December 23, 2002

Political correctness as a weapon in the War Party's arsenal

So, you thought the Trent Lott episode had nothing to do with the war and foreign policy, especially all you politically correct antiwar liberals out there, who just hooted and hollered at the downfall of the "racist" Senator. But David Frum begs to differ….

Recently ousted from his perch as the President's speechwriter – for his wife's unseemly boasting about his role in articulating the "axis of evil" phrase that decorated Bush 43's warmongering rhetoric – Frum has taken up literary residence at National Review, where his daily "Diary" records the thoughts and impressions of the Archetypal Neocon as the events of the day pass by. The December 20 entry is devoted to an internal neoconservative brouhaha over the exact meaning of Lott's take-down: Neocon elder Charles Krauthammer's column on how the controversy separated the neoconservative wheat from the paleoconservative chaff provoked a response from junior neocon Jonah Goldberg, and Frum sides with Goldberg:

"Bartender, make mine the same as Jonah Goldberg's. His column yesterday on which conservatives took the Lott affair seriously – and which did not – seemed to me exactly right. I have only one thought to add: I was sorry to see somebody as wise and influential as Charles Krauthammer succumb to the often-repeated but nonetheless inaccurate assertion that there exists something called 'paleoconservatism' that is more directly connected to the conservative tradition than 'neoconservatism.' This claim just won't bear scrutiny."

Goldberg's dubious distinction between the first and second generation of neocons is specious, and not worth going into – often the case with much of Goldberg's writings – but this sets up Frum to make his point. Which is that the anti-war, anti-interventionist paleos are as politically incorrect – i.e. racist – as Lott, Strom Thurmond, and anyone who even suggests that the legal and social impact of the civil rights movement of the 1960s was, at best, a mixed blessing. While a discussion of the libertarian opposition to "civil rights" laws is beyond the scope of this column – which is focused on foreign affairs – the ominous nature of this incident is underscored by the way Frum uses it as a platform to smear the right-wing of the antiwar movement.

There is a short story by Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery," that perfectly anticipated what happened to Lott, even down to its title. In the story, the typical life of a small village is depicted, but with a sinister undertone permeating the prose, until we learn that this particular village has a culturally unique institution – the Lottery. Each year, the residents draw lots – and the one who chooses the black stone out of a pile of white pebbles is stoned to death. The story, rightly famous for its aura of dark foreboding super-imposed over a backdrop of seeming normality, reflected the author's jaundiced view of humanity as a pack of vicious curs, ready to turn on each other at the slightest opportunity. L'affair Lott was a faithful reiteration of Jackson's plot-theme: a victim was chosen, seemingly by the Fates, as the focus of a deadly socio-political ritual – one intended to be performed rather more often than yearly. As John Podhoretz gleefully put it last week: "there will be another one very soon."

Frum didn't waste any time:

"'Paleoconservatism' is actually the newest of all conservatisms. It reminds me of one of those red-brick neo-Gothic churches you find in the older suburbs of English industrial towns: discordant elements hastily thrown together to create a false appearance of tradition in a time of rapid change."

"A time of rapid change" is one way to describe the overthrow of our old republic and the creation of a world-spanning Empire, a new Byzantine Empire of the West, as Frank Chodorov described it. Chodorov is a writer who used to be invoked by William Buckley as a mentor, but no more: he belongs to that generation of rightists that Frum and Buckley have thrown down the Memory Hole, along with Senator Robert A. Taft, John T. Flynn, Chicago Tribune publisher Colonel Robert R. McCormick, Garet Garrett (a novelist and an editor of the Saturday Evening Post), and the America First Committee – all of whom opposed the two great wars of the 20th century, World War II and the Cold War. A "conservative" who wants to export "democracy" to the far corners of the earth is a new kind of creature under the sun, or else FDR and Woodrow Wilson have been mis-classified all these years. The Old Right had a trenchant critique of imperialism and corporatism that Frum would just as soon disappear. According to him, the antiwar anti-interventionist paleocons were born only yesterday:

"As its leading ideologist acknowledges, paleoism came together in the early 1990s as a reaction to the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War. It began as a hope that America could somehow remain aloof from the troubles of the post-Cold War world – and rapidly evolved into a mix of blame-America-firstism and outright anti-patriotism."

Who is this "leading ideologist"? Frum links to an essay by Sam Francis – which is really a stretch. To begin with, the idea that the paleos would have any such office as Leading Ideologist is confusing the ex-leftism of the neocons with the laissez-faire decentralism of the paleos. The whole idea of paleoconservatism is to bring back the traditions of the Old Right of the 1940s and 50s – a time when libertarians could co-exist peaceably with traditionalists on the basis of a common opposition to social engineering "progressives," and both could agree with Randolph Bourne, a classical liberal who made famous the phrase "war is the health of the State." This is the sort of "diversity" the neocons definitely do not subscribe to: ideological diversity. In short, the paleos split off from the neocon-dominated movement precisely because of the neo-Leninist mindset exemplified by Frum's weird word-choice. "Leading ideologist?" Give me a break!

Secondly, Sam is a talented writer, but his views on race are most definitely not shared by Pat Buchanan, Chronicles magazine, or, indeed, any of the paleos I know. He and Buchanan came to a parting of the ways when Pat nominated a black woman, Ezola Foster, as his vice-presidential candidate on the Reform ticket in the 2000 election. (To say nothing of having an openly gay guy – me – give the first of three nominating speeches on his behalf at the infamous Long Beach convention.) The white racialists grouped around the "American Renaissance" organization denounced Buchanan as a traitor and his "betrayal" was the occasion for an article by a former American Renaissance editor, James Lubinskas, proclaiming the "Death of Paleoconservatism" in David Horowitz's Frontpage, the home page for neocons of monosyllabic inclinations.

But Frum is depending on the ignorance of his readers – and that is a safe bet where National Review's remaining readers are concerned. All the most intelligent and informed right-wingers I know have long since let their NR subscriptions lapse, and instead taken up The American Conservative and Chronicles, precisely on account of the uniformly boring party-lining rhetoric that infuses the typical NR article – and the constant smears of their enemies on the Right. The addition of Frum to the NR staff will only add to the general exodus, as the following makes clear::

"Here for example is something that Pat Buchanan said when I debated him on Chris Matthews' show 'Hardball' on September 30 [2002]: '9/11 was a direct consequence of the United States meddling in an area of the world where we do not belong and where we are not wanted. We were attacked because we were on Saudi sacred soil and we are so called repressing the Iraqis and we're supporting Israel and all the rest of it.' That's a sentiment you can well imagine coming from the lips of a George McGovern. It's novel to hear it from someone who claims to be on the right."

It's a sentiment one could imagine coming from old Bob Taft – except he's now an un-person, according to the neocons (say, wasn't he a "segregationist"?) – but never out of the mouth of some blow-dried draft-dodging Republican politician of the neocon dispensation. Pat also said on "Hardball" that "they are over here because we are over there," and one wonders how Frum & Co. could possibly dispute this self-evident truth. But he's too busy smearing Buchanan and the rest of us to confront our actual arguments:

"Read the magazines and websites of the paleos, and you will wonder whether you are on the far left or the far right. Here is a gushing interview with Norman Mailer; there is a link to the latest nutso piece by Robert Fisk or John Pilger; here is a long encomium to Gore Vidal or Noam Chomsky."

That a magazine, such as The American Conservative, might want to interview one of the most celebrated American writers of our times is, to Frum, evidence of treason: there is nothing "gushing" about the TAC interview, unless one considers letting one's subject talk evidence of sycophancy.

Frum doesn't provide any links to illustrate his contention that paleos are linking to pieces by Robert Fisk and John Pilger, but happily pleads guilty. Our catholic editorial policy, and a basic agreement with the tendency if not the particulars of their critique of American power, is the reason. And that's only one reason why is so much more interesting than National Review Online, even for those who don't agree with our position.

Praising Gore Vidal is, as Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter have made all-to-plain, a heresy second only to praising Senator Thurmond, although where these allged "economiums" to Noam Chomsky appear remains a mystery. (He can't mean this.)

Poor befuddled Frum: he cannot really tell the truth, which is that we are anti-imperialists of the Right, the scions of a rich legacy that can be traced all the way back to the origins of modern American conservative thought – an intellectual tendency that dominated the thoughts and writings of the Founders. So, instead, he resorts to character assassination, hoping that we'll be the next victims of The Lottery:

"This is all new. New too is the weird anti-capitalism of the paleos. New finally is the inescapable racialism and the obsessive anti-semitism that one finds among the paleos."

The link Frum provides to "prove" his charge of "anti-semitism" is a column by Charlie Reese, "The Price of Israel," that discusses a recent article in that well-known racialist and anti-Semitic periodical, the Christian Science Monitor, which calculates the cost of U.S. aid to Israel as "$1.6 trillion, or twice the cost of the Vietnam War." The word "Jew" does not appear once in Reese's piece – an odd omission for a supposed example of "anti-semitic" sentiment. The word "Israel" does appear, however, and that is quite enough for Frum, who wants us to believe that all criticism of Israel, however trenchant and divorced from ethnic enmity, is evidence of bigotry. On second thought, Reese does commit what might be thought of as a hate-crime, at least in certain circles, in that he praises France:

"If we are going to be forced to subsidize a foreign country, I would rather it be France. We can at least get a decent meal in France and enjoy the art treasures collected there. Furthermore, France would not involve us in its quarrels."

Hatred of France is de rigueur in neocon circles; the stubborn independence of the French is a burr under their saddle as the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-neocon cabal goes riding off on their twin hobbyhorses of "benevolent world hegemony" and unconditional U.S. support to Israel. But if mock Francophilia is Reese's real sin, the evidence of it is not in Frum's smear piece: indeed, there is no evidence of any kind. Did the victim in Ms. Jackson's "The Lottery" stand convicted on the basis of any evidence? Was there any evidence, other than a mis-statement, that Lott is really a closet segregationist – other than representing the state of Mississippi in the U.S. Senate? Not as far as the National Review crowd was concerned. The magazine, which took the lead against Lott, declared in an online editorial that "Lott must go," even though they believed the accusations of "racism" directed at Lott were basically "unfair" and untrue.

But the truth doesn't matter, and this sentiment was openly expressed by Jonah Goldberg ("Sure, Lott's resignation as Majority Leader might seem or actually be unfair – but that's how politics works"), David Horowitz ("getting rid of Lott is not caving in") and a raft of conservative apologists for the Purge. Only Krauthammer seemed to suggest that Lott, in his remarks praising Thurmond's 1948 candidacy, really meant to endorse racial segregation rather than a more generalized Southern pride: "Better to lose the Senate than to lose your soul," Krauthammer inveighed. But to Frum, Goldberg, Horowitz, and their crypto-quasi-"libertarian" amen corner, truth is irrelevant. A lie spread far and wide is better than an unknown truth, and far more useful for their purposes….

Which brings us back to Frum, who excoriates Lott's heresy as a living nightmare, "rotten but undead," a ghost of the horrible past that today's conservatives know better than to remember with anything but hate. Ah, but those paleos are a conservative horse of a different color altogether:

"But over in the paleo corner, the prejudices of the past have not only survived – they have taken on an importance they have not previously published; they have become organizing principles, the glue that holds an otherwise not very coherent set of attitudes and beliefs together. This too is novel.

"I'm told the paleos prefer the term 'Judaeo-critical' to 'anti-semitic' when talking among themselves. In public, they use either transparent euphemisms like "the Israel lobby" or rather more opaque ones like 'neoconservative.' Whatever the terminology, their dislike and fear of what they perceive as Jewish influence and Jewish conspiracies is the foundation of their politics and in some cases the whole of it."

Whomever is telling Frum these stories had better put down the crack pipe. Or is this an indirect way of telling us that John Pointdexter's infamous "Total Information Awareness" is already springing leaks? I've been hanging around paleo circles since the beginning, and I have heard no such reference to "Judeo-critical" or any other ridiculous euphemism for ordinary bigotry. This is an out-and-out lie, and Frum had better name his sources
-- or else retract it.

It is not surprising that Frum considers any criticism of Israel or its very active lobby in the U.S. to be evidence of alleged "anti-semitism," but is any and all discussion of neoconservatism – the subject of countless scholarly books, articles, and documentaries – now considered a "hate crime"?

This solves the mystery of why National Review, pushed by the neocons, was the first to go after Lott's scalp, rather than, say, The Nation, or the New York Times. Ethnic victimology has its uses, and the defense of Israel certainly counts as one of the most important. It is fascinating to see that, in the above cited quote, Frum accuses paleos of positing "Jewish conspiracies" – with the word "conspiracies" linked to a special section of that features news items about the Israeli "art students" detained by American authorities in the days leading up to 9/11.

The problem for Frum, however, is that his readers might actually follow the link, and find that this evidence of our "anti-semitism" is in reality a collection of articles culled from such sources as Salon, ABC News, Fox News, Le Monde, the Washington Post, and The Forward, along with my collected columns on the subject.

What all these news organizations were reporting on, however, was not a "Jewish conspiracy" but a spy operation carried out by the government of Israel against the United States. Is Frum saying that these sources are "anti-semitic"? If, by Frum's draconian standards, Charlie Reese is practically a Nazi for pointing out that Israel costs us a pretty penny, then so is anyone who so much as mentions Jonathan Pollard – or who reminds us that the U.S. and Israel are, after all, separate countries, with different and often conflicting interests.

I won't bother with Frum's ignorant attack on Robert Novak – long a target of the neocon crowd for daring to speak out against the crazed war plans of this administration, and refusing to kowtow to foreign lobbyists. Any analysis of conservatism that mistakes Novak for a "newcomer" is just not referring to reality. Suffice to say it's an outrage that midgets of Frum's stature feel free to sling mud at such old conservative warhorses as Novak and Reese. Particularly in regard to the latter, who has not been well lately, Frum should be made to eat his words – and apologize. The irony is that the kind of behavior these alleged "conservatives" deplore in Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – who use their ethnicity to deflect criticism of their crackbrained politics – is routinely practiced by them.

Which brings us back to the Trent Lott connection. The oddness of seeing these neocons turn left, and not only join but lead the mob of Jacobins demanding the Senator's head, is explained by Frum's smears directed at Buchanan,, Reese, Novak, and the loosely-defined group of paleo-conservatives, i.e. anyone who won't dance to the neocons' tune. The same methods are now being used against a different target.

What's interesting to watch is that the neocons, first catapulted into the center of the political debate by coming out against "political correctness" and ethnic hyper-sensitivity, have now gone full-circle and become the enforcers of a new political correctness. One that is not all that much different from the old, left-wing sort, as many on the Right are discovering to their surprise and dismay.

The War Party has been smearing the antiwar movement since Day One of our endless "war on terrorism." Now that a precedent has been set, and a Shirley Jackson-ish media ritual of demonization – a kind of Orwellian "Hate Week" – has been established, it's on to the next target of neocon hatred. Frum leaves little doubt as to whom or what he has in mind as a likely candidate.

The idea that this war is a "Jewish conspiracy" is nothing but a canard, a view Frum gives credence to by falsely attributing it to paleoconservatives. Even a cursory examination of such a charge is enough to dismiss it as a crankish excrescence based on enmity and not fact. Numerically and politically speaking, Jews have almost no influence inside the Republican party, which is now the War Party, although voting patterns may be slowly changing, they have traditionally been a reliably Democratic constituency. It is the Christian fundamentalists, particularly those of the dispensationalist persuasion, who have been the most powerful voice raised on behalf of the Likud government in Israel. This is the real "Israel lobby" that counts with Bush 43 and his administration, as Frum well knows.

To those conservatives who are wondering what the heck got into their "leaders" who started the anti-Lott feeding frenzy, consider that these same methods of smear, innuendo, and demonization are being used in the service of this war. It is a war for Empire, and against the Constitution, a war against American interests and traditions, a war being conducted by ruthless radicals – Jacobins in the foreign policy realm, and elsewhere – who oppose everything conservatism ever stood for. Please note that the same people demonizing Lott are the same liars who demonize the antiwar movement as a "fifth column." To Southern conservatives – a group not known for its antiwar proclivities – I say this: the "conservatives" who took down Lott and hail Sherman's march through Georgia as a glorious victory for "civil rights" are the same people who want to "liberate" the people of Iraq – by slaughtering them.

There is no good argument for this war. The Pentagon is against it. The people are increasingly against it. Common sense militates against it. Therefore, its proponents must resort to lies and libel, and we've only just seen the beginning of it. My new book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, which I just turned in to the publisher, Verso Books, is sure to inspire a similar campaign to demonize me, personally, since the evidence for Israeli foreknowledge of 9/11 presented in my book is irrefutable. Ronald Radosh was the first to try out the theme floated in Frum's anti-paleo screed: and the paleos represents the "brown" segment of a "red-brown current" that opposes the war and intervention generally – a truly astigmatic view that somehow manages to confuse the avowed libertarianism of this site and this author with fascism!

It won't wash. The animating spirit of the paleocon rebellion on the Right is bitter opposition to centralized authority in the name of an assertive regionalism, not to mention the radical decentralism of its paleo-libertarian contingent. Fascism, on the other hand, makes a fetish out of super-centralism, and elevates the holy Nation above all regional loyalties: indeed, it positively forbids all other allegiances, except to the centralized Party-State.

If any tendency on the Right approaches the fascist model, it is the neocons themselves, who are in love with the idea of "national greatness" – and who see wars of conquest as the foremost way to express this "greatness." Their fulsome support of the U.S. "Patriot" Act, and all the more radical incursions on the Constitution launched by this administration as part of the "war on terrorism," have them firmly in the super-centralist camp. All they need are some snappy uniforms and a few marching songs, and they'll be in business.

In spite of their clearly fascist proclivities, the neoconservative wing of the War Party is trying to stick us with the label, so far unsuccessfully. But that doesn't mean they're going to stop trying. The Lott fiasco gave them the chance to wield political correctness as a weapon, and they drew some blood: now, they hunger for more victims, and are eager to play another round of The Lottery.

Our answer is clear: bring it on, guys, bring it on.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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