June 24, 2008
In view of the numerous responses to my announcement of the death of paleoconservatism and my discussion of the transition from a paleo to a pospaleo opposition to the neoconservative-liberal media, there may be need for these further clarifications. One, the postpaleos” indifference to the post-World War II conservative movement is a decided advantage that they enjoy in relation to their elders. They are not mired in a past that can offer only very limited direction in charting a future course.
As Nietzsche wisely pointed out in The Adantages and Disadvantages of History for Life, there are some historical narratives that have ceased to advance human intelligence and creativity, and it is therefore a good idea that we try to move beyond them. It is even unwise to keep symbols around that may hide or falsify what is really going on. One might argue that such relics as the Swedish monarchy and various European national churches do harm by fostering the illusion of historical continuity in countries that have sunk into multicultural confusion and socialist behavior control.
Similar considerations would apply to magazines that now dispense neoconservative poisons that were once identified with the Taft Republican tradition or even at their fringes with European royalism. The continued operation of such publications as Human Events and National Review under radically different auspices from their original ones may be even more harmful for the real Right than such explicitly neoconservative organs as Weekly Standard and New Criterion. The semblance of continuity in publications that were formerly on the right but have drifted into the neocon camp may promote the erroneous belief that these magazines still reflect the core values that had characterized them forty years ago.
Two, postpaleos do not intend to “take us back” to the “old movement,” which is the fantasy of a golden age of American conservatism that never existed, or at least not in the stable form that the nostalgia-buffs believe it did. Since the 1950s the “conservative movement” has been in transition while exhibiting certain constant features. It has moved steadily leftward but has been micromanaged from the Northeast; and ever since the days of its construction, it has remained firmly in the hands of New York and Washington journalists. That this movement once pursued more traditional rightist politics and that it tolerated a higher degree of debate than it does now, are both indisputable facts.
But it is equally indisputable that the “movement” has steered since the 1950s in its current direction; and there is no reason for us to become nostalgic over the spilled milk left by this cobbled together, largely journalistic enterprise. The CM should be viewed as a collection of resources that postpaleos should fight to take over or try to influence. Where such a possibility does not exist, the young Right should aim at destroying its enemies” assets.
Two, unlike many of their elders, the postpaleos have no need to cozy up to their enemies. They do not expect to be invited to a cocktail party sponsored by The Nation or Commentary, and if they happened to receive and then take such unlikely invitations, it would be to gather information they could deploy in their continuing war of attrition. This kind of hard-headedness is often lacking in those of an older generation who are constantly hoping to “crack the opposition” or to make belated careers as friends of the neocons or of the more radical left. As Tom Piatak argued in a perceptive comment in The American Conservative [not available online], inflamed anti-Christian leftists like Sid Blumenthal are not planning to befriend the traditionalist Right. Such ideologues are steaming at the neoconservatives for making even tactical alliances with those whom Blumenthal would like to sweep off the planet.
Recently I have developed the impression that at least some of those on the right are attacking the war in Iraq partly in search of sympathy from the Left. Although this war is plainly unnecessary and being fought for questionable ideological reasons, it is not the unprecedented series of inhumanities that it is made to appear in some rightwing venues. It is probably the least vicious and the most restrained war launched by the US in the last hundred years, give or take a few minor interventions such as the ones in Grenada. It is, moreover, possible to challenge the wisdom of the war, without descending into certain over-the-top practices, such as whitewashing the brutal mass murders of Saddam Hussein or bringing up the standard leftist charge of “fascist” when describing neoconservative military adventurers.
The invectives against the Bush administration as “fascist” and the focus on oil interests as the cause of the war are both tiresome leftist gestures that some paleos have begun to imitate. I would not be bothered by these outbursts if I did not believe that at least some of them look like pandering. Some of my comrades-in-arms may be more upset than I by the war and I respect their moral feelings. But other “antiwar conservatives,” I have become convinced, appear to believe that by complaining about neocon “fascists,” the Left might eventually start to applaud. Those who think so are living in a delusional world. In any event, the Right should not be hallucinating about the prospect of swilling Martinis at a gathering at AEI or in the office of Victor Navasky.
Three, the postpaleos will have to pursue, and all the more vigorously as resources become available, the tasks of discrediting the neoconservatives and presenting themselves as the true Right. Pospaleos will have to get their hands dirty by continuing to go after their enemies and by doing so in a way that draws public notice. Dwelling on the images of Novalis’s Europa oder Christenheit? (a subject taken up in my first book and in a very long German essay) may be an aesthetically gratifying act, but it will not have any effect in counteracting the marginal position to which our side has been relegated.
To break out of this encirclement, there is need for aggressive action; and I”ve no doubt the postpaleos will rise to this challenge. Their enemy will be the managerial therapeutic state and its liberal-neocon shock troop; and the doctrines under which this order will continue to be defended will likely remain the same as it has until now: namely, propositional nationhood, antiracism, anti-homophobia, anti-anti-Semitism, and anti-fascism. All of the political class’s campaigns of intimidation relate back to the same ideology of control; and what divides its members may be nothing more substantive than whether their hegemonic ideology is to be spread through war or by some other means.
The correct position for dealing with the dominant class is not the kind of ranting I have heard from the extreme Right against Jews, Masons, Skull and Bones, or whatever. An intelligent Right must make well-reasoned and thoroughly documented attacks on political correctness, global democracy, and other tools of expanding public traditional social institutions.
Lastly I trust the postpaleos will never hold back from flattening those who claim to be on the right but who can”t resist paying homage to leftist heroes. Someone who recently distinguished himself by doing this is Marcus Epstein, who pounced on that onetime rightwing publication Human Events, for lying (as it now repeatedly does) about Martin Luther King. It is not coincidental that the same publication has begun to close itself off to the opinions of the non-neoconservative Right. The real Right should never lose an opportunity to accuse those who are blatantly catering to the Left of behaving indecently and mendaciously. Dissemblers who are playing to both sides are as much of a danger to us as such out-an-out foes as Sid Blumenthal and Victor Navasky. And when these dissemblers get caught on their lies they look even worse.