Buy Making Sense Of The American Right!
August 23, 2007, 05:00 AM
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Readers of VDARE.COM are urged to do what I recently asked of devotees of Lew Rockwell's website: Go out and buy my book, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right!

Here's what VDARE.COM editor Peter Brimelow said in his eloquent blurb:

"This study of the development and moral collapse of the postwar American Right is treated with vast historical knowledge that goes beyond Paul Gottfried's stated scope. Although its subject has been examined in a spate of books in recent years, including in two of Gottfried's earlier surveys, this new work brings an informed critical perspective to a major American political movement. A must read for students of American conservatism."

There is no way that the combined liberal-Neocon Establishment media will acknowledge my work. Put bluntly: since the members of the media have in many cases deliberately hidden the revelations about the evolution of the American conservative movement that my monograph offers, they would have absolutely no interest in publicizing the truth.

My work examines one by one the regnant fallacies about the group of self-described conservatives who founded National Review in the mid-1950s and about how their activities culminated in the present, largely neoconservative-dominated establishment Right. I set out to show that much of the story about how it got from A to Z has been twisted to fit particular agendas. I also note the magnitude of the misrepresentations in the recent tributes to W.F. Buckley served up by E.J. Dionne and Jonah Goldberg (and at an earlier date by Suzanne Garment , who said in the Wall Street Journal that Buckley had "pried conservatism loose from the fingers of its more demented followers"There's Nothing Like a Libel Trial For an Education, October 11, 1985). I provide a long answer to the question of why certain factual distortions arose and why they have continued to be propagated. One factor that I would never exclude: these misrepresentations are deliberate and intended to strengthen an already existing configuration of journalistic power.

One key experience drove me into writing books about the changing American Right: witnessing the rapid and total way in which the neoconservatives came to dominate the Establishment Right in the 1980s. In the first edition of The American Conservative Movement, which I coauthored with Tom Fleming in 1986, we suggested that older "Movement Conservatives" had been simply naïve when they had allowed Kristol, Podhoretz and their minions to come in and take over the house that Buckley had built. I now think this was excessively charitable. One should never underestimate human greed and opportunism. Both were on display when the neoconservatives were actively encouraged to take over "conservative" foundations and journals from the 1980s on.

For me the most personally upsetting incident in this takeover, and it sticks in my mind far more than the dirt the neocons have done to me professionally, was watching the way in which the Conservative Movement hacks changed their minds about M.E. Bradford, the Southern literary scholar who had been earmarked for the position of NEH Director under Ronald Reagan.

As soon as their new neoconservative masters had begun to throw dirt on Bradford as a Southern racist and anti-Lincoln demagogue, using their connections to the liberal media to do so, the Movement Conservatives I encountered in DC hastened to express newly-discovered reservations about "our friend Mel." He no longer seemed to be quite the right person for the job. And in any case the neocon pick, Bill Bennett, even though he had previously been a liberal Democrat, looked more likely to obtain senatorial confirmation. Both Buckley and the head of the Heritage Foundation visited President Reagan in order to express their agreement with this judgment. In the process, they turned on a trusting friend of many years.  (This episode is discussed with approval in Mark Gerson's laudatory The Neoconservative Vision.

It reminds me of an act by the philosopher Martin Heidegger that I have always found profoundly contemptible. In 1933, Heidegger accepted a position as Rector of the University of Freiburg from the Third Reich. He thereupon suspended the library privileges of his own teacher and former colleague at Freiburg, the great phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, who was a Lutheran of Jewish ancestry. I personally despise those who seek to ingratiate themselves with a tyrant by turning on friends and masters.

The postwar conservative movement, especially in the 1980s, furnishes many such revolting examples. And those who have supplied them, unlike Heidegger, have been neither philosophical geniuses nor residents of a totalitarian state.

Anyone who knows me has heard me ask why the media never seems to notice the presence of perhaps millions of Americans on the right, who could be described as "Taft Republicans". Why do the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and almost the entire MSM as if there were nothing noteworthy, except for a few isolated psychopaths, standing to the right of Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, and the post-purge NR editorial board?

And why, even at a time when the liberal news media has begun to pounce on W and his dying administration, does it continues to feature neoconservative columnists in the national press and on TV talk programs—honors that it would never conceivably extend to paleoconservatives or paleolibertarians, even though they fully share the Left's distaste for the war in Iraq.

Yes, I do argue that this is all an attempt to create and perpetuate a controlled political conversation. Certain issues are never raised or, if they do intrude themselves, the way immigration recently has, can be shoved on to the backburner.

I also try to demonstrate why the post-World War Two Conservative Movement was suited to play this role, as soon as its preoccupation with Communist dangers became obsolete in the course of human events. In fact, the project of defining an "American conservatism" became, as my late friend Sam Francis liked to stress, a diversion from the pursuit of building an American Right. The "Conservative Movement" headquartered in New York and Washington became overly concerned with getting on well with the media establishment. And, consisting for the most part of journalists and fundraisers, it worked not to give offense to those who might contribute to its material and social success.

Yet an older Right already existed, in a peculiarly American form. It was the small-town, predominantly Protestant opposition to the expanding centralized administration that the Buckleyites replaced—and displaced from conventional historiography.

These transformations had the cumulative effect of driving the Conservative Movement steadily leftward, a point that I take pains to illustrate. So, quite naturally, the liberal media happily agreed. It joined in the efforts to recreate the relevant history. The more "moderate conservatives" were presented as brainier and as less xenophobic than their predecessors. At the same time, we learn from authorized accounts, Mr. Buckley had been working wisely and humanely toward the building of a more inclusive conservative tent since he cobbled together the new American conservatism of the post-World War Two era.

My book makes abundantly clear that none of this bears the slightest resemblance to ascertainable facts.  I also suggest that the truth about my theme is so readily available that movement conservatives must be profoundly dumb or obsessively opportunistic not to notice changing party lines and periodic reconstructions about their movement's past.

But there is reason for optimism. Americans who identify themselves with the Right do not always act according to the script prepared by the Weekly Standard or the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page.

Such a surprise happened most recently, and dramatically, with the derailing of the Bush-neocon Amnesty/Immigration Surge Bill. Senate Republicans, strongly pressured by their constituents, voted against the bill, although it enjoyed the support of MSM-favored presidential candidate John McCain, and President Bush, and the leading media outlets. Even Jonah ("Hopalong") Goldberg, a symbol and a symptom of National Review's decline, felt forced to publish a column in the Los Angeles Times [The wealth between our ears, July 3, 2007] suggesting that the U.S. might actually have the right (wow!) to determine its national culture.

Get my book! Unless you're David Frum or Bill Kristol, you won't be disappointed by the airing of dirty linen.

Paul Gottfried (email him) is Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism.