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Joe Scotchie: Recovering Authentic (= Politically Incorrect) Conservatism
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Joe Scotchie’s recently published anthology Writing on the Southern Front: Authentic Conservatism For Our Times made me aware of the task that confronts every serious student of the Right—recovering what otherwise might slip down the Memory Hole. Both the American media and, more generally, American political culture have moved so far away from anything that looks even vaguely non-Left that we may soon need archeologists to rediscover what has been driven underground. American “conservatism” (yes the scare quotes here are very deliberate) is now represented by Jonah Goldberg, telling us how frighteningly homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and sexist the 1950s were and Rich Lowry calling for the removal of all statues of Robert E. Lee, since they may offend American blacks.[Mothball the Confederate Monuments, National Review, August 15, 2017]. It is therefore comforting to read Scotchie’s latest effort to revive and defend an “authentic conservatism.”

Similarly, I’ve also been watching on Fox News the steady procession of “proud, Republican” homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and “moderate” feminists and wonder whether I’ve tuned in by mistake to a multicultural festival. Recently, I heard the “conservative” Geraldo Rivera explaining on Fox News how truly blessed we are by having so many Latinos streaming across our borders and assimilating “at a rate that’s faster than any ethnic group” in US history. [Tom Brokaw’s Hispanic remarks were ‘shockingly uninformed,’ Geraldo Rivera says, by Joseph A. Wulfsohn, January 30, 2019] My cup runneth over with such “conservative” verities.

Scotchie, a native of Ashville NC who now works as a journalist in Queens NY, has returned to his task of recovering ideas and traditions that don’t pass the current PC litmus test. In books on paleoconservatism, the “Southern” history of Ashville, Richard Weaver and Pat Buchanan, (The Paleoconservatives, A Gallery of Ashevilleans, The Vision of Richard Weaver, and Street Corner Conservative) Scotchie has tried to bring to life what the American Right, when it still existed as part of the permissible political conversation, believed and revered.

Not all of his heroes, like Robert E. Lee, the Southern Agrarians, Thomas Wolfe, Sam Francis, M.E. Bradford, Douglas Southall Freeman, the biographer of Washington and Lee, and Patrick J. Buchanan, would necessarily have agreed on all basic moral and political questions.

But they all fit easily into a plausible Right, a position that I explore in an essay “Defining Right and Left” included in my 2017 anthology Revisions and Dissents. Scotchie associates the Right (even when he doesn’t use that term) with a strong sense of family and place, a settled authority structure, deep reservations about modernity, and the belief in a fixed human nature.

Scotchie is also intensely loyal to the historic South, which he understands as did one of his subjects Richard Weaver, as a premodern, hierarchical society. Throughout his essays and commentaries, including the ones on literature, it is hard to ignore Scotchie’s revulsion for globalism and uprooted anthropoids.

I was particularly struck in reading his anthology by how, in the last piece in the book, Scotchie eulogizes his recently deceased friend “Mark Royden Winchell, the Last of the Vanderbilt Greats.”[PDF]. Like Joe, I was moved by the early death of this brilliant essayist from Clemson University, who rarely expressed political opinions but whose sensibilities were apparent:

More than ever, Mark sided with the cause of the Old Right and the conservative South. He opposed the Iraq War, and on the pages of The American Conservative, offered up the America First foreign policy of his fellow Ohioan Robert Taft as a proper antidote to endless foreign meddling. Mark was also a member of the League of the South, for which he published an extensive critique of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. one that not only focused on King’s plagiarism, adultery, and support for leftist politics, but one that also mourned the passing of the George Washington—Abraham Lincoln America of Mark’s youth. [Links added].

Although I was hardly aware of Mark’s strong political statements until I read this eulogy, produced in 2008, I am delighted to discover that we were all on the same page regarding the Zeitgeist. It is also good to know that Mark came to the defense of the Southern Agrarians against the charge that they were (what else?) racists.

But I am even more pleased that Mark managed in his abbreviated life to expose the multiple shortcomings of that now exemplary conservative saint, Martin Luther King. [Canonizing Martin Luther King, League of The South Institute, via, 2005] The cloying tributes to this glaringly flawed Leftist that come each year around January 19 from Heritage Foundation and other outlets of Conservatism, Inc. were particularly oppressive this year. It is gratifying to known that our fallen comrade weighed in against this mendacious hagiography, variously featuring King as a lover of family values, a traditional Christian theologian, and a martyr for conservative causes.

For clarification: I’ve never shared the deep disgust for King felt by my late friend Sam Francis and by other members of the Old Right. I just loathe the transparent lies told about him by phony conservative journalists and foundations. The fact that these contemptible fabrications don’t attract minority support is not at all surprising, given their nonsensical character and given the now fixed political identity of blacks and the white Left.

Among Scotchie’s topics and personalities for discussion, another that especially interested me, given my preoccupation with modern European history, is the essay devoted to British statesman Enoch Powell. Scotchie approaches this British Tory opponent of immigration through Simon Heffer’s exhaustive biography, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell, which was published in 1999. Despite his lustrous careers as a classics professor, British officer during World War Two, and member of the Tory shadow cabinet in the late 1960s, Powell fell from grace after delivering what is misleadingly called the “Rivers of Blood” speech against unchecked immigration in 1968. The most offending line from that speech, about “the Tiber River foaming with much blood,” was drawn from Virgil’s Aeneid—a Latin epic that Powell had no doubt taught during his years as a classics professor in Sydney, Australia. Immediately after giving this oration, Powell was dropped by Tory leader Edward Heath from the shadow cabinet. Misnamed Conservatives then alternated with the Labourites in denouncing this moving target as a xenophobe.

Powell, one of the most learned and intelligent Englishman to enter national politics in the twentieth century, was destroyed socially and professionally (although Editor Peter Brimelow argues he in fact came much closer to returning as Tory leader than is generally realized) for expressing views on immigration that in 1954 his mentor Winston Churchill had stated far more boldly. [What Churchill said about Britain’s immigrants, by David Smith, Guardian, August 4, 2007] By the late 1960s the political pendulum on immigration and other social questions was moving rapidly Leftward; and so even slightly right-of-center celebrities were being hammered by the Leftward-moving media for stating what had been previously unexceptional views.

Scotchie notes in praising this fallen victim of PC:

Powellism lives, but not in England. Meanwhile the civilization he loved and honored may yet survive, but throughout Western Europe and North America, it is more imperiled than ever.

This judgment may be overly sanguine.

Paul Gottfried [email him] is a retired Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Allowing for the fact that an author has the right to choose his topics, this article is still depressingly delusional.
    I even sympathise with the author’s disgust with hypocracy & PC etc.
    But to write about conservatism & the Right & fail to mention economics, money, power etc is little more than an exercise in nostalga.
    Perhaps the author simply does not understand that the Right has limited uses for family, place, settled authority structures etc.
    PC works for the Right & the (pseudo) Left.
    It (PC) has two main functions; distraction — people fighting over cultural issues the 0.01% could not give a tuppney-fuck about is useful.
    Secondly, it’s very useful to have wage earners etc fighting about cultural trifles. No one wants workers, the middles classes etc to actually agree. Agreement might lead to unified action & a threat to the lifestyles of the 0.01% of professional parasites.
    Republicans, democrats, the right, the left, it’s not ALL about the Benjamins….its also about raw, melt-in-your-mouth POWER.
    So, let’s all get fighting over deadshits like that Smollett character, & micro-aggressions, & hate speech & whatever …we’ll be literally doing our Lords’ work.

  2. I’ll say it because (((Gottfried))) didn’t:

    Conservatism – and most of the Right –

    is now a left-liberal wasteland because

    during the 1970’s-1990’s

    it got ‘jacked by “ex”-Trotskyite communist


    • Replies: @Fidelios Automata
  3. captflee says:

    Professor Gottfried;

    Many thanks for this post, and for your many previous ones, which invariably provide the reader with considerable fodder for further investigation.

  4. @Haxo Angmark

    Yes, and also the disgusting CIA plant Bill Buckley.

  5. Realist says:

    I heard the “conservative” Geraldo Rivera explaining on Fox News how truly blessed we are by having so many Latinos streaming across our borders and assimilating “at a rate that’s faster than any ethnic group” in US history.

    Geraldo Rivera has never been billed as a conservative….he is one of their token liberals.

  6. Tulip says:

    Modern conservatism is a bizarre contradiction devoted to preservation of the status quo, when the status quo is consumed by progressive visions of a dawning utopia just around the corner if we simply expand government control over personal freedom, implement bigger hiring quotas, raise taxes and let violent criminals go free to expiate for racism.

    If you actually believe in the progressive cant, then you don’t oppose progressive laws. If you oppose progressive laws, then you can’t actually believe in progressive cant.

    If Martin Luther King, Jr. is really your hero, then you should support socialism like King did, and remain open-minded about the future possibilities of communism. Instead, you believe in the true conservative and canonized Saint Martin Luther King Jr., a completely fictional character who never existed.

    If you really had any values based in any kind of religious faith, then your Judeo-Christianity would be an actual world religion, or at least an actual sect of an actual world religion, rather than another made-up fictional religion which presumably was responsible for the canonization of fake conservative hero St. MLK Jr.

    When conservatives use the adjective “true” as a modifier of anything, you can be assured that they mean the item in question is “fake”, “false”, and “fictional”.

    Conservative Inc. is based on the desire to negate threats to the given. Its greatest threat is human imagination, which imagines possibilities and alternatives to the given. Hence, true conservatives have no imagination. The second greatest threat is human passion and will, which translates into struggle and action to negate the given. Hence true conservatives lack passion and will. While these qualities make it attractive to those extracting disproportionate benefit from the status quo (donors), it means as a political movement it is useless and impotent.

    One may oppose AOC’s policies, perhaps even regard her as an airhead. But at least she has imagination, passion and will, that is to say, she is not a bloodless soul sucker hocking a product she doesn’t actually believe in.

  7. a native of Ashville NC

    Asheville. It was named for Gov. Ashe.

    “Ashville” sounds more appropriate for places named Durham, Raleigh, or Winston-Salem.

    Scotchie’s revulsion for globalism and uprooted anthropoids.

    “Globalism” may be new, but the “uprooted anthropoids” have been here for 400 years. Exactly, this August. And their presence here is the very opposite of conservatism. Or would be, if being conservative were an “ism” at all.

    as a premodern, hierarchical society.

    Premodern? A third or more of the population was pre-civilization. Some would say pre-human.

  8. If Martin Luther King, Jr. is really your hero, then you should support socialism like King did…

    And oppose abortion. Which almost none of his acolytes on the Left do.

  9. who now works as a journalist in Queens NY

    Technically, there is no “Queens, NY”. It’s Queens County. Or the Borough of Queens.

    Mail is never sent (properly) to “Queens”, but to the villages and towns in Queens County that were swallowed up in 1898. Which can be seen here:

    So calling it “Queens, N.Y.” is like assuming all those cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia are in the counties that surround them. Something a Tarheel like Scotchie would never do!

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