Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo
Debates can be fun, and feuds can be a blast if they're done right. But I'm afraid my recent series of exchanges with National Review Online Editor Jonah Goldberg has degenerated into the kind of ugliness can only be properly answered with a left hook. Now I won't play the innocent that won't work with my regular readers and I'll fess up to being more than usually provocative in this case. What I was trying to provoke, however, was a debate about intervention not a debate about such burning issues as whether the Upper West Side is a Jewish neighborhood, what Jonah's Goldberg and his mother did and did not have to say about the stain on Monica's dress and my (so-called) sex life.
In his most recent jeremiad, Goldberg lets us know right off the bat that this isn't about Africa, or the limits of intervention; it isn't about his column, or anything he wrote in it oh no, this is all about him. That dastardly Raimondo, it seems, has written "another screed against me." Me, me, me it's all about me. Personalities are everything, and ideas which may be used for a column or two, and then discarded really count for nothing: this is the new neo-conservatism or Big Government conservatism what you might call Pop Conservatism, of which Goldberg is the prototype.
The neocons want to stay as far away from the issues foreign intervention, globalism, immigration, the power of the lobbyists as they can. Instead, they prefer to make their antagonists the issue. This is what happened to Pat Buchanan, when he started to question the bipartisan internationalist consensus during the Gulf War the War Party unleashed such a torrent of vituperation that for a few weeks Buchanan, and not the war, became the issue. They couldn't answer Buchanan's arguments to even acknowledge the issues he raises would be a significant defeat. Instead, the War Party simply ignored them, and called him a lot of names. Between Bill Bennett, Chip Berlet, Commentary, and the New Republic, the Hate Buchanan Brigade have constructed a case "proving" Pat is the reincarnated soul of Francisco Franco and the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin all rolled into one. They then quote each other in validating their smears. In Bill Clinton's America, anyone to the right of Bill Kristol is suspect, and could be smeared as a right-wing "extremist" if not a walking hate crime at any time. The neocons are expert at playing this sort of game, and for a novice Goldberg ain't bad. He quickly glides past any substantive issues: we are "oddballs" here at Antiwar.com, in Goldberg's considered opinion, and certainly "cranks" for questioning the propriety of his proposed African safari. He lets us know that anything we have to say is certainly not worth debating,
"and so I will make this very brief and stick to his personal silliness (my columns on Africa can speak for themselves). Besides, considering his animosity against the ideas of nearly every prominent conservative in America, I'll simply bask in the company."
It depends on what you mean by "prominent." In my book, Bill Kristol is a legend in his own mind, in the minds of the tiny group of people who swear by the Weekly Standard and, most importantly, in the collective mind of the liberal media, who, in their newfound interventionist mode, have grown fond of his warlike brand of "national greatness" faux-conservatism. Kristol may command Murdoch's millions, but men like Buchanan, Alan Keyes, and Congressman Ron Paul and my one of my own favorites, Tom "The Hammer" DeLay command the respect and allegiance of conservatives outside the Beltway. I would much rather bask in their company than in the company of John McCain, whose "manly nationalism" thrilled Goldberg because it reminded him of that other blowhard, Teddy Roosevelt:
"Roosevelt was an unapologetic and manly nationalist. He often spoke of the morally uplifting power of war: 'No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war.' The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine stated that America has not only the right to keep foreign powers out of this hemisphere, but the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations to "prevent flagrant … wrongdoing or impotence." What a fitting description, for this global age, of our adventure in Kosovo. 'No national life is worth having if the nation is not willing … to stake everything on the supreme arbitrament of war.'"
This sickening paean to the "uplifting power" of mass murder would be grotesque in any era: in the age of nuclear weapons, terrorism, and biological warfare it is downright grotesque. And what about our little Kosovo "adventure"? Now there's an interesting choice of words: think of it as an adventure, you know, something fun. It wasn't a shameless act of bullying or an outright act of conquest in which thousands of Yugoslavs lost their lives and many others were maimed it was, instead, a lark. Here is someone who has never known the horror of war, either as a combatant or a civilian, writing odes to its "uplifting" power. Such a performance gives new meaning to the term "laptop bombardier." In response to my previous columns on this evolving controversy, I had several letters from readers who suggested that if Goldberg's attitude is prevalent among the "Gen X" types, then this makes a good argument for the return of the draft as a corrective to the Laptop Bombardier Syndrome. While I could never endorse conscription in any form, I must admit that my corespondents have a point that really would put a serious crimp in juvenile warmongering, now wouldn't it?
Stick to the personal that is the modus operandi of the Clintonized conservative movement. This is a crowd that has been so fixated for so long on the evil face of this administration that they have begun to resemble, by a kind of osmosis, their hated antagonists. Without any real principles Goldberg jumped ship on Bush, and was swept off his feet during the McCain-neocon love-fest these career conservatives, who are in it for the prestige, the power, and the money, are sensitive to any challenge to their bonafides. This is why, out of a three thousand-word column debunking Goldberg's proposed African invasion, he zeroed in on only the most trivial details:.
"He suggests that perhaps I have hang-ups with how I got my 'place at the conservative table,' i.e. that I'm embarrassed about being my mother's son and defending her honor and by extension Linda Tripp's actions.. Well, if there is a single topic I've bared my soul on more in this space I do not know what it is. I've got nothing to apologize for, nor have I concealed anything, save perhaps the full extent of my exhaustion with the topic."
I don't and didn't suggest that he has any hang-ups with having gone from Lewinsky-ologist to conservative foreign policy analyst in one fell swoop he, naturally, sees nothing wrong or even unusual in this. From Linda Tripp to Sierra Leone in the dumbed-down world of Pop Conservatism, it's all grist for the mill of the constantly chattering classes One minute you're talking about what Linda heard from Monica about what happened under the desk in the Oval Office, and the next thing you know you're pontificating at National Review Online about the pressing need to launch a military operation that would rival any previous one undertaken by the US. In one paragraph you're citing the authority of the Pope for your grand interventions, and in the next you're discussing the sex life of Justin Raimondo. Yes, I somewhat reluctantly have to report that the Goldbergian obsession with the, uh, personal lives of perceived enemies has turned its Medusa gaze, for a moment, on me. Yikes! After conceding that "the exposure [from l'affaire Lewinsky] helped," and pleading "guilty as charged" to what crime I don't know he writes:
"Still, I find it amusing that Mr. Raimondo finds media catapults so interesting, considering that a cursory Nexis search reveals that he vaulted into what prominence he has due to the fact that he was Pat Buchanan's chief if not sole gay cheerleader in 1996. Now, that is a dog bites man story if I ever heard one."
To begin with, it isn't at all clear if I'm being berated by a fellow homosexual who considers me a "gay" Benedict Arnold, or a heterosexual conservative who considers me an unrepentant sinner. Secondly, I must reject the "gay" label as completely inaccurate and even insulting I insist on the old-fashioned Latin, homosexual, so much more direct and accurate. It isn't for nothing that kids today use the word "gay" as a synonym not for homosexuals but for wimps, regardless of their sexuality. "Oh, that's so gay!" The word "gay" denotes a political movement of which I am not a member, and which I actively oppose and the details of my private life have nothing to do with it. As I put it in the March 2000 issue of The American Enterprise an issue of the magazine to which Goldberg also contributed
"It's time to challenge the fiction that the 'gay rights' movement speaks for all or even most gay people. It does not. Gay rights legislation violates the principles of authentic liberalism, and homosexuals should speak out against it to distance themselves from the excesses of a militantly destructive movement, to help avert societal damage, and to right some grave wrongs. Those wrongs are the political assault being waged on the heterosexual family by the theoreticians of the gay rights revolution; the endless ridicule of religion that suffuses the gay press; and the limitless contempt for all tradition and 'bourgeois values' that permeates the gay subculture. …
"To expect approval or official sanction for so personal a behavior as sexuality is a sign of weak character. To unblushingly ask (nay, demand) such approval in the form of some act of government is an act of unparalleled bad taste. It is also a confession of such a devastating lack of self-esteem, of inner emptiness, that its public expression is hard to fathom. Self-esteem is not a quality to be sought from others, nor can it be legislated into existence."
You see, I'm a libertarian: I think the Boy Scouts should remain a private organization, unregulated by the government, and that everyone has the right to discriminate that is, to hire, fire, embrace or disdain anyone for any reason, including sexual orientation. I wish Act-Up would fold up, and I kind of like Dr. Laura that is, I want to like Dr. Laura on account of all the terribly sensitive would-be censors who hate her. I also think that increasing US military intervention abroad is the greatest danger to our liberties at home, and the main obstacle to rolling back Big Government which is why I urged Buchanan to run in 1991, and why I'm glad he took me up on it. We don't ask in the Buchanan Brigades, and we don't tell unless, of course, some reporter asks. . . .
In 1996, I received a phone call from a local newspaper reporter who asked if I was the Justin Raimondo connected with the Buchanan campaign. I told him I had no official connection to the campaign, that Buchanan was (and is) a friend who shared my opposition to foreign intervention: I explained that he had written the Introduction to one of my books, and that I agreed with him on foreign policy questions and, on the strength of this, supported his candidacy, though not, I emphasized, in any official capacity. The reporter then asked me: "Is it true that you're gay?" I wasn't surprised at the question: I had written on the subject: an early work, In Praise of Outlaws: Rebuilding Gay Liberation (Students for a Libertarian Society, 1979) dealt with the topic, and I had spoken on the subject of homosexuality and the gay movement at a National Review conference in the summer of 1993. I told the reporter what I told CNN, AP, and Bill Maher and the gang: that Buchanan's views on the morality or immorality of homosexual behavior were completely irrelevant, and that I supported him on the basis of his foreign policy views. President Buchanan wouldn't go to war in the Persian Gulf, and we would be out of the Balkans by the first month of his first term and that is good enough for me.
Goldberg the cyber-maven did a Lexis-Nexis search? How Old Media can you get? It might behoove him to save National Review the expense: Google is not only free, but it also gives much better results. Lexis-Nexis will tell you next to nothing about somebody unless they're Elian Gonzalez or, better yet, Donato Dalrymple. Google would have turned up not only my columns, but also discussions of my book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, as well as numerous articles in other publications, including The Free Market, Chronicles, etc. But naturally such trivia does not interest the "investigative" journalists of the Pop Conservative school: they are far more interested in sexual affairs than foreign affairs.
As if the sexual angle weren't enough, there's more and much worse. While I was wondering when I was going to be "outed" again the Anti-Buchanan Brigades, as we know, never sleep I didn't take the prospect too seriously. This is, after all, the year 2000, and no one really cares, least of all me. But there is, it turns out, a sinister underside to Goldberg's frivolity. As he goes on for paragraphs about how he hasn't lived on the Upper West Side for more than a decade, he suddenly slips in the knife:
"Normally it would be a trivial error, save for the fact that it seems so central to his whole schtick. It seems clear he's got problems with what used to be called rootless cosmopolitanism, but that doesn't mean all of us live there."
Us? And who, precisely, is Us? The reference to "rootless cosmopolitanism" is unmistakable the classic Nazi code word for Jews. Clearly, Goldberg is accusing me of anti-Semitism: there is no other way to interpret such a rhetorical flourish. What is the evidence? Why, it seems I have attacked the entire Upper West Side of Manhattan: "So zesty is his dislike for the most famous Jewish neighborhood in America," writes Goldberg, "that he assumes anyone who disagrees with him lives there too." In reality, as any New Yorker or ex-New Yorker such as myself knows, the Upper West Side is only slightly more Jewish than any one of a number of other neighborhoods on the isle of Manhattan. It would seem to me that Crown Heights is far more famous for its Jewishness than the Upper West Side; historically, the Bronx and Brooklyn were where the Jewish immigrant community first settled in the New York area. As Sarah Waxman puts it in her online "History of the Upper West Side":
"The Upper West Side has often been perceived as a heavily Jewish neighborhood, but despite this reputation the influx of southern blacks, Russians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, and Ukrainians in the forties and fifties, and Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans in the fifties and sixties has kept the area diverse and demographically unpredictable."
Rather than a metaphor for Jewishness, the Upper West Side was a metaphor, in my column, for intellectuals disconnected from and disdainful of the conservative grassroots they pretend to lead. The problem is not "rootless" cosmopolitanism, but brainless cosmopolitanism. The average grassroots conservative would no more go in for invading Africa or the Balkans, or the oil fields of the Caucasus than they would vote for John McCain (another enthusiasm of Goldberg's). Yet self-proclaimed conservative "leaders" such as Bill Kristol embrace Mad John McCain, all the while proclaiming the era of "national greatness" through "benevolent global hegemony," and self-promoting opportunists like Goldberg go along for the ride. And if you don't like it, well then you're an anti-Semite right?
I for one am sick unto death of the victimological whining of a some Jewish neoconservatives, for whom every criticism of their opinions, doctrines, and personal idiosyncrasies is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. When blacks pull the same number, they are invariably called on it by precisely those people who scream "anti-Semitism!" at the drop of a hat. But no one calls Goldberg, or Norman Podhoretz, or Bill Kristol, or any other charter member of the Smear Brigade to order when they assume a victimological stance. At the height of the Gulf War debate, Buchanan was accused of anti-Semitism on the basis of his naming four of the biggest war-hawks Kristol, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer, and William Safire all of whom happened to be Jewish. But if this is "anti-Semitism," then the concept has been radically redefined to mean, not a special animus toward Jews, but a refusal to apply a different standard to them than one would to, say, Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Sharpton and Jackson see themselves not just as individuals but as representatives of an entire race, and any critique of their position is said to have racial overtones. In practice, this amounts to an interdict prohibiting all criticism of blacks except by members of their own race. A similar sort of identity politics operates in some conservative circles, as Buchanan found out, and the principle works like this: to criticize one particular Goldberg is a hate crime against all Goldbergs. Because of this kind of conservative political correctness, Goldberg can get away with smearing me as the moral equivalent of a Nazi in the pages of National Review on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.
Indeed, the evidence is all to contrary. For it would be next to impossible for any anti-Semite that is, someone who holds that Jews are evil, and/or advocates legal sanctions against them to count himself a libertarian, not least of all since the three patron saints of the movement Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Murray N. Rothbard were all of them Jewish. While the tepidity of saying "some of my best friends are Jewish" is not the best defense, in my own particular case anti-Semitism would be especially inconvenient, as Burt Blumert, the President of this website's sponsoring organization, the Center for Libertarian Studies, is Jewish and so is our Webmaster, Eric Garris. The irony of Goldberg's smear is that, just the other day, on the phone with Blumert, I sighed when he asked me what I thought about his most recent article on LewRockwell.com, a disquisition on how groups like the liberal Anti-Defamation League use phony charges of anti-Semitism to discredit anyone they don't like. While saying that I agreed with the theme his piece, and averring that he had done an estimable job of making his point, I questioned whether it was "really necessary to go into that topic." Why not let sleeping dogs lie? The problem with that view, apparently, is that some dogs never sleep.
We know that all sorts of standards, both moral and journalistic, have been lowered in the Clinton Era. But does this have to apply to the conservative movement, and specifically the conservative press as well? Sadly, the answer is yes. National Review, a magazine that once gave a forum to such conservative heroes as Frank S. Meyer and Russell Kirk is now the playground of the bottom-feeder Jonah Goldberg, who bills himself as "Generation X's answer to P. J. O'Rourke." I'll let O'Rourke defend his own honor, but clearly, if Goldberg is the answer to anything, then one can only wonder what was the question? Well, I have a question for the editors of National Review: are you guys going to publish a retraction? For the demonstrably false charge of anti-Semitism is a potentially deadly one: the career and standing of any writer can easily be ruined by it, as Goldberg well realizes. In my case, a libel suit is out of the question, since libertarians oppose libel laws as an intolerable infringement on the right of free speech: you obviously don't own your reputation, since it is nothing more than a vague impression imprinted on other's people's memories. My only recourse, then, is to appeal to the editors' conscience, such as it is, and ask for equal time, at the very least short of an outright retraction and a public apology. In the meantime, I'm going to go back and look over some of the bound volumes of the old National Review (the earliest ones, to be sure), and fondly recapture the ambiance of a better time and a much better magazine but I guess that's what it means to be a reactionary in the year 2000.
Please Support Antiwar.com
A contribution of $25 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans, a 60-page booklet packed with the kind of intellectual ammunition you need to fight the lies being put out by this administration and its allies in Congress. And now, for a limited time, donors of $40 or more receive a copy of Ronald Radosh's classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form
Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible