AND STAR TREK
started with an off-the-cuff remark by Goldberg in a column
devoted to recommended books for "movement" conservatives.
After a few characteristically lightweight remarks denigrating
libertarians, he switched to his faux-magisterial
consider Hayek to be much less of a libertarian than the
abstraction-loving semi-anarchists who use the label today.
Indeed, Hayek is distrusted by some pure libertarians
because he didn't write about Star Trek. No, just
kidding. He's distrusted by zealots because he had a go-with-what-works
approach. I try to stay very clear of such arguments,
but if you want the purist libertarian stuff, go read
something by Ludwig Von [sic!] Mises. Honestly,
though, I don't know what that would be."
BADGE OF HONOR?
(and especially pundits) are usually at pains to hide
their lack of knowledge, but Goldberg advertises his ignorance
of Mises as if it were a badge of honor. He also, as
David Dieteman pointed out, revealed his utter cluelessness
when it comes to Hayek, who was hardly a pragmatist. Indeed,
recent biographer, Alan Abenstein, called the author
Constitution of Liberty and the three-volume Law,
Legislation, and Liberty a "utopian" philosopher,
and not without ample justification. A number of writers
for LewRockwell.com took up the cudgels on Mises's behalf,
and the battle was on: Goldberg replied in a column that
displayed his juvenile
hooliganism at its worst.
PHONE BOOTH, AND OURS
there's this site called LewRockwell.com," declaimed the
loutish Jonah in his lead-in. "Never heard of it? Well,
you're not alone." Ah, but it appears that quite a few
of his readers have indeed heard of LewRockwell.com, as
he admits in the next breath: "Still, quite a few readers
of NRO spend time over there so I will be diplomatic.
. . ." A more accurate analysis would phrase this thought
a bit differently: it appears that quite a few readers
of LewRockwell.com spend time over at NRO. In spite of
all his pretensions to being at the head of a mass movement,
and his little jokes about how libertarians could meet
"inside of a phone booth," the real numbers tell a different
story. Our spies in the NRO office tell us that when Dieteman
and others linked to Jonah's column the site received
a veritable flood of visitors: but, according to my sources
over at LewRockwell.com, the reverse flow amounted to
a grand total of 87 visitors referred by NRO.
BRUTISH, AND GOLDBERG
never mind the numbers. Goldberg, with the impressive
title of editor-in-chief of National Review Online
one imagines a tousle-haired polysyllabic cyber-Buckley
speaks with the authority of the Official Conservative
Movement behind him. In that case, what has happened to
that movement? Grandiose pretensions, an abysmal ignorance,
and an altogether nasty tone these are not only
the personal hallmarks of Goldberg as a writer, but are
characteristic of Beltway conservatives in general. This
has been true for years, of course, but it is especially
true now that they imagine themselves to be in power.
The constant refrain from these circles can be boiled
down to four words: "Get with the program." They mean,
of course, the Bush program, and this is the context in
which Goldberg's championing of Hayek's soi
disant "pragmatism" has to be seen. Never mind
that Hayek was a pupil of Mises, and many times credited
his old teacher with having given him the fundamental
framework of his thought and work; never mind that Goldberg's
knowledge of both Hayek and Mises could fit on the head
of a pin (with plenty of room left over); never mind that
Goldberg's sneering tone makes the whole dispute seem
somehow personal. What shines through in Goldberg's response
to Rockwell's boys is his not-so-hidden political agenda.
LAST ANGRY MEN
dear, those libertarians over at LewRockwell.com
are so "angry," says Jonah they are "kick-the-cat"
libertarians, a definite no-no if you're a "compassionate
conservative." You see, now that "we" meaning the
Republicans have come to power, anger is definitely
out. Conservatives are supposed to be happy, so
happy we don't have Al Gore that we don't notice what
we've gotten ourselves into. We must all walk around with
beatific smiles on our faces now that George W. Bush has
been sworn in as President and any public manifestations
of anger will be duly noted as grounds for excommunication.
For make no mistake about it: this is precisely what Goldberg's
assault on LewRockwell.com is intended to accomplish.
He answers none of the substantial criticism raised by
Lew's writers, but starts off by confessing that "Anyway,
I really don't think it's worth anyone's time to do a
point-by-point rebuttal because, well, nobody cares."
Goldberg is here merely echoing the Beltway Zeitgeist,
and what is practically the defining characteristic of
Bush II's imperial court: its aggressive anti-intellectuality.
cares about "abstract" ideas? What matters is power,
how to get it and keep it, and anyone who doesn't realize
that is, well, a kook: the Rockwellians, writes
Goldberg, are "furious that William F. Buckley and conservatives
generally aren't trying harder to get rid of Social Security
and presumably the interstate highway system, fluoridated
water, and other modern outrages." To Goldberg and his
fellow "neocons," as they call themselves, to challenge
the welfare state in any fundamental sense is to stand
in the way of modernity a curious accusation coming
from the editor of an ostensibly conservative magazine.
But this minor inconsistency doesn't seem to bother Goldberg,
who only wants to smear libertarians and all those who
dare to point out the impending bankruptcy of the Social
Security "trust fund" as a bunch of noisome cranks.
second screed, "Farewell,
Lew Rockwell," seeks to accomplish exactly what its
title implies: reading Rockwell and his followers right
out of the movement. This time, he goes after his opponents
hammer and tongs, borrowing not only the tone but also
some of the content of the charges heaped on poor John
Ashcroft: not only does LewRockwell.com carry articles
that dare to criticize the pontifications of the Weekly
Standard, Bill Buckley, "and other icons of what most
people consider mainstream conservatism in America," but
they also diss Abraham Lincoln. Why, I doubt that
is even legal, anymore isn't it a hate crime?
Worse, some articles are about "how the American military
is a hotbed of criminal imperialism and murderous warmongering,"
and here we get to the real bee in Jonah's bonnet: "Do
Rockwellites believe fighting WWII was justified? It's
it is perfectly clear to anyone who does even
a modest amount of research, as Goldberg surely knows:
here is yet another hate crime that Lew Rockwell
stands accused of: That any conservative these days could
bring himself to question Roosevelt's war why that's
almost as bad as being a "neo-Confederate"! That virtually
all conservatives opposed that war at the time
is a fact Goldberg would rather not come into contact
with. He notes with disdain that LewRockwell.com's slogan
is "the anti-state, anti-war, pro-market news site"
and there is little doubt that it is the antiwar
part of the equation that ruffles his feathers. For Goldberg
is a hawk of the John
McCain variety; indeed, he
supported McCain until the bitter end during the GOP
Goldberg's wild-eyed interventionism goes waaaay
beyond anything even the belligerent McCain could come
up with: in a column for National Review a couple
of months ago he
even suggested that the US invade Africa so as to
"civilize" it. His piece is full of the millenarian arrogance
that conservatives usually identify with Marxism: we must
"liberate" Africans from their "oppressors" and spread
"Americanism" across the dark continent.. We owe
it to them, you see:
think it's time we revisited the notion of a new kind
of Colonialism though we shouldn't call it that.
I don't mean ripping off poor countries. I don't mean
setting tribes against one another and paying off corrupt
"leaders" to keep down unrest. I mean going in
guns blazing if necessary for truth and justice.
I am quite serious about this. The United States should
mount a serious effort to bring civilization (yes, 'Civilization')
to those parts of Africa that are in Hobbesian despair.
We should enlist any nation, institution, organization
especially multinational corporations and evangelical
churches as well as average African citizens interested
in permanently helping Africa join the 21st century."
there will be no pussyfooting about, either: we ought
to spend lots of money and lives on it if need
be: "We should spend billions upon billions doing it,"
Goldberg avers: we must "put American troops in harm's
way" and "not be surprised that Americans will die doing
the right thing. We should not be squeamish, either, about
the fact that (mostly white) Americans will kill some
black Africans in the process."
can afford to be squeamish when you're a neocon? After
all, this little proposal comes in the context of Goldberg's
paean to the neocon idea of "national greatness"
a theme celebrated by the gang over at the Weekly Standard,
that "icon" of "mainstream conservatism" we aren't supposed
to criticize. What's tens of thousands of lives and a
few billion dollars in the pursuit of such a lofty goal?
Goldberg, like all neocons, doesn't really care about
free markets, and certainly dismantling the welfare state
is not on his agenda: he would much rather invade Africa,
or say, Iraq: during the Clinton era, he
cheered on Madeleine Albright for being hawkish on
Iraq, while chastising the President for not dropping
enough bombs. It is useless to point out to such people
that we cannot have a global empire and still retain the
limited constitutional government that is our legacy:
such a stance is derided by the Goldbergs of this world
as hopelessly reactionary, "purist," and (shudder) "isolationist."
Besides, Goldberg and his neocon buddies don't want to
dismantle Big Government: as a staunch defender
not only of the public schools, but also (yech!) public
television, he is a conservative by accident,
and even then only on account of a misunderstanding.
accident was the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton,
an interregnum that lowered standards for everything,
everywhere yes, even among the Clinton-haters.
For in the urgency of their immediate task, which was
to get the Rapist out of the Oval Office so it could be
hosed down, conservatives were willing to accept any allies,
any convert who claimed affinity for their cause. This
is how the Goldbergs Jonah and Momma
Lucianne came to prominence on the Right: as
two of the most fearsome and unrelenting Clinton-haters,
who played a
subordinate if key role in the release of the infamous
Linda Tripp tapes. As the nation descended into a discussion
of the pros and cons of oral sex, the author of People
Will Talk (which one reviewer called "hard
core porn") and Madame
Cleo's Girls (a novelistic ode to prostitution)
became a rising star in the conservative firmament
a logical progression, in retrospect. In the end, Lucianne
was rewarded for her labors on behalf of the Cause: a
fancy editorial niche for her no-talent son, and with
it the privilege of hectoring his betters. Given the vehemence
[follow the link and scroll down] of his response
to my critique of his African adventurism and I
was honestly only trying to elicit from him the beginning
of a dialogue on foreign policy with the National Review
crowd I was surprised that he didn't throw in the
charge of "anti-Semitism" as casually as he hurled it
at me. But of course, that would be the first thing that
comes to mind when contemplating why someone might oppose
the conquest of Africa: what else could it be
other than anti-Semitism?
most neoconservatives, who tend to disclaim the label,
Goldberg revels in it: but ideologically, what does this
mean? It isn't always clear: neocons run the gamut from
right-wing Social Democrats (such as the late Albert
Shanker, or the paradigmatic Sidney
Hook) to the Weekly Standard crowd. On domestic
politics, neocons are all over the map, but when it comes
to foreign policy they all worship at the altar of the
war god. In his 1973 movie, Sleeper, Woody Allen
wakes up from a Rip-van-Winkle-like sleep to discover
that the world has been destroyed: "A man by the name
of Albert Shanker," someone explains to him, "got hold
of a nuclear warhead." The cold war may be long over,
but some things, and some people, never change
and that is the full extent of Goldberg's ostensible
outburst underscores an important point: that there are
two conservative movements, the Official movement and
the Unofficials. The former are warmongering opportunists,
Big Government conservatives with even bigger dreams of
a Napoleonic "national greatness," who are now besieging
the Bushies with their resumes and their multifarious
renditions of "compassionate conservatism": the latter
are the so-called "Rockwellilans," actually right-wing
populists who want Uncle Sam out of foreign wars as much
as they want him out of their pocketbooks. The whole point
of Goldberg's double-broadside was to denigrate the Unofficials
as sectarian hairsplitters, garrulous talkers as opposed
to men-of-action such as himself, and he reiterates this
point at the end of his first diatribe:
tendency of libertarians generally and the Rockwellites
specifically, is to get so hung up on ideological hairsplitting
and irrelevant and often lunatic sectarian squabbles that
they let the world continue creeping in a direction they
don't like. Then, they have the unmitigated chutzpah to
scream at conservatives and Republicans for not doing
enough to stop the creep. This purist approach to politics
is quite simply juvenile. Nobody cares in what direction
you want the wagon to go if you won't get out of it and
he doesn't seem to realize although maybe it is
beginning to sink in by now is that he and Rockwell
belong to different movements. Neoconservatives and the
rest of the Right are going in opposite directions. The
Official conservatives are pro-immigration, and pro-Washington:
the grassroots Unofficial right-wing movement is implacably
opposed to both. The Official movement is pro-interventionist
and rabidly pro-Israel; the Unofficials are "isolationist"
and increasingly unsympathetic to the Israeli cause. The
tension between these two camps has been building since
the end of the cold war, and Goldberg's unprovoked and
vicious attacks on Lew Rockwell are the opening shots
of a renewed civil war on the Right. To that I say: Let's
get it on!
NICE FOLKS OVER AT REASON
Goldberg prefaces his incredibly evasive second response
with a disclaimer, averring that he doesn't mean to besmirch
all libertarians with the Rockwellian brush. Why,
those nice folks over at Reason would never
think of harboring such politically incorrect views. Virginia
Postrel and the Reason gang are too busy thinking
rationales for cloning (imagine dozens of "dynamist"
Postrels, all droning the same tiresome "futurist" mantra!
Oh, the horror!) and defending
the "music" of Eminem to pose any real threat to the
Welfare-Warfare State. And so, writes Goldberg, it would
be "unfair for me to imply that all libertarians fed up
with conservatives or the Republican party or a bloated
federal government would want to associate themselves
with a forum that joyfully dances back and forth across
the line separating anti-statism and anti-Americanism."
is this is the best smear Goldberg can come
up with? If so, then his campaign to cleanse the conservative
movement of troublesome factions is doomed to fail. For
it is we paleos who call for a return to the legacy of
the Founding Fathers, the restoration of the Constitution
at home and the foreign policy of the Founders abroad
a return to Americanism. As for Goldberg's agenda,
he makes that clear enough:
the record, if I were cracking the whip on the movement
there would be a significant bias against many if not
most pre-Enlightenment values and not just racism,
but also the rejection of science, capitalism, universal
humanity, and Truth, etc."
OWE IT ALL TO LINDA TRIPP
of science and Truth, this latter pretentiously capitalized
is this what it means to be a "conservative"
today? Yesterday, the Right railed against the idolatry
of science, and proclaimed a new humanism: wasn't this
the whole point of Russell
Kirk's writings? Isn't this what
Richard Weaver was trying to tell us, along with Mises,
Rothbard, and, yes, Hayek? So now conservative principles
are reduced to fighting "racism" and defending the positivism
and scientism of the "Enlightenment." With Nietzschean
boldness, Goldberg the Philosopher King proclaims the
transvaluation of all conservative values and the
world is turned upside down. What power! What daring!
What chutzpah! And to think that he owes it all
to Linda Tripp, Monica, and the perverse pleasures of
a priapic president who woulda thought?