Since the neoconservatives took over the American conservative movement, in alliance with GOP operatives, I’ve been looking for a no-nonsense defense of academic and intellectual freedom issuing from the establishment Right. And I am still waiting for such a defense and may go on waiting until the end of my life. It’s not that Republican talking heads and scribblers don’t complain about “intolerance.” But as the moderate wing of the PC Left, they do nothing significant to counter the problem they pretend to be addressing. Nor am I impressed that conservatism, inc. rushes to the honor of “moderate feminist” Christine Hoff Somers or our socially leftist black former secretary-of-state Condoleezza Rice or Republican centrist George Will, when one of their own is banned from speaking on an American campus. These speakers are not likely to say anything different from what one reads on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal or hears on Fox-news. They belong to the institutionalized opposition and faithfully communicate the talking points of one of our two national parties.
I am equally unimpressed that neoconservatives have encouraged insulting depictions of Mohammed or sponsor websites that engage in Muslim-bashing. As anyone but a fool must know, neoconservatives are fervent, obsessive devotees of the Israeli Right, and the Israelis are forced to deal with hostile Muslim population and governments. Why should anyone be surprised that neoconservatives and the Republican Party, over whose foreign policy they exercise considerable influence, are keen on magazines, like Charlie Hebdo, or exhibitionists like Pam Geller in Texas, who whack away at Islamic objects of veneration? I would not expect anything else from political players driven by certain policy objectives.
I’m also not exactly astonished, as I have said before, that Fox-news keeps contrasting its exuberant willingness to see Christ blasphemed as a fundamental “civil liberty” to the deep anger shown by Muslims when their Prophet is ridiculed. Unlike Muslims, most Americans don’t get worked up over their supposed faith. It’s not that Americans don’t take anything seriously. There is a whole bunch of things they’re supposed to take seriously, e.g., Martin Luther King, Stonewall, feminism, anti-Semitism, insensitivity to blacks, and the adoration of whatever is “foreign.” It’s just that Christianity and Hebraic social morality are no longer things about which most Americans seem to give a damn. And they’re just not important for the “conservative agenda,” unlike defending unswervingly W’s war of choice in Iraq or keeping close surveillance on the phone calls of American citizens.
I should also note, as documented in a booklet I helped bring out with Richard Spencer, and with contributors John Derbyshire, Bill Regnery, Peter Brimelow, Jim Kalb, and Lee Congdon, The Great Purges, that conservatism, inc. has been working for several decades to suppress “insensitive” views and punish those on the right who dare to utter them. It’s not that the “Right” has stayed on the sidelines in this struggle. It has out-hustled the official Left in going after heretics who have questioned the sacred doctrine (of Heritage and Human Events) that Martin Luther King was a “conservative Christian theologian,” those indiscreet few who have dared to notice IQ disparities between ethnic groups, and those alleged hate-mongers who have not been sufficiently supportive of whatever side in in Israeli politics the neocons back.
Other views that I would warn anyone hoping to make a career in conservatism, inc. from presenting would include: both sides, including the Allies, had something to do with starting World War One, Lincoln and Churchill were flawed statesmen, and the 1924 Immigration Act was beneficial for the US. I haven’t quite figured out whether an employee of conservatism, inc. is permitted to hold unorthodox views on the Peloponnesian War. Note that neoconservative journalists referring to that struggle have compared “democratic” Athens to England and “autocratic” Sparta to imperial Germany. But it’s still not clear that divergent historical interpretations about ancient Greek wars are unacceptable “on the right,” in the same way, for example, as bringing up IQ differences or criticizing Lincoln or Martin Luther King. Taking those positions could derail one’s career as a lackey of conservatism, inc.
But hope springs eternal even at my age, and when I saw a commentary on the Republican website Townhall by Liz Harrison, defending the author’s right “to offend you,” I was thinking this could be the real thing. Unfortunately a rude awakening was in store for me. Liz is going after all our maniacal religionists who are interfering with her presumed right to offend them. She therefore warns this presumably dangerously powerful group: “Keep your religion to yourself. I reserve the right to offend you by demanding that everyone keep his faith out of politics.” Liz’s hero is professional pornographer Larry Flint, who helped protect her “freedoms.” Now there’s a blow for intellectual tolerance being struck by Townhall and Liz. It’s a good thing we have Larry Flint and conservatism, inc. to push back at the Christian bullies. Last week I heard another fearless “conservative” luminary, Bernie Goldberg, explain on the O’Reilly Talkathon that presidential candidate Ted Cruz has been forced to oppose gay marriage, which Bernie believes is a “good thing, because Ted is being “terrorized.” The terrorist for Goldberg are the Religious Right, who keep Republican politicians from thinking clearly on things that are clear to Bernie (although not in the same way as they are clear to me).
Anyhow for conservatism, inc. the extreme limits of tolerance are reached wherever they decide to place them, which is several centimeters away from where the rest of the political establishment has fixed them. Brit Hume has described those on the right who express concern about government surveillance as “paranoid elements.” To these misfits we may add the presumed bigots and antidemocrats whom neocons used to insist “inhabit the fever swamps.” It seems that conservatism, inc. cannot be tolerant of anyone on the right who sound like hardcore “right-wingers” or who engage in non-prescribed thinking. Two points I continue to hear from the fans of the Republican media are: my friends and I are complaining because respectable conservatives banned us from their premises; and by purging us weirdos, the “movement” has made itself more credible.
But, as I point out in my contributions to the study of the cluttered history of “conservative purges,” we are truly speaking here about “blaming the victims.” There is no reason to assume that purge victims, some of whom write for this website, did anything wrong other than offend particularly influential donors and powerbrokers. Moreover, the purges have been usually followed by campaigns of character assassination engaged in by the movement, in a way that is fully reminiscent of the American Communist Party in the past. Finally there is no evidence that purges as a form of self-censorship has made the “Right” more credible. This behavior has brought “conservative” climbers more closely into line with the American center-left. And as conservatism, inc. has played down or retired certain “controversial” issues, the Left has been able to move more speedily in its own direction or to call for more of what George Will proposes as “conservatism with a kindly face.” As with gay marriage, the civil rights and immigration revolutions of the 1960s and the IQ controversy, conservatism, inc. has redefined the other side’s positions as “conservative.” Accordingly it has purged the old believers with longer memories.