October 03, 2007

An article in the rather odd little magazine Democratiya, a liberal-left pro-interventionist Euston Manifesto-ish periodical run out of some minor British university, reports on “the paleocon imagination” as exemplified by The American Conservative, and Antiwar.com, within the framework of an alleged review of Bill Kauffman’s Look Homeward, America.

Author Dan Erdman and his audience are lefties, tourists in the exotic world of the right, of which they know next to nothing: such is their ignorance that Erdman cites none other than William F. Buckley, Jr., as the inspirer of antiwar/“isolationist” paleocons, such as Pat Buchanan, the editors of TAC, and even myself. It’s true, of course, that, as a young conservative, Buckley was my hero and role model: here, at last, was a right-winger who was not only an intellectual, but the sort of intellectual who got on tv, and yet it was Buckley who displaced the Old Right with the neocon-infested “New Right,” and declared that we had to “accept Big Government for the duration” of the cold war—and beyond. Aside from which, it just isn’t true that Buckley opposed the Iraq war from the get-go, as Erdman implies: he just didn’t like the results.

TAC’s editorial credo is summed up as “the folly of Iraq, the drawbacks of a diverse economy and society,” with this latter phrase somewhat confusing in its implications, and perhaps left purposely vague. As for antiwar.com, we are “another popular outlet. The site’s title and amateurish design have led more than one confused commentator to mistake it for a left-wing site – an effect which may not be wholly unintentional.”

Well, actually, no: that is, it is unintentional, and, no, “amateurish”—meaning not slickly corporate-looking and graphics-heavy—doesn’t necessarily mean left-wing. Look at Matt Drudge’s site, which is as sparse and “amateurish” as possible. I mean, we’re talking black and white courier type! That’s the preferred typeface and style of what I call Right-wing Agitprop. I hate to deliver the sad news to the editors of Democratiya , but this isn’t the sixties: it’s Ron Paul, not Eugene McCarthy, who’s exciting a youthful antiwar constituency.

The theme of Erdman’s piece is that the TAC/antiwar.com wing of the conservative movement is “reaching out to isolationist elements on the left,” and he takes up this theme in his discussion of Look Homeward, America, which, in its chronicle of “reactionary radicals” includes such apparently unlikely figures as Eugene Debs and Dorothy Day. In typical humorless left-speak, Erdman peers querulously at Kauffman’s book through a narrow ideological lens, and comes to the conclusion that paleoconservatism nothing more than nostalgia for a vanished world of buccolic pre-industrial virginity. It never occurs to him that the various individuals profiled in the book might have something more than ideology, or even a concrete political program, in common: that is, a distinctly American orneriness—a certain temperament, rather than a central dogma.

Erdman concludes by advising paleocons to look for allies on the “ultra left.” Does he mean this guy? I don’t think he’d be much use after he gets out of the hospital …

Erdman has absolutely no understanding of what the paleoconservative “movement”—if such it can be called—is all about. He is therefore capable of writing the following:

“Look Homeward demonstrates the sometimes twisted roots of a certain type of American conservative thinking, one that has not been prominent for some time, but may yet prove to have legs. Paleo-conservatives like Kauffman, Raimondo, Buchanan maintain that the pace of change and the increase of productivity and flexibility of the economy will function as a disruptive influence on society. As the global economy marches over the horizon, it is plain that the global society is close behind. Whether you find this development to be, in and of itself, something to hope for or something to dread provides an essential clue to just how radical or how reactionary you are.”

The idea that a libertarian such as myself endorses such ideas is preposterous, as anyone faintly acquainted with libertarianism could easily tell you. I don’t think any of the others mentioned are enemies of flexibility, or productivity per se. It’s a crude attempt to pigeonhole paleos into the convenient category of hopeless nostalgics, futilely struggling against the inevitable March of History toward a Fukuyama-ish mono-cultural Global State. Oh, do me a favor, as they say on “Eastenders”. These lefties are so smug in their ignorance: they really believe they are the Wave of the Future. Well, maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t—but, either way, not without a fight.


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