July 25, 2007
Just as I was thinking that National Review couldn”t get any worse, I ran across new and even more tasteless verbiage on its pages. The comments by David Frum in the June 25 issue, on why it had taken him so long to change his mind about immigration, commits character assassination of a kind that left me gaping at the author’s sheer nerve. It would seem that neoconservative journalists and their gentile men-servants like Ron Dreher have noticed that more and more Americans are griping about the War and the immigration invasion from across our Southern border. Now it is possible that Giuliani, the neoconservative-backed frontrunner in the Republican primary race, will win the presidential sweepstakes, without having to disguise his views on immigration or his desperate eagerness to launch wars for democracy. But then again this may not happen; and so “movement conservative” celebrities have begun to hedge their bets by making unfavorable noises about things that annoy the Republican base, e.g., the recently defeated immigration bill. Naturally there would be opportunity to move back to one’s real positions, if the neoconservative bosses and their Evangelical and country-club base manage to put Rudy into the White House, against a hypothetically staggering Hillary.
But even taking these calculations into account, there is still something vile, even by the current degraded standards of neoconservative discourse, about Frum’s attack on “the group of self-described “paleoconservatives”” that “had congealed around the magazine Chronicles.” Supposedly Frum had trouble changing his mind about our immigration non-system because inhuman extremists had taken the opposite side: “For them the great issue was not income but race. They mixed their ferocious hostility to immigration with savage denunciations of the civil rights movement of the 1960s——-and, for that matter, the Union cause of the 1860s. These paleos “might be exclusionists at the borders of the nation; at their own port of entry, however, they lifted their lamp to welcome people who wanted to argue the intellectual inferiority of African-Americans, or compared federal law-enforcement agents to the Gestapo or insisted that Jews had brought the Holocaust upon themselves, or despised America’s Spanish speaking neighbors as inferiors and enemies, or dined with David Duke.”
As a longtime contributor to Chronicles, who was present at its birth, I have never encountered in this publication anything even faintly resembling a defense of the Holocaust. Indeed as someone who had lost family members to the Nazis, I would not have written for a magazine that took the positions that Frum ascribes to Chronicles. What he did see in the magazine were comments deploring the brutal devastation of the American South inflicted by the Union army in the 1860s. He might also have seen legal arguments there defending the right of secession claimed by Southern states in 1861. Frum is free to agree or disagree with such arguments, as long as one understands that those who made them were not challenging the humanity of black people.
But in Frum’s case, the dehumanization of those he condemns as the “far right” has been his stock and trade, since he wrecked the Yale Literary Review about 25 years ago, by publicly accusing his fellow-workers of being extremists. In this way he established a reputation that has served him well as a “moderate,” one who is all too happy to fight the “bigots” in the conservative movement. In 1986 at a session of the Philadelphia Society, Frum responded to a paper I had given on the Old Right by complaining that I had “ignored the racism of my subjects.” At that time I tried to explain that what he meant by racism was the concern stated by some postwar conservatives about the electoral effects of a greatly increased black vote. I also noted that conservatives in the fifties and sixties expressed anxiety about government social engineering undertaken to fight racial prejudice. But what I should have told my interlocutor, whom Taki in a rare instance of understatement has called a “creep,” is that if he wishes to see documented evidence of real racism, he should read Norman Podhoretz’s “My Negro Problem and Yours,” published in one of Frum’s undoubtedly favorite magazines Commentary in 1952. And if he wishes to read about black cognitive handicaps, he would do well to consult Dan Seligman and Charles Murray, both figures who move in Frum’s circles. Such anti-egalitarian opinions do not offend me in the way that Frum would have us believe that they bother him. The problem with this guy is that he’s an opportunistic hypocrite. He plays the victim game of Abe Foxman and Al Sharpton while pretending to be on the side of limited government (together with the Union Army marching through Georgia). Frum is also selective about those he dumps on, limiting his targets to those who would not be professionally useful. That he fails to document his charges is what I would expect from this race -hustler. And I am far from surprised that NR in its current state of decay would publish Frum’s slanders Needless to say, the magazine’s editors would be far less eager to put out such lies about its liberal media friends.