January 31, 2008
Although I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Jonah praised my scholarship on NRO (Thursday, January 24, http:/liberalism.nationalreview. com/post/?) and that he considers me a paleo “who knows a lot about a lot,” there was one part of his message that troubles me. Jonah is apparently upset that The American Conservative, a magazine for which I have written, did not select me to review his book. It seems that Jonah was interested in having my views appear in that particular paleoconservative publication. And I too might have been pleased to review Jonah’s book there, although I couldn”t imagine that I would have found more positive things to say about his research in that venue than I reported on this website. Although Jonah claims that he “came to a newfound respect for some of my writings,” as he worked on his book, the evidence of my influence on the final product is at most sporadically apparent. For example, Jonah makes critical distinctions between Italian fascism and German National Socialism but then turns around and uses the two interchangeably to bash Democratic politicians. But, even more to the point, why should Scott McConnell and Kara Hopkins, who manage TAC, feel obligated to give me an assignment so that Jonah should be able to see my comments at their expense? Why couldn”t Jonah, who already has his own thriving website and who is connected to a magazine that supposedly has subscribers coming out of their ears, allow me to review his book for NRO or else in National Review magazine? Richard Spencer would certainly allow Jonah to have his say on this website and besides, would probably pay him for his contribution. Why can”t Jonah be equally generous?
Gentle readers, you know the answer. It is that Jonah’s bosses are leftist totalitarians while those on our website are willing to debate with people on the left as well as on the right. We are the liberals in the true sense of that term, while Jonah’s sponsors and control-people have about as much tolerance for anyone or anything standing on their right as John Zmirak does for the American Nazi Party. That is why FOXNEWS and NR, together with the rest of the neocon empire, showcase debates with leftists but would NEVER allow those who are even a smidgeon to their right to appear in their closed forums. I would no more expect to write for a publication to which Jonah is tied, no matter what he may say about my scholarly credentials, than I would expect to be asked to contribute to the Nation. An adjunct of the neocon empire, FOXNEWS, is constantly inviting the Nation’s editors on to its program. Bans are only applied against the Old Right. That is one of the points of my widely but predictably ignored recent monograph on making sense of the conservative movement. That movement is open to the left but is hermetically sealed off to critics farther on the right. Presumably that ban also extends to geriatric intellectual historians like me, for whose work Jonah professes respect
On January 28, someone on the Permanent Things website referred to my evaluation of Jonah’s work as “one more” invective against the neocons. For anyone who would care to notice, my critical comments were not directed against any such target. I was calling attention to what movement conservatives have come to treat as high learning. This judgment seems relevant in view of the statement that I”ve encountered in the national press since the mid-1980s, that the neoconservatives raised the intellectual horizons of the American Right. That assertion is patently false. What I have seen is exactly the opposite, and especially since the neocons began to marginalize thinkers associated with the Old Right and to impose ideological conformity on their hired journalists.
There were nuggets of truth concealed in Jonah’s work, which were never developed because he did not do enough research and because he felt constrained to provide partisan Republican propaganda. Even for someone like Jonah, who can turn phrases extremely well and who is obviously a lot smarter than most of his colleagues, it is impossible to go very far as a serious scholar because of the professional pressure to manufacture movement conservative propaganda. Jonah may be among the best of the journalists whom National Review can presently offer. But that might not be particularly high praise. If the movement had not expelled an entire generation of distinguished Old Right scholars, the discourse on the establishment right would not only look less leftist. It would also operate at a much higher level.