wave. The unstructured self, free of any parental or social authority or any moral or cultural tradition, the self disconnected from place, the self free of anything beyond the self, interacting through technology with similarly disembodied selves. As the Demi Moore character says in the movie “Disclosure,” computers will allow people to be “free of nation, gender, race, they will be pure consciousness.” This is a Luciferian vision.
But even as The Third Wave dissolves the indispensable ordering forces of human life in a total atomistic freedom on the subnational and individual level, it introduces new and more coercive powers at the transnational level. According to Toffler, even as the nation-state weakens, global organizations, particularly the multinational corporation and various kinds of international arrangements like GATT, become stronger. So, instead of being freed from bureaucracy and the centralized state, people will be subjected to even larger bureaucratic forces. Instead of nation-states with some sort of representative governments and accountability to their own people, there will be global bureaucracies and corporations that are accountable to no one. Toffler calls this ideology
globalism—the idea that nationalism is obsolete…. Precisely as nationalism claimed to speak for the whole nation, globalism claims to speak for the whole world. And its appearance is seen as an evolutionary necessity—a step closer to a ‘cosmic ‘consciousness” that would embrace the heavens as well.
Toffler’s imperialistic drive fits the classic pattern described by Eric Voegelin of the world conquerors of the ancient world and of the gnostic revolutionaries of the modern world. The goal in both cases is domination of the entire cosmos.
Gingrich also aims at power over the whole world. Consider the following positions of his:
In other words, Gingrich does not see American-led global crusades as a regrettable necessity (as in the case of fighting totalitarianism). Rather, he sees American empire as desirable in itself, and actively seeks excuses to expand it.
- America (as an empire, not a nation) must lead the world: “We are a hegemon in the classic sense…. We need serious thought about how do we lead the planet…. Unless we are prepared to say ‘We will lead the human race,’ the only alternative will be very dark and bloody.”
- America must commit itself to “large, positive, growth-oriented (global) projects” to replace the great American-led alliances of the past against Nazism and Communism.
Now what does this mean? Enterprise zones in Central Africa? Global export of condoms, along with American-style feminism and divorce rates? How about forcing Third-World countries to enlist women in their military forces, along with support services for single female military personnel who become pregnant, followed by government subsidized illegitimate births in military hospitals? After all, all these things are being done in America today in the name of “opportunity,” and Gingrich and the Republican party have done nothing to oppose them, in fact they support them. Ultimately, Gingrich is proposing, in the name of opportunity, the subversion of every culture on earth, including what’s left of our own.
- The global system led by America, says Gingrich, must be dedicated to “freedom and opportunity for all humans.”
The other side of globalism is open immigration, which is also pursued in the name of “freedom and opportunity for all humans,” but it’s an opportunity for foreigners that ignores the wishes and interests of Americans.
A global crusade for “freedom and opportunity for all humans” (the words are terrifying in their arrogance) is, quite simply, Jacobinism. The goal of Jacobinism is to bring the world into a single, uniform system of free and equal individuals, which is achieved by crushing every intermediate institution—family, local community, church, ultimately the nation itself—that stands between the individual and the global state. Over the past 200 years, the Jacobins of the Left have sought to achieve this uniformity in the name of equality. Today’s Jacobins of the conservative and libertarian Right seek to achieve this uniformity in the name of economic opportunity. But the essential goal is the same, the reduction of the entire world to a single system. I have to tell you that when I hear an American leader speak of a crusade for “freedom and opportunity for all humans,” I feel as though it is America that has now become the Evil Empire—that America is now the expansive revolutionary power that must be resisted at all costs.
In any case, the Speaker believes in the destruction of the American nation and of other historically constituted nations and their replacement by an America-led global empire.
Perhaps someone will reply that Gingrich’s ideas are just a personal interest of his and don’t reflect on his actual leadership. Not true. In every case where there’s a choice between, say, national sovereignty and globalism, Gingrich will choose globalism. Look at his decisive role in NAFTA and the Mexican bailout. Our leaders, Gingrich among them, concealed from us the true condition of Mexico’s economy in order to ram through NAFTA, then they sought to ram through the bail-out. It’s a text-book case of globalizing elites pursuing their own goals against the interests of the nation.
Now, what about the family? Some supporters of the Gingrich vision, like George Gilder, believe the decentralized age of the computer and other new technologies, by weakening the modern state that has usurped the authority of the family, will help strengthen the family. I would suggest the opposite. As the anti-Revolutionary French thinker Louis de Bonald wrote 200 years ago, the authority of parents is intimately linked with the authority of the state and the authority of the church. To dissolve political and religious authority helps dissolve parental authority, in the same way that dissolving parental authority helps dissolve political authority.
In any case, the supplanting of the traditional family by bizarre alternative family forms is one of the cardinal objects of the Third Wave. [Read from page 216.]
Has Gingrich repudiated such notions? Not that I’m aware. True, Gingrich makes a nod to the concerns of the cultural conservatives, saying that we must heal the moral ills of American civilization if America is to lead the world.
But in Gingrich’s account, the desperate moral disorder of this culture seems to be a minor kink in the machinery: let’s fix it fast and then move on to our real job of running the planet. Gingrich apparently believes that reforming welfare and de-funding the NEA will be sufficient to make American culture healthy again. I think we all suspect the problems are deeper than that. As Rabbi Mayer Schiller truly said at the October 1994 Toward Tradition conference, America’s current dominant culture is “a vile combination of sickness and evil.” How dare intelligent Americans even contemplate America’s playing the messianic role Gingrich envisions for it while we remain such a profoundly disordered society? As John Zmirak has written, “Can we honorably set New Jack City on a hill, thinking that it will light the world?”
Finally, I’d like to make a personal comment about Speaker Gingrich. Watching him speak, it occurs to me that his demeanor and personality seem to match his soulless and impious ideas. A true conservative is informed by humility, by an ordinate sense of man’s freedom and limitations in an imperfect world. But Gingrich, like other modernist ideologues, seems to be a man without attachment to any tradition, a man intoxicated with the potentialities of human power, and with his view of himself as its avatar.
So in conclusion, I wonder in what sense we can speak of Gingrich as a “conservative”? How can Gingrich lead a renewal of Western and American civilization, when he is committed to the dissolution of that civilization in the “Third Wave”?
Perhaps it is quixotic of me to suggest that conservative intellectuals should look critically at a man who has achieved such an extraordinary and welcome political victory. If they fail to do so, it will be because conservatives, in their euphoria over the election, are once again mistaking Republican victory with the salvation of America.
Irv P. writes:
John K. writes:
David B. writes: