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The Trans-Atlantic Class Struggle

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At the recent G7 summit, President Trump differed with the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Canada on a host of issues. But the real reason why he and the leaders of longtime allied countries treated one another as enemies is that they belong to socio-political classes engaged in a cold war.

Since World War II, a remarkably uniform ruling class has grown throughout Western Europe as well as in the United States and Canada. It now occupies government bureaucracies, the media, education, big business, and international institutions as well as traditional political parties. Rebellious voters are besieging that class on both sides of the Atlantic. Prime Ministers Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Justin Trudeau represent that class. Their political forces have experienced narrow electoral escapes.

President Donald Trump and Italy’s newly installed PM Giuseppe Conte represent rebellious voters who have brought wholesale rejection of that class to their countries’ top office. Within these countries, the old ruling class refuses to accept electoral defeat. In waging this resistance, they find solidarity with their homologues from the Bering Straits to the Oder. What happened at the G7 was one instance of that struggle.

Herewith, an explanation of this dynamic.

As the size of the Western world’s economy has grown nearly nine-fold, the size of government more than doubled. By the hiring, regulations, contracts, and contacts through which they have steered trillions of dollars—even more successfully than they might have done through laws—the people in charge of Western governments have shaped their societies according to their preferences, foremost of which has been to accommodate and advance people like themselves.

In Europe and in America, as more and more activities, educational, commercial, etc. have come under government’s aegis, the boundary between public and private has faded. Already in his 1960 farewell, President Dwight Eisenhower thought it necessary to warn that connection to government was superseding even criteria of scientific truth.

In Europe even more than in America, politicians of the right and of the left gradually have grown into co-managers of a complex that is the writ-large version of themselves. These rulers’ principal feature is social, intellectual, and moral contempt for the ruled, national boundaries notwithstanding. A German bureaucrat or big business executive is likelier to think better of a Briton or an American in a similar position than of a fellow citizen of a station he views as inferior. The ruling class’s censorious identity and attitude is especially lethal to its leftist parties, which had relied on the votes of humble people.

In recent memory, Western societies (European far more than American) were divided into economic classes. But today, the growth of government and the effective merging of traditional parties has divided them all equally into the trans-nationally favored “ins” and the deplored “outs.”

Different party and electoral systems notwithstanding, revolt and resistance have followed parallel courses throughout the West. America’s looser system saw the first revolts: Barry Goldwater’s 1964 call for “a choice, not an echo” and George Wallace’s 1968 taunt that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the Republican and Democratic parties. Except for Ronald Reagan, he was right. Europe’s first attempt at revolt happened in Italy in 1994. A petitioned referendum had killed the traditional parties. But, led by Silvio Berlusconi, mainstream politicians’ common socio-political culture reasserted itself. By 2008 however, the ruling class’s handling of the financial crisis and of mass illegal migration, along with its dismissal of traditional cultural concerns, definitively alienated it from the voters on both sides of the Atlantic and spurred them to find ways of saying NO.

In the U.S. voters gave Republicans big majorities in House and Senate as well as in most state governments, while letting them know that they were on short leashes. In 2016 they pulled the leash, defied both parties’ establishments, the media, etc. and elected Donald Trump because he was the most undeniably anti-establishment candidate out there.

In Europe, almost contemporaneously, the British people defied the same class and voted to leave the European Union. In France the establishment candidate in the presidential elections’ first round, Macron, got less than one percent of the vote more than Marine Le Pen, against whom all its forces were directed. In Germany, the members of Merkel’ coalition were reduced to historic lows. In all cases, voters’ distrust for the establishment has continued to rise. In Italy, where collusion between traditional right and left had thwarted election results, the five-star party got 32% on the slogan “vaffanculo,” and the Center-Right Alliance, led by the Northern League got 37%. They formed the government that sent Giuseppe Conte to the G-7 meeting, where he found himself on the same side as Donald Trump.

Tangential to our discussion of the G-7 but essential to our general point is that the countries of Eastern Europe—principally, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—have voted out of office their local versions of the Euro-American ruling class for the same reasons that class is being opposed throughout the West: their regulations, emanating from the EU,  deprive the people of self government and do more harm than good, their cultural influences rob the people of their past while, their patronage of Third World migrants robs the people of a future. The ruling class’s resistance to the Eastern countries’ electoral choices differs in the tools but is essentially the same as what it deploys against those who voted for Brexit, for Trump, in Italy’s latest election, and those who, soon, might throw out Mrs. Merkel and others like her.

That resistance refuses to acknowledge that “the people” have really rejected the ruling class. Rejecting them for any rational principle, they say, is impossible. Voters were deceived. Maybe by the Russians. Certainly by appeals to the worst of sentiments by the worst of people. Hence this rejection violates democracy, liberal principles, and the rule of law. We who are the guardians of all the above cannot and will not accept this. We who hold positions of authority  will not recognize these election results as legitimate, and will treat those elected as usurpers.The rule of law is rule by institutions. We control them, and will use them to deny the usurpers’ legitimacy.

We predict that attempts to reject us will have harsh consequences, and we will do our best to mete out those consequences. If the usurpers (by which, remember, they mean the majority of the people) try to unseat us, we will charge despotism, and try to convince the voters they made a mistake. We recognize that the voters are not qualified to judge us, and that it is problematic for us to denigrate them while asking for their votes. But we rely on our dominance of the media and state institutions to square this circle by intimidating first the people whom the voters elect, and then the voters themselves.

All of the above is why Donald Trump’s dismissive attitude toward May, Macron, Merkel, and Trudeau at the G-7 meeting frightened them far more than his vague references to tariffs. He and Mr. Conte, not being intimidated, thus encouraged their publics—and the British, French, German, and Canadian as well—to further disrespect the trans-Atlantic ruling class.

Photo credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

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America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Featured Article • Foreign Policy • Middle East • military • political philosophy • Progressivism • The Left • The Leviathian State

The Dream and the Nightmare of Globalization

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After World War II, only the United States possessed the capital, the military, freedom, and the international good will to arrest the spread of global Stalinism. To save the fragile postwar West, America was soon willing to rebuild and rearm war-torn former democracies. Over seven decades, it intervened in proxy wars against Soviet and Chinese clients, and radical rogue regimes. It accepted asymmetrical and unfavorable trade as the price of leading and saving the West. America became the sole patron for dozens of needy clients—with no time limit on such asymmetry.

Yet what would become the globalized project was predicated on lots of flawed, but unquestioned assumptions:

The great wealth and power of the United States was limitless. It alone could afford to subsidize other nations. Any commercial or military wound was always considered superficial and well worth the cost of protecting the civilized order.

Only by piling up huge surpluses with the United States and avoiding costly defense expenditure through American military subsidies, could the shattered nations of Asia and Europe supposedly regain their security, prosperity and freedom. There was no shelf life on such dependencies.

American popular culture, democracy, and free-market consumer capitalism would spread beyond the West. It created a new world order of sameness and harmony—predicated on the idea that the United States must ensure, at great costs, free trade, free commerce, free travel, and free communications in a new interconnected global world. The more American largess, the more likely places from Shanghai to Lagos would eventually operate on the premises of Salt Lake City or Los Angeles. The world would inevitably reach the end of history as something like Palo Alto, the Upper West Side, or Georgetown.

Open borders would draw into America—and later Europe and the former British Commonwealth—the world’s poor, uneducated, and dispossessed, who would become model citizens and reinforce the global resonance of the West. Although many of the liberal architects of diversity did not welcome political diversity at all, and sought to avoid the ramifications of their ideas in the concrete, nonetheless the borders of the West became and stayed open. An orthodoxy arose that it was racist, xenophobic, or nativist to question illegal, mass, non-diverse, and non-meritocratic immigration into the West. Ideas that mass illegal immigration undercut citizen workers, drove down wages, and negatively affected the citizen poor were derided as cheap bias and ignorance.

The end result of the last seven decades was a far more prosperous world of 7.6 billion than was ever thought imaginable. Stalin’s nightmare collapsed. So did Mao’s—sort of. Radical Islam was checked. The indigent in the Amazon Basin got access to eyeglasses. Amoxicillin made its way into Chad. And Beyoncé could be heard in Montenegro. The impoverished from Oaxaca became eligible for affirmative action the moment they crossed the U.S. border. Europe no longer tore itself apart every 20-50 years.

But soon a number of contradictions in the global order became self-evident. Consumer quasi-capitalism not only did not always lead to democracy and consensual government. Just as often, it enhanced and enriched authoritarianism.

Democracy and referenda became suspect, the moody fickleness of those who did not know what was good for them.

Nations subsidized by the United States often resented their patron. Often out of envy elites embraced anti-Americanism as a secular religion. Sometimes in the case of Europe, America was faulted either for having in the past defeated a European nation or from saving it from defeat.

The global cop, patron, market—call it what you will—was resented as not good because it was not perfect. The world’s loud second greatest wish was to topple U.S. hegemony; its first quiet desire was to ensure that America—and not a Russia, China, or the Middle East—remained the global policeman.

America itself split in two. In reductionist terms, those who did well by running the global show—politicians, bureaucrats of the expanding federal administrative octopus, coastal journalists, the professionals of the high tech, finance, insurance and investment industries, entertainers, universities—all assumed that their first-world skills could not be replicated by aspiring populations in the Third World.

In contrast, those who did things that could be done more cheaply abroad—due to inexpensive labor and an absence of most government safety, environmental, and financial regulation—were replicated and soon made redundant at home: factory workers, manufacturers, miners, small retailers and farmers and anyone else whose job was predicated on muscular labor.

A Brave, New Postmodern America
Globalization became a holistic dogma, a religion based on the shared assumptions: man-made global warming required radical changes in the world economy. Racism, sexism and other pathologies were largely the exclusive wages of the West that required material and psychological reparations. Immigration from non-West to West was a global birthright. State socialism was preferable to free-market capitalism. Those whose jobs were outsourced and shipped abroad were themselves deemed culpable, given their naiveté in assuming that building a television set in Ohio or farming 100 acres in Tulare was as valuable as designing an app in Menlo Park or managing a hedge fund in Manhattan.

The logic was that anything foreigners could not do as well as Americans was sacred and proof of U.S. intelligence and savvy. Anything that foreigners could do as well as Americans was confirmation that some Americans were third-world relics in a brave new postmodern America.

Crazy things followed from the gospel of Americanized globalism. Language, as it always does in times of upheaval, changed to fit new political orthodoxies. “Free” trade now meant that Beijing could expropriate technology from American businesses in China. Under free trade, dumping was tolerable for China, but a mortal sin for America. Vast trade deficits were redefined as meaningless and the talking points of empty-headed populists. Only America believed in free and fair trade; most everyone else in mercantilism.

“Protectionism” was a pejorative for those who believed that a retaliatory United States might emulate the trade practices of those “free” traders who piled up surpluses. For example, to copy the mercantilism of a China, Germany, or Japan would be castigated as mindless protectionism.

“Nativism” did not refer to the highly restrictive and ethnically chauvinistic immigration policies of a Japan, China, or Mexico, but only to the United States, given that it occasionally pondered recalibrating open borders and requiring legality before entering the country

“Isolationist” was a charge leveled at Americans who thought rich economies like those in Germany could afford to spend two percent of their annual GDP on defense, about half of what Americans routinely did. Not intervening in nihilist civil wars, or assuming that NATO nations needed to keep their promises, was the proof of the isolationist mind.

Failed Promises
The winners of globalization—the universities, financial powerhouses, the federal government, big tech, and the marquee media and entertainment outlets—were mostly located on the two coasts. Their dogmas became institutionalized as the gospel of higher education, the evening news, the Internet and social media.

Unfortunately, globalization otherwise did not deliver as promised. Half of the United States and Europe did not enjoy the advantages of the universal project. They found the disappearance of a good job not worth the upside of using Facebook or downloading videos. It was hard to see how someone in rural Pennsylvania or in West Virginia benefitted by knowing the most of the world’s Internet technologies were now American. It was nice having Amazon deliver goods to the front door, but one still had to have the money to pay for them. The logic of bombing Libya or fighting a 17-year-old civil war in Afghanistan was a hard sell.

The credentialed and expert had allowed North Korea to point ballistic missiles at the United States. The best and brightest forged a deal with Iran that would ensure it too would become nuclear—and then jawboned banks to violate U.S. law to allow Iran to convert its once embargoed currency into Western money.    

Most of the globalized commandments turned out to be empty. A trade-cheating ascendant China did not become democratic in its affluence. Iran still hated the Great Satan, the more so, the more concessions were given to it. The Palestinian question is no more central to the Middle East peace than the Middle East is central to world peace. There is no such thing as “peak oil” for the foreseeable future.

Jeans, t-shirts, and cool did not mean that the lifestyles and mindsets of a Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos were any different from their kindred spirits of the past—J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, or Jay Gould. What we call globalization our ancestors called monopolies, trusts, and disdain for national sovereignty.

Globalization’s Cynical Laws
The entire alphabet soup of Western-inspired globalization—the EU, the United Nations, the World Bank, the WTO—did not quite end up as anticipated. Their shared creed is not the fulfillment of their originally envisioned missions, but to protect an international cadre who run them, and to ensure that any who question their missions are branded as heretics.

In sum, globalization rested on a few cynical laws: those who drafted globalized rules for others had the resources to navigate around them. Talking about abstract cosmic challenges—world peace, cooling the planet, lowering the seas—were mere ways to square the circle of being unable to solve concrete problems from war to poverty. The world’s middle classes lacked the romance of the poor and the tastes of the elites and thus were usually in the crosshairs of any global initiative. Loud progressivism was a good cloak to hide quietly cashing in. Most wished to live in a Western or Westernized country; those who could not, hated both. Degrees and credentials were substitutes for classical and traditional wisdom and knowledge.

But the nexus of expertise—marquee journalists and pundits, academics, five-term politicians—really had few answers for current chaos. They were stunned that their polls were wrong in 2016, that their expertise was unwanted in 2017, and their venom was ignored in 2018—and the world all the while could go on better than before.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council—Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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The New Model Military

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For the vast majority of Americans, the military is a source of pride. And because of the uncompromising nature of war, and the naturally masculine virtues of the military—courage, discipline, and duty—it tends to attract and foster people committed to a more culturally conservative approach to life. Demographics also are a factor; service members more often hail from “red states” and rural areas. And they tend to vote like the red states from which they hail.

The military has been an open target of the anti-establishment left since the 1960s. At that time, elite universities that formerly acted as finishing schools for a patriotic and austere WASP elite, buckled under pressure from rioting students and kicked their ROTC units off campus.  

In spite of the anti-establishment language of the hippie movement, it is no surprise that the “big government” streak of the far Left has come to dominante leftist politics. The Left, in the end, is about power, because its goals are revolutionary, ambitious, and contrary to the organically developed society of yesteryear. A big and intrusive government gives control over the whole society to those at the center of power—control that can change businesses, change family life, change education, change the elite, and change the population.

So the military, the most powerful tool of state, has become in recent years a target for leftist takeover. The anti-military rhetoric having served its purpose in securing them power, they’d now like to reclaim this tremendous tool and put it to work for themselves.

The Service Academies Have Become Schools of Leftist Indoctrination

After years of anti-war protests and worries about the poor terrorists of Guantanamo Bay, the Left became significantly more pro-military and pro-government after Barack Obama entered the White House. The same turnabout has also occurred with their newfound high regard for the FBI and CIA, which the Left spent the better part of the last 40 years condemning as illiberal and authoritarian.

While the Right has focused on policy and elections, the Left has engaged in real politics for a long time. That is, the Left has engaged in and achieved far more enduring changes to the culture and the population. After Richard Nixon’s devastating victory in 1972 over the unabashed liberal George McGovern, the Left responded in ways similar to their reaction to the election of Trump. They sought (successfully) to bring down the president through a partisan coordination of the media and the intelligence services, and they also directed their energies at harnessing the organs of culture, particularly entertainment, journalism, the law, and higher education.

As George Orwell observed in 1984, the control of information and memory is central to the control of a society. Readers of American Greatness understand that America’s public education system is entirely lost to the Left. From kindergarten to high school, critical pedagogy saturates what our kids hear. As Jordan Peterson says, kids “are not being educated, they are being indoctrinated.”

But my investigation has determined that this destructive ideology is not only descriptive of the fare on offer in America’s public school system, it is also being taught to future officers of our republic at the service academies.

The highest-profile evidence is the infamous “red cadet,” ex-lieutenant Spencer Rapone, West Point Class of 2016. Rapone somehow passed a security clearance investigation as an avowed Communist. The embarrassed Academy described him as a rare radical that slipped through the cracks. Really? He was known at the academy for his radical beliefs, but still received a commission.

That same graduating class had a scandal involving a large group of black female cadets who posed for a photo with the “black power” salute. Academy brass claimed the women were not being political but were just displaying their “unity and pride.” Sure—insofar as they were displaying their unity and pride as black nationalists. But isn’t this kind of political expression, arguably one of radical, separatist hostility to the nation as a whole, more important than any mere partisan attachment?

Last year, Cadet First Captain Simone Askew, lauded as the first black woman to be the highest ranking cadet, posed with the partisan political opposition to the president under the banner “Nevertheless, We Resist” (the photo has since been altered by the publication in the online version).

More recently, a young cadet named Koi Kizzie wrote a couple of nearly incoherent opinion pieces on the website Medium. The rants are so poorly written that their form is disconcerting by itself, but the substance is even worse, typical cracker barrel Marxism: America is a racist country, and straight white men are the problem.

The Naval Academy has problems of its own, from cheating scandals and selective applications of rules, to a more general lack of standards due to sports mania and a recent push for diversity at all costs. As with West Point, numerous ethnic affinity organizations exist on campus, seemingly at odds with the “uniform” aspect of a national military.

Leftist Academies Run Counter to the Intrinsic Values of the U.S. Military

To people on the Right, this is all a bitter pill to swallow. The loss of the public schools makes some sense, not least because of the impact of teachers’ unions. But the military academies? It’s almost unbelievable.

The blind spot here has at least two causes. Conservatives sometimes imagine things haven’t changed much from their own youth given that human nature is permanent. They pretend, contrary to all evidence, that kids in school (or college) have experiences similar to their own, even though every other area society has been changing at an accelerating pace. In addition, despite a healthy distrust of government, conservatives have permitted themselves a blind admiration of the military, as if it were incorruptible.

But the service academies in particular are more subject to the forces at work in the broader society, not least because they employ professors from other sectors of academia, and the military’s highest leadership has been carefully cultivated post-Tailhook to toe the line on women in combat, diversity, gays in the ranks, and other “social justice” goals that have little to do with winning wars and much to do with making the environment uncomfortable for those of a rightish bent.

The officer class has always been more refined—more liberal even—than the ranks. This is appropriate. Liberal education, after all, is supposed to be the education of free men, and officers, as decision makers, should have broad, diverse, and informed views. The goals of a university education are not supposed to be merely academic but should also include character formation. West Point’s mission statement emphasizes “Duty, Honor, and Country” and “service to the nation.” The Naval Academy aspires to “to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically and imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of Naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.” Nice words.

But just as the mission statements of other universities that have lost their way, these aspirations are relics from another time, when education presupposed certain values and purposes. These overlapping purposes arose from the universities being embedded in a particular nation and people, which had a shared ideal of human excellence. This ideal gave the institutions a built-in ideal of their own, which included transmitting what is best in Western Civilization to their carefully selected students.

The consensus on a human ideal that created Harvard, Yale, West Point, and the Naval Academy has broken down; we are a fractured society, with divergent ideas of who is and isn’t to be admired, what our core ideals and aspirations should be, and what it means to be properly educated.

New regimes require new morality. After Tailhook, the Navy official dropped “Tradition” as one of its core values. The Soviet Army did away with Tsarist epaulettes for a time. The Cromwellian regicides of England created a New Model Army, complete with a different, more meritocratic mode of training and selecting officers. The New Model Army fought for and exemplified a revolt of the bourgeois and the modern against the royalist and medieval. Unsurprisingly, one of its factions was called the Levellers.

The American Revolution similarly cultivated ideals of merit and enterprise. After the Civil War, racial inclusion was an extension of this broader American ideal of merit; the goal was not diversity, but rather to seek out men of talent without regard to their race. This worked well for a time. The social revolution of the last 50 years, including its new morality of “inclusion” and “diversity,” has made substantial inroads at the service academies. But unlike the earlier ethos, it fits poorly with the naturally selective aspects of military service.

West Point’s Behavioral Science and Leadership Department recently unveiled its “Diversity and Inclusion Studies Minor,” in which a cadet can take courses titled “Social Inequality,” “Power and Difference,” and “The Politics of Race, Gender, and Sexuality.” Students in the mandatory English composition course will be required to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, author of the comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” This kind of lowbrow “diverse” literature is, of course, par for the course in many universities, and that’s why highly educated people have little shared knowledge. That substitution of low propaganda for high art is not a bug but a feature of this kind of education. The point is to render students pliable and rudderless, with a go-along-and-get-along character, well adapted to the ever changing rules and sensitivities of the modern, ever-advancing progressive system. While this type of education makes for a good bureaucrat, only a deep knowledge of history, logic, geography, science, and mathematics serves the military officer in his strategic function.

The service academies now engage in much talk about diversity, that is, the omnipresent and slightly ominous head-counting that functions as a practical matter to reduce opportunities and respect for the legacy majority of officers, i.e., white males. These efforts are exemplified by West Point’s privately endowed “diversity and inclusion initiatives,” which come complete with diversity officers and an Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity.

Privately endowed? West Point, I have learned, has a private stream of funds from rich donors (some might say oligarchs) who influence the curriculum for America’s future Army officers. Thanks to them, West Point has diversity clubs such as Spectrum, “to educate the Academy Community and Corps of Cadets on matters pertaining to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning (LGBQ) community.” The Naval Academy has a similar “diversity officer” whose presentations read like they came hot off the presses from Google’s human resources department.

Leftists have made it clear that anything that is too white or too male or too traditional will simply not be allowed to stand. Harvard recently jettisoned all-male clubs. Princeton made its dining clubs go co-ed in the 1990s. But the military will always, necessarily, be far less than 50/50 male and female, because it is a physical endeavor and, unlike the Olympics, the battlefield is not segregated by sex.

This is a persistent obstacle for feminist goals of female empowerment (and male disempowerment). After Tailhook, combat specialties have been increasingly open to women, even when studies supported the effectiveness of the legacy approach, and failure rates for women have been abysmal under the existing standards. The standards will likely give way without a renaissance of common sense.

The point of all this activity and “education,” of course, is not combat effectiveness; the point is humiliation and pour encourager les autres. Like a small scale version of Stalin’s purges, when a mere accusation can end a career, everyone makes sure not to notice the manifest negatives and to get with the program.

The West Point superintendent’s stated goal is to “leverage diversity and foster inclusivity.” Somewhat reasonably, the document notes that if West Point does not reflect “the population of the Army and the Nation,” it “risks becoming illegitimate in the eyes of some Americans.” This seems innocent enough, but it ignores that the needs of the military are different. The physically disabled are excluded. Foreigners are excluded. Communists are excluded—or at least they used to be.

Worse, like most such diversity agitprop, the message implicitly tarnishes all of America’s past as somehow lesser than the present, when it fact it was an age of heroic men. Diversity was not a goal when America put a man on the moon or conducted the D-Day landing. The goal was getting the job done. NASA and Operation Overlord, of course, included men of many backgrounds, but their diversity was secondary to the fact that they were united Americans serving their country. Their diversity was a byproduct of America’s traditional prioritization of merit and excellence over high birth and pedigree.  

The Leftist Culture War is Total

Reading about campus follies, conservatives sometimes like to console themselves that all this nonsense stops “in the real world.” But that really isn’t true anymore. Every large corporation makes a cult of diversity, complete with highly paid diversity officers. Draconian HR managers now police social media, to the point of intrusively asking job applicants to disclose passwords during interviews. A wayward post, joke, or opinion—even a chart—is enough to destroy an otherwise punctilious life. This is the real world, and the military has proven itself as pliable as corporate America.

Spencer Rapone, of Che Guevara fame, was recently kicked out of the Army with an other-than-honorable discharge. This is only mildly encouraging. After all, the discharge occurred after he graduated from West Point, where his views apparently did not concern the apparently like-minded members of the professoriate. He was simply dumb enough—or vainglorious enough—to cultivate his 15 minutes of fame by unveiling his Che Guevara t-shirt. And even with that, he has his defenders.

The culture war is inescapable. The fault lines intersect every institution in society, whether church or business or military or club. Nothing is allowed to be apolitical. In a healthier time, the military and its officer corps could remain aloof from politics and nonpartisan. That time came to an end sometime around 1970. People, especially on the Right, need to wake up and realize this. It would behoove the historically nonpartisan military to take stock of the situation.

Once upon a time, educated men, especially West Point graduates, read Thucydides. From him, they learned of a similar turn of events in Ancient Athens. “When troubles had once begun in the cities, those who followed carried the revolutionary spirit further and further, and determined to outdo the report of all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their enterprises and the atrocity of their revenges. The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper.” Today, patriotism and democracy apparently mean secret intelligence agency plots against a major political party, and communist revolutionaries being groomed to lead our nation’s volunteer military. Something is amiss, and the institutions must either pick a side and resist this fragmentation or they will be torn apart.

Restoring the Academies’ Moral and Educational Compass

Military theorist William Lind wrote something nearly 25 years ago that struck me as eccentric and unbelievable at the time: “As we have seen in Lebanon, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere, when the nation fragments so do its military forces. We could end up with two, three, many Marine Corps: white Marine Corps, black Marine Corps, Christian Marine Corps, possibly even a gay Marine Corps. These fragments would compete with other organizations to provide the security that counts: security for the individual person, family, home, and neighborhood.” Sadly, in the age of Malcolm X salutes, Commie cadets, and homicidal Army jihadist officers, his dystopian vision is no mere fiction.

Donald Trump’s nationalism is inclusive. He seeks to preserve the existing, historical American people in a way that allows for the flourishing of individuals from all the various groups through America’s traditional and inclusive culture. Civic  nationalism is the only hope for preserving the nation and its core institutions in a recognizable form. Such a nationalism must make it a priority—and Trump and his lieutenants must make it a priority—to reorder the nation’s institutions from one of “social engineering” and being the “vanguard of social change” to being unifying institutions devoted to the nation and its historical ideals, heroes, institutions, and people.

A good place to start would be the military, which by the numbers supports this program and has a natural tendency towards unifying principles. More than any other part of the government, it is the president’s natural domain. Its leftward drift has been somewhat unnatural, arising from relentless pressure from lawyers, outsiders, and activists who have no particular concern for its ethos or effectiveness. It now appears there is some momentum to this revolutionary trend from the politicized and ambitious leadership promoted under President Obama, but even now that view remains a minority one in the ranks.

While there are a great many bureaucrats and senior officers with something at stake in continuing business as usual, as well as a price to pay for being out of step, here the natural ambition of a senior officer could also serve the national interest. Such an officer or group of officers could distinguish themselves by exposing the substantial harm done to our nation’s military by its embrace of explicitly leftist politics masquerading as feel-good diversity initiatives. If we are to have careerism and ambition—an unavoidable and mostly productive trait of military professionals—it should “counteract the ambition” of those who aim to destroy national unity from within under the seductive rubric of diversity.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit:  Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

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America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Defense of the West • Europe • Free Speech • Identity Politics • political philosophy • Progressivism • Russia • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Hearing Evil Out

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William F. Buckley once famously quipped of Robert F. Kennedy’s continued refusal to come on Firing Line, “Why does bologna reject the grinder?”

Today, the motto of our purported mainstream journalists appears to be that the grinder should reject bologna because the grinder shouldn’t give bologna a platform. At least, that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the reaction of so many of them to the decision by the young right-wing journalist Lauren Southern to interview the controversial Russian intellectual Aleksandr Dugin for her YouTube channel. Apparently, this exercise in what can only be described as . . . well, journalism has made certain members of the professional pundit class lose their minds.

As just one example, the hysterical fainting couch inhabitants at Think Progress have already produced a masterpiece of malicious, selective quotation, and guilt by association implying that Southern’s decision to interview Dugin is motivated by a tacit agreement with him, up to and including his advocacy for genocide, that she relied on Richard Spencer’s wife for her research, and that you can tell this just because Southern took a picture with Dugin and had the gall to ask him open-ended questions, rather than using the interview to grandstand about how evil he is.

The cesspool of Twitter has added other accusations on top of this one: that rather than being a journalist, Southern is somehow a “fangirl” of Dugin whose interview and photo with the man were meant to legitimize him in Western eyes—in other words, that she’s a useful idiot at best.

With accusers like this, Lauren Southern scarcely needs defenders, but as she has been a friend of mine for more than three years now, I am happy to join the ranks. Southern deserves to have her motives understood, and the fruits of her actions both defended and examined on fair terms. Further, I believe her interview of Dugin poses questions that are more important than merely how one should treat Aleksandr Dugin himself in an interview—it raises a very significant question of when, and under what circumstances, a journalist’s function should be to hear evil out, rather than to prosecute it in the moment.

Let us dispense with the easy defenses first: No one has seen Southern’s full interview, so calling it “softball” after merely the first 10 minutes of what was apparently nearly a two-hour interview is ludicrously premature. In fact, even after the subsequent second part which she released on Monday, it’s still premature.

Moreover, the suggestion that Southern gave Dugin a uniquely kid-glove treatment is off. Southern is no longer the attack interviewer of her Rebel Media days. Her approach in recent years has shifted toward a more Charlie Rose-esque style of asking open-ended questions and then letting her subjects hang themselves with their own words. It is not only Dugin who has gotten this treatment. Southern gave the same treatment to a leader of the South African radical group Black First Land First. And good thing, too, because Southern almost certainly couldn’t have gotten an interview with that leader, nor the insane quotes it produced, without the appearance of being friendly and non-confrontational.

Further, far from being a Dugin “fangirl,” Southern believed that, as with the BFLF leader involved with the South African farm crisis, Dugin’s views are a subject that other journalists are too cowardly to cover. I spoke to Southern shortly after the first part of her interview with Dugin dropped, when she had already begun receiving criticism for it. She denied any reliance on Richard Spencer’s wife for her research, and told me bluntly what her purpose had been.

“Yes, Dugin is scary,” Southern told me. “That’s why I’m interviewing him. I know no one else will. They won’t be f—king journalists.”

It’s hard to argue with her. Despite his ostensible reputation for being the leading theorist of a regime regarded as the United States’ number one geopolitical rival, Dugin has received almost no recent attention from journalists outside of one late 2016 interview with the BBC (more “fangirls,” no doubt) and one suspects that his books remain entirely scrubbed from the curricula of our college campuses. Contrast this with the Cold War, when everyone who wanted to understand the enemy studied Marx and Lenin. If Dugin is that obviously crazy, why on earth wouldn’t every journalist want the world to know it? Why wouldn’t he be swarmed with interview requests?

Multiple reasons suggest themselves, but simple fear that Dugin would get the better of them in the kind of prosecutorial interview favored by fame-chasing media types is probably near the top of the list. And he might. While writing this, I also watched Dugin’s aforementioned 2016 interview with the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse, who treated Dugin in a much more openly hostile way. Like any skilled propagandist, despite the language barrier, Dugin turned Gatehouse into a foil for moral equivalence, forced Gatehouse to editorialize on-air to contradict him, and was able to bend the subject effortlessly to make the cause of Russia appear to be reasonable, or based on legitimate grievances. And why wouldn’t he? Propagandists love a foil. This is why the endless cry of loser YouTube commenters is “debate me.”

On the other hand, I take pains to note, in the one debate where Dugin wasn’t dealing with feckless grandstanding journalists, but instead with a competent—if odd—fellow philosopher, he lost decisively against the Brazilian academic Olavo de Carvalho in 2011. Part of the reason was that Dugin failed completely to anticipate Carvalho’s actual argument, and when faced with it, could only sputter about Carvalho’s lack of seriousness and try to move the debate to friendlier terrain.

Southern knew, based on preparation, that an attempt to grill Dugin a la Gatehouse would only enable him similarly to muddy the waters, while clarifying nothing about what he actually believed. So, unlike her fellow journalists, who yearn to make themselves the story, Southern made the wise choice simply to get out of her own way. She, and her fellow interviewer, Brittany Pettibone, barely register as presences in the first part of their Dugin interview and do not appear at all in the second.

And it works. When faced with the open-ended questions that have been aired so far, Dugin suddenly is no longer the fast-talking, hyper-competent master propagandist. He stutters. He pauses. Without an obvious cue about which propagandist’s trick he needs, he’s forced to pour out his own mind, and what results is insane. Dugin seems to believe, based on the ten minutes we’ve seen so far, that nationalism is the world’s last defense not merely against third world immigration, but also against Skynet. He speaks of how AI will one day wipe mankind from the earth, except for “post-human” people who make the choice to augment themselves with cybernetics in the mold of the “Singularity” theory. As near as I can tell, he seems to think he lives in a South Park episode—the one where corporate ads pretending to be people try to take over all of society.

Russian philosopher Alexandr Dugin (left) walks with Lauren Southern (center) and Brittany Pettibone (right) in a Moscow hotel lobby.

All of this, we get in response to Southern’s first question, at which point Southern, visibly weirded out, turns to Pettibone and quips, “Well, our problems are much greater than I could have imagined.”

It gets weirder after Pettibone asks her first question—what the future of conservatism in the United States is. Dugin effectively answers by saying that conservatism needs to embrace absolute cultural relativism, and reject racism altogether. By this, he doesn’t mean the same thing Westerners mean by racism, but rather all notions of hierarchy between human beings at all, as he goes to lengths to clarify in the interview. So if you think, say, pedophiles are bad people, you’re a racist by Dugin’s logic. Remember, we need absolute cultural relativism.

And that’s just the first video! In the recently released second video, Dugin speaks of being a “perspective feminist,” who believes that men and women live in literal separate universes, stutters even more, and gets less coherent. Ironically, even ThinkProgressown reporter admits that Dugin sounds insane rather than scarily convincing in the interview, so one wonders what on earth they think Southern did wrong in the first place.

Presumably, they think that Southern’s sin is in being in some secret agreement with Dugin because she says in a vlog posted after the interview that she found this particular answer “enthralling.” But to be enthralled is not to be persuaded, and in that same vlog, Southern expressed very clear skepticism of Dugin’s points, calling him a “cultural relativist.” She’s right. Her description of herself as “enthralled” while listening to Dugin, as she makes it absolutely clear in the video (and in subsequent tweets), is not the enthrallment of the acolyte, but rather of the shocked audience to charismatic, semi-cogent insanity, just as in the case of her interview with the equally repulsive aforementioned South African woman.

And, really, this brings us to the genuine benefit of Southern’s interview: It inoculates us against being either shocked or “enthralled.” Is there a risk that some people might think Dugin has a point somewhere in all that? Sure, but that is always the problem when one permits evil to give a full account of itself, on its own terms.

What is gained by risking that, though, is the emasculation of evil such that it is less able to seduce through the imagination. Maybe it’s just my inner high school Goth speaking, but I happen to think that most of the articles written by Dugin’s critics paint him as far more “enthralling” than anything Southern and Pettibone have released. In particular, an article by Robert Zubrin at National Review describes Dugin as a worshipper of chaos magick leading a Satanic cult to take down Christ. If you don’t want to make Dugin sound cool, maybe don’t make him sound like a cross between a Bond villain and someone who walked off a heavy metal album cover?

In contrast, the Dugin interview with Southern and Pettibone, and the attendant photo released to promote it, make him look . . . well, frankly prosaic. Even standing ramrod straight, he barely manages to stand taller than the 5-foot-7-inch Southern herself, and looks like just one more tired, old man. How this amounts to a fangirlish photo, and not a massive propaganda win for the West, being able to embody itself in the young, vibrant Southern against the shriveled, old Dugin, is beyond me. One anonymous commenter on Southern’s interview summed it up brilliantly: “Why is he so dangerous, was he packing a butter knife?” Others, meanwhile, observe: “I appreciate you interviewing this man, for diversity’s sake, but he’s a lightweight, sorry,” and “He sounds like he is making stuff up as he goes along.” Positive comments exist as well, but the general tenor is skeptical.

This is what happens when, rather than no-platforming someone, you let them speak as long, and as crazily, as they’d like. Southern did that because she realized that Dugin could not be confronted, but only allowed to talk himself into a corner. Journalists understood this principle once, as in the case of Christopher Hitchens’ interview with the neo-Nazi Metzger family, but today’s crop apparently has come to believe that their presence conveys a sanctifying presence on their interview subjects, if they do not anathematize those subjects for their presumptively credulous audiences. But evil—real evil—is too crafty for such empty suits. It will only expose itself when it feels safe to be itself.

Ironically, Southern and Pettibone have since inoculated themselves effectively against charges of sympathy with the Putin regime, having recently posted rather brutal footage of the Russian police breaking up an anti-Putin demonstration, and praising the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. One suspects that an interview with Navalny himself will not be far behind the Dugin interview, which is part of a larger series that Southern and Pettibone are in the midst of producing, endeavoring to explain the Russian political scene for a Western audience.

But ultimately, while I write this to defend a friend against vicious, disingenuous, cowardly attacks, this is about more than Lauren Southern, Brittany Pettibone, or even Aleksandr Dugin. This is about what courage looks like in the face of evil.

Sometimes, it looks like full-throated resistance or prosecutorial vengeance. But just as often, it looks like calmly letting evil speak its peace, only asking what you need to, and knowing that, in letting yourself experience the thrall of evil firsthand, you are showing others form antibodies against its capacity to enthrall, and exposing its nature to scalding, purifying sunlight. That Lauren Southern reflects that sunlight onto Aleksandr Dugin better than other journalists is to her credit, not her shame.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • civic culture/friendship • History • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Google’s New Slogan

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The original slogan of Google was “Don’t be evil.” When Google changed its corporate name to Alphabet in 2015, it changed the slogan to “Do the right thing.”

If it were to be true to its values, Google should have changed its slogan from “Don’t be evil” to “Don’t fight evil.”

Here is the New York Times report from this past Friday: “Google, hoping to head off a rebellion by employees upset that the technology they were working on could be used for lethal purposes, will not renew a contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence work . . .

“Google’s work with the Defense Department on the Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, roiled the internet giant’s workforce. Many of the company’s top A.I. researchers, in particular, worried that the contract was the first step toward using the nascent technology in advanced weapons. . . .

“About 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding ‘a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.'” CBS News reported that the petition also said, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”

In other words, to the heads of Google and thousands of its elite employees, it is immoral to aid in the defense of their country, and all war is immoral.

Google and these 4,000 employees embody two terrible traits: moral idiocy and ingratitude.

Moral idiocy is the ability to be brilliant in any area of life except the single most important area of life, morality. With regard to morality, such people are fools.

The United States has been the greatest force for liberty and goodness in world history. It has been so by modeling a free society and through the power of the idea of freedom, and even more so by force—brute physical force.

Through force of arms, America and its allies defeated Germany in World War I and World War II.

Through force of arms, America imposed democracy and liberty on West Germany and led to the dissolution of East Germany.

Through force of arms, the Holocaust—the genocide of Europe’s Jews and millions of others in Nazi concentration and death camps—ended. If Google existed then, would its employees have demanded Google “not be in the business of war”?

Through force of arms, America was able to impose democracy and liberty on Japan.

Through force of arms, America liberated Asian countries from the Nazi-like Japanese imperialists.

Through force of arms, America enabled the majority of Koreans to live free rather than under the most totalitarian regime in modern history, North Korea.

Through force of arms, Israel has survived 70 years of Arab, and now Iranian, attempts to annihilate it. Arms ended the Holocaust in Europe, and arms prevent a second Holocaust of Jews in the Middle East.

Only a moral idiot does not understand the moral necessity of weapons of war being in the hands of decent countries.

Which brings us to the second trait of Google and its employees: ingratitude.

Google and its employees live better than almost any human beings in the world. They do so because they live in the freest and most opportunity-giving country in the world, the United States of America.

That Google and its employees refuse to work on the military defense of their country is an expression of ingratitude (not to mention the absence of patriotism) that is simply breathtaking.

How did we produce such foolish and ungrateful people?

They are the products of left-wing education and the left-wing media, and of living in the left-wing cocoon of Northern California and its tech industry.

Google should be true to its convictions and change just one word of its original slogan from “Don’t be evil” to “Don’t fight evil.”

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17th Amendment • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Deep State • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

America 3.0

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“America 2.0” considered the plain fact that the America you and I live in is no longer the America the Founders envisioned for us.

Over the course of the past century, the Progressives have replaced the Framers’ federal government of limited powers designed to protect the American experiment in liberty with a vast new central government designed to regulate the lives of American citizens. Because there are so many, determining the actual number of federal regulations enforceable by criminal punishment at the discretion of an administrative agency of the central government presents great difficulties. According to Douglas Husak of Rutgers in his book Overcriminalization, there may be more than 300,000 separate regulations.

But the Progressives are not done yet. For them, America 2.0 is only a transitional phase to a truly post-American America—call it America 3.0. Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are loud and proud about the change to the Constitution that will bring about America 3.0, though what they are up to generally goes unrecognized for what it is. But when we understand how the Progressives created America 2.0, what their heirs are up to today snaps into focus.

To get our bearings, let us consider James Madison’s description of the original federal government in Federalist 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce . . . The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. (Emphasis added.) 

Please note that the “few and defined” powers of the new United States are “delegated” to the federal government by the sovereign “We the people.” In addition, those powers are “exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” This then is the original bargain that created the United States: the federal government is to handle “external objects” for the states united by the bargain. The meaning of “external objects” is made clear by the list of the four original agencies of federal government: the Departments of War, State, Navy, and Treasury. Today, that number would be reduced to three: the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury.

The original federal government had a primary focus: national defense and the protection of the interests of the land of liberty between the various states and among the other nations of the world. All other governmental powers were either delegated by the people to the states or else retained by them unto themselves.

But the individual states did not surrender control of those powers delegated to the federal government. The Constitution created a standing body, the Senate, which would give the states a way collectively to maintain overall control of “the external objects“ of executive action. That’s why treaties with foreign nations and even the people nominated by the president to carry out executive actions, such as the heads of the federal departments and ambassadors, are subject to Senate approval.

And the governments of the states really did maintain control because in the Constitution of the Founders the state legislatures chose the senators. State governments therefore exercised their control over the departments of the government by means of the Senate.

The turning point came in 1913. In that year, this system, so carefully and brilliantly designed by the Framers, changed fundamentally with the 17th Amendment, which introduced the direct election of senators, bypassing the state legislatures. In 1913, Americans carelessly tossed aside the Founders’ brilliant solution to the problem of political power.

The consequences of the change have been many and profound. Probably the most obvious has been the rapid decline of the states’ ability to counter-balance federal power. The Senate had been a barrier to the passage of federal laws infringing on the powers reserved to state governments, but the Senate has abandoned that responsibility under the incentives of the new system of election.

Because the states no longer have a powerful standing body representing their interests within the federal government, the power of the central government has rapidly grown at the expense of the states. Today’s gargantuan central government increasingly relegates the states to function as administrative units.

The 10th Amendment, the final of the ten original amendments we refer to as the Bill of Rights, made it explicit that the powers of the federal government are limited to the enumerated powers, the powers provided by the Constitution. The 17th Amendment made the Great 10th a dead letter.

By the way, the Progressives soon overreached, as usual. The 18th Amendment, which changed the Constitution to allow for the prohibition of alcohol, followed soon after. It took a little over a decade for Americans to view Prohibition as a costly mistake and repeal the 18th Amendment.

That the 17th Amendment was also a mistake is by now clear. Instead of retaining many of their powers and responsibilities, and only surrendering a limited number of their powers to the federal government as the Framers intended, the states are more and more entangled in administering federal programs and in carrying out federal mandates. The federal government often even doesn’t fund these mandates, choosing to pass the costs along to the states. The many new departments of the federal government which have accumulated in Washington, D.C. during the Progressive Era, such as Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services, exercise powers that are not among the “few and defined” powers enumerated in the Constitution.

The process of concentrating power in the central government is what America 2.0 is all about, and that is why the Founders would have opposed the 17th Amendment.

The Framers of the Constitution aimed to preserve American liberty and the unalienable rights of Americans by preventing the concentration of political power in the federal government. Jefferson, famously, put it this way:

What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body.

Jefferson and the other Founders were clear that “concentrating all cares and powers into one body” would inevitably destroy liberty in America.

The Founders put much emphasis on the importance of the independence and autonomy of the states to the preservation of American liberty. Lord Acton, the great scholar of the history of liberty who wrote “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” agreed with the Founders:

Federalism: It is coordination instead of subordination; association instead of hierarchical order; independent forces curbing each other; balance, therefore, liberty.

When Acton wrote those words, American federalism was much more robust than it is now. Today, it is reduced to a shadow of its former self. The resulting erosion of Americans’ individual liberty is no doubt the most important consequence of the Progressives’ change to the Constitution in 1913.

The direct election of senators put an end to an essential electoral safeguard of American liberty. Next on the Progressive to-do list is the direct election of the president.

The Constitution allotted each state as many electoral votes as it has Senators and members of the House of Representatives. Consequently, to become president of the United States one must even today win the national election state by state. Eliminating the Electoral College and electing the president by direct popular vote, as modern progressives are determined to do, would transform the office. Its occupant would in effect become the POTBCA instead of the POTUS (President of the Big Cities of America), and the last vestiges of autonomy guaranteed the individual states by the Constitution’s electoral system would be swept away.

Photo credit:  Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

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Big Media • Elections • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Libertarians • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • the family • The Left • The Media

Politically Correct Pedophilia

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It’s practically a cliché when an old guy or a conservative complains about declining moral standards. But with the news of a professed pedophile now openly seeking a seat in Congress and placing his pedophilia front and center as part of his platform, I feel fairly secure in passing judgment on our society. Something is very wrong here.

Nathan Larson, 37, who has gone on record to proclaim that he is a pedophile and rapist is running for a congressional seat in Virginia. Larson’s political platform includes the legalization of child pornography, marital rape, incest, abolition of child protective services, and a repeal of the 19th Amendment.

When asked by Huffington Post reporters whether he merely writes about pedophilia or engages in it, he proudly proclaimed, “It’s a mix of both.” He also admitted to running and posting in chat rooms dedicated to promoting rape and pedophilia. In one of these, using the administrator pseudonym “Lysander,” Larson noted:

I just want to bang my daughter, actually, but even if it were legal, I’m not sure it would happen, since i don’t have custody. After sex with kids is legalized, parents (or other guardians) will still be gatekeepers to some extent, and a lot of them will want to bang their own kids and not share with others.

Charming. Thankfully, he lost custody of his child. But his first wife committed suicide after he reportedly abused and raped her repeatedly.

The Huffington Post could barely contain itself as Trump’s name came up. The article concluded with a quote in which Larson compares himself to President Trump: “A lot of people who disagreed with someone like Trump . . . might vote for them anyway just because the establishment doesn’t like them.” (I’d love to see what was left out of those ellipses). The article seems to attempt to smear Trump supporters with the brush of this one reprobate.  

Larson calls his platform “quasi-neoreactionary libertarian.” I have no clue what that means, but I’m fairly sure that Ron Paul and Gary Johnson would want nothing to do with this guy. Regardless where and to whom Larson lends his “support” or compares himself, or with what party he claims to affiliate, reasonable people—regardless of politics or party—would agree he is beyond the pale.

Can we safely assume we live in a nation sufficiently populated with reasonable people when a man like this feels free not only to reveal himself but to run for office? The Trump mention is low hanging fruit, and grabbing at it is to miss a broader point. Namely, we now live in a society where pedophiles proudly run for office—on political platforms that paint them as victims.

The Irony of Troll-as-Victim
We inhabit a social ecosystem where the forces of political correctness, deconstruction of traditional mores, and intersectionality all conspired to permit this person to believe that platforming pedophilia and the creation of a troll-as-victim-class was a good idea and the natural outgrowth of expanding “rights.” Political correctness, with its focus on the primacy of victimology based on group identity, worked in tandem with critical theory. The result is the fungibility of ethics that creates this mess.

The irony, of course, is that Larson rails against political correctness but, of course, he himself is one of its primary beneficiaries. At no time before the rise of political correctness could a professed pedophile dare to expose himself to the wider culture. Yet here we are. It is precisely the ethos of victimhood capital and the unmooring of morality from any traditional continuity—phenomena actively promoted by political correctness, cultural Marxism, and critical theory—that allows a disgusting creature like Nathan Larson to believe not only that he and his ilk are a victim class beset upon by arbitrary notions of morality, but that their cause is just and needs vocal representation. As victimhood increasingly becomes political currency, it becomes progressively easier to create subjectively defined categories for victimhood.

In 2014, the New York Times published an article that laid out to the general public the intellectual foundations for pedophile victimhood when it ran an opinion piece by Rutgers professor Margo Kaplan. Kaplan argued that instead of shaming pedophiles and treating them as the stains on humanity that they are, we should, instead, pity them and allow them to come out of the shadows.

Further, as critical theory-laden politically correct culture dispensed with traditional notions of morality in favor of subjective relativism and made “shaming” an unjustifiable moral injustice this kind of thing was bound to happen.

Pedophiles and rapists no longer hide in the shadows. Their shame is gone. Moreover, they take pride in their perceived victimhood. Shame is, in part, a social regulation of norms based upon mutually adhered to moral criteria. As tradition and the idea of traditional moral criteria itself becomes suspect due to the influence of critical theory and cultural Marxism, shame disappears. What’s worse is that it is replaced with a sense of pride and perceived victimhood.

Still Reason for Hope Amid Concern
Ultimately, I still have faith that most of us—regardless of party, politics, race, sex, or socioeconomic status—can recognize that Nathan Larson is exactly the kind of disgusting reprobate who deserves not only our collective scorn, but who also should feel a constant social pressure to be ashamed of his thoughts and actions. And if he truly is guilty of the crimes he has admitted to, he ought to be in jail. This implies that the forces of political correctness, with its victimology gospel, and critical theory, with its indictment of all traditional morality, haven’t triumphed completely.  

It should be disconcerting to all of us, however, that Nathan Larson is not only unashamed, but that he is proud and emboldened by those social forces that allow him to proclaim his desires while simultaneously permitting him to consider himself a victim of society.

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Economy • Germany • History • political philosophy • Post • taxes • The Left • Trade

Karl Marx, Free Trader

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What do David Ricardo, Ben Shapiro, and Karl Marx have in common? They’re all free traders.

No, this is not a tongue-in-cheek jab designed to smear Ricardo or Marx. I’m serious. Karl Marx—the father of Communism, and intellectual progenitor of the horror-show that is postmodern relativism—was a free trader. Why?

Marx believed that international free trade, or perhaps more accurately, Ricardian economic globalization, would pave the way for a glorious proletarian revolution. Specifically, Marx thought that free trade would increase wealth inequality and reduce wages for the majority of people, and that this tension inevitably would lead to conflict.

While I hate to admit it, Marx is broadly right on this point. International free trade has indeed increased wealth inequality and reduced wages for the majority of Americans. In fact, the median American household was richer in the 1980s than today (better technology aside). Part of this is explained by the recent influx of low-wage immigrants and decreasing household sizes—but even so, globalization remains the single largest contributing factor.

Likewise, Marx was correct that increasing inequality degrades social cohesion, setting the stage for violence and revolution. As it turns out, people are not hyper-rational automatons like economists assume: jealousy is real, and most people would rather lose money than see someone else get rich relative to them, even if they would themselves get (slightly) richer.

A Tale of Two Speeches
The primary historical documents showing that Marx supported international free trade are two renderings of a speech he delivered to the Democratic Association of Brussels in 1848—ironically, the “Year of Revolutions.” Although the two versions make basically the same point, they are distinct enough to warrant separate investigations.

The first rendering was published in German by Joseph Weydemeyer, a friend of Marx and Friedrich Engels. This version is probably the more historically accurate and is traditionally appended to The Poverty of Philosophy, which was first published in 1885.

After speaking at length about the injustices of capitalism (to be expected), Marx turns to the question of free trade. He argues in favor of international free trade because he believes it will exacerbate the “antagonism between industrial capitalists and wage workers.” This antagonism (manifested in growing economic inequality) will hasten the worker’s revolution and the final installation of a communist utopia.

Basically, Marx thinks things must get worse before they get better—and free trade will make them worse.

This is consistent with Marx’s teleological (goal-oriented) understanding of history. Marx sees history as a series of clashes between the rich and poor, and each clash brings us closer to the end of history—a communist utopia where such distinctions are erased. For example, ancient Greco-Roman slavery, medieval feudalism, and modern capitalism are all just different versions of this underlying conflict, and each is a necessary step towards Communism. For Marx, history is not simply a chain of causality dangling in empty space: it’s a bridge to a known destination, and this bridge is built by revolution. This teleology is why Marxists are so keen to sow discord whenever possible—conflict is a means to an end.

But it’s not just about economics. Marx sums up his case for free trade with the following passage:

. . .in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade systems hastens social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.

The key phrase here is “breaks up old nationalities.” Remember, Marx does not see Communism as simply an economic system—it’s an entirely new social, political, and economic order that must be wrought on a global scale. Communism is all or nothing. Thus, nationalism is a major roadblock because it unifies and divides people on a dimension other than wealth. In the end, there can be no proletarian revolution unless people see themselves as proletariats—not as Englishmen or Americans—first.

On the whole, this speech reveals that Marx supports global free trade for two reasons. First, by increasing inequality is sows the seeds of revolution. Second, economic integration undermines nationalism and replaces it with a global (proletarian) culture.

Flesh on the Bone
The second version of Marx’s speech on trade (this time from 1847) was published by his friend and patron Engels in The Northern Star, a British journal. What makes this (otherwise inferior) version of the speech interesting is that it contains a direct refutation of David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage.

The theory of comparative advantage states that countries should trade things they are relatively good at making in exchange for things they relatively bad at making—even if they are better at making all things in absolute terms. This ensures that labor is divided efficiently, and thus the maximum number of things are made. While comparative advantage sounds good on paper, the theory (like so many other academic speculations) collapses when applied to the real world.

Marx’s refutation turns Ricardo against himself. To begin, Marx assumes that comparative advantage works as Ricardo describes. Next, he states, “labour is a commodity as well as any other commodity.” That is, the price of labor is subject to the law of supply and demand—just like the price of apples or oil. Finally, Marx puts two-and-two together:

We accept everything that has been said of the advantages of Free Trade. The powers of production will increase, the tax imposed upon the country by protective duties will disappear, all commodities will be sold at a cheaper price. And what, again, says Ricardo? “That labour being equally a commodity, will equally sell at a cheaper price”—that you will have it for very little money indeed, just as you will have pepper and salt.

Essentially: if free trade decreases the price of goods, it will also decrease the price of labor. But if this is true, then who actually benefits from free trade? After all, costs are always measured relative to income—if the price of bread halves, but so does your wage, you’re no better off than if nothing changed.

To his credit, Ricardo was actually aware of this problem and proposed that capital immobility would prevent the hypothesized collapse of labor prices. However, in today’s world (and, to some degree, Marx’s), capital is mobile, and therefore comparative advantage doesn’t work. This is one of the rare occasions that Marx was right.

A Hill to Die On
Milton Friedman and Karl Marx both support free trade but for very different reasons. In his book Free to Choose, Friedman argues vociferously that free trade is the key to enriching everyone. Meanwhile, Marx supports free trade for precisely the opposite reason: free trade impoverishes people so badly that they’d rather fight and die in a bloody revolution than live with its consequences.

Who’s right?

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. There is no doubt that America has benefited from elements of economic globalization. For example, everyone likes buying fresh strawberries year-round. Likewise, many American industries undoubtedly profit from higher trade volumes—primarily American exporters and financial markets.

The problem is that not everyone benefits. In fact, the vast majority of Americans have seen their wages stagnate—real median wages actually peaked in 1973—and their quality of life deteriorate (better technology aside). Likewise, large swaths of the nation have been turned into ruined, rusting husks, a consequence of deindustrialization. Millions of Americans are chronically unemployed, and millions more have turned to drugs, crime, and suicide.

Free trade is to blame. Or more specifically, Ricardian economic globalization and its ugly stepchild, offshoring. Both the economic logic and historical data bear this out.

If America does not soon redress its trade imbalances, things will only get worse for the common man—inequality will continue to increase, and nations will continue to grow ever more economically (and thus legally) integrated. Do we really want to put the rest of Marx’s thesis to the test?

Photo credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

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America • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Featured Article • History • Hollywood • Movies • political philosophy • Russia • The Culture • The Left • The Media

Politics, the Arts, and ‘The Fiery Angel’

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In my new bookThe Fiery Angelout this week from Encounter Books, I make the following contention: that the arts have more to teach us about foreign and public policy than all the schools of government put together.

“Homer,” I write, “has more to teach us about governance than Harvard, and always will.”

To Homer, I go on to add Aristotle, Aquinas, Ravel, Bram Stoker, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Dante, Virgil, Mozart, and Beauty and the Beast. Indeed, the entire thesis of The Fiery Angel (a companion volume to 2015’s The Devil’s Pleasure Palace) can be summed up accordingly: “We proceed, then, from the premise that the past not only still has something to tell us, but it also has something that it must tell us, if only we will listen. That while we stare intently toward the future (the will-o-the-wisp of the Left), it is to the past to which we should be listening—for it alone holds the sum total of the human experience in its dusty, bony hands.”

That is to say, the solutions to our present-day ills can be found in our history; our ancestors, from the Greeks and the Romans to the 19th and 20th centuries, had exactly the same problems, and the solutions they found (whether they worked or failed) have been conveniently recorded for us in not only the pages of the histories that have come down to us, beginning with Thucydides and Herodotus, Livy and Tacitus, but also in the works of art (sculpture, painting, poetry, fiction, plays, operas, movies) that accompany them.

We understand, for example, that the events detailed in Livy’s History of Rome are largely mythic, but that does not invalidate them. Similarly, the speeches that Tacitus puts into the mouths of Tiberius and Germanicus he basically invented. So what? None of this lessens the lessons to be imparted and learned not only by the readers of that time, but today’s as well.

As an example of the arts’ predictive powers, I present an excerpt from Chapter Three, “The Raft of the Medusa,” which opens with an account of the geopolitical situation in the spring of 1986, with the Cold War at its height—yet also in its last days.

***

Quick: would you rather read a think-tank white paper from around the time of the Reagan–Gorbachev Reykjavik summit in 1986, assuring the Boston–Washington corridor that the Soviet Union would remain the only other superpower indefinitely, and that its stability was vital to the balance of power, or watch “Rocky IV,” released in 1985? Which better predicted the events of November 1989?

Consider, for example, this review of Strobe Talbott’s 1984 book on arms control, Deadly Gambits. Talbott, then a writer for TimeMagazine—he later left to join the Clinton administration as deputy secretary of state, and parlayed that into becoming president of the Brookings Institution—undertook in a widely unread book to contrast the arms-control policies of the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan administrations, to the latter’s detriment, of course. This concluding passage from the contemporaneous New York Times review provides a flavor [emphasis mine]:

Mr. Talbott, who is diplomatic correspondent at Time, had previously written “Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT II.” What is striking about the two books is that “Endgame” was about how President Carter and his top aides—Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, and Defense Secretary Harold Brown—were directly in charge of the arms control process. “Deadly Gambits” shows how President Reagan, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Mr. Weinberger, and the three different national security advisers, had little to do with making arms control policy because they lacked the intellectual tools or interest in the subject.

He is particularly mocking of Mr. Reagan, who, Mr. Talbott writes, liked to give speeches on arms control, “but behind the scenes, where decisions were made and policy was set, he was to remain a detached, sometimes befuddled character.” Mr. Talbott says that even though Mr. Reagan presided at 16 meetings of the National Security Council on strategic arms talks, “there was ample evidence, during those meetings and on other occasions as well, that he frequently did not understand basic aspects of the nuclear weapons issue and of policies being promulgated in his name.”

The Soviet Union’s collapse began five years later with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Cold War ended two years after that. There was no nuclear exchange between the Russians and the Americans. Containment, technological superiority, and firmness of purpose at the highest levels of American and Western foreign policy for 45 years had worked—and the end came just after Reagan left office.

Talbott’s career checked all the boxes of the American foreign-policy establishment, including education (Hotchkiss, Yale, Oxford, where he was Bill Clinton’s roommate); youthful attention as translator of Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs; top-tier American journalistic experience (Time); service in government and at a prestigious Beltway think tank. And yet his record on all the major foreign-policy events of the past several decades was dismal, mirroring that of most of his conventionally thinking colleagues in both journalism and academe. If this is what specialization achieves, then let us have less of it.

A far more significant international event in the history of the Cold War endgame took place over two weeks in April 1986, when the great Russian-born virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz made his first and only return to the land of his birth. The pianist’s visit was skillfully negotiated by Peter Gelb, a grand-nephew of the violinist Jascha Heifetz, who was then with Columbia Artists Management Inc., the leading music-management agency in the country; Gelb later became the general director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

The opening was provided by a cultural-exchange agreement that had been concluded between Reagan and the Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, at their Geneva summit on November 21, 1985. Gelb contacted Bernard Kalb, a former journalist who was assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the Reagan Administration, and suggested that a Horowitz visit be the first of the exchanges. The trip was jeopardized several times, particularly in the wake of an incident at Spaso House in which the piano in the residence had its strings slashed by someone on the household staff after the ambassador, Arthur Hartman, had hosted an informal concert by a leading refusenik pianist, Vladimir Feltsman. (Feltsman emigrated to the United States in 1987.)

It took a personal letter from President Reagan, hand-delivered to Horowitz’s residence on East 94thStreet in Manhattan, and guaranteeing both the pianist’s safety in Russia and that of his custom-shipped personal Steinway piano—without which he never performed—for the exchange to be solidified.

As it happened, the visit was bookended by two major news events. The first was the American air assault on Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya on April 15, 1986, in retaliation for the terrorist bombing 10 days earlier of the La Belle discothèque in West Berlin, in which two American servicemen were killed. The second was the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl on April 26. Their noses out of joint over Reagan’s actions against a then-Soviet ally, the Russians gave the pianist and his entourage a chilly reception at the airport and boycotted a dinner in his honor at the Italian embassy in Moscow. The Chernobyl accident, meanwhile, took place on the Saturday before Horowitz’s final U.S.S.R. concert, but word of the disaster did not leak out until the visitors had decamped.

I was privileged to witness the entire Russian trip. This is what I wrote in Time Magazine of the concert’s significance at the time (issue of May 5, 1986):

The first recital provoked an unprecedented near riot. As the security gates in front of the Moscow Conservatory swung open to admit the pianist’s chauffeured Chaika, hundreds of young people burst through the police lines and stormed the Conservatory’s Great Hall. Plainclothes and uniformed guards managed to grab a few of them, sending several sprawling, But many, perhaps most, raced past astonished ticket takers and ran upstairs to the balcony, where they crouched in the aisles and stood should to should against the walls. In a country that takes special pride in preserving public order, romantic exuberance rarely overwhelms regimentation so publicly. It was fitting for the occasion.

In an unconscious echo of Rocky’s “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change” speech at the end of his winning bout against the Russian champion, Ivan Drago, Horowitz had this to say about the Soviet Union and the Russians:

Before leaving New York City, the pianist had been sanguine about his chances of success, both as a musician and as a cultural ambassador. “I am not a Communist, but I can understand their way of thinking better than most Americans,” he declared. “We all know there is good and evil everywhere. I was brought up to seek the good. In the Soviet Union today, the good is the music they produce. I hope that by playing in the Soviet Union, I will make the good better. Music inspires. It does not destroy and kill.”

The sentiment may have seemed naïve at the time, but in retrospect, how right Horowitz was. Despite being completely apolitical – Horowitz was sometimes childlike in his appetites and pleasures, a man whose often puckish exterior masked the barely controlled, and sometimes uncontrolled, fury of his playing – he was correct in several of his assessments. For one thing, he did understand the Russians better than most Americans; he certainly understood them better than Talbott, and better than most members of the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, who consistently viewed the Soviet Union through prisms of their own self-advancement and continued employment.

***

Three and a half years later, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union itself disappeared shortly thereafter.

***

Did Horowitz effect all this himself? Of course not. Each event was a piece in the mosaic. But his was more catalytic than most: what the Horowitz concerts demonstrated to the Communists was that they could not succeed even in something as simple as controlling the entrances to the Tchaikovsky Hall in the heart of Moscow. Yes, the security men counter-attacked during the battle on the stairway, pushing and shoving a few students down the stairs and into the surging crowd. But the students were not to be denied, and in the end, neither were the East Germans, the Poles, the Czechs, the Hungarians, and finally even the Russians.

Therefore, the argument must be made, and taken seriously, that the study of the arts belongs every bit as much in the realm of public policy as, say, the study of political “science” (a term that reeks of Marxism, since there is no more that is “scientific” about politics than there is about history) and arguably more so. For one thing, storytelling has been around a lot longer than the Kennedy School of Government; for another, its track record in predicting and ameliorating various catastrophes throughout history has been much better. Certainly better than all the wise men whose gaze floated from their navels to the Kremlin and back again, and yet never saw the end of the Soviet Union coming.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images

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2016 Election • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Young Americans for Folly

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It was the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) convention of 1968, and a conservative civil war was in the process of erupting. A vocal faction of libertarian students, incensed at YAF’s ongoing support for the Vietnam War, burned their draft cards in protest, which prompted a quite literal floor fight with the traditionalist students, who berated the libertarians as “lazy fairies.”

Sensing that their organization was on the knife’s edge, YAF’s leadership sent the best speaker they could think of out to try to reconcile the warring factions before everything went up in smoke. That speaker was William F. Buckley, Jr., who observed:

I rue the unnecessary distance this country has traveled away from freedom for its citizens. YAF was founded among other things to brood over that excess, and to keep it constantly before the mind of the public. But to assume that young Americans, or old Americans, could have any freedom at all in the absence of a measure of sacrifice toward that common affection which lifts our society into being is to assume that each one of us is omnipotent, and to prove that each one of us is omnipotent only in the capacity to fool oneself, and to make oneself a fool. I hope it will not be thought a betrayal to observe that the fight for freedom and the fight to conserve require different emphases depending on the historical situation. (emphasis mine)

In short, a self-immolating stand on principle against the historical necessities of the time was, in Buckley’s view, the height of foolishness. Thus, a strict libertarian stand against prosecuting the Vietnam War risked surrender not merely to the Communist Viet Cong, but also to the antiwar protest movement that was destroying order in America itself. As for Buckley, he would have preferred to nuke Vietnam, rather like the recently defeated U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.).

Now, in retrospect, we can see that Buckley was most likely wrong on Vietnam. And Buckley was happy to admit as much, since he later denounced the Iraq War for falling into the same trap, and grounded his support for handing control of the Panama Canal to Panama itself in the idea that if it were not handed over, there “would’ve been a Vietnam situation,” as he put it in the final episode of his long-running TV show “Firing Line.”

On the other hand, Buckley was also willing to tolerate dissent from his positions for the sake of political expediency. During that same episode, Buckley cheerfully admitted that while he thought Ronald Reagan’s opposition to the treaty surrendering the Panama Canal was mistaken, “if [Reagan] hadn’t come out against the treaty, he wouldn’t have been nominated, on the grounds that my brothers in the conservative movement would’ve punished him for not taking the correct position.”

Now, given this is American Greatness, one might be justified in wondering why I, one of the most fierce and caustic critics of over-fidelity to the conservatism of the past, am wasting my time harping on old Buckley quotes, let alone old student disputes from the 1960s. Well, two reasons: number one, to establish that Bill Buckley was the last person to prioritize an organization or person’s ideological purity or tonal niceness over their ability to be effective on behalf of the Right.

And secondly, to point out that in Buckley’s day, conservative youth organizations actually had balls.

Revenge of the Wimps
Alas, neither point is true today, which brings me to the actual topic of this article: namely, the on-going infomercial-style bitchfight between the ostensibly Trumpist student group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and its critics in that sad cadre of Lost Boys and Last Men that make up the legacy youth wing of conservatism—groups like the reconstituted YAF, Students for Liberty (SFL), the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), etc.

That battle began with a column published in that unquestioned redoubt of hoary old conservatism known as . . . Vice. The piece has gone through more titles than Hope Hicks in the space of being published, but exists currently under the headline “TPUSA Is a Safe Space for the Worst of Campus Conservatism.” Its thesis can be summed up as “Turning Point USA hires racist people and brings icky ‘alt-lite’ figures to campus who should not be allowed because of their icky opinions and horrible tendency to upset liberals, whereas YAF, SFL, and ISI will teach students to be True Conservatives™, presumably through a wholesome combination of pretending to have read the Bible, pretending to have read Buckley, and pretending to care about the free market in something other than weed to seem edgy.”

Now, unlike my fellow contributor Eric Lendrum, who felt the urge to leap to TPUSA’s defense with a full-throated defrocking of this passive aggressive elevator pitch for irrelevance, my response upon reading it is simply “can they both lose?”

I regard TPUSA in general, and its new star Candace Owens in particular, with a combination of mistrust and distaste. I mistrust them because TPUSA’s founder, Charlie Kirk, was against Trump until suddenly Baby Boomer donors liked Trump, and Owens herself has followed a whiplash-inducing ideological trajectory from Social Justice Warrior (SJW) to Trumpist, in about the same space of time it would take me to lace up a pair of Yeezys. I feel distaste for them because Kirk seems incapable of producing a single thought that doesn’t read like a poll-tested cliché, and because of my long and close friendship with the conservative commentator and journalist Lauren Southern, who recently produced an incisive video pointing out that TPUSA’s leaders talk out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to their support for identity politics. On the one hand, they badmouth it; on the other, they produce events designated solely for women, blacks, or Latinos. Shouldn’t that be a contradiction they resolve among themselves? Southern wanted to know.

To make matters worse, Owens’ response to this even-handed and non-malicious critique was to claim that the critique was the result of “inner socialism” inspired by her success (as though only socialists can be suspicious of a person’s moral desert), that she didn’t oppose segregation into identity groups so long as they weren’t manipulated for political reasons (while justifying her actions because they made black people want to vote Republican), and most incredibly, that being opposed to identity politics makes one a Marxist! That sound you just heard was George Schuyler, Zora Neale Hurston, Booker T. Washington, Shelby Steele, Ward Connerly, and every other actual black conservative either waking up with a cold sweat, or turning over in their graves, along with Edward Said, W.E.B. Dubois, bell hooks, Huey Newton, Judith Butler, and every other actual Marxist who explicitly grounded their Marxist ideology in their own “marginalized” identities.

Yes, Candace Owens calls herself a conservative. Then again, Harvey Weinstein called himself a feminist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she got us Kanye, but now that he’s graduated to a bromance with Jordan Peterson, can we send her back to making a fool of herself on YouTube?

Trigger Warning for the Uninformed
However, because I sense that Lauren and I are precisely the sorts of people that the author of that Vice piece, one William Nardi, would seek to ban from college campuses for our unconscionable willingness to make sport of triggered Leftists, because he already attacked my friends Lucian Wintrich and Milo Yiannopoulos on the same grounds, and because he has since been joined by his fellow Twitter backbenchers in attacking Eric Lendrum, and because one never takes sides against what James Comey calls the “Amici Nostra,” it behooves me to take the Birch to their backsides. And by “Birch,” I don’t mean a literal tree branch: I mean the same instrument that Buckley took to the John Birchers and assorted other fussy little cranks.

Lendrum already took apart Nardi’s original piece with more patience than it deserved. However, there are a couple of points that I think should be made about it, and about Nardi and his cohort, that Lendrum was possibly too noble to mention. As Lendrum noted, the only case Nardi can find of a TPUSA member saying anything that flies in the face of conservative ideology, despite claiming they “break with traditional conservatives in nearly every way,” is Candace Owens calling Trump a “savior.” Three points about this:

First, given the actual differences with longstanding conservative doctrine that I pointed out on Owens’ part above, this shows a nigh-catatonic level of laziness on Nardi’s part.

Second, when the Religious Right first formed in the late 1970s as a voting bloc for Jimmy Carter, they explicitly compared him to Christ, even going so far as to say that Carter shared the same initials as Christ (for a full explication of this phenomenon, see William Martin’s excellent book, With God On Our Side). Granted, they switched to Reagan when Carter disappointed them. But clearly, these sorts of Christlike comparisons have been de riguer among people who became members in good standing of the conservative movement for quite some time. Moreover, #NeverTrump conservatives once even juxtaposed Ronald Reagan as the “savior” to Trump’s “Satan.” Are they apostates and heretics, too? The answer writes itself.

Third, and perhaps most embarrassingly, this is not Nardi’s only attempt to transform the banal into the sacrilegious or profane. In a (somehow) public Facebook post, he writes of a Vice clip showing enthused fans of Beyonce Knowles, “This is SATAN. When the Beyonce personality cult leads the socialist takeover, our country is done for. The last thing they’ve been missing is a charismatic leader to guide them. They’ve now made Beyonce a ‘God.’” No mention of whether Jay-Z will also produce a song titled “I’ve got 666 Problems But Christ Ain’t One.” Also, I’m not one to accuse people of racism, but if I were the sort of person Nardi is, I might find it just a little odd that he has such a problem with sanctified language being used by or about black women.

Moreover, and more troublingly, in his attempt to explain where young conservatives should really belong, Nardi writes the following: “Standing athwart against the all-consuming wave of Trumpism, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a student activist group founded by conservative icon William F. Buckley, continues to memorialize the legacy of Ronald Reagan’s personality.[…] Non-Christian conservatives who are more excited to promote fiscal conservatism and free markets can seek out libertarian student organizations like Students for Liberty.”

The “non-Christian” weasel word speaks volumes: implicitly, Nardi is arguing that only Christians can be conservatives, and everyone else will have to settle for being libertarians. For his sake, I hope he never applies for a job at National Review Online, as its very atheist editor-in-chief, Charles C.W. Cooke, might take issue with being preemptively relegated to second-class status on the Right. I also wonder what Nardi makes of non-Christian conservatives such as the near lifelong atheist James Burnham, or my fellow Jews Ben Shapiro and David Horowitz.

Speaking of Horowitz, by the way, Nardi seems to have been asleep for much of the early 2000s, because he treats attempts to publicly expose professors’ Leftist politics as some sort of unprecedented McCarthyite behavior by TPUSA, when Horowitz was doing precisely the same thing in his book The Professors, and when groups like ISI—which Nardi adulates—have been warning students away from Leftist-dominated universities for years. I suppose Horowitz, being a “non-Christian” conservative, must just not have known better than to emulate the Catholic Joseph McCarthy.

I’m not only bringing up these bits of historical blindness and hysteria to be mean-spirited, but to build to a fundamental point, which is that Nardi and his crew are in precisely no position to opine on what makes for True Conservatism™ when they don’t even know the recent history of the ideology they appear to be trying to conserve.

Buckley Pioneered Triggering
This is an important point to establish, because they try to dress up their prissy tone policing complaints about triggering liberals and seeking power on-campus through unapologetic right-wing politics by wrapping them in the mantle of Bill Buckley, or by hiding behind documents like the Sharon Statement.

Yet as established, Buckley was far from the sort of person to shun tactics, if they worked to promote his cause. This was especially the case when it came to triggering university liberals, which Buckley arguably was the first campus conservative to do, with the publication of God and Man at Yale. About this last, an amusing side note: when God and Man at Yale was published, it inspired a huffy review from Yale Professor McGeorge Bundy, who wrote: “The book is one which has the glow and appeal of a fiery cross on a hillside at night. There will undoubtedly be robed figures who gather to it, but the hoods will not be academic. They will cover the face.” Yes, that’s right, Buckley wasn’t just the first conservative campus provocateur, he may also have been the first to inspire disingenuous allegations of racism from triggered faculty members. Granted, Charlie Kirk is no Bill Buckley, but I won’t insult McGeorge Bundy, an actual man of accomplishment, by comparing him to a precious little scribbler like Nardi.

As for seeking power on-campus, I turn once more to Buckley, who wrote at the time of the signing of the Sharon Statement, “What is so striking in the students who met at Sharon is their appetite for power. Ten years ago the struggle seemed so long, so endless, even, that we did not dream of victory.” How is this in any way meaningfully different from TPUSA’s attempt to pump money into campus elections and secure posts for their favored candidates? It isn’t. Appetite for power goes back to the Sharon Statement.

But alright, the Nardi-ites might say, even if the tactics of TPUSA are not really that different from Buckley, at least Buckley was doing his bit for conservatism! True, Reagan conservatism, not this awful Trumpist populism. In fact, they said precisely that in response to Lendrum’s piece: “.@EricLendrum26 wants to lump @Y_A_Freedom with @realDonaldTrump’s populist movement and ideals (Few though they may be). This shows a clear misunderstand of the conservative movement at its core.

Alright. So Trump is populist and YAF, Buckley, Reagan, etc. were pure, True Conservatives™. Here are some facts that run counter to that:

Did Ronald Reagan adopt protectionist policies, to the dismay of libertarians? Answer: Yes.

Was William F. Buckley’s formative mentor at Yale a True Conservative™? No, he was Willmoore Kendall, a populist proponent of direct democracy, whose main political idol was Andrew Jackson.

Did Paul Weyrich, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, bemoan the rise of blue-collar whites as a force in the late 1970s? No, he celebrated it as a break from the overly intellectual and politically irrelevant “old Right” of the early National Review days, and even went so far as to say that the New Right’s affection for unions and for the welfare state made it better because “People have come to expect certain things of their government, and that it is possible to give those things to the people without destroying the free enterprise system.

Was Buckley hypersensitive to allegations of racism? No, he was close friends with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, author of the highly controversial (even for its time) Moynihan report, and was a confirmed skeptic of immigration, particularly Muslim immigration, right up until the year he died. For the sake of fairness to Buckley, I won’t mention the columns he penned on the issue of segregation, since he later said he regretted those, but suffice to say they were nothing Nardi could have supported.

Did even the early neoconservatives regard racial sensitivity as the paramount concern of the Right? If they did, Norman Podhoretz’s “My Negro Problem And Ours” would never have been written, let alone published.

Was criticism of the pure free market ever verboten on the Right? No. Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom conceded the need for a welfare state, neoconservative intellectuals such as Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol loudly pointed out the flaws in capitalism in essays and books like “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism” and Two Cheers for Capitalism.

I could go on, but the point is basic: The Trumpian desire to “trigger the libs” was a tactic Bill Buckley himself pioneered. The thirst for power that groups like TPUSA cultivate was cultivated by the very people who founded YAF and wrote the Sharon Statement. The intellectual disagreements with True Conservatism™ that undergird Trumpian “populism” have been within mainstream conservative orthodoxy for decades, and no amount of Koch money can wash them out.

A True Conservatism™ Never Learned, Much Less Forgotten
What, then, undergirds the huffy behavior of William Nardi and the many other would-be imitators of True Conservatism™? Nothing more than pure, cringing desire to appease their editors at Vice, to weasel their way into the pants of liberal women, and to burnish their resumes by flattering their professors. For all their professed love of Buckley, this association of runts of the litter either forget, or more likely never knew what Buckley himself stood for. But of all the things they ignore in Buckley’s record, perhaps the most notable one is his proclamation that he would sooner be governed by the first thousand names in the Boston telephone book than by the faculty of Harvard University.

In contrast, Nardi and his friends would happily accede to rule by Harvard’s self-appointed faux-technocrats, provided it earned them the names of the thousand loosest co-eds on Harvard’s campus. However, one suspects even those ladies would hang up on them. So must we.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • EU • Europe • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • Republicans • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Feeling Berned in Budapest

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During a recent trip to Budapest, I met an American liberal who took just 47 minutes to tell me to go and screw myself. Well, she dressed that suggestion in more forceful garb, I’ll admit.

The triggering of such familiar vitriol was innocent enough. I “deceived” her, she said. She was “so mad right now!” her face writhing, china-white teeth sharpening into fangs, fingers tightened around her empty glass. Thankfully, the seething Jewish Quarter muffled her gratuitous lavishing of the unrepeatable curse word.

Anyway, she started it.

Taking heed of the age-old advice to never discuss politics or religion where alcohol flows, my lips did not separate until my American disposable friend felt the need, confession booth-style, to insist that President Trump, or “Cheeto Hitler” as she called him, was not her president.

“What policies of his do you oppose?” I enquired.

“Like, all of them,” she replied. “Every. Single. One.”

Suspicious of nonsense, I pressed, carefully grafting Bernie Sanders onto candidate Trump’s campaign rally superhits. They’re not too dissimilar, after all.

To each one, my Millennial friend nodded and hummed, the havoc inside her brain dissolving.

The big reveal, as satisfying as it was, sparked a confined pandemonium. I’d seen this phenomenon on YouTube countless times, but, in the flesh? Illuminating.

If you’re somewhat concerned about the Millennial’s welfare, she eventually recovered from my armchair Freudian attempt at what therapists (a growth sector, no doubt) call “exposure therapy.”

This kind of behavior is sadly common among Millennials. Yet, the point shouldn’t need belaboring: politics is often about policies, no?

Youthful Cognitive Dissonance
Those around my age have swiped left on logic and reason. Any given weekend, it seems, in London or Los Angeles, youth-sodden throngs protest democracy’s awkward tendency to disappoint at least half of a nation.

“Sign this, man!” said one sinewy protester, as I sauntered past a Cardiff demonstration demanding Great Britain stay in the European Union, despite its departure being supported by the largest mandate in our history. When I painfully pointed out that J. P. Morgan donated millions to the Remain campaign, he shrugged—“But, I hate the banks!”

Shakily daubed placards proclaimed that the “gammons” (a complexion-centered jibe denoting a Brexit voter—sort of the British version of “deplorables”) had “stolen” the “future” of the young and hip. Of course, a majority of these young and hip didn’t even bother to vote in 2016, and they move along now in similar fashion,  not bothering to parse the youth unemployment numbers across the European Union which besots them.

It seemed a supermajority of those I spoke to had populist convictions, yet did not grasp that they were fighting on behalf of the ruling class whose colossal incompetence leading up to, and following, the Great Crash of 2008, is what has really poisoned their future.

Aldous Huxley Got it Right!
Millennials on both sides of the Atlantic protest feverishly for the status quo. Despite the airs of “Resistance,” Generation Selfie applies social media dynamics to the political arena. Being visibly “progressive” means Instagram-ready protests where support is measured in “likes” or upvotes. The financial class, no doubt, finds this cognitive truancy oddly hilarious.

After all, social media is a manicured, and selective version of reality, much like the progressive politics motoring the herds of independent minds. Likes are social currency; peacocking the “correct” opinion is the key to the Federal Reserve which floods Facebook, Instagram, Twitter et. al. with bien-pensant quotes from 1984.

They may cite Orwell, but it was his former schoolteacher Aldous Huxley, who, when not zooming across grandiloquent psychedelic plains, got it right. The oppressed, as his work Brave New World predicted, had no idea of their oppression. They preferred it, even.

Huxley disagreed with his former Eton charge. In a 1949 letter, thanking him for his gift of 1984 he flatly disagreed on the book’s premise: one could control the masses much easier, he insisted, by teaching them to value their servitude. No torture or terror was required.

Huxley’s imagined citizens of London were engorged on their every empty desire—sex, drugs—Soma-fuelled “freedom” unvisited by human sensibilities. Hedonism was the creed they ravaged with bulimic obsession.

The protagonist Bernard Marx questions the system and is written-off as defective. You could say Bernard was “woke” in the same manner as serial antagonist Kanye West, who dared “speak out of turn” as Maxine Waters put it in the parlance of an overseer.

West, an undoubtedly influential figure for Millennials, was shouted down so energetically because he dangerously pointed out that the liberal stranglehold over Black America is what ails them. He could have said: “Democrats don’t care about black people.” He wouldn’t have been far wrong.

The danger to Waters, of course, being that the Democratic agenda is futile without the votes of those they bestow with their patronizing compassion. They must persist in their grooming of millennials into another angry reliable and docile voting bloc.

Against Trump in (Almost) Every Way
That’s what keeps the Democrats ticking over. Long-jettisoned is the party of the working man. That is now in thrall to the intellectual skirmishing and identity politics beloved of its metropolitan Brahmins.

But identity politics is scorpion-and-frog.

Although mulishly conformist, Millennials are also inherently fickle. The generation of Netflix and Spotify doesn’t mess around. If something better appears, their loyalties dissolve. Ask MySpace Tom.

A recent Reuters poll underlined this. Support for congressional Democrats among Americans ages 18 to 34 sank by 9 percent in the past two years, while the Democrats’ 12-point gap on the economy fell to just two points.

Though two-thirds join my Budapest acquaintance in their rabid opposition to President Trump, they don’t seem to mind Trump’s economic policies. And neither did she—at least not as long as she thought they were Bernie’s.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • political philosophy • Post • self-government • The Constitution • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trade

One Nation

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Editor’s note: This essay appears in the Spring 2018 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. Reprinted by kind permission of the Claremont Institute. 

In 1993 the president of the American Society for International Law called for a “campaign to extirpate the term [‘sovereignty’] and forbid its use in polite political and intellectual company.” Such a proscription would have been in keeping with the bien-pensant consensus at the end of the past century and beginning of the present one: sovereignty is becoming obsolete and needs to be diluted or shared as mankind progresses toward global governance.

Nonetheless, Donald Trump, Brexit, and the growing resistance to increased centralization by the European Union from its member nations show that sovereignty has returned with a vengeance. This interruption of the inevitable march to globalism creates a problem for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), central command for “liberal internationalism,” more accurately described as “transnational progressivism.” From the CFR perspective, the issue is how to defeat the American sovereigntists and their case for democratic self-government. This task is taken up in The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World, by Stewart Patrick, director of CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance program.

* * *

Patrick writes well, is knowledgeable, informative, a pleasant fellow, but he is wrong on the most important issues concerning democratic sovereignty and the right of a free people to rule themselves. His first priority, in effect, is to deconstruct the concept of sovereignty into its constituent but discordant elements, which he sees as threefold. At the top of his framework, “the Sovereignty Triangle,” is authority, which, with respect to America, “implies that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and no external constraints should limit Americans’ right to govern themselves.” The triangle’s second vertex is autonomy, which “implies that the U.S. government, acting on behalf of the people, should have the freedom of action to formulate and pursue its foreign and domestic policies independently.” The final corner is influence, “the state’s effective capacity to advance its interests,” hence, America’s ability to influence others.

Though these three aspects of sovereignty are “often in tension,” sovereignty itself can be “disaggregated” when we “voluntarily trade off one aspect of sovereignty for another.” These “sovereignty bargains” will be “required” if the United States is to exert influence and shape the future of globalization. Indeed, it is “counterproductive” for sovereigntists to worry too much about autonomy or even authority—the supremacy of the Constitution—because influence is what America most needs “to shape its destiny in a global era.” Patrick concedes that a “liberal internationalist” would prioritize “solving a global problem” through multilateral action “even if that implied a loss of autonomy or, conceivably, even authority.”

Read the rest at The Claremont Review of Books

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America • Conservatives • Education • political philosophy • Post

A Taxonomy of Conservatives: The Policy Wonk

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He has an encyclopedic knowledge of all recent studies that line up with his own ideas and pithy one-line complaints about the methodologies of those that don’t. He can talk for hours about the minutiae of Medicare and Medicaid and still have time to finish his economics problem sets. And his voice, somehow shrill and monotonous at the same time, will give you a headache as you try to understand how someone so smart can be so stupid. He is the policy wonk.

Fourth in a series. Read parts one, two, and three.

The policy wonk is a close relative of the bookworm. Both are motivated by the need to prove to their classmates that they are smart conservatives. Both are also vastly intellectually overleveraged. They frequently name-drop thinkers, ideas, and models that they haven’t carefully examined in an attempt to win arguments and impress their classmates. And while plenty of other people do this both in and out of college, these two types have skimmed far more Wikipedia pages than your average charlatan. They are both experts at pretending to know what the hell they are talking about.

But while the Bookworm uses the humanities to apply his sheen of intellectualism, the policy wonk opts for the social sciences. And, as choices for bolstering your pseudo-intellectual credentials go, this is certainly the shinier one.

It’s easy to dismiss humanities majors who don’t know what they’re talking about. If even they don’t know what they’re talking about, then you (and most people who haven’t skimmed Montesquieu and Joyce) won’t either. Their hazy navel-gazing is safely ignored.

But the policy wonk’s discourse on things-he-doesn’t-understand has the deceptive veneer of rigorous methodology and empirical experimentation. He cites statistics from peer-reviewed studies and economic models from Nobel laureates to support his concrete policy recommendations. And while he’s only skimmed the studies, can’t fully explain the models, and often misapplies both, none of these facts can shake his overweening confidence in his intelligence and superiority as a scientist.

Such confidence makes the policy wonk a frustrating interlocutor. He believes that he can place the burden of proof on you simply by citing some economic literature without bothering to reconstruct the argument it contains—after all, such complicated concepts can’t be understood by a mere mortal like you and the goal here is simply to shut you up.

If you don’t immediately have specific objections to his obscure citations, he will claim victory (if only temporarily) as you storm off to the library to read through an economics paper that you quickly realize didn’t even apply to the argument that he was making. Worst of all, because blind scientism has supplanted common sense at many colleges, far too many will unquestioningly accept his arguments-from-authority that masquerade as science.

While pervasive scientism in the natural sciences is bad enough, it poses an even bigger threat in the social sciences. After all, it is not clear that the social sciences are, in fact, sciences. This is not to say that the social sciences can’t be useful—contrary to popular belief, there are many fields of unscientific knowledge that are useful, if not critical. But it is not clear whether we can usefully study things like the economy and politics using our framework of “science.”

As far as we can tell, the natural world does not care what we think of it and does not change its behavior based on our theories of how it will act. But as anyone who has watched President Trump will know, humans constantly react to the way that they are perceived and the models that people use to try to predict them. When we propose theories about how people act, people will typically change how they act in response to our theory—our knowledge and models become obsolete quickly and we have to come up with new theories. This feedback loop makes successfully applying the scientific method difficult, if not impossible when it comes to the activity of human beings.

Thoughtful social scientists understand and constantly grapple with this problem. But policy wonks are not thoughtful.

Hiding behind the obfuscation of complicated methodologies and vast datasets, they try to take on the appearance of rigorous scientists without giving any thought to the underlying questions behind their fields. At best, they can be thought of as sloppy engineers with an idealistic and ambitious streak who believe that with enough social science models and data, they can effectively model and engineer their utopia. At worst, they are authoritarian frauds who try to use “numbers” and “science” to bully you into doing what they want you to do.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • self-government • The Left • The Leviathian State

Great Men, Black Swans, and the End of the Mandarins

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One of the worst ideas in American history has been the establishment of schools of government and the professionalization of the Washington press corps. Both are intellectual artifacts of the Progressive Era, monuments to the notion that democracy is too messy to be left in the hands of the people, and that therefore the government and its putative watchdogs should be administered for the public good by a priest class of wise men, schooled like the mandarins of ancient China, in the intricate arts and ways of the imperial capital.

Like all the crackpot schemes of the Progressives, this one was grounded in “scientific” principles, much as economic Marxism had been a few decades earlier. There was a right way to organize human affairs—which could be codified, studied, and interpreted, much like a religion—and a wrong way. The wrong way had been that of the 19th-century, with its succession of Great Men, describing an arc from Napoleon to the outbreak of the Great War. And look where that had got us. Far better to build on the example of the civil service system, which had begun in 1883—if we could professionalize clerks, why not grand pooh-bahs as well?

This notion was memorably articulated by the newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann in his 1922 book, Public Opinion. He very much included public intellectuals like himself in this priest class and, mistrustful of democracy, was concerned about the “defective organization of public opinion.”

I argue that representative government, either in what is ordinarily called politics, or in industry, cannot be worked successfully, no matter what the basis of election, unless there is an independent, expert organization for making the unseen facts intelligible to those who have to make the decisions . . . .

My conclusion is that public opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today. This organization I conceive to be in the first instance the task of a political science that has won its proper place as formulator, in advance of real decision, instead of apologist, critic, or reporter after the decision has been made.

The result has been the sclerotic federal government of the past half-century and more, a bloated, ineffective, failure-proof collection of Ivy League credentialists who, obsessed with ritual, have forgotten why they ever went into government in the first place, except for their own personal self-enrichment. No matter which party was in power, nothing ever really got accomplished (except the process of “process”) and nothing ever really changed, either—except for the worse. From Nixon, who gave us OSHA and the EPA, through Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party and its auxiliaries in the media, tortured the country even as it bored us to death.

“Stability” was the key. Mediocrities like Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry could jet all over the world, busying themselves with activity and calling it action, but nothing ever changed—because nothing was ever supposed to change. North Korea, the Middle East, and other hot spots were to be preserved, not sorted out, as full employment for the mandarins.

Suddenly, all that changed with the election of Donald J. Trump. Heedless of protocol, contemptuous of niceties, and scornful of Washington business-as-usual, Trump has blown past one impossible task after another in what is already the most consequential presidency since FDR’s. Practically from the day he took office, the listless Obama economy vanished. American oil production boomed. He ended Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional DACA program, laughed off the Paris “climate change” foolishness, tore up the Iran “deal,” got Kim Jong-un’s attention in Korea, and moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to fulfill the combined campaign promises of at least the past three presidents.

And they said it couldn’t be done. In fact, they’re still saying it, even after it has been done, with lots more to come.

#TheResistance to Trump’s Black Swan presidency so far has been triggered by fear—a fear that has molted over the course of the past year. First it was the fear of losing the White House, then it became the fear of the Outsider; latterly, it’s the fear that Trump may not be as vulnerable as they thought, that their deep state rogue intel op to take him down has failed, and that the public actually likes what he’s doing, even if they won’t admit it to pollsters.

And now it’s the fear of abyss itself: if Trump is successful, the entire Progressive project has been a fraud. All the Kennedy School of Government bureaucrats and functionaries in the world cannot affect the course of history as much as one man who doesn’t give a damn what they think. What Trump’s doing is far more important than simply upending the D.C. establishment and putting the Circumlocution Office on notice that its services are no longer needed. He’s single-handedly reviving the Great Man theory of leadership, and daring the rest of the world, including the colorless, impotent, and barren harem eunuchs of Europe, to catch up.

Thus, Trump’s carrot-and-stick handling of Kim not only got the little dictator’s attention, it also emboldened the president to apply a cattle prod to the genitals of the mullahs in Iran; naturally, the Lippmanns of Washington decried both moves as “destabilizing.” But destabilizing an insupportable and disgraceful status quo is exactly the platform Trump ran on; the president may not be an intellectual, but he understands chain reactions, and can’t wait to start them.

To take the most recent example, in Israel: moving the embassy will have diplomatic ramifications, but its practical significance is far larger. For the first time in ages, somebody has finally said no to the Palestinians. The embassy’s opening was greeted with riots in Gaza, and an attempt to filtrate Hamas fighters into Israel under the cover of “peaceful protest.” But instead of accommodating them, and reacting “proportionately” (the Lippmanns love that word, because they know it means “defenselessly”), the Israelis shot the rioters dead. And you can bet they cleared that with Washington in advance.

So what the embassy move really signifies is this: the “peace process” is over. The Palestinians have lost. All their threats were to no avail, and the tut-tutting of their allies in Europe and in the Democratic Party mattered not. Israeli snipers opened fire at agents provocateurs and Hamas sappers, and the only reaction that mattered was, gee, that’s too damn bad.

Wars don’t end by “negotiated settlements” or via “exit strategies.” They don’t even end when one side has clearly won. Rather, they end when the losing side realizes it has lost. Hotheads with rocks cannot defeat patriots defending their homeland with Tavors. In the end, the Palestinians will get some land (none of their Arab brethren seem to want them, certainly not the Saudis or the Jordanians), be told to settle down and shut up and, if they behave…

They might be allowed into Jerusalem to visit the American embassy, sit before one of the demoted mandarins, and maybe, if they’re lucky, get a visa for travel to the United States so they can visit their cousins in Dearborn and wonder why they didn’t give up years ago.

Photo credit:  Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Administrative State • America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • China • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Lincoln • political philosophy • Post • Religion and Society • Russia

Marx at 200 and the Ruling Class

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The Bicentennial of Karl Marx’s birth (May 5, 1818) has come and gone without much fanfare, except in the People’s Republic of China.

It’s not that the founder of Communism is forgotten or disrespected in America (a fate that befell him in the former Soviet Union and in North Korea), but that he is old news here—not to speak of a racist embarrassment.   

No one seems to pay any mind to the quaint old definition of socialism as state ownership of the major means of production. The ever-reliable PBS (Progressive BS) News Hour asked in 2017 “Is socialism in the United States having a moment?”  The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation followed up with a poll of younger Americans which found more support for socialism than capitalism, a distressing outcome albeit one rooted in their ignorance.

But the limitations of such approaches underscore the need to return to the primary source, Karl Marx. Socialism is the inevitable, to use Marxist language, conclusion of a more fundamental or, in its true sense, radical argument. It is here that the battle must be engaged.

These key points of the Marxist critique of the West and America in particular are: the mockery of religion, the denial that individual rights are central for political well-being, and the assertion that historical blinders prevent truth being knowable. These premises lead inevitably to “scientific” socialism and Marx’s subsequent strategy of appearing alternately as Mother Teresa or as Napoleon—whatever works, charity or brutality, as appeals to the simple or the savage. We are all too familiar with Marxism in practice—the former Soviet Union seems too ashamed to bring it up even to condemn it—so let us look at Marx’s theorizing, which is even more evil than those doctrines as applied.

The most appropriate text for reflecting on Marx is not the Communist Manifesto but the lesser-known “Theses on Feuerbach,” a two-page  meditation on 11 aphorisms or pithy observations written when he was in his mid-20s, around 1845. Feuerbach was an influential philosopher who speculated on the worldly origins of religious belief, even to the point of pantheism.

As with many of his other early writings, the daring “Theses” are much livelier and captivating than the notorious and ponderous Communist Manifesto (30 pages long that feels like 300) and his later writings such as the incomplete Capital.

In less than 600 words Marx makes five fundamental points for attacking all previous thinking about politics: Two involve the need to destroy the authority both of religion and of philosophy—the two major sources of transcendence of ordinary life that provide meaning and guidance. The other three are about need for the destruction of the family and the subsequent combination of negating individual rights and affirming socialism as the goal of human history.

Marx is at bottom about destruction, and the form of destruction can range from mockery to massacres, of  unenlightened thinking and of hostile people. He offers a vision of a redeemed humanity, bereft of the corruptions of capitalism (and other attributes of bourgeois civilization), especially Christianity. Heaven can be wrested away from the credulous and created by men on earth.

The most often cited thesis from the Feuerbach meditation is the last, XI: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”  A version is on the pediment of his gravestone in London, below his more famous, “Workers of all lands, unite.”  

Though it may be deceptively and rhetorically seductive, the assertion that previous philosophers have not influenced history is preposterous. John Locke, with his concept of the social contract formed by natural rights, including  the right of revolution, influenced the Declaration of Independence and thus America. Earlier, ancient Greek philosophy made science possible by distinguishing between reality and appearances of reality. The Enlightenment philosophers further transformed science. These interpretations of the human world, spread by their students, brought about revolutionary changes that lasted long after the philosophers’ lifetimes. In the Manifesto Marx would declare that “The ruling ideas of each age have always been the ideas of its ruling class.” It is a hallucination for Marx to imply he was the first thinker to bring about change, let alone change for the better.

But Marx’s initial and major focus is not against philosophy but religion, which exercises more influence over society. His first eight theses against Feuerbach radicalize that religious thinker’s insistence on the earthly origins of transcendent religion. Marx wants to preserve the striving of religion, its infinite longing, and even anti-Jewish elements he sees in Christianity (its “dirty Jewish” [schmutzig-jüdischen] attributes), but for his own socialist purposes.

Thesis III, for example, anticipates the disappearance of the “bourgeois family” in the Communist Manifesto: Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.” Destroying the “earthly family” in “theory and in practice” could mean, for example, the brutal Chinese Communist policies toward families wanting more than one child.  

Moreover, Feuerbach ignores the power of socio-economic forces. Against a society of isolated individuals (and of course their assertion of “rights”), Marx offers this contrast in thesis X: “The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.” Marx’s new materialism (the doctrine that reality exists in matter, not ideas, mathematics, or God) is the social or socialized humanity of the future. It comes about through the dynamics of history and a growing consciousness of the workers or proletariat. Marx wants his scientific philosophy to have the spirit of religion.

Incidentally, this perspective of “social humanity” or world-wide socialism makes reference to equality superfluous, because the only sense equality makes in political philosophy is equality of individual, natural rights. Thus Marx denounces talk about rights as bourgeois claptrap. Family, rights, religion—they all result from false consciousness. The so-called individual reflects  “the ensemble of the social relations.” The role of the leaders of society becomes more important than ever, for they shape every aspect of society: therefore, “it is essential to educate the educator himself.”

Perhaps the best education Marx, the would-be educator, might have had comes from a contemporary defender of the working class who too seldom is recognized as such: “The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds.” We see in the exception of the family the key difference from Marx.

This becomes even more clear in the next sentence of this March 21, 1864 message to a New York labor union:

Nor should this lead to a war upon property, or the owners of property. Property is the fruit of labor—property is desirable—is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.

Thus wrote Abraham Lincoln, liberator of slaves and defender of not the bourgeoisie but of the natural law protecting family and property.

This fight continues. The enemies of Lincoln and the American founding keep the Marx project alive. The family comes under more insidious attack than ever,  the administrative state tramples individual rights, historical inevitability declares borders as bygone, socialism in the form of collective consciousness lords over individual freedom, and philosophy and religion meet with blinkered ignorance, at best, and more likely ridicule, horror, and disgust. If Marx’s Bicentennial birthday is ignored, his contemporary epigones know their man would realize he had to be passed over, in favor of even more radical ideas. After all, the point is to change the world.

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America • Cultural Marxism • feminists • Hollywood • Identity Politics • political philosophy • Post • The Culture • The Media

American Grit: Vindicating Masculinity

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The Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to remove “Boy” from the organization’s name is only the latest in the ongoing attempt to purge masculinity from our culture. The task our society is in for when it comes to issues of sex will be something like untangling strings of Christmas lights sufficient to adorn a thousand trees the size of one suitable for Rockefeller Plaza. Acknowledging and coming to terms with differences between men and women is only one part of the bigger picture. Once we begin to unravel these tangled strings, it becomes evident that the attack on masculinity is really an attack on American identity.

Not Just Individuals, But a People
American identity may seem elusive because its particulars emerged from many sources: “E Pluribus Unum,” or, out of many, one. Centered as they are on universals, America’s founding principles appear to be focused mainly on individual freedom. Because of this, America is a diverse country. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. America is also a country born in a revolution that required people coming together to recognize their unique status in the world not just as individuals but as “a people.” Over time, Americans have been overcome with a desire to express particular images and symbols, which cut to the core of what it means to be American.

Given the geographical diversity of the United States as well as the liberty and individualism at its center, it’s not surprising that we encounter a special kind of wandering and uprootedness. The American wanders not like a refugee searching to replace what he has lost, but rather contains within himself a spirit of movement rooted in individual choice. In a sense, he feels entitled to make himself. He is not bound by his father’s occupation or that of the generations that have gone before him. He is what his talents and energies may bring him.

This is an inherently masculine identity.

What Film Teaches About American Manhood
Some of these images are of open roads, rebelliousness, desolation—even smoking. We have seen them in countless American movies. Think of Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep”
(1946). When Lauren Bacall’s Vivian tells Bogart’s Marlowe that she doesn’t like his manners, he tells her point blank, “And I’m not crazy about yours. I didn’t ask to see you. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners, I don’t like them myself. They are pretty bad. . . . But don’t waste your time trying to cross-examine me.”

Consider even the more comical masculinity of Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977), in which Reynolds’ character Bo Darville and his buddy trucker Cletus Snow decide to bootleg a truckload of beer to settle a bet. When asked by Cletus why they should do it, Reynolds responds, “For the good ol’ American life. For the money, for the glory, and for the fun—mostly for the money.”

These represent an aesthetic, which may be exaggerated in order to fulfill certain purposes, but they are born in a truth about America that is undeniable. To be American is to be your own person, to not yield your will to someone else, to innovate, to wander, and yes, even to be a bit stubborn. All of these qualities are masculine. In order for them to be realized and executed, a “thrust” into the world is required. Imagine then how twisted and confusing our American identity will become, when both figurative and literal masculinity, is not only suppressed but also deemed inadequate, wrong, and worthy of annihilation.

Beyond Nostalgia or Social Constructs 
Today, many of us who lament the loss of fundamental American characteristics are accused of nostalgia. But there is a reason we keep going back to the aesthetic expressions of American grit—there are hardly any today. Currently, the images of men created by feminists and other proponents of a cultural Marxism-imbued identity politics are poor renderings of emasculated men who are supposedly happy to give up their manhood. Those who rightly refuse this enslavement to a lie are labeled misogynistic, sexist, and hateful.

The problem is masculinity and femininity are treated and defined only as social constructs—especially if the social construct advances leftist ideological points. Nature, biology, and a man’s interior life are swept conveniently under the rug. As Camille Paglia writes in Sexual Personae (1990), “Feminists grossly oversimplify the problem of sex when they reduce it to a matter of social convention: readjust society, eliminate sexual inequality, purify sex roles, and happiness and harmony will reign.” Feminists want to create a utopia as long as it suits them and gives them the upper hand. One needn’t seek a man to help fulfill one’s dreams if one can take out the competition from men by taking them down a peg.

Another mark of masculinity or manliness is in having firmness in one’s identity. This, of course, need not exclude women. In other words, a woman might be masculine in the embrace of her female identity. Harvard political scientist Harvey Mansfield in Manliness (2006) called Margaret Thatcher “manly.” The older approach to sexual identity permitted more subtlety than we allow today. The globalist principle of “sexual fluidity” dictates there should be no acknowledged differences between men and women, particularly if those differences seem to privilege men. But it doesn’t stop there.

If the difference suggests an advantage for women, that’s viewed as only fair. Men are to be submerged into an existential category that neuters the essence of masculinity. As Mansfield points out, “The sensitive male is above all sensitive to the desire of women to be like men (though also, in a lesser degree, to their desire to remain women and to combine this with the main desire).” What an awful contradiction! A man can only be a man if he is subdued, safe, soft, and gives a fictional indication that he might behave in a masculine way from time to time in order to keep up the charade of the feminist construct of male-female relationships.

The foundation of America depends on it having been created and governed like a sovereign, independent nation that will “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” To be free and independent requires decisions and movement into the world as it actually is not into an abyss of self-loathing and doubt about basic biological reality. This is true for both men and women. But it is a more evident problem in men because men by nature are not designed to retreat and disappear. This is directly translated into individual sovereignty. Every time masculinity and the sovereign self is attacked, so is the sovereignty of America.

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2016 Election • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • California • civic culture/friendship • Congress • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Education • Elections • GOPe • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • self-government • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Living With Politics as War

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Whoever was surprised by the hate-fest against the National Rifle Association and conservative Americans in general that followed the Parkland, Florida school shooting must not have been paying attention. Over the past half-century, a ruling class formed by our uniformly leftist educational system and occupying the commanding heights of corporate life, governmental bureaucracies, the media, etc. accuses its targets of everything from murder and terrorism to culpable psycho-social disorders (racism, sexism, and so forth).

Leaders, marchers, and rioters speak from identical scripts. They do not try to persuade. They strengthen their own side’s vehemence. They restrict opponents from speaking on their own behalf, and use state and corporate power to push them to society’s margins. While demanding deference to themselves, they mention right-leaning Americans and their causes only to insult and de-legitimize them.

Republican politicians and Fox News grant the respect denied them. They respond with facts and reason. But the Left’s reasoning is war’s reasoning: helping one’s own by hurting the enemy.

Political-war-by-accusation-of-crime is common in the world. As a rule—Charles de Gaulle was not the first to note it—“peoples are moved only by elemental sentiments, violent images, brutal invocations.”

But in America, political war used to be rare. The Federalist Papers begin thus: “it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice.”

Was America ever ruled by reason? For the most part, and relative to the rest of the world, yes it was. How did this come to be? In 1816, Thomas Jefferson answered: “our functionaries have done well, because… if any were [inclined to do otherwise], they feared to show it.” In short, America was exceptional because the American people were exceptional. 

Today, Americans seem to be regressing to humanity’s sad norm. “Elemental sentiments, violent images, brutal invocations” have become the currency of American public life. Hence, reasoned arguments about the common good have as much chance of getting attention, never mind of giving pause to persons who hate you, as do pearls cast before swine. In politics as in economics, bad currency drives out good.

Is it possible to sustain anything like what the U.S. Constitution’s authors had in mind when appeals to truth, goodness, and beauty are a foreign tongue?

The 2016 election campaign gives insights, positive and negative. The majority of Americans’ sentiment that the ruling class has been warring against their way of life in word and deed overshadowed all issues. Donald Trump led from the beginning because his words showed the same disdain toward the bipartisan high and mighty that they, in turn, show to the rest of Americans. His (relatively mild) “brutal invocations and violent images” called forth the most elemental of sentiments: Your detractors are bad, you are good. Consequently, people who felt demeaned and pushed around by their pretend-betters came to feel that although Trump shared the ruling class’s culture more than their own, at least a Trump presidency would not threaten them; and that perhaps Trump might be their champion. Trump’s presidency lived up to minimal expectations. His administration is not leading the media’s, the judges’, the bureaucrats’, the corporate executives’ continuing war on ordinary Americans.  

But that war is unabated because the power of the people who degraded our lives in their own image is undiminished. For them, the rest of America is and will remain irredeemable. They well nigh removed Christianity and Judaism from the public square. Their schools have dumbed down a generation. They reduced raising children within marriage to a vanishing majority in the country at large and to a rarity among blacks. They have filled our streets with criminals. Their corporations try dictating what people may say and even think. They have stigmatized the verbal currency of two centuries, and bid to outlaw it as hate speech. And they continue to tighten their vise. In the process, however, these rulers are convincing the rest of Americans that they are irredeemable as well.  

When one side rejects persuasion in favor of war, what are the other’s options? To convince our opponents to accept us as equals? The culture, the institutions, bureaucracies, corporations, they have made their own will never again admit us as equals. To reform them? Fat chance! To punish them? To push them to the margins before they push us? What is the good of that?  

Decency for ourselves is our objective. Hence, the words and deeds by which we deal with those who make war on us must aim at affirming ourselves, despite them. 

Hence, the practical question: what is to be our war? Restoring the United States is not within our power. Separation as much as possible from rulers who have become aliens is the only way in which adherents of what had been the American republic can retain our identity and culture. We must look to ourselves.

Internal strife must destroy a house divided against itself. But incompatible descendants of the same family can make a go of it on the same property if, after the shouting, they keep mostly to their own wings of it, agreeing to live and let live. Our war’s proximate purpose must be to achieve this: to stop the ruling class’s attacks, forcefully to suggest that peace can happen only on the basis of mutual acceptance of others’ otherness.  

Unfortunately getting them to leave us alone requires using against them “images and invocations” at least as “violent and brutal” as have used against us. Our purpose cannot be to convince them they are ignoramuses, murderers of babies, cowardly parasitical drones, or self-worshipers who wallow in pornographic fantasies. We ought to show them, rather, that they cannot win this war, because we are not about to deplore ourselves as they deplore us.

In short, the Left’s effort to marginalize conservatives is double-edgeded sword: Inevitably, both sides marginalize each other. This truth is the key to understanding the next stage of America’s political war.

Safeguarding, restoring or re-growing, the precepts, habits, and institutions with which and in which we have lived freely requires acting on our own behalf, almost as if the other side did not exist. This means turning our backs on and raising middle fingers to the ruling class, to its Administrative State, to its corporations, institutions, and culture.

In contemporary American politics, the effective rule is: “Stop me if you can” and, as in Rabelais’ Abbey, “do what you will.” Americans should take note that the majority of Californians are doing as they wish with regard to immigration, environmental policy, and lots of other things without fear that the national government will stop them with armies or SWAT teams. California’s state government has its favorite judges and laughs at the others. Hence the majority of Texans, Oklahomans, and others can do and say as they wish about social, environmental, or any other policies with the same bold confidence that they will get away with it—courts, Congress and federal agencies notwithstanding. Greater boldness beats lesser. 

What is anybody going to do to stop a city or state from closing abortion clinics? Today, the ruling class’s political demands for politically correct conformity have no teeth. For better and worse, America in the 21st century is nothing like it had been in the mid-19th, or even the 1950s. Back then, a state or city’s “nullification” of national law or court orders could be nullified by sending the army. Today, nobody is going to point guns at anybody, never mind shoot. Courts have stripped themselves of the capacity to persuade—or even to pretend to speak on behalf of something valid for everybody. In an America eager to give the middle finger, the most willful predominate.

As regards economics, ordinary Americans must wake up to the fact that, since they are the bulk of consumers, they hold cards that trump the powers of the Fortune 500 and Wall Street combined.

Partisan corporate power is indeed a potentially decisive tool of political war. Of late, major corporations have become the ruling class’s major enforcers, politicizing civil society. When elected officials in Indiana and North Carolina enacted laws protecting individuals’ refusal to help celebrate homosexuality and their right to use public toilets restricted to their sex, major corporations frightened politicians into backing off by declaring their intention to remove business from those states.

Similarly, they have sought to silence conservative TV commentators by removing or threatening to remove advertising from their shows or networks. Mere threats have been enough. Facebook and Twitter have begun to ape Chinese practices of restricting the flow of opinions they dislike.

But the power of corporate boycotts is hollow. It is wielded by people on short financial leashes, and inspires even more decisive countermeasures. Corporations cannot afford to be perceived as hostile to substantial parts of the population. Any that paints itself or lets itself be painted into the Left political corner hands competitors a clear shot at its clientele. Declines in revenues imperil corporate officials. Let them boycott!

In fact, corporate boycotts are heaven-sent opportunities for counter-boycotts, the purpose of which should be to foster shopping “on our side.” This can help break big businesses’ support for the ruling class and build companies led by people inclined to run non-oppressive work places. Similarly, as Facebook and Twitter define themselves by their biases, Americans can abandon them and build their own social media. Leftists started splitting society. Let’s make the best of it.

Separating from the educational establishment is essential to securing a culture in which we can thrive socially and politically. It is discrediting itself academically, and by showing enmity to the rest of America.

From K through 12 teachers’ unions, in league with national textbook publishers, have produced a generation less competent in math, science and English than their parents and grandparents, less able to function as workers and citizens. The 3 percent (and growing fast) of homeschooled K-12 students are the tip of a growing revolt. Waiting lines for admissions to charter schools and the 20 percent of families that sacrifice for private schools testify to a widespread hunger to minimize ties to this establishment.

Except in the “hard sciences,” today’s colleges provide mostly four years of self indulgence and a sense of moral entitlement vis a vis fellow citizens. College no longer improves most students intellectually and morally. Increasingly devalued credentials are what colleges give for a substantial part of families’ net worth. And as Americans watch Ivy League graduates making fortunes on Wall Street after four years of nonsensical courses, they realize that our educational system is leading the rest of modern America to redefining merit and reward as Progressive social attitudes and connections.  

Taking primary and secondary education into our own hands means 1) removing requirements that public school teachers must belong to unions, as the State of Wisconsin has done; 2) dividing big school districts, so that school boards are are composed of parents of pupils or neighbors of parents; 3) ending the corrupt arrangement between state boards of education and textbook publishers; 4) giving every parent of every school child a voucher for the average per-pupil cost in his areas, redeemable at any school, anywhere will let parents decide on their own children’s needs.

At the college level, the “name schools” began separating from the rest of America by reserving faculty and student positions for persons of approved opinions and backgrounds. They are leading the rest of the country in the negative selection of elites. Left outside their orbits are some of America’s best talents—homeschoolers who consistently outperform all other categories in standardized tests, young scholars without the right connections. Wise educational entrepreneurs can gather them into colleges whose curricula and requirements produce graduates whose qualities will give the name colleges the reputations they deserve.

The ruling class has conquered commanding heights over every part of American society. Because, as it did so, this class convinced itself unalterably that the rest of us are a lower class of beings, re-conquering those heights could not restore citizenship among us. The prize would be costly and worthless. Best for all is for we Indians to leave the chiefs alone on their hills as we build better villages.

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American Conservatism • Conservatives • Education • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Libertarians • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

A Taxonomy of Conservatives: The Libertarian

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His hoodied silhouette emerges from a cloud of white vapor with a few lackadaisical and interspersed smoke rings. With a copy of Atlas Shrugged in one hand, a vape in the other, and a nearly lethal level of caffeine in his bloodstream from a 72-hour coding binge, the libertarian is ready to take on big government.

Second in a series. Read part one.

Batting away any accusations of racism, sexism, or homophobia, he smugly notes that he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. He seduces social justice warriors by pointing out racial disparities in incarceration, complaining about the drug war, and holding a firm pro-choice stance—after all, he wants government out of your checkbook and your uterus. He’s not one of those crazy social conservatives—he’s just a guy trying to stop tyranny.

Though his classmates call him heartless for wanting to gut all government welfare programs, he has the perfect answer to every single question: the free market will take care of it.

While stuffy conservatives trip over themselves talking about the good life and trying to balance public and private concerns, the libertarian has figured out that these eight words can help him win almost any argument. The specific details of how the free market will cure any given societal ill vary, but he has a lot of experience showing how private companies and individuals would take care of the problem.

When asked why the free market hasn’t yet solved all of these problems, he notes that the government is still in the way and skews incentives. His classmates may find his answers infuriating, but they have to admit that he is consistent. And at least he’s better than the social conservatives.

For the most part, liberals like libertarians. Though they may talk too much about Hayek and Rand, they’re still fun at parties and typically know some excellent drug dealers.

Libertarians, in turn, are content knowing that they’re viewed as the edgy anti-authoritarians. They enjoy jousting with liberals and other conservatives because the argument will always end in the same way: with the other person shaking his head in frustration. But because libertarians typically live outside of the political fray and only moonlight in philosophy, they don’t have a burning need to get validation for their views. Their ideology stresses responsibility and self-actualization, and so they tend to study fields that they think are useful, like computer science or electrical engineering. Given their socially liberal views, they get along well with their classmates and typically have plenty of social outlets.

Libertarians typically don’t want to be associated with establishment Republicans and avoid mainstream conservative organizations. They may start their own clubs with help from the Ayn Rand Institute, Cato, or some other libertarian organization, but these are typically far leaner than their establishment counterparts. They may host events with some prominent speakers, but these can get repetitive after a while. After all, how many times can you have Yaron Brook tell you that greed is good before you go crazy?

Although there are plenty of internal debates in the libertarian movement, these typically focus on minutiae or are largely irrelevant—we’re not getting rid of driver’s licenses any time soon, no matter how tyrannical libertarians insist they are. Students aren’t particularly interested in wasting their time on these arguments. Instead, politically savvy libertarians spend their time trying to get their liberal friends to move slightly right on economic policy.

Even if college libertarians aren’t always well organized, that doesn’t stop many Right-leaning students from gravitating towards the ideology. Ultimately, the libertarians and Communists rely on the same basic argument: in my perfect system, everything would be perfect, and if everything is not perfect, then we’re not at my perfect system yet.

Libertarianism gives students a way to feel the youthful idealism of Communism without having to explain away somehow the deaths of 100 million people. But it doesn’t have any positive vision of society besides material wealth. It ignores questions over national identity, moral values, and public interest. It claims that those are out of the domain of government but then doesn’t try to solve those somewhere else. There is a sizable class of students who come to college as libertarians but then get converted into a different class after realizing that the ideology doesn’t really say much. This can be a painful process because they no longer can rely on the simple arguments that they had learned to use and because they might find themselves becoming increasingly socially conservative.

Libertarians are widely accepted on campus—their views are hard to argue against and are relatively innocuous to liberals. Relatively few people actually want to get rid of all the government programs that the libertarians want to gut. They are idealistic, impractical, and harmless enough to be generally accepted as an odd feature in the campus culture.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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2016 Election • America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Russia • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Total Political War

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The election of President Trump made it clear that America is not engaged in politics as usual. We are in the midst of a political war.

If this wasn’t evident to some observers before, the furor this week over the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have driven it home. These are not ordinary political times.

Regardless of their partisan leanings, those earnestly seeking to grasp what is happening understand that President Trump is, as Venkatesh Rao says, “more consequence than cause” of the underlying conflict. Perhaps he is a consequence of the fact that “[t]he fault line in American politics is no longer Republican vs. Democrat nor conservative vs. liberal but establishment vs. anti-establishment,” as William Lind put it at the American Conservative.

What we mean when we say “establishment” versus “anti-establishment” is the question of the hour, but as Jordan Greenhall declared, “while 2016 still formally looked like politics, what is really going on here is a revolutionary war.”

War is confusing. In the fog of battle it is not clear what might be happening or even who and where one’s friends and enemies are. While this is especially so in the midst of a revolutionary war, there is agreement among keen observers as to what the revolution is against.

Eight years ago, Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Angelo Codevilla called it the “Ruling Class,” a popular thesis which he turned into a book (The Ruling Class) and used deftly to explain the 2016 election and its aftermath. Michael Anton, in perhaps the most significant essay of the election, called it the “Davoisie oligarchy,” or the “Davos class” and recently coined the word the “oligogues” to describe the majority of elites in their camp that flatter and support them.

On our rulers, widely disparate thinkers agree. In 2012, Joel Kotkin called these same elites the Clerisy, which he says minister to the Oligarchs. In 2014, Kotkin published a book, The New Class Conflict, which aptly applies to explain the 2016 election and beyond. Jordan Greenhall calls it the “Blue Church.” The influential “Dark Enlightenment” thinker Curtis “Mencius Moldbug” Yarvin, calls it “the Cathedral.”

Regardless of its name, the ruling class attempts at present to reinforce, daily, morality tales of justice and injustice surrounding a single battlefront.

The political and media establishments relentlessly promote a tale in which Donald Trump became president of the United States by colluding with a foreign government and the inappropriate use of digital media.

President Trump and his supporters say this narrative is fictional.

These positions are irreconcilable.

As Trump’s opponents will readily tell you, at stake is not a normal matter of policy but the legitimacy of the Trump presidency itself and its power to set policy. There is, however, another side to that coin. Also at stake, in a way it has not been for nearly a century, is the legitimacy of the administrative state itself—at the moment most prominently represented by the FBI. Further, given its long time collusion with and partisanship on behalf of the administrative state, the legitimacy of the old media as a whole hangs in the balance of the outcome of our revolutionary cold war.

Weekly events like the McCabe firing and reports about Cambridge Analytica prompt only a doubling down on all sides. Trump’s administration is “all in,” defending its political life. Most of the political establishments and most established media outlets are “all in,” in defense of various interpretations of the status quo that would allow them to hold their respective positions.

For some time now, the political stage has been inexorably set for a collision course on the matter of collusion and digital media.

Make no mistake: the process is now indeed inexorable. In this digital age of “leaks,” if the truth is that Trump colluded with the Kremlin, it is hard to imagine that it will not eventually out. If the truth is that the political establishment and the deep state, aided and abetted by a zealous media, colluded against Trump, it is hard to imagine it will not eventually out, if it has not already.

But the truth does not always win wars, be they about rhetoric or geography. Geographic wars are won by means of physical maneuver and violence. Rhetorical wars are won by means of strategic communication and persuasion. And what is at stake is nothing less than the means of communication and therefore persuasion in America.

There is a tightly controlled communications technology that has profoundly and purposefully influenced and manipulated American society, behavior, cultural self-understanding, and politics without most people realizing its deeper effects for decades: it’s called television. The medium, as Marshall McLuhan taught us, is the message: ultimately, digital rhetoric is never going to be able to be controlled the same way elite society was able to control discourse and cultural self-understanding in the era of TV. Until figures like Mark Zuckerberg can find the courage to tell the establishment to go to hell, however, it will seek to find a way.

At first, the oligogues cheered and gloated when the co-founder of Facebook or the CEO of Google and the top minds in tech worked directly for and with President Obama and candidate Clinton. But when the message fails, the messenger blames the medium. Since President Trump’s win media establishmentarians have begun to turn viciously—and ungratefully—against the larger digital corporations, putting increasingly intense and grossly unfair cultural, political, and legal pressure on them to control speech and fall in line with “Blue Church” dogma and politics.

Meanwhile, almost every opportunity the mainstream media has had to moderate or qualify themselves in relation to the Russian collusion narrative has been rejected in favor of all-out attacks.

They had better be right.

Like most American cultural and civic institutions, the old media is already distrusted by historic numbers of Americans, but has not yet been dealt a knockout blow. If it turns out that there was no collusion, CNN has become the Ivy League version of InfoWars.

Trump has already begun to wrest the #fakenews spear—hand-forged for use against him by titans like Obama, Clinton, CNN, and the New York Times—from their hands. The question is whether he’s able to drive it right through their beating hearts over the next year on the matter of collusion. Their hands are wrapped around his so tightly it looks—and, if he is right, will continue to look—as if we are witnessing a kind of old media seppuku.

It is the fact that they are waging total war against an active opponent in the White House that makes this a potential last stand: regardless of the usual obfuscation in the aftermath, if it turns out old media is wrong about Russian collusion and digital media, its collapse will be complete. It will diminish over the next few years, to be re-processed and subsumed forever into a new digital landscape.

For most Americans, the results will be deeply unsettling, but mesmerizing: like watching the old family car catch fire, crackle, and melt as it goes up in smoke.

In the meantime, it would be wise for Silicon Valley to hedge its bets. Thoughtful observers ought to recognize the frenzied desperation and shrieking hysteria coming from the side with the most to lose. Methinks they protest too much.

Blame President Trump all you want. He didn’t actively work for decades to create a “post-truth” era. Our educational and cultural leaders did. He didn’t “weaponize” communications technology or the federal government. His predecessors did. He didn’t destabilize democracy. That happened under the long and increasingly decadent watch of our ruling class, which is now irrationally blinded by rage that their house is on fire.

President Trump didn’t start the fire. The fire summoned him.

Impeach him tomorrow, and it will rage on. Install an establishmentarian from either party in his place, and the fires will only burn brighter and more dangerously than they did before.

Let those with ears to hear and minds to apprehend begin to think longer term about new modes and orders of rhetoric, and new coalitions of power. Take some advice from Generation Z: “Let the past die.”

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America • Americanism • Conservatives • Declaration of Independence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • political philosophy • Post • The Left • Trump White House

American Identity is Not Globalist

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In a column this week for The Washington Post, Michael Gerson laments the passing, at least in his imagination, of a time when America was interested in helping and cooperating with other nations. “Why is our political moment not just pathetic but also traumatic?” writes Gerson. He goes on to claim the presidency of Donald J. Trump has destroyed something precious and unique about the American character. Gerson draws upon the history of America’s involvement in World War II, backed by some beautiful words from former presidents to show what he understands as the immaculate diplomacy of Truman, Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, and to call out what he deems the complete mess Trump is making.

Gerson writes that we have always understood there to be a “practical and moral role for America in the global defense of free governments and institutions,” and to a certain extent, I agree. But Gerson is wrong to suggest, as he does later in the article, that this moral role of America is now dismissed as “globalism.” To make matters worse, he argues Trump is “staggeringly ignorant,” “unfamiliar,” and “unmoved” by the brilliance and moral fortitude of his predecessors. Trump, asserts Gerson, sees America as “a nation like any other nation, defined by ethnicity and oriented toward narrow interests.”

Gerson’s words echo today’s establishment and patronizing leftist rhetoric of “this is not who we are.” His language is reactionary and based in emotionalism rather than logic and reason. They appear also to be inspired by what has become known as “virtue-signaling,”—a conspicuous morality that attacks the opponent as uncaring and cold-hearted without ever bothering to understand one’s opponent as he understands himself.

One of the major problems in Gerson’s article is that he either misunderstands or misrepresents what his opponents mean when they attack “globalism.” He writes that America is “the nation that liberated death camps, rebuilt our enemies, inspires dissidents, welcomes refugees, secures the peace on every contested frontier…this does not make us ‘globalists;’ it makes us Americans.” But opponents of globalism have not voiced absolute opposition to any of these things as a matter of principle. They have only argued that all of these very worthy activities must be secondary to the primary task of securing the liberty and security of our own people. If America is not safe and free, we can’t be a beacon of hope to anyone.

But Gerson’s purpose in the article is not to entertain fine distinctions. It is, rather, to attack and discredit Trump and his administration. To do that, Gerson has made a meaningless connection between globalism and America’s founding principles. Since Trump and his supporters do not follow the faulty ideas of globalism or consider that America has duties to the far corners of the world that take priority over those here at home, Gerson wants to suggest that something is off with them. Something is wanting and inhuman in them, he seems to imply. He does this by equating globalist ideas and policies with the very foundation of America and, in effect, he has indirectly called Trump, as well as his supporters, un-American.

He’s wrong in his conclusions and wrong on his facts. America’s founding principles are not based on a care and concern with the liberty and equality of all the peoples of the world. On the contrary, America was founded to secure the liberty and sovereignty of the American people. Our Declaration of Independence staked a claim on behalf of the American people, which is rooted in their universal human equality, but depends upon them to actualize it. This is everything that globalism is not.

The globalist mind desires destruction of borders, elimination of American exceptionalism, the instituting of “global citizenship,” and ultimately, the annihilation of differences among cultures. At its core, globalism is collectivist and driven solely by an overarching ideology that does not distinguish between universal oughts and particular political realities. It does not allow for individuality, and just like Gerson’s rhetorical appeal, it relies on evoking emotions based on a deeply false perception of what can be accomplished in the here and now.

Inadvertently, Gerson manages to pose an important question: What does it mean to be American? In order even to partially answer that question, we first have to affirm there is such a thing as an American identity and that it is something unique and distinct from other identities. “Being American” has to entail some difference between a citizen who belongs to another nation, or is an apostle of the foundational principles of another nation. If Gerson wishes to protect and preserve American identity, since Trump is supposedly eroding it, then a good start would be to not speak in favor of globalism.

But this is the name of the intellectual game today: contradiction. The more theoretical contradictions you pile up, the more confused the consumers of media will be. The people will have a harder time recognizing a false argument, and the resulting confusion will only be appear to be untangled by an appeal to emotion, which may result in anger or sympathy. It’s an interesting strategy for a guy who also likes to accuse Trump of demagoguery.

Whatever may be the outcome of these faux debates, it must be recognized and acknowledged that we are facing a collective crisis of language. Every word means something other than what it claims to mean, and Gerson’s attempt to equate American ideals with globalism is just the latest example. As consumers of media, it is up to us to be vigilant and skeptical of what we see and read. And we have every reason to expect that in politics, especially, there is a massive effort underfoot to confuse and dupe us about the meaning of America.

It is perfectly fine to disagree with Trump and his approach to diplomacy. Arguments about the wisdom or the lack of wisdom regarding a particular policy are legitimate and fair. But such disagreements and the arguments supporting them have to be grounded in real claims about the meaning of Americanism. Gerson’s argument falls flat because of its misrepresentation both of Trump and of the meaning of globalist ideology.

More than an attack on Trump, Gerson’s article is an example of shoddy research, weak argumentation, and just plain bad journalism.

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