Category Archives: conservatism

Firing Line Returns as Progressive Hugbox

In the annals of 20th century American conservatism, few legacies loom as large as William F. Buckley’s. For better or worse, National Review remains a pace setter and barometer of modern establishment conservatism. Aside from his oversight of NR and nascent spy novel career, Buckley further distinguished himself through his current affairs show, Firing Line. With his oddly captivating air of aristocratic sophistication and a demeanor which teetered between thinly veiled disdain and genteel charm, Buckley was a champion of the marketplace of ideas long before the “intellectual dark web” were a thing.

Though YouTube has already established itself as the most accessible venue to engage in the battle of ideas for content creators of every ideological persuasion, PBS and the Hoover Institute have decided to pretend they care about civic discourse with a reboot to the franchise. Featuring the eminently telegenic great granddaughter of Herbert Hoover as host, Margaret Hoover is attempting to extend Buckley conservatism into the 21st century with her exceedingly banal and toothless brand of “Center Right” Conservatism Incorporated.

Based on the extended interview she gave to Reason’s Nick Gillespie and the episode I watched featuring “democratic socialist” rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I’m hard pressed to identify a single position she holds which distinguishes her from the neocon, globo-capitalist, corporatist establishment. The opening sentence of her Wikipedia page describes her as “an American political commentator, political strategist, media personality, feminist, gay rights activist, and author.” Not exactly a set of descriptors that screams “conservative”. She comes across like another progressive in conservative clothing whose sole existence is designed to placate liberals who claim to listen to “both sides”. Appealing enough to watch, but devoid of any ideas that deviate from approved establishment orthodoxy. She seems right at home alongside other anti-Trump neocon shills like Jennifer Rubin and David Frum. The show itself also seems calculated to blunt criticisms that PBS is a captured propaganda arm of the Left. I was especially interested in this episode because I naïvely assumed that Ocasio-Cortez would offer Hoover ample opportunity to challenge her narrative and present a contrasting worldview.

I know. What was I thinking? This is PBS, after all.

Buckley had a knack for setting up the guest in a manner which simultaneously highlighted his august achievements while very subtly tipping his own hand. He was magnanimous, but he was editorializing while he did it. He could even manage very sly digs. By contrast, Hoover’s artless introduction of Ocasio-Cortez reeked of over the top fangirl praise and obsequious fawning. This seemed less an introduction and more of an extension of the gushing adoration that’s been heaped at her feet by the progressive establishment since winning the nomination of the New York 14th. As Hoover ratcheted up the swooning praise with each sentence, the camera would linger on Ocasio-Cortez’ blushing giddiness. Hoover even went full Teen Vogue by mentioning her ability to sell out lipstick, and Ocasio-Cortez giggled in gleeful affirmation. It was meant to be a lighthearted moment, but for this middle age curmudgeon expecting a hard hitting current affairs show, it set up a Girls Club vibe that was tonally wrong.

The interview that followed only confirmed this impression. Bill Buckley’s once venerable Firing Line has been repurposed as Progressive Hugbox. Hoover asked wide open questions which provided ample opportunity for cross examination, and failed at nearly every juncture to challenge or engage. Where Buckley took every opportunity to present a contrasting argument and even administer the occasional smackdown, Hoover seemed content to go through the motions and play pattycakes with her guest. The whole thing was one gigantic missed opportunity. Even someone as MOR as Ben Shapiro could have made Ocasio-Cortez break a sweat. Hoover, on the other hand, seemed mostly in agreement with Ocasio-Cortez throughout!

On “Democratic Socialism”

Of all the assaults on language and deceptive word games deployed by the Left, perhaps the most odious is the pernicious lie called “democratic socialism”. Progressives who embrace the inevitable endgame of their worldview fall into two camps. One camp is the “Real socialism has never been tried” crowd and the other is “Not Venezuelan socialism. DEMOCRATIC Socialism” crowd. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is in the latter camp. When Hoover wisely chose to ask her to elaborate on the meaning of the term, Ocasio-Cortez did not disappoint and delivered a doozy of vacuous piffle. In the hands of any ideologically grounded conservative or libertarian, this would have been a slam dunk. Anyone worth his salt could have torn her to shreds.

Democratic socialism is the value that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live.

Since its earliest modern incarnations, socialism has taken root in the conscience of the Left precisely because it speaks to moral instincts and the eschatological inevitability of an egalitarian, secular utopia. Ocasio-Cortez has stripped out the fact that her utopian vision requires the instantiation of vast new bureaucracies and large scale redistribution. She blithely omits the fact that it also requires the guns of the state to implement and leaves only the rhetorical ear candy. Whether this is out of ignorance, dishonesty or stupidity, I cannot say, but it’s a glaring omission regardless.

With this statement alone, Ocasio-Cortez left herself deeply exposed. Hoover could have made mincemeat out of her right then and there, but instead, she allowed her to serve up more heaping portions of brainless drivel.

On the Economy

Ocasio-Cortez likes to tout her economic credentials on social media, but she exposed herself as yet another economic illiterate peddling fanciful tales of endless, large scale economic hardship and woe.

Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and can barely feed their kids.

Differences in skill level or ambition never enter into her calculus. Any disparities in outcome can be rectified by subsidizing college and pouring more money into the education bureaucracy apparently.

Along with her asinine claim that “everyone has two jobs”, Ocasio-Cortez’ assertion was thoroughly disconnected from reality. EVERYONE? Really? Again, Hoover could have eviscerated these claims, but she opted to let this steaming pile to stand unchallenged. I can’t imagine Buckley doing the same.

On Immigration

On the issue of immigration, Ocasio-Cortez predictably leaned on boilerplate progressive clichés and platitudes.

Hoover blew it again by completely bypassing her STATED intention to abolish ICE. Instead of taking the claim at face value and challenging her on the specifics of the plan, Hoover punted and asked her simply to expound upon her vision for broad based immigration reform.

To Ocasio-Cortez, every immigrant is a potential food truck entrepreneur or bodega owner, there is no downside to immigration, there are no issues of assimilation with which to contend, there are no criminal elements, and there are no standards that should be applied. It’s just one big multicultural Wonderland. But perhaps this is consequence of American republicanism taken to its fullest conclusion. It may be impossible to impose constraints or uphold standards on a collection of abstract principles that sanctify human liberation and equality.

However, on this subject, Ocasio-Cortez actually revealed a new and heretofore unprecedented position for the progressive Left. A tacit acceptance of American imperialism.

Instead of taking what was once a fairly conventional, antiwar, non-interventionist leftist stance, Ocasio-Cortez seemed to concede that regime change was a prerequisite for being part of the progressive political aristocracy in the American globalist imperium. She seems to want to ensure that displaced refugees will be granted automatic citizenship.

On Capitalism

In yet another colossal oversight, Hoover completely missed an opportunity to dismantle Ocasio-Cortez’ vacuous Marxist twaddle.

Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world.

The first part of the statement is, of course, correct. Laissez faire capitalism wasn’t practiced or promoted in earnest as ideology until the 18th century. Mercantilism, trade guilds and feudal economies preceded it. But the question is what exactly does she envision if she wants to see us “evolve” beyond it? Hoover wasn’t interested in finding out.

Ocasio-Cortez seems to buy into the standard Marxist view of history. Capitalism is but a necessary step in an inexorable forward march of human progress. Socialism is both an inevitability and a necessity.

Equally bewildering was her contention that we live in “no hold barred, Wild West hypercapitalism” society. This is such a painfully idiotic cliche, that it shouldn’t need to be rebutted, but these nostrums are essentially the equivalent of scripture for progressives. We live in a highly regulated, quasi-socialist market economy which is centrally managed by bankers. The staunch refusal to acknowledge the extent that government institutions, public-private partnerships and corporations all aid and abet the progressive establishment is simply astonishing. The perpetual posture of being beleaguered underdogs is beyond tiresome.

The fact that we’re still addressing these ideas lends credence to the claim that capitalism and socialism are merely two sides of a false dialectic. Clearly, there are vested interests who want these ideas to infiltrate the culture. The radical Left and their globalist sponsors have been promoting these ideas for well over a century. They wouldn’t still be around without generous patronage.

On Israel

The one moment that has the rightward social media commentariat Twitter feeds ablaze was her stunning admission over the disputed territories in Israel.

I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue!

Quite the admission from a Boston University graduate with a degree in economics and international relations. It seems like this question should have been right in her wheelhouse. What I suggest it reveals is the power of the Left’s linguistic and ideological programming. Could it be cowardice given that Israel is a longstanding punching bag for the Left? Probably not. Given that she’s been coronated as the Left’s new Fearless Truthsayer, I’d expect her to let the Palestinian Liberation flag fly.

Why bring back Firing Line?

Hoover’s abysmal performance begs one burning question. Why revive Buckley’s show at all if you’re making no effort to even attempt a genuinely conservative approach?

I wanted to be enthusiastic about this show, but it feels a little bit like the current affairs equivalent of the 2016 gender swap Ghostbusters reboot. A shameless attempt at reviving an intellectual property that once had cultural cachet. What’s so edgy about another anti-Trump establishment neocon who gives a socialist a free ride? If Bill Buckley were alive today, he’d likely find his encounter with Gore Vidal a quaint memory. He’d probably be relegated to hosting demonetized Google Hangout streams on YouTube while fighting back accusations of being alt-right.

How many PBS viewers are truly interested in the battle of ideas at this juncture? What percentage of their audience are aging boomers just trying to uphold the delusion they’re interested in an opposing perspective?

What does this say about the vitality of Buckley’s synthesis of post-Burkean conservatism and laissez faire classical liberalism? Even worse, what does this say about the alleged gulf between the Right and the Left if Margaret Hoover is nodding in agreement with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Margaret Hoover represents exactly the kind of bland establishment conservatism that propelled Trump to the White House. National Review’s Against Trump issue only fueled the perception that the conservative intelligentsia were out of step with the grassroots. We’re living in a time when the very idea of conserving national borders is considered tantamount to the reopening of Auschwitz. A reboot of Firing Line with an assertive host could have been a positive contribution to public discourse. Too bad we got Progressive Hugbox instead.

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National Treasure and The Masonic States of America

I was dismissive of Disney’s National Treasure when it was released in 2004. It seemed like a more sedate remix of The Da Vinci Code for a Disney audience, and neither the premise nor Nic Cage’s cinematic charms were enough to make me care. Art hits you in different ways at different times in your life, and I doubt I would have been attuned to the significance of National Treasure’s subtext at that time. Time passes and perspectives change. National Treasure is exactly what I sensed it would be and succeeds as a light espionage/action mystery thriller. But there’s a lot going at the symbolic level that’s very explicit and warrants a deeper examination. Because this was a Disney production aimed at a young audience, I suggest this movie’s pro-Freemasonry message is kind of a big deal from a cultural programming perspective.

I’ve been paying more attention to the architecture of morality and the ways in which it interacts with the belief apparatus. This has led me to examine the sturdiness of the underpinnings of the Enlightenment and American republicanism. Despite being largely perceived as a turn towards secularism and scientism, one of the hidden hands behind these revolutions is in fact an occulted spirituality of another kind: Freemasonry. Though “occult” broadly refers to esoteric spirituality of every kind, it also means “hidden”, and in the case of Freemasonry, it is certainly applicable. The fact that this film is linking Freemasonry to America’s foundations is intentional and borne out by history. While there’s certainly dramatic license taken in the details, the underlying truths are noteworthy all by themselves.

National Treasure is basically a variation on Raiders of the Lost Ark with overt references to Freemasonry instead of encrypted ones. As Benjamin Gates, Nic Cage is a adventurer/historian who’s dedicated his life to unraveling a mystery that was revealed to him by his Mason grandfather, John Adams Gates. As the elder patriarch, Christopher Plummer spins a fantastic tale of the Knights Templar and the untold riches they kept hidden from the Muslims and the British. The Knights managed to conceal the treasure in America, but the map is encoded in disparate objects and letters that are only decrypted by initiates of Masonic mysteries. Fast forward to the present, and Ben Gates’s quest has taken him to the arctic regions of the globe to unravel the mysterious message he uncovered that fateful day. Once the object is discovered, it unlocks another clue which points them towards a hidden map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Sean Bean’s Ian Howe gets greedy and the race to acquire the Declaration is on. Accompanied by trusty sidekick, Riley Poole and sexy museum curator, Abigail Chase, our heroes scramble to outsmart the dastardly Howe and his goons.

While the conspiracy community is awash in theories over hidden Masonic messaging in entertainment and the Illuminati conspiracy it conceals, National Treasure is one film that isn’t hiding its symbols or their connections to Masonry. They’re front and center. The controversy is whether these symbols are benign or malevolent, and the conclusion you reach will depend completely on your moral, ideological and spiritual frame of reference. National Treasure clearly wants you to see them as benign. Not only that, it wants you to equate Freemasonry with the Founding Fathers and American values themselves. This isn’t far off the mark, either.

American republicanism is seen as the fulfillment of the Enlightenment consensus enshrined in the formation of a new nation. For the first time in history, religious morality was mostly decoupled from the state, and compulsory religious practice was expunged from the law. Religious pluralism, secular reason, the scientific outlook, radical egalitarianism and democratic cosmopolitanism would be canonized as the gods of a new civic religion. This collection of presuppositions formed the basis of what we now simply identify as the pillars of classical liberalism. Depending on your point of view, it’s a set of ideas you want to see conserved for posterity, consumed in a brand new revolutionary conflagration or rejected as a Gnostic heresy.

How does Freemasonry have anything to do with classical liberalism?

While I recognize this isn’t a popular thesis amongst the woke intelligentsia, I’m inclined to believe that the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the underlying ideals of American republicanism are Masonic in nature. Freemasonry doesn’t officially call itself a religion but it asks its initiates to accept the existence of a Supreme Being. Not unlike the deism for which Thomas Paine advocated in The Age of Reason. A single, infinitely mysterious, divine monad which unites all religions, creeds and races and can never be fully understood by the human mind. Though his status as a Mason is unconfirmed, older editions of Paine’s Age of Reason even featured an essay on the origins of Freemasonry. Most people don’t self-identify as deists or take the same view towards spirituality that Paine did, but his worldview prevailed. The deistic universalism for which he advocated can now be found in the Christian ecumenical movement, New Age spirituality, Buddhist hipsters, and the various manifestations of UN-affiliated, syncretistic Blavatsky lite which also includes Freemasonry. This spiritual mindset came bundled with all of the presuppositions that accompany classical liberalism. Paine’s deism was repackaged and continues to be sold as a perpetually revolutionary set of American ideals with new labels like “liberty”, “democracy”, “equality” and perhaps most importantly, #TOLERANCE . These lofty ideals mask the Promethean promise of a very seductive spiritual truth: apotheosis of the individual.

The fact that these words occlude their Masonic origins is consistent with its nature as as a secret society and a “peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”. Throughout the film, Ben Gates has to decode various ciphers, messages, and hidden cryptograms. While this makes for lots of intrigue for the viewers, this is a bit of revelation of the method. Masonic symbols are hidden in plain sight and embedded in every corner of the culture, but invisible to the profane masses due to their ubiquity. Whether they’re used in corporate logos, rock band album art, or the infamous All Seeing Eye that adorns our Federal Reserve Notes, these symbols are imbued with meaning and work at the subconscious level.

Because humans are wired for belief, the question merely becomes one of the awareness of the belief mechanism and the direction in which its pointed. If you are atheist, agnostic, an occultist or subscribe to any non-Orthodox Christian or Islamic faith, the mysticism of Freemasonry is probably no big deal. From an Orthodox Christian or traditional Catholic perspective, this is probably seen as another example of pop culture trafficking a Luciferian doctrine packaged as family entertainment. Freemasonry, or Gnosticism, was challenged as heresy first by Saint Irenaeus and much later by Pope Leo XIII.

However, herein lies the film’s and Freemasonry’s great sleight of hand. Conservatives proclaim the belief that America was a Christian nation while progressives generally claim that it is secular and pluralistic society in which American propositions supersede proper religion. I suggest that the progressives are fundamentally correct. Conservatives may grouse about the erasure of quasi-Christian norms and traditions in the public square, but the ideals of American republicanism were departures from traditional Christian theology in the first place. The Christianity that took root in the early colonies was mostly Puritanism which in turn gave rise to increasingly atomized denominations. Add in Roman Catholics, Baptists, Unitarian Universalists, atheists and a dozen different versions of Protestantism and the idea of a unified Christian body politic becomes an increasingly untenable proposition. Subsequently, progressives are constantly able to capitalize on a fractured conservative constituency by painting themselves as the pious majority and their opponents as callow hypocrites. Perhaps America’s true national religion is the Cult of the Individual smuggled into the psyche through veiled Masonic euphemisms and symbols. Perhaps Freemasonry’s great triumph was that it swapped out religious orthodoxy in favor of a doctrine of radical individualism divorced from ethnicity, history or an abiding national identity. 231 years after the ratification of the Constitution, Disney decides the time is ripe to canonize Freemasonry with a family friendly action movie which blurs reality and fiction sufficiently well that the public likely remains anesthetized to the possibility that they’re unwitting vessels for a spiritual worldview that goes unquestioned.

Most people would shrug this off under the presumption that there’s nothing to question in classical liberalism. It gave birth to America, so what’s the problem? That’s a reasonable question, but I’m dubious on where the classical liberal framework is leading us. While those who claim a stake in the so called “intellectual dark web” are attempting to tend the breached walls of classical liberalism in order to forestall the continued advance of neo-Marxist identity politics, the #EQUALITY goalposts move further and further into the Twilight Zone of pure insanity. Classical liberalism has begotten postmodern identity politics. Classical liberalism has created a marketplace for Marxist academics, feminist hacks, despotic technocrats, racial demagogues and globalist sociopaths like George Soros who engineer social unrest, capitalize on the chaos, and then fund the fifth column organizations who work to unravel society even further. It’s the freedom to accept a marketplace for depravity, degeneracy and perpetual revolution. It’s the freedom to be mocked and demonized for even suggesting that there are traditions that are worth conserving. Progressives like to see themselves as uniquely empathetic and attuned to the suffering of the underdog, but somehow, this empathy can only be realized through neverending political protest, language policing, and exerting absolute dominion over the cultural dialogue. The subsequent result of this worldview has been an atomized population, moral relativism, postmodern subjectivism, and the radical quantification, automation and commodification of life itself. We’re at a point where the simple desire to marry someone of your own race is considered a shudder inducing rallying cry of “white supremacy”.

Paul Revere. Grand Master Freemason.

By the film’s conclusion, Gates uncovers an enormous treasure of what appears to be Egyptian artifacts and relics. The film ties Freemasonry back to its pagan and polytheistic Egyptian roots. Since these artifacts were of incalculable value to civilization, both Gates and the Freemasons come out looking like heroes and stewards of ancient mysteries that would have been destroyed in different hands. Regardless of how much dramatic license is taken in the details, the mere fact that our very first president, George Washington, was himself a Freemason lends weight to the myth. America’s list of known Freemasons who’ve occupied the Oval Office, worked in powerful federal agencies or scaled the heights of pop culture success lends even more gravitas to the influence of Freemasonry in American life and thought. When Harvey Keitel’s Agent Sadusky flashes his Masonic ring, we are to understand that the Brotherhood extends to the highest echelons of power throughout the nation to this day. Naturally, Gates is exonerated from criminal charges because his higher service to mankind is recognized by the Brotherhood. Besides, laws are only for the peasants anyway.

Ben Franklin. Freemason.

As is often the case with Hollywood films, the fictitious veneer often masks a reality. The film propelled the heroes through the National Archives, Independence Hall and culminated in a church in lower Manhattan. Gates had to uncover secrets from historical documents and objects hidden within the buildings. Three years ago, when the Massachusetts State House politicians hosted a ceremony to unearth the time capsule buried by Paul Revere 220 years ago, the Freemasons were the ones who were entrusted with the task. Just like the film, the contents were passed to the Museum of Fine Arts staff. Not exactly a roomful of Egyptian artifacts and relics, but of significant historical value nonetheless.

In a manner that was very similar to the film, Freemasons are present at the unearthing of a significant piece of American history and their connection to our national heritage is cemented into to minds of the public. Freemasons are woven into the fabric of American leadership, history and ideas in ways that, prior to this film, go mostly unrecognized. On the surface, it seems pretty benign and even downright noble. That’s certainly what Disney wants you to think. But Disney is in business of manufacturing symbols that create new realities. You could say it’s a kind of magic. They say Disney is “the most magical place on earth.” Something tells me their fascination with magic makes them natural allies with Freemasonry. I’m just not sure it’s as benign as they want you to think.

Wynton Marsalis and the Paradox of Artistic Conservatism in the Progressive Age

Wynton Marsalis has positioned himself as a jazz conservationist and all purpose pop culture reactionary for the past several decades. From his lofty perch ensconced in the Lincoln Center, Marsalis has inveighed against the pernicious influence of avant garde, R&B and hip hop to howls of outrage on numerous occasions. Reviled by many in the musician community as a self-appointed authoritarian schoolmarm, effete royalist and uptight poindexter, Wynton is an easy target for any artist with modernist sympathies. As one would expect, Marsalis’ latest foray into the white hot culture wars has provoked yet another collective spasm of indignation from the social media commentariat. Brace yourself, proles. In an interview with Jonathan Capehart, Marsalis posited that hip hop is “more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.” Cue autistic screeching.

Marsalis has been just as outspoken in his opposition to the degrading influence of popular music as he has been in defense of what he considers a more edifying, uplifting, and yes, traditional vision of black art. While his statement does not represent a radical departure from any previous public claims, it is yet another noteworthy cultural moment in our current climate of supercharged identity politics and battles over free speech. Not only does it parallel the absolute shitstorm that followed Kanye West’s recent public statements in support of Trump and Candace Owens, it draws attention to some deeper questions over whether being an artistic conservative of any stripe is even possible in the techno-progressive age.

Just as you can roughly divide people along conservative and progressive lines in the political sphere, the same can be said for the artistic. An artistic conservative would generally subscribe to the notion that tradition should be respected, have objective aesthetic criteria, and its practitioners should be held to the highest standards of excellence. The artistic conservative would not buy into the idea that good art is completely subjective nor should it be completely democratized. Conversely, the artistic progressive would hold that traditions only exist to be inverted, reinvented, cherry picked or demolished outright. Art is always in a state of forward motion and flux. Change is an unassailable good while stasis is oppressive and confining.

Given these two competing worldviews, I contend that Marsalis finds himself in a position roughly analogous to the position Christina Sommers found herself when writing Who Stole Feminism. In other words, Wynton has the thankless task of attempting to consolidate and conserve an artistic form which was already a modernist amalgam of numerous traditions long after the wild horses of modernity had broken down the stables and overrun the barricades.

This is the main reason I find the outrage from the progressive camp to be both laughable and redundant. As usual, progressives are blind to their triumphs. The modernist genie is already out of the bottle. Wynton has neither the ability nor the desire to squelch any artist from making the music he wants to make. He is simply voicing an opinion. How many young hip hop fans are even paying attention let alone being persuaded by his point? Is there any reason to believe that even one person will stop listening to Lil Wayne after hearing Wynton Marsalis’ opinion? And even if he did manage to persuade someone, why would anyone who disagrees with him even care? Isn’t music the province of individual taste?

Yet, I’d argue that this is where the progressives are shortchanging Marsalis and also shooting themselves in the foot. Since I’m a musician myself, most of the reaction I observed on social media came from other musicians. Predictably, progressives assailed his comments as fusty and clueless. The reaction to his thrashing of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Miles Davis’ electric period in Ken Burns’ jazz documentary was met with a similarly hostile backlash. Despite the fact that numerous musicians chuckle at Miles Davis’ savage putdowns of Steve Miller, the Grateful Dead, and even Marsalis himself in his autobiography, Marsalis’ knocks on rock and pop music get a completely different treatment simply because he’s attacking from a different ideological vantage point. Miles was a trailblazing badass whereas Marsalis is the backward looking stuffed suit. What’s also odd is that these very same musicians, even if working within the new music circles, generally value a certain degree of musical proficiency and historical perspective. These skills and knowledge are the products of the study of some kind of musical tradition. Generally, it’s the jazz, blues, country or classical tradition. As in the ones Marsalis venerates and wants to conserve for posterity.

The unquestioned deference to a culture of pure individual expression untethered to any kind of traditionalism has resulted in an increasingly atomized marketplace. Just as religion provides a set of shared values and norms, a common tradition in arts can also serve a similar purpose. The irony is that musicians tend to denigrate pop music just like Wynton, but for slightly different reasons. They’ll shit on its lack of originality, the absence of real musicianship or its blatant commercialism. If anything, it was precisely because Marsalis put hip hop in his sights that prompted this particular bout of fauxtrage. Despite being a multibillion dollar industry, hip hop enjoys a permanent monopoly on being perceived as an edgy street art form that gives a voice to the Oppressed. Therefore, Marsalis was blind to the fact that racist old farts from bygone eras said the exact same thing about the music he currently canonizes. Get #WOKE, Wynton.

As expected, progressives seem to imagine Wynton as this quasi-fascist dictator who’s attempting to tell artists what art to make. Since we live in an age of liberal hegemony where unquestioned deference to progress is the orthodoxy, anyone who even suggests the idea of a conserved tradition with boundaries, limits and standards is branded a hidebound reactionary and a heretic. The reaction Marsalis is receiving also has parallels to the reactions Jordan Peterson is currently receiving over his secular defense of Christianity and traditionalism.

Is the knee jerk defense of artistic progressivism fostering a deeper appreciation for music with artistic aspirations that extend beyond the pop sphere? Or music which requires a higher level of complexity? Will the average hip hop fan give a shit about the numerous starving jazz musicians who stormed social media to denounce Marsalis as a retrograde dimwit? Even if Marsalis wants cordon off the jazz tradition and build an ideological border wall around it, will that prevent anyone from discovering Sun Ra or Albert Ayler? Or even J Dilla?

And then there’s the issue of preserving historical integrity when facing an onslaught of selective outrage that defines our Age of #SocialJustice. Current social justice narratives cast the entire sweep of history as nothing but a long chain of oppression and subjugation. We’re already seeing pop music being consigned to the memory hole for failing to the pass the hashtag friendly litmus tests. If an artist doesn’t live up to the feminist #MeToo standards, progressives are completely unmoved by calls for removal from streaming platforms. If Robert E. Lee gets sent to the dustbin for failing to meet ever shifting standards of woke piety, who’s to say that the records treasured by the progressive establishment won’t also be consumed in the fires of revolution eventually?

Marsalis has already responded to the considerable backlash with a lengthy and thoughtful post on Facebook. Anyone who doesn’t grasp his intent or the substance of his argument is being willfully ignorant, dishonest or both. But does his thoughtful response even register for anyone who reacted negatively to his argument? Like Sam Harris’ quixotic attempt to dismantle Ezra Klein’s hit pieces in Vox, Harris was forced to stave off the SJW zombie hordes simply for defending his right to voice an unconventional opinion.

Though they likely share opposing views, Wynton Marsalis has become a more genteel version of Ted Nugent. Every time he opines, it elicits paroxysms of contempt, but once you get past the vitriol, you’ll find an occasional grudging admission of respect.

At the same time, this controversy reveals the reason there has been a decades long conflict over who will have control over the levers of cultural consensus. Progressives reacted with customary autistic myopia as though the mere utterance of a controversial opinion would topple the secular liberal order. Each side knows that culture matters, but only progressives continue to affect the pretense of being underdogs despite the polar opposite being true. You are more likely to see progressives collectively high five one another over Black Panther than consider the possibility that NWA might have had an adverse effect on the black community.

In an anything goes culture of radical subjectivity, the artistic conservative faces an extraordinarily difficult task. When contemporary woke consensus considers gender a social construct, what chance does the artistic conservative have in promoting the idea of an objective aesthetic standard? Progressives are being myopic and greedy about the cultural marketplace. The progressive paradigm has triumphed unequivocally. So lighten up, progressives. The fire of artistic radicalism will not be extinguished if Wynton Marsalis takes a few shots at the hip hop empire.

Carl Sagan, Scientism, and the Liberal post-Enlightenment Consensus

I was sent this quote by a friend, and as much as I’m inclined to agree, I think a more balanced perspective is in order. I still reserve a great deal of affection for Mr. Sagan, but he’s hardly the first to diagnose the decrepitude of mind and spirit that’s emblematic of the classically liberal, post-Enlightenment technocratic age.

John Henry Newman, Edwin Lawrence Godkin, Oswald Spengler and Alexis de Tocqueville were but a few people who also foresaw the American experiment headed towards this unfortunate state of affairs.

If we’re going to be fair minded, we need to redirect the critique back to the worldview espoused by Mr. Sagan. What you find in the writings of those who held a more traditionalist mindset was a warning that the dogmatic emphasis on materialism and scientism would necessarily result in a tendency toward technocratic despotism. It would necessarily result in people attributing moral transgression to objects (i.e. guns) or material privation (i.e. inequality). It would necessarily result in a pharmaceutical industry relating to people as bags of chemicals whose moods and performance can be optimized with drugs. It would necessarily result in people making endless appeals to political power in pursuit of an ever elusive notion of #EQUALITY. It would necessarily result in an education system which indoctrinates the idea that the highest virtue is to place all morality into the arena of politics and that some magical combination of bureaucracy and legislation will result in ever improving outcomes.

Regarding his subtle dig at those who are sympathetic to crystals, astrology or anything that falls under the broad umbrella of New Age mysticism or the Western esoteric tradition, the entire scientific tradition as we know it is more closely aligned with the Western esoteric tradition than it is the Christian worldview. Mind you, I’m not trying to say that Christians are hostile to science by default, but there’s an esoteric spiritual worldview that’s baked into a lot of the scientific worldview that goes mostly unacknowledged. I suggest that has more than a little to do with the longstanding antagonism we’ve been fed surrounding the Faith vs. Science dichotomy.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Carl Sagan, but he can’t have his scientistic cake and eat it too. Liberalism has been the default setting for at least the past couple centuries. We’re seeing it move towards its logical conclusion: global technocracy.

I don’t think you can make this critique in earnest without a willingness to reexamine the underlying presuppositions of the post-Enlightenment liberal consensus.

Trump’s Thwarted Revolution: The Case for Defunding Federal Arts Programs Still Applies

As Trump began implementing his agenda in the early days of his administration, the daily drumbeat of outrage was as predictable as it was consistent. Whether it was denunciations of Rex Tillerson’s perceived conflicts of interest or Betsy Devos’ lack of credentials, Trump’s agenda sparked a howl of autistic screeching that now comprises a wall of digital noise that permeates the mediasphere. Each day ushered in a new set of perceived assaults on the moral fiber of the republic, but there was one agenda item that seemed to rise above others as an especially odious affront to civilization. Trump wanted to cut funding for the ARTS AND HUMANITIES. Cue Colonel Kurtz. The tremors of terror that rippled through the arts commmuniity were palpable.

It was bad enough that Neil Gorsuch secretly wanted to repeal Roe v. Wade and Betsy Devos’ appointment was a Trojan Horse for the reinstatement for school prayer. This was something infintely worse. This was seemingly an act of sabotage on the cornerstone of culture itself: ART. The indignation that emanted from the intelligentsia played out like an ad-lib. Shame on you, President Literally Hitler! Do you know who else banned art? HITLER! How dare you propose something so barbarous and regressive! You’re obviously just an unenlightened, pussy grabbing boor for even suggesting such a thing! The calls for defunding renewed, and like clockwork, the progressive establishment revved up the outrage all over again. The condemnation from all corners was strident and unanimous.

Though Trump is not the first to threaten this funding, we have yet to see any actual results from any Republican president. Reagan famously made a similar threat only to later add it to an ever accumulating pile of broken conservative promises. Apparently, we may never see any follow through. Early reports on the latest budget agreement indicate he has already capitulated just like Reagan. Regardless, I still believe his original instincts were correct and he he should have pulled the plug from the funding of the entire federal arts establishment from the budget.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will make two confessions from the outset. First, I’m an artist myself and there’s no doubt in my mind that if you were to list out all of the recipients of federal arts funding, there’d be much I’d either support outright or find commendable at minimum. Second, this was a taxpayer endeavor to which I was once fully sympathetic and wholeheartedly endorsed. This essay represents a change in a once deeply held conviction.

There are five arguments for defunding the arts programs:

  1. Taxpayer funded art is politicized art. Progressives are very clever about rationalizing and defending these programs. They’ll portay them as universal goods. They’ll say these are apolitical programs which spread a universal appreciation for art. In fact, they’re so beneficial, they’ll reap benefits that we may not even see in our own lifetimes. It may not yield the next Picasso, but it might yield the next art conscious industrialist or technocrat. However, the truth is quite obviously the opposite. Taxpayer funded art carries implicit and often explicit political content. No matter how abstract, art serves as a transmission vessel for values and ideas. At a bare minimum, it reinforces the idea that government funding generates culture, and that without it, the will to create or appreciate art would evaporate. And in the case of taxpayer funded art, the political outcomes flow in one direction. To the urban enclaves and strongholds where the Left already enjoys a cultural hegemony. Furthermore, the art world in general is overwhelmingly dominated by the Left. To assert that decades of taxpayer funding haven’t produced a quantifiable consensus in the art world is to deny reality. The progressive elites are keenly aware that opinion can be shaped and molded more easily through art than any other means. Politics are downstream from culture and no one knows this better than the progressive Left.
  2. Taxpayer funded art does not reflect the “will of the people” or a national consensus. It’s an argument that bears repeating. When art is funded through compulsory taxation, the final recipients will be ultimately be determined by a handful of bureaucrats. Subsequently, awards will be granted based on either proximity to the political apparatus or the subjective tastes of the bureaucrats. Funds appropriated through force immediately deprive individuals the opportunity to make voluntary purchases in the marketplace.
  3. It destroys the appreciation for fine art rather than strengthening it. A common rationale for this funding goes something like this. Making truly Great Art requires that the artist forego the idea of commercial success. Therefore, We as Enlightened Citizens should subsidize these heroic efforts because people just don’t appreciate these visionaries and this funding will help foster a deeper appreciation. But where’s the evidence? Are people demanding more Shakespeare and Bach? Or are we seeing the influence of the pop culture sphere eclipse all other artistic endeavors while listening to progressives bemoan the collapse they hastened? While I will concede that there’s truth to the claim that the artist must shoulder a certain degree of risk in creating original work, this line of thinking also reinforces an orthodoxy of virtue as well as a smug elitism around the entire enterprise. Furthermore, it reduces the incentive for subsidized artists to compete honestly in the marketplace alongside other commercial endeavors and produces its own aesthetic conformity. How many conservatives end up at Kronos Quartet concerts or are interested in seeing the Sol Lewitt exhibition? I suspect it’s next to zero. Does the federal funding apparatus hope to fund the next Leonardo Davinci, Raphael, Michelangelo or Vermeer? I suspect it’s a resounding No. We live a multicultural, post-national, postmodern world now, bigot. Don’t go pushing that Western civilization supremacy on us!
  4. It contributes to federal mission creep. The government is an institution vested with the power to initiate force, jail and imprison. When you attempt to project altruistic, humanitarian or higher order values on to government policy, you are essentially transforming these benevolent impulses into compulsion. Progressives are always the first to denounce the slightest hint of tyranny from conservatives, but somehow the rhetoric that fuels the taxpayer funded art apparatus inoculates them from criticism. It’s as though the good intentions and the aura of enlightened civic engagement are winning arguments all by themselves.
  5. Once implemented, federal spending programs are hard to kill. Again, we return to failed promise of conservatism in the liberal democratic age. Even a game changing president like Trump submits to the hive mind when the chips are down.

Taxpayer funded art is yet another example of how appealing rhetoric trumps outcomes. Even if you agree with every dollar of funding alloted, there will be a segment of the population who does not. Progressives always tout the size of the budget as a pittance relative to other federal expenditures, ergo all this is much ado about nothing. But if it’s truly so inconsequential, why the indignant pronouncements of moral condemnation? Why the supercharged proclamations of barabarism and small mindedness? Deploying state coercion to compel the provision of an abstract ideal of Common Good should be viewed with the greatest skepticism and the most vigilant restraint.

Jean Raspail: The Camp of the Saints

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to assemble them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the seashore. And they marched across the broad expanse of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. – Revelations 20:9

If a novel opens with a passage from Revelations, I expect an apocalyptic vision and Jean Raspail certainly delivers one in his controversial novel from 1973, The Camp of the Saints. Progressives may imagine themselves the eternal champions of heretical thought and the guardians against an omnipresent conservative censoriousness, but the truth is quite self-evidently the opposite. If there is a work of art, scholarship or even a viewpoint which deviates from progressive articles of faith by a fraction of a degree, specifically multiculturalism, it will be vilified and condemned with the fervor of a thousand Moral Majorities. Just ask Richard Spencer, Robert Putnam or Charles Murray. All enlightened folk agree that The Camp of the Saints is a racist piece of shit and any properly liberal, right thinking, cosmopolitan progressive would find this novel to be reprehensible and retrograde in every respect. Let’s get it straight. All cultures are completely equal. Mass immigration is an unalloyed good and an engine of economic growth. White racism is the greatest evil humanity has ever faced. According to our #WOKE superiors in academia, racism is privilege plus power. Therefore, no racial or ethnic group is even capable of racism. If anything, immigrants are more law abiding and harder working than those born in America or Europe. Besides, Western civilization isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s all just an undistinguished chain of misery, subjugation, colonialism and enslavement. White racial pride in and of itself is tantamount to an endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan and is an open invitation to a neo-Nazi fascist dictatorship. And let’s face it. The white man simply stole everything from every other culture in the first place, so all third world and Islamic migration is just redressing past injustices. Africa would be Wakanda if it weren’t for the colonizing white man. Right? Of course! All properly enlightened people think this way. And by the way, if you doubt even one of those statements, try voicing your opposition publicly. Let me know how well it goes over.

While those statements are now taken as progressive articles of faith, they also represent the bedrock of liberal progressive thought that informed Raspail’s novel. Make no mistake, Raspail is most definitely linking culture to race, and he is making a very clear value judgment about European culture in contrast to third world cultures. He also paints a rather nasty portrait of the Indian immigrants making their way towards Europe that would be considered racist by everyone who subscribes to the progressive consensus. Given that he regards white, European culture as superior to others, you would be tempted to call him a racial supremacist, but I think he’s properly regarded as a forerunner of the contemporary ethno-nationalist/identitarian alt-right movement. Admittedly, most people see no distinction between the two, but a distinction exists nonetheless. By broaching this theme, Raspail has already been branded evil incarnate by the gatekeepers of GoodThink, but I’m not entirely convinced this book is animated by hatred. If anything, it is somewhat despairing about the dissolution of European culture. The novel has a tone of despondent gloom and a distinctly resigned cynicism over Europe’s guilt and misplaced altruism.

As easy and tempting as it may be to dismiss this book as the ravings of a stupid, racist white European male, The Camp of the Saints opens a Pandora’s Box of really uncomfortable questions facing the fate of the West. In the era of Trump, #Brexit, #Shitholegate, Black Panther and mass immigration, The Camp of the Saints reads less like dystopian fiction and more like current events. His portrait of non-white cultures and miscegenation seems histrionic, but given the white hot stigma that surrounds all discussion of migrant crime, assimilation and the entire spectrum of scientific research around issues of so-called race realism, one wonders if Raspail has simply broached the most forbidden taboo in progressive orthodoxy. His portrait of “the beast”, the pathological racial self-loathing, guilt and false altruism that has been actively cultivated by the globalist, neo-Marxist Left is dead on.

The Camp of the Saints is technically a work of dystopian fiction, but it feels like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The novel tells the story of a fleet of ships packed with immigrants which has set sail from Calcutta to France. As the news of the immigrant fleet reaches the Western world, Raspail carves out two sets of character portraits who respond to the advent of the immigrants in opposite ways. On one side, you have patriots, conservatives and nationalists and on the other you have globalists, communists and progressives. With one notable exception, all of the characters in the former category are white while everyone in the latter vary in terms of heritage but are mostly non-white or mixed race. Broadly speaking, it’s a very accurate depiction of the current political and cultural divide. Depending on where your own views line up, the novel is either race baiting or prophecy. I suggest it’s both, but it leans more heavily towards the latter than the former. And it’s way more prophetic than the gatekeepers of progressive GoodThink will ever acknowledge.

For anyone who isn’t already consumed by neo-Marxist racial hatred of whites, Raspail’s book drives up a very thorny mass of questions. He punctuates chapter endings and events with several variations on the same question: Could that be one explanation? Raspail is grounded in his certainty of his premise, but he also seems to be asking the reader to question how the West came to be wallowing, and even celebrating, in its own supine posture of indolence.

Despite the Left’s pathological determination to vilify everyone on the Right as a bigot, virtually every conservative or libertarian regardless of race or ethnicity is a racial egalitarian. In other words, a de-emphasis on collective or cultural identity, but a deeply individualistic emphasis on merits, values, and how one comports himself in society. However, as much as one might wish that everyone would share these convictions, the sheer numbers of people who subscribe to the standard hate filled anti-white narrative promulgated by the neo-Marxists seems to outweigh those who have a more egalitarian view. Underneath the liberty philosophy is a deeply embedded belief that Western values are not just the exclusive property of white Europeans; they’re universal values that are available to all and can win the marketplace of ideas if given a proper hearing. Raspail rejects these premises and the prescience of his narrative speculation casts deep doubt on this belief.

Are whites allowed any measure of racial or ethnic pride without being tarred with the standard litany of supremacist epithets? Raspail suggests that the group with the deepest faith in themselves will prevail while the one with the deepest doubt will be crushed. Has radical egalitarianism completely supplanted the basic instinct for survival? Though there is evidence that people from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds can assimilate Western values and even traditionalism, this novel begs the question of how much multiculturalism society can absorb before it loses any coherence or cohesion. Or before the various collective identities are set against one another in pursuit of political advantage.

Perhaps the entire paleoconservative/Rothbardian critique of mainstream conservatism’s capitulation to progressivism is partially explained when examined in this light. Perhaps mainstream conservatism is just a variation on cosmopolitan liberal modernity with an overlay of Western traditionalism. Do ideas alone drive culture or do ideas emerge from culture? Is culture and social cohesion inextricably tied to race as Raspail suggests? Is peace and stability more easily achieved through racial homogeneity? Is a conservative/libertarian political and social order fundamentally tied to the conservation of racially homogeneous or white majority ethnostate? Is some measure of racial pride necessary for social cohesion, the propagation of your own line and transference of intergenerational wisdom?

If a racially homogeneous society does lend itself towards a stable political and social order, does racial heterogeneity lend itself towards the artificial manufacturing of a leftist social and political consensus since the bonds normally forged within the homogeneous culture are easily filled after natural bonds have been broken? Does cultural dislocation create an increased impulse towards revolution against the prevailing order?

Is the orchestrated influx of migrants the natural consequence of an increase in liberalization coupled with a steady erosion of traditionalism in society? How much liberal modernity can the West absorb and conserve without devolving into chaos and degeneracy? Or is it a form of mental battery acid that erodes all the bonds of cohesion on which stable civilization depends?

Day by day, month by month, doubt by doubt, law and order became fascism; education, constraint; work, alienation; revolution, mere sport; leisure, a privilege of class; marijuana, a harmless weed; family, a stifling hothouse; affluence, oppression; success, a social disease; sex, an innocent pastime; youth, a permanent tribunal; maturity, the new senility; discipline, an attack on personality; Christianity … and the West … and white skin …

The novel’s greatest strength is its sweeping indictment of the myriad ways the liberal mentality erodes the foundations of society. As if the racial commentary weren’t controversial enough, Raspail broaches yet another uncomfortable truth: the necessity of violence for self-preservation. The president of France bemoans the fact that neither the police or the army will be able to defend its countrymen. After years of being accused of being butchers and oppressors, they’d lost their will to raise arms.

On the flipside, Raspail describes the conquest mentality that takes root in the heat of mob rule. Once an organized group forcibly gains ground over its opponents, the thirst for continued conquest only accumulates.

The Camp of the Saints is similar to an Ayn Rand novel in that Raspail populates his novel with characters who inhabit every corner of society. Just like Atlas Shrugged, the movers of cultural consensus are largely on the Left, and those who oppose the immigrants have to swim against the prevailing sentiment. There’s a South American pope who’s solidly sympathetic to the immigrants. You have a Ta Nehisi Coates style racial demagogue who has a generous media platform. There’s even an Antifa-style militia whose slogans haven’t aged a day and could easily be transplanted into today’s version.

Raspail also shares Rand’s foresight in extrapolating outcomes and institutions which spring from the Left’s syrupy, brain damaged nostrums. There are UN antiracism programs and government ministries dedicated to the abolition of “racist pollution”. The passage of a law which allows white women to be raped sounds outrageous, but you don’t have to look very far in progressive media to find articles trumpeting interracial sex as the highest virtue imaginable. Even more baffling is the ways that the entire spectrum of migrant crime, including and especially sex crimes, are excused, downplayed or whitewashed.

There are so many details which may have been very shocking at the time of the novel’s publication, but if anything, reality is stranger and more terrifying than fiction. A fictional account of Christian churches converting to Mosques may sound like hyperbole, but Raspail is being vindicated with each passing day.

He even nailed the idiotic quasi-mystical rallying cries of Unity that we now hear emanating from the bleating herds of SJWs that are now mindlessly regurgitated at the nearest mention of Muslims or immigrants. The SJWs of Raspail’s world rallied around “We’re all from the Ganges now” whereas the missionaries of the #RESISTANCE say “We’re all Muslim now”.

In contrast to a Rand novel, the President of France is aware of the impending calamity. He is, in fact, treating the immigrants as an invading army who are merely exploiting the collective compassion of the French to gain access to their abundant resources. When it comes time to address the nation at the hour of crisis, Raspail is masterful in portraying the moral conundrum with which he, and by extension, everyone in the West now faces.

Needless to say, Raspail was essentially calling third world cultures shitholes long before Trump and he makes no bones about it. Since Raspail made his immigrant horde Indian, doesn’t India’s rise as an emerging economic power prove that his disparaging characterization towards third world cultures was unfounded? His portrait of India’s impoverished masses is indeed pretty harsh, but even if you take into account India’s economic successes and the IQ levels of the upper end of the population curve, the broader population remains poor and human rights abuses abound. India remains a hotbed of the worst forms of human depravity.

Despite being a work of fiction, there’s little, if anything, in the novel which can’t be mapped to real world phenomena. Any honest appraisal of the novel should view it as a stinging rebuke to progressives, civic nationalists, liberals and open borders libertarians alike. The Trump era has essentially herded all liberty minded people into two camps. In one camp, you have a loose coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals who buy into some version of cosmopolitan civic nationalism. In other words, a belief that a multicultural consensus can theoretically win the marketplace of ideas, turn Western civilization back from the brink, restore civic pride, and preserve a culture of liberty for posterity. On the other, you have the ethno-nationalists who are arguing very fervently that culture and race are linked and that relegating whites to minorities is a recipe for civilization suicide. The contention is that the only way that a high trust, cohesive culture that actually conserves liberty and civic pride is through a white majority or straight up ethnostate.

The gatekeepers of GoodThink will likely continue to disparage this book as a hate filled screed. And that’s too bad. If anything, this book is an indictment of multiculturalism as a particularly pernicious ideology. A component of the civilization destroying mind rot embedded in progressive worldview. It is a utopian belief that racial animosity is the one true Original Sin for which the white man is both uniquely guilty and must forever atone. One does not have to be filled with hatred to consider the possibility that there might be limits to the degree any multiracial society can retain any cohesion. Further still, the quest to assimilate a significant percentage of minorities might be both undesirable and untenable. It is neither hateful nor supremacist to acknowledge that there was a good reason that ethnically homogeneous societies protected by borders were the norm for most of human civilization. It is neither hateful nor supremacist to acknowledge the very real possibility that a racially homogeneous society might offer the highest possibility for trust and cohesion. The utopian dream of a post-racial world is quite evidently the animating force driving the globalist Left. But this unique burden of forging a multicultural consensus continues to be borne disproportionately by America and the West. Most every non-Western country retains a clear racial, ethnic or religious majority and makes no apologies for it. Countries like Poland that defy the globalist elites by refusing third world immigration are bullied and vilified for their defiance.

Like it or not, Jean Raspail did indeed foresee Western civilization heading towards this juncture and dramatized it in chilling detail. This is a book that’s easy to dismiss. White racial consciousness has been stigmatized as the greatest evil that has ever beset civilization. It’s considered the exclusive province of unenlightened, knuckle dragging degenerates that have been named and shamed by the ADL and SPLC. Whats far more difficult is to consider is the possibility that Raspail’s novel correctly foresaw the fate of the West. And given that frightening prospect, only one question remains. Will we muster the will to preserve what remains of Western civilization?

Many a civilization, victim of the selfsame fate, sits tucked in our museums, under glass, neatly labeled. But man seldom profits from the lessons of his past…

Peterson and Shapiro: On the Proper Balance Between Individual and Collective Identity

Picking up the venerable tradition of the long form interview format which was the norm in decades past, Dave Rubin has claimed a prominent position in the so-called “intellectual dark web”. A term coined by Eric Weinstein which describes a collection of independent content creators, podcasters and dissident intellectuals who are actively cultivating a space for the discussion of big ideas and philosophical principles that drive culture and politics. In a recent episode of the Rubin Report, Rubin moderated a vibrant exchange between Dr. Jordan Peterson and conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro. Since there was a lot of mutual respect and a shared passion for both the expansion of public discourse and the preservation of Western ideals, Rubin was able to guide the discussion with a very light touch. Though both Peterson and Shapiro share many complementary views, the exchange was illuminating in that it provided insight into the different pathways of thought they traversed in order to arrive at their respective conclusions.

The discussion touched on familiar themes that all three men have devoted considerable mental bandwidth in recent months including free speech, identity politics, postmodernism as well as Peterson’s now legendary exchange with Cathy Newman. The latter half of the interview was the most illuminating because it contrasted the differences between the Judaic and Christian tradition and the ways each informed their respective worldview. Specifically, they discussed what they regard as the proper relationship of the individual to the collective.

Though Shapiro identifies as a conservative and Peterson claims the mantle of classical liberal, each is an ardent defender of the primacy of the individual over a collective identity. Both men, Peterson in particular, have built their reputations by being outspoken combatants on the forefront of the cultural war against identity politics. However, this doesn’t mean that either rejects a group identity. Though I’ve been following their work very closely, this is the first time of which I’m aware that they’ve discussed a contrasting view to collective identity which stands in opposition to neo-Marxist postmodernism.

All three agreed that intersectional social justice is sowing the seeds of a reactionary identitarian movement on the political Right, and all three agree that identity politics should be abandoned outright. All three subscribe to the secular liberal idea that religious belief is not required either for the acquisition of moral values or for meaning and purpose in life. Further, each concedes that you need to have an underlying bedrock of commonality on which to build a society. Given that all three men are at war against the degeneration of Western thought, it is curious that they would mount a defense of the Western tradition starting from the very propositions that formed the basis of post-Enlightenment modernity. In other words, the very consensus that has lead us to this point. This raises one profoundly important question. If ethno-nationalism is not the solution for America and the West, what set of ideas are being proffered for building a stable national identity and social order? Will these ideas be durable enough to stand up to the various ideologies competing for global dominance? How will conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals address the issues of collective identity, social cohesion, and a sense of shared responsibility in a world dominated by a largely progressive, multicultural consensus? Can the classical liberal framework be conserved at all without devolving into neo-Marxist postmodernism?

Anyone familiar with Dr. Peterson knows that he is a model of precision when he speaks. Very few people are able to articulate the depth of knowledge that he possesses with the same level of clarity and consistency. This is why it was surprising to hear what appeared to be two competing claims around group identity. Peterson was adamant in his opposition to either multicultural neo-Marxism or white nationalist identitarianism. Shortly after making this statement, he concedes that there is “utility” in having a homogeneous society.

You could think about that psychologically as an attempt to both manage the preservation of group identity so that would be culture, a cultural identity, which has some utility and also to be able coexist with others who are doing things in a different way. – Jordan Peterson

This is a solidly conservative proposition and one that has ethno-nationalist overtones. Yet at every other juncture when ethno-nationalist identity politics are brought up, they avoid it like the plague. If ethno-nationalism is a third rail, what about religious nationalism as YouTubers like The Distributist suggest? Peterson hints at the Catholic Church’s role in the conservation of culture, but since Vatican II, the Church has taken an increasingly secular and politicized tone. Peterson himself concedes that Protestantism fares no better in that it’s rabid individualism coincided largely with the ascendancy of liberalism.

Furthermore, if neither religion or race will be the binding principles that define nationhood, then it appears as though we return merely to the prospect of the restoration of the post-Enlightenment conception of modernity. In other words, neutrality on faith, no prioritization of hereditary culture and a reliance on the conservation of a loose consensus of a nation of ideas.

This appears to be the shared consensus between both men. While Shapiro is biologically Jewish and believes in Judaism, he argues a distinction between biological Judaism versus a Judaism of ideas.

I care very little about biological Judaism. – Ben Shapiro

If Shapiro is only interested in a collective identity of ideas and biological heritage is of no consequence in the construction of culture, how does this square with the racial and ethnic composition of the state of Israel? Would Judaism be Judaism without people who were, in fact, biologically Jewish? As Shapiro himself concedes, the number of converts to the faith suggest that the bar of entry remains very high. Would Shapiro be comfortable with the idea of a minority Jewish population within the state of Israel? Call me presumptuous, but I have a hunch he’d object.

Is a national identity of ideas viable over the long term in a multicultural social order? How does this differ from the American Republic? And if that’s what he’s offering, doesn’t that suggest that a national identity of ideas in a secular, multicultural social order is an untenable proposition? Can we just hit the reset button on the classical liberal consensus and conserve it for posterity?

Given that neo-Marxist postmodernism has been so successful in mobilizing identitarian factions while plunging whites into an ever accelerating downward spiral of self-loathing, isn’t this confirmation that there is a deeply embedded psychological mechanism that has been turned in on itself? If being branded a racist is considered the height of moral depravity in our Age of #SocialJustice, can we really chalk it up to the effectiveness of progressive conditioning or is it something unique to the moral psychology of whites which makes them especially susceptible to pathological guilt tripping?

If secular multicultural civic nationalism is such a fantastic alternative to both the globalist Left and Islamic theocracy, why do Western democracies bear such a disproportionate burden for maintaining this idea?

If evolutionary psychology is true and the substrate of being is comprised of stories of your own forebears mixed with archetypal symbolism, is it unreasonable to suggest that the conservation of racial and ethnic distinction is perfectly harmonious with the conservation of national identity and cultural tradition?

If seasoned academics like Peterson are using evolutionary biology and psychology as rebukes to the claims of the postmodern Left, then why would race be excluded from the overall calculus?

Many people agree that the West is facing a deep crisis over the erosion of the cornerstones of community, faith and family and the corrosive effect wrought by its politicized substitutes. What’s less clear is how to restore a healthy balance between individual liberty, collective identity, and civic pride. The alt-right has a vision that continues to be vilified and stigmatized as the second coming of fascism. The globalist Left shows no signs of reversing their embrace of intersectional social justice thereby justifying their mutual existence. Two forces destined for a collision course. I’d like to think there is hope for the conservation of the classical liberal framework. As much as I admire Peterson and Shapiro, I just hope they aren’t whistling past the graveyard.

SOTU 2018: Is There a Future for Multicultural Civic Nationalism?

In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is “in God we trust.” Donald J. Trump, January 30, 2018

Whether I’ve been conditioned to be cynical or that I’ve become inured to the plastic rhetoric that’s all too common amongst the political class, I’ve never been one to get enthusiastic about a State of the Union Address. Setting aside its pomp and circumstance, the SOTU is meant to be an occasion for the POTUS to tout achievements, goad the opposition and rally the nation. It sounds good in theory, but is rather boring in practice. Given that the Trumpocalypse has sent progressives into unforeseen paroxysms of autistic derangement, I figured I had watch President Trump’s first SOTU simply to see what tack he would take. While it certainly had its fair share of applause lines, appeals to working-class sensibilities and overt tugs at the heartstrings, it struck me as perhaps the most sincere and heartfelt call to national unity I can remember. The fact that the Democrats struck an oppositional and belligerent pose was a foregone conclusion. Being the hateful, power hungry degenerates they are, the progressives revealed their true colors by both refusing to acknowledge Trump’s achievements and snubbing his cooperative overtures at every turn. For his part, it was, in many ways, another classic, if somewhat subdued, Trump performance peppered with a few choice digs at the progressives’ petulant, entitled intransigence. It was a reminder of why he won in the first place, but an utterly bewildering manifestation of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton Window of political discourse. Throughout the speech, Trump remained focused on achievements, optimism, patriotism, hope, faith, family and national unity irrespective of race, creed or religion. Things that were conventional, uncontroversial notions around which Americans could bond as little as a couple decades ago. It was quintessentially American, small “C” conservative and Trumpian all at once. And contrary to the never-ending accusations of #FASCISM emanating from the progressive mental asylum, it was in fact, classically small “L” liberal. But that’s just not going to pass for the ever vigilant revolutionaries of the #RESISTANCE. Just as anyone could predict, the Democrats went to the speech filled with bile, contempt, and a complete absence of any coherent position other than a naked thirst to undo the 2016 election.

This poses an obvious question around the viability of a national multicultural consensus. Is there anything that will satisfy the progressive grievance industrial complex that doesn’t involve absolute political dominion? What progressives refuse to acknowledge is that Trump fully embodies cosmopolitan, multicultural civic nationalism. Despite attempts to paint him as a virulent racist, Trump embraces the classically liberal multicultural ethos in every way. For Trump, regardless of who you are or from where you came, if you embrace the American ideal, uphold the law and contribute positively to the economy, you’re an American. And the numbers speak for themselves. Not only did Trump attract visible social media support from the likes of Diamond and Silk and Malik Obama, he pulled in respectable voter turnout numbers from the black and Latino communities alike.

For the progressive grievance industrial complex, none of this matters. No quantity of factual evidence that runs counter to the narrative makes a dent. Even the once venerable defender of civil liberties, the ACLU, have been stricken with the brain eating virus of intersectional social justice. Not content to protect civil liberties for actual American citizens, they are now complaining about the unspeakable injustice of hearing the word “America” spoken 80 times and the adverse effect it will have for Dreamers. The horror.

No matter how many Ben Carsons or Tim Scotts are presented, no matter how many gestures of goodwill or tangible economic gains, the relentless bleating of MUH WHITE SUPREMACY continues unabated. They remain hateful, embittered power hungry degenerates. As much as I wish there were more Larry Elders and Dinesh D’Souzas, they are simply outnumbered by the DeRay McKessons and Tariq Nasheeds.

Progressives continue to deploy this toxic brand of identity politics and then weaponize it by turning it on their opponents. It’s a way of simultaneously reinforcing the idea that an intractable metaphysical malady lies at the heart of society that only they apprehend while placing themselves on a loftier moral plane for having the depth of empathy necessary to acknowledge it. And the only way to telegraph your #WOKENESS is to attribute all social calamity to “whiteness” and police the thoughts of others for evidence of WrongThink. It’s an obnoxious and manipulative racket that everyone outside the echo chamber already recognizes, but it’s a tactic that they have no intention of relinquishing. No one likes to be called a racist, and accusing your opponents of being bigots is a great way to attempt to elicit shame and obedience while inoculating yourself with a balm of smug, in-group self-loathing.

Even Tree of Logic concedes a certain futility in combating this mental illness in her brilliant video about the Democratic Plantation. You’d think that a proper reading of the Democrats’ real historical record towards blacks would be enough to red pill the entire community, but it doesn’t. Instead, she resigns herself to the Republicans’ impotence on expanding their appeal. Making matters worse is the Democrats’ craven refusal to cut an immigration deal. They are making no effort to conceal that this is a Johnsonesque ploy secure a permanent power bloc for years to come. They’re essentially treating unlimited immigration as an unalloyed good, willfully ignoring cultural differences and criminal behavior, imposing no standards for assimilation and branding any deviation from this orthodoxy as tantamount to the reinstatement of Jim Crow.

If nothing else, Trump is masterful at exposing the progressives as the miserable hypocrites they are. The fact that the Democrats remain so imprisoned by their hatred continues to provide him with seemingly never-ending opportunities to troll them and unmask their vindictive, embittered rottenness. No matter what happens in the economy, no matter what he does, the progressive narrative remains the same. Trump is a racist, fascist piece of garbage. #LiterallyHitler. And right on cue, that’s exactly the reaction that gushed forth from the swine manure lagoons of the mainstream media and Twitterati. Throughout the speech, Trump took every opportunity to puncture holes in the narrative that progressives have so assiduously reinforced for the past year. It was a brilliant bit of theater, but the deeper problem becomes increasingly self-evident. The exemplary moment was the Congressional Black Caucus’ refusal to applaud the lowest black unemployment rate recorded. It is rightfully being acknowledged as a victory for Trump since it exposes the miserly moral vacuum at the center of the Democratic Party, but it casts doubt on whether a true American nationalist unity can ever be forged in a multicultural society.

So what does this bode for the future for liberty minded people? As far as I can tell, this leaves three options:

  1. Advocacy for an increasingly unstable multicultural civic nationalism
  2. Globalist technocratic dictatorship
  3. Balkanization of the Union

It’s not entirely clear that libertarians have a meaningful solution to offer. The Rothbardians remain staunchly anti-state and rabidly individualistic. Those that haven’t been cucked by the Left aren’t building meaningful coalitions. Even if all the AnCaps in the world band together to form a stateless society, it will have to function as a mini nation state. The competition of ideas won’t remain a viable option when the number of people who simply don’t give a shit about anything other than in group preference outnumbers the knowledge seekers.

Not exactly an appealing set of options.

In essence, the progressives are simultaneously validating the existence of the alt-right while making their deranged fever dream of a rising #FASCISM a self-fulfilling prophecy. Progressives have no viable ideas, have given up debate and show no signs of abandoning their pathological attachment to weaponized identity politics. And why would they if it’s gotten them this far? They’ve set up the game to glorify non-white identity as legitimate cultural pride while branding pride in white identity as a call for camps, ovens and lynching. They have essentially constructed an entire moral universe which places white pride and male assertiveness as the source of all that is corrupt.

The Trump presidency is a welcome battering ram against the onslaught of the globalist elite. I expect the tensions to get hotter as the midterms approach and the #Russiagate sham unravels. But those who wish to preserve what remains of Western thought are going to have to make some bleak choices over which hill they will make their stand.

On Spencer v. Sargon, Collectivism and the Limits of Liberalism and Libertarianism

Sargon of Akkad’s recent live stream appearance with Richard Spencer was a watershed moment not just for the so-called YouTube Skeptic Community, but for classical liberalism and libertarianism alike. Specifically, it has called into question the viability of the classical liberal assumption of the primacy of individualism over collectivism. So much so, that Sargon has renounced his perch of smug detachment and hoisted the banner of “liberalist” in hopes of revitalizing a philosophy that has long been considered the pinnacle of Western secular thought but has since fallen into disrepute with the ascendancy of progressivism and postmodern neo-Marxism. 

What’s at issue is the classical liberal and libertarian claim that all political collective action initiated under the banner of either multicultural neo-Marxism or white nationalist identitarianism is a pathway to tyranny. Conservatives have long argued that liberalism leads to atomized individuals with no larger concerns for community or country. And in the case of the alt-right, loyalty to race. Further, the idea that rights come with responsibilities and duties has given way to a either a sense of petulant entitlement or a false pretense of morality. Take for example, the progressive argument for single payer healthcare. Classical liberals (including many conservatives) and libertarians argue that legislation which expropriates the individual in order confer material goods or services through force of law violates individual rights. State compulsion deployed in order to forcibly impose a transfer of wealth from one group to another or to fulfill a broad notion of “public good” is merely a form of legalized plunder. While it may be tempting to take the standard libertarian tack of apolitical detachment and principled rationalism, That Guy T argues a point with which any serious liberty minded person must contend. 

Humanity is wired for collectivism. Society can neither be built or maintained with a mass of atomized individuals. People’s moral instincts favor group welfare over appeals to individualism. No matter how tight your argument against redistribution may be, you’re fighting what amounts to a religious belief in the sanctity of group welfare. In the mind of the progressive, the fulfillment of a moral imperative which redresses entrenched inequalities and structural barriers to upward economic mobility completely trounces any appeal to individual liberty. 

However, I believe the critical distinction is over what form collectivism will take and where it goes wrong.

The State is an institution of collectivized force. Politics is both the art of the possible and the socially sanctioned application of institutionalised violence. When any form of collective action enters the political sphere, it is in essence, an attempt to impose a widely shared moral imperative through the force of law. The progressive left has built a completely politicized moral system atop longstanding Marxist templates of oppression. The reason they have monopolized every institution which shapes values and perception is because the leftist ideology can only be upheld and maintained through aggressive propaganda and an atomized population whose cultural and familial bonds are weak or broken.  

Sargon argued that the alt-right are simply the other end of the identity politics Horseshoe Theory. Ergo, they’re no different from the SJWs. The alt-right quest for an ethnostate will require all manners of state oppression, thought policing and perhaps even blood testing. The alt-right, however, are arguing that ethnic and racial homogeneity is perfectly in accord with human nature and legislating a collective consensus is easier to justify when you’re providing for your own people and there are more deeply rooted bonds of family and community. The alt-right contends that racially homogeneous societies produce higher levels of trust and cohesion. Even if you don’t buy the argument for racial homogeneity, the libertarian argument for decentralization and smaller units of political power lends itself to creating a more manageable social order. T argues that libertarians can be liberty “consultants” for collectivism. 

That Guy T is also correct to concede that libertarianism risks becoming an irrelevant clique of sanctimonious nerds. Pretensions of intellectual and moral superiority, postures of neutral detachment nor ideological votes for doomed candidacies are likely to win the day or build the kind of future libertarians seek. Libertarians must face the possibility that all the arguments in the world won’t mean anything when people will use the political apparatus without hesitation to promote what they believe to be in the best interests of their preferred group. I have previously suggested that the libertarian pursuit of pure principles and free competition of ideas has the best chance of planting the deepest roots. This was perhaps an overly charitable appraisal. Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth which must be considered is that a marketplace of ideas doesn’t stand a chance unless there’s a culture which values a marketplace of ideas in the first place. 

Robert Nisbet: Conservatism: Dream and Reality

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Since the election of Donald Trump, conservatism is increasingly being conflated with fascism, Nazism, racial supremacy and xenophobia. For some, it’s a direct equivalence. Unfortunately, the incessant usage of these smears has not only undermined the true meaning of conservatism, but the entire suite of words used as epithets against conservatives. Given progressivism’s rampant vandalism of language, it’s especially useful to peel back the layers of autistic screeching that have besmirched the mantle of conservatism and take stock of its ideological roots. For anyone seeking a good primer on the classical conception of conservatism, Robert Nisbet’s Conservatism: Dream and Reality is a good place to begin. Both a worthwhile companion and more succinct synthesis of Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Nisbet’s Conservatism is a tour through the anatomy of conservative thought. Conservatism, in both cultural and political terms, is fundamentally about the conservation of values, institutions and traditions, and Nisbet’s overview also shares Kirk’s affinity for the thought of the movement’s inspirational forefather, Edmund Burke. Using Burke as his intellectual lodestar, Nisbet’s survey brings to bear the entire lineage of conservatism including Burkean contemporaries like Joseph de Maistre, Benjamin Disraeli, Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald, and Alexis de Tocqueville. The contributions of modern exponents such as Russell Kirk, Michael Oakeshott, Irving Babbitt and TS Eliot are also acknowledged. What all of these men had in common was a shared conviction in the sanctity of traditionalism and a determination to ward off the steady encroachment of conservatism’s two adversaries: liberalism and socialism.

Sparked by Burke’s seminal rebuke to the French Revolution, modern conservatism arose as a response to both the Jacobin fervor for equality and the broader Enlightenment consensus which now forms the bedrock of Western modernity itself. Conservatives viewed the liberal fixation on radical individualism and rational empiricism as an assault on traditional life, and by extension, the hard won fruits of stability, order and civil society. Underneath the conservative conception of the entire social order was a natural epistemological framework for discerning cultural knowledge which forms the basis of the conservative relationship to all institutions of authority. Or to use Burkean terminology, the primacy of prejudice and prescription. Burke and his contemporaries argued that prescription and prejudice was a prerational wisdom borne from popular consciousness and intergenerational knowledge which arose organically from a stable social order. Family, church, and community all formed independent spheres of authority which simultaneously served to constrain behavior, build stable institutions, and mitigate the influence of the State. Burkeans maintained that the very notion of liberty itself hinged on the conservation of this social order. Subsequently, the liberal pursuit of abstract principles and the clinical application of the scientific method in an attempt to distill universal laws by which to govern human affairs was capricious, dehumanizing and detrimental to the very cornerstones of society they sought to conserve.

Liberalism’s tendency to consolidate its thought in an aristocracy of academic elites is one of the perennial gripes that binds every generation of conservatives. In contrast to the feudal conception of dispersed spheres of authority espoused by conservatives, liberalism relies very heavily on a system of education lead by a vanguard of intellectual gnostics in order to reproduce the effect normally cultivated within the institutions of traditional society. Stated in contemporary terms, the progressives need propagandists. Beginning with Burke’s savage attacks on Rousseau to the seething contempt poured on the clinical abstractions of Jeremy Bentham, academic elites have long been reviled by conservatives as the engineers of social dissolution.

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Yeah, well Edmund Burke didn’t know queer theory, did he? Checkmate, conservatards.

Where the conservative mind accepts humanity as it is, the liberal zeal for reform seeks to eradicate all vestiges of the traditional order so that the era of emancipated brotherhood can be fully realized. This religious pursuit of a reformed consciousness is the singular hallmark of all leftist revolutionaries from Rousseau to Lenin to its current manifestation in the postmodern, social justice Left. Both Tocqueville and Burke saw the French Revolution as a pursuit of radical egalitarianism engineered by academics. Within these criticisms was a recognition that the “French revolution inaugurated a kind of revolution of the Word, something previously found in only evangelical, proselytizing religions.” It’s a pattern that repeated itself during the Bolshevik Revolution in the 20th century and appears to be resurfacing now within the postmodern Left.

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Conservatives from Bonald to Hegel argued that the transference of the locus of moral authority away from the spheres of family and church and into the hands of the State is the mental carcinogen at the core of the revolutionary mindset. Rousseau himself was very explicit in the Social Contract that the goal was to institute a “civil religion.” In contrast to the conservative conception of independent spheres of authority of which both family and church play an essential role, the progressive appropriates the divine sanction the church confers upon the State and bends it towards a revolutionary end. For the progressive, the moral is political. Subsequently, all areas of life must be subordinated to the “civil religion” of #SocialJustice.

Lead by the feminist vanguard, the assault on family life is now out in full display. Conservatives opposed feminism on the grounds that it undermined the traditional role of women as wives and mothers. While relatively few openly embrace the mantle of feminism, the fruits of the feminist crusade for taxpayer subsidized abortion, no fault divorce and gynocentric child custody law are more than evident in declining birth rates, rising divorce rates, unfavorable outcomes for boys and a perverse obsession with gender neutrality. Add in the progressive obsession with importing immigrants and the conservative argument only gathers strength.

Where family pride ceases to act, individual selfishness comes into play. When the idea of family becomes vague, indeterminate, and uncertain, a man thinks of his present convenience; he provides for the establishment of his next succeeding generation and no more. Either a man gives up the idea of perpetuating his family, or at any rate he seeks to accomplish it by other means than by a landed estate. – Alexis de Tocqueville

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One of the more surprising revelations of Nisbet’s research is the conservative opposition to industrialization and laissez faire and its attendant effect on the relationship to property. Contrary to the modern perception of conservatives as heartless and calculating champions of dog eat dog capitalism, a theme that echoed throughout the writings of early conservatives is an outright hostility to free markets that even surpasses those of the Marxists. Disraeli, Coleridge and Bonald along with many others rejected the atomizing effect capitalism had on society. In laissez faire, they saw the erosion of social bonds and destruction wrought on rural life.

Closely related to the conservative critique of free markets is an equally fervent critique of property rights under capitalism. As the laws of entail and primogeniture were whisked away under the modern capitalist order, so too would it undermine the belief in private property itself and eventually pave the path for full scale socialism.

One of Nisbet’s most provocative claims is that the longstanding conservative opposition to liberalism is that it’s a Trojan Horse for totalitarianism. He contends that the veneer of liberation only severs the cultural bonds of family and community that simultaneously form the basis of a stable social order and serve as a bulwark against an oppressive State. In light of the current state of the Left throughout the West, it’s hard to say they were wrong. In fact, the entire multicultural, social justice project seems like a perverse and artificial inversion of the organic forms of social organization championed by conservatives. In place of the network of religious, cultural and familial constraints on behavior, progressives are attempting to fill every crevice of society with overzealous reinventions and policing of language coupled with weaponized identity politics.

One notable figure to whom Nisbet makes repeated reference throughout the book is Joseph de Maistre. Isaiah Berlin sees him as the architect of modern fascism whereas Nisbet places him alongside classical European conservatives like Burke, Bonald, Disraeli and Tocqueville. Though Maistre may not have been an easygoing guy, I am inclined to think that Berlin’s reading of Maistre’s work is uncharitable and his overall appraisal incorrect. Admittedly, Maistre doesn’t engender the warmest feelings when discussing the importance of the role of the executioner in society, but among other things, his opposition to the rationalist consensus of the Enlightenment and the secular tyranny of the French Revolution was entirely well founded.

I further propose that Berlin’s attempt to pin fascism to Maistre or classical conservatism not only contravenes conservatives’ steadfast opposition to state engineered collectivism and feudal conception of dispersed authority, it represents an early attempt by a liberal to attribute the phenomenon of fascism as the exclusive province of the political Right. Christopher Dawson correctly asserted that fascism should be viewed as a product of liberalism since it ultimately seeks to collectivize the individual with the State. The fact that fascist regimes appropriated elements of conservative dogma only changes the particular flavor of its collectivist and leftist ethos. Though Berlin was a thoughtful scholar, this tendency among liberals to assign blame to conservatives for the fundamentally socialist character of fascism has continued unabated. As Paul Gottfried has repeatedly argued, it is not only a feature of contemporary social justice orthodoxy, but it has congealed into a dementia that has consumed the progressive Left.

Nisbet rightly points out that throughout the past few centuries of Western democracy, there has always been a delta between conservatism as pure ideology and as a set of prescriptive cultural norms versus political conservatism. Quoting Benjamin Disraeli, Nisbet emphasizes the fact that political conservatives are creatures of their age, and subsequently, are subject to all of the vagaries that accompany the acquisition of political power.

The truth is, gentlemen, a statesman is the creature of his age, the child of circumstance, the creation of his times. A statesman is essentially a practical character ; and when he is called upon to take office, he is not to inquire what his opinions might or might not have been upon this or that subject he is only to ascertain the needful and the beneficial, and the most feasible manner in which affairs are to be carried on. – Benjamin Disraeli

While this accounts for conservatives’ numerous concessions to progressives, political scandals, ideological purity tests and plagues of corruption, it also creates a bit of a conundrum for conservatism itself. If conservatism is about upholding fixed principles, cultural tradition, intergenerational knowledge and a restraint on state power, what has American, or European, political conservatism actually conserved? Nisbet concedes its failures, but is sanguine about its future.

Quite apart from symbolic value and even genuine, concrete reference, family, kindred, neighborhood and locality, even region and race, have a universal historical meaning that is not likely to be entirely eroded away by the acids of modernity. – Robert Nisbet

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Nisbet may have been a little too optimistic. The Trump era has ushered in what is probably the most fervent and concerted attack on conservatism. Through Trump can hardly be considered a doctrinaire conservative on any given issue, the issues on which he has taken firm public positions that are genuinely conservative are deeply consequential for the future of the republic. The progressive Left is fully possessed by a revolutionary nihilism which only seeks to eradicate all vestiges of the past and has shown nothing but contempt for any form of historical American tradition. We are living in an time in American history in which the Left’s thirst for power is so unrestrained, they are willing to foment both racial antipathy and open hostility to family life. The Left has abandoned the idea of a country with borders and a set of dominant cultural norms in favor of a radical cultural egalitarianism and a globalist utopianism. While the Left revels in its smug certainty that conservative insistence on immigration restriction is inherently bigoted and a design flaw in the conservative mindset, it is more rightly viewed as the time honored recognition of a pluralism of values and the necessity for the preservation of national values. The Left has made it clear that there is nothing to defend, nothing to uphold and nothing to conserve in the American tradition. When we’ve reached a point when even “The Star Spangled Banner” is a bone of contention between progressives and conservatives, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the conservative is the real radical of the 21st century.

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