We don’t’ write letters anymore, we email instead.
The other night I read this:
which then lead me to find this:
which inspired me, of the cuff, to write this:
I was intrigued by your recent article in the Washington Post, and a few clicks led me to your insightful and instructive article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: What Was Conservatism?
I have filed it away, where it may, one day, be used to illustrate some of the principles of the Dark Enlightenment you glibly mentioned.
I’m curious to know how much you know of this-new-school-of-thought?
A scholar, such as yourself, would have no trouble grasping the principles, and since all the information you need is only a Google click away, it’s hard to imagine that you don’t know what is being talked about in the new salons of thought.
Honestly, I really enjoyed your piece. However, I enjoyed it in a way that I think you might not appreciate. I read, as it were, the text against itself.
I think the key question that a political scientist working in the manner of James Burnham’s Machiavellians: The Defenders of Freedom would ask is the following:
What is the purpose of conservatism in a communist country?
Did I say communist? Sorry, I meant Progressive, it’s easy to get confused — I think Harry Dexter White was confused, maybe Carol Quigley was confused as well.
If you don’t like the concept of “purpose”, then maybe “adaptiveness” is better.
For example, how much more adaptive, in terms of regime survival, would the Soviet Union be if it had an “outer Party”? A “controlled opposition” (in Lenin’s sense) that could be elected for four or eight years in order to let the proles vent a bit of steam.
Of course, all the while, the real power lies in the hands of the permanent government: the civil service, the judiciary, the military and the big State companies and, of course, the press — the producers of propaganda. Sorry, I meant Pravda.
Right now, in England, for example, a tremor of foreboding is starting to make itself felt because people are calling England-a-one-Party-State.
Naturally, the concept of a One Party State in a democracy seems like an Orwellian concoction, which it is. Even China can claim to be a democracy, though a People’s one.
So, to me, or Burnham, or Machiavelli, the dilemma for America — sorry, I meant USG: the United States Government — after 1933 and 1945 was that it was an empire abroad, and a oligarchy at home, where before it was regional power, and a “Boss Tweed” style political racket.
Augustus was never king; Deng Xiaoping never renounced Communism; USG never deprecated the democracy it once was, and shall never be again.
You see, professor, a reformer, as Machiavelli counsels, maintains the forms, but alters the reality, so as to not upset those lesser, jealous, petty, doctrinaire minds.
So what was the point of conservatism in a Progressive, Post-Democratic Country?
Job 1: The Task of Keeping up Appearances. Democracy, must be defended.
Job 2: Keep the Rabble Out. Police the Proles. Cook up some Crank for the oddball, IQ over 130 crowd. Keep the keen busy and out of political trouble. (According to Garry Kasparov, the Soviets promoted chess for this very reason.)
Job 3: Stand in, and take over, if and when the Democrats fail, then hand “power” back over again.
Job 4: The Washington Generals. The Beautiful Losers. The “golly” I wish I had of explained my economic plan a little better routine.
Job 5: International Mutt and Jeff. Hey Muslims! You better integrate with us and accept transsexuals in your daughter’s toilet, otherwise these scary, big, racists might…….
Is this accurate? Is it true? If a Chinese historian from the 22nd century is trying to understand American political history from 1945 to 2017 could this interpretation be a valid one?
Notice, that it need not assume, except for a few genuine sociopaths — the Machiavellians — that people like Nash are consciously practicing a strategy of systematic public deception.
Men like FDR did that or Walter Lippmann or James Warburg. (Isn’t it interesting that these men are all Harvard? Like Nash and like you professor.)
Why deceive? Why the need to to lie? Or manufacture consent? We can assume that when Nash wrote his book he did so with the best of intentions — for the good of the Republic, no less.
According to Burnham, who is working from Mosca, every political regime, and every political elite, needs a formula, a story, a fiction a “synthesis” by which power is held, justified and explained — to the proles.
All societies, organisations and states be they Monarchies, Aristocracies or Democracies are really just Oligarchies.
Power, however, is always attractive; as Alexander Hamilton said: “men love power”.
Men love power, and those who have it, if they are wise, guard it well. Augustus never claimed to be King, or dictator and he lived longer than his Uncle Julius as a result.
Power, like a wife, should be shielded from the eyes of other men (the Muslims have the way of it).
So in an oligarchy that pretends to be a democracy that task of manufacturing consent requires quite a bit of skill —especially if your product is something called “conservatism.”
What is conservatism?
As even your article acknowledges, American conservatism is a product that has been thrown together from three incompatible sources (anti-communism is actually redundant).
A Communist has only one goal: capture the state, crush one’s enemies, rule.
A progressive has only one goal: capture the state, crush one’s enemies (slowly and gently), rule.
Arguably, the most important purpose that conservatives play in the oligarchy was to keep the racists down, the Birchers out, and smart one’s sedated by whatever pap that’s being pushed.
It is possible?
Well, consider the following by Edmund S Morgan’s Inventing the People:
Government requires make-believe. Make believe that the king is divine, make believe that he can do no wrong or make believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Make believe that the people have a voice or make believe that the representatives of the people are the people. Make believe that governors are the servants of the people. Make believe that all men are equal or make believe that they are not.
The political world of make-believe mingles with the real world in strange ways, for the make-believe world may often mold the real one. In order to be viable, in order to serve its purpose, whatever that purpose may be, a fiction must bear some resemblance to fact. If it strays too far from fact, the willing suspension of disbelief collapses. And conversely it may collapse if facts stray too far from the fiction that we want them to resemble. Because fictions are necessary, because we cannot live without them, we often take pains to prevent their collapse by moving the facts to fit the fiction, by making the world conform more closely to what we want it to be. We sometimes call it, quite appropriately, reform or reformation, when the fiction takes command and reshapes reality.
Although fictions enable the few to govern the many, it is not only the many who are constrained by them. In the strange commingling of political make-believe and reality the governing few no less than the governing many may find themselves limited — we may even say reformed — by the fictions on which their authority depends. Not only authority but liberty too may depend on fictions. Indeed liberty may depend, however deviously, on the very fictions that support authority. That, at least, has been the case in the Anglo-American world, and modern liberty, for better or for worse, was born, or perhaps we should say invented, in that world and continues to be nourished there.
Because it is a little uncomfortable to acknowledge that we rely so heavily on fictions, we generally call them by some more exalted name. We may proclaim them as self-evident truths, and that designation is not inappropriate, for it implies our commitment to them and at the same time protects them from challenge.
Just so, you might say.
Rand’s material served this function of control beautifully. Her work, to liberals, was horrific, but it was harmless. Not that she would have seen it this way, of course.
That wonderful phrase….what was it? I shall rewrite it: “There are no longer any gatekeepers, because there are no longer any gates.”
Was this, by any chance, an echo of Chesterton?
Conservatism failed for three reasons, all interconnected, all of which ramify each other.
1: The global and domestic breakdown in security, and the perception of such.
2: Economic mismanagement, crash, debt, depression, pessimism. Why work, if there are no wives to be had? And there are no wives, because there is no work.
3: The breakdown in informational control and security, thanks largely to the Internet as a medium and people like Drudge, Bannon, Milo and Mencius Moldbug as the messengers.
If 1 was failing, 2 could make up for it by bribing enemies, buying time and staging circuses.
If 1 and 2 were failing, then only 3 could maintain public control by exercising control of public opinion. Hence, the reliance on the “formula” or the “narrative”.
Napoleon said that “history is fiction agreed upon”. It is agreed upon because people speak the same language, are taught to believe the same things, because they were taught the same books.
And if the fiction is no longer agreed upon?
USG has been coasting since 1989. But now, after two decades of decadence, decay, distraction, delusion, death and destruction (at home and abroad), Democracy — “the Big Black” — has come back, and the intelligentsia don’t like it, they are disgusted and horrified, in fact.
What is the Dark Enlightenment?
What is the Red Pill?
What is the Cathedral?
Who are the Brahmins?
Great study questions. Can you answer them. And can you answer them and still maintain your career as a professor?
Heretics are no longer burned at the stake, but in the court of public opinion.
In truth, I’m not American. So I look at this colossus of a country with awe, envy and horror.
I wish I had your job — truly; nothing like the life of a scholar. But there is no work for men like me.
For years I trained for the priesthood, to become a professor. I did not believe in God, but I believed in America. I don’t’ believe in sin, but I believed it was wrong to care what country someone was born in. I believed in progress, but my eyes, my reading, my reasoning and, above all, my tortured reflections caused me to accept that all around me was regress.
I lost my faith. You see, I am one of those weird people who prizes truth. And truth, and the love of truth, can never be friends with dogma: secular or religious.
America’s — not USG’s — fight is still to come, the fight against itself.
Many will be sorry, but more will agree that it had to be done.
So I tremble for your country, for it is not just.
Democracy dies in darkness, or so the Washington Post has it. Though really it dies in a riot of song, sex, colour and violence. Froude wrote its obituary long ago:
Democracies are the blossoming of the aloe, the sudden squandering of the vital force which has accumulated in the long years when it was contented to be healthy and did not aspire after a vain display. The aloe is glorious for a single season. It progresses as it never progressed before. It admires its own excellence, looks back with pity on its earlier and humbler condition, which it attributes only to the unjust restraints in which it was held. It conceives that it has discovered the true secret of being ‘beautiful for ever,’ and in the midst of the discovery it dies.