October 6, 1999


The preliminary results of Austria's parliamentary elections had no sooner come in, then the second-place finish of the Freedom Party was being touted by the international guardians of political correctness as the equivalent of a Nazi revival. At the prospect that Joerg Haider, the FPO's youthful and popular leader, would join the government, they screeched in unison, from London to New York to Paris: "Hitler!" The Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera (Milan) ran a screaming headline: "Sieg Haider!" Never mind that Haider's views – privatization, the breakup of Austria's politically privileged elites, opposition to unlimited immigration and the European Union – have not the slightest resemblance to National Socialism. And please please don't mention that Haider's party is militantly pro-Western and eagerly boosts Austria's entry into NATO. These inconvenient facts would get in the way of the construction of the latest in a long line of Hitlers – the existence of which seem necessary to the theory and practice of modern politics, both internationally and on the domestic scene.


Newspaper headlines announcing the FPO victory invariably describe the party as representative of the "Far Right." Naturally, the election victories of the rehabilitated Communist parties in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe are never referred to as victories of the Far Left. The exact meaning of this "Far Right" category seems to describe a single position taken by the FPO: opposition to increased immigration – a majority view not only in Austria but also in these United States of America. Does this make us a nation of Nazis?


What would our rulers do without the image and memory of Hitler? Whenever they want to demonize someone, whether a foreign potentate or a domestic enemy, they drag out the Hitler imagery and have a good go at him: Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, smalltime hoodlums all, were blown up to larger than life proportions by the ridiculous comparison to the demonic conqueror of Europe whose name is a synonym for pure evil. On this level of Hitler-mongering, the international level, the charge is empty, and formalistic, all form and no content; applied to, say, Saddam Hussein, it is meant as a signal, a threat that the West intends to destroy him and occupy his country. When they start calling another head of state a "Hitler," it is time for that unfortunate ruler to retire to his bombproof bunker.


As an ideological weapon on the domestic front, the hunt for Hitlerians goes into overdrive whenever the elites want to slap their populist opponents down, whether on the right or the unconventional left. For citing the works of revisionist historians such as William Henry Chamberlain, A. J. P. Taylor, and a host of others, and suggesting that U.S. entry into two world wars could have been avoided, Patrick J. Buchanan is the latest victim of the Hitler hysteria. As his book, A Republic, Not an Empire, rockets to 13th place on the New York Times bestseller list next week, a mob of book-burners from the right as well as the left are eager to brand him with the mark of the swastika. I have covered this topic extensively over the past few weeks, but the controversy shows no signs of dying down: the War Party propaganda machine doesn't seem to have an "off" button. Yes, and that's right: neither do I. (Uh oh, you are thinking, here he goes again . . . but wait, this is a new (and hysterically funny) angle on what I admit is an old story.


Not there is anything new in these attacks – it is merely an orgy of name-calling vituperation. The hysterical tone underscores the panic of the elites as the myths that have sustained their regime are challenged – and found wanting. What is interesting is the stupidity and apparently unlimited resources of the "Get Buchanan" crusade: a combination that produces some of the best examples of unintentional hilarity known to man.


In addition to the assault of the united punditocracy – including Lightweight Limbaugh, the GOP Establishment's inflated hot air balloon – a slick and well-funded hate campaign is underway, which made a splash in yesterday's print edition of the New York Times: It was a quarter page ad on the op ed page: A photo of Der Fuehrer, with the screaming headline "Hitler's plan to attack America – Take a look, Pat Buchanan." The text was a veritable hymn of hate directed not only against Buchanan, but also (incredibly) at John McLaughlin, the talk-show host of The McLaughlin Group, who is described in the ad as one of "Pat's blustering buddies" – as if lovable old John, an ex-priest and certainly no National Socialist, was some kind of swaggering Brownshirt! This is really going too far. The ad copy continues: "It if wasn't so scary we might be laughing." You can say that again, brother! Except, for some reason, I am laughing – but, then, there's no denying my decidedly mordant sense of humor.


The whole point of the ad, aside from smearing Pat with the usual mud, is to lure us to their slick-as-snot website, pretentiously named TomPaine.com, "a Journal of Opinion," which purports to stand for "common sense." The site, which claims to be nonpartisan, features a whole compendium of articles denouncing Buchanan which all read as if they were written by the same person. Which is not to say that these articles were not written by the five or six decidedly unfamous – indeed, virtually unknown – historians who contributed to this symposium of Anti-Buchananiana. It is only to note that the same technique is utilized throughout: the alternation of the words "Hitler" and "Buchanan", after a while, has a distinctly hypnotic effect.


This crude political Mesmerism is spiced up with some "historical" analysis: a silly article – there is no other word for it – claiming that Hitler had in motion "secret" German plans to build "super-battleships" (whatever they are!) which would soon descend in droves on American shores. The authors are reduced to dragging out old stories originally planted by British intelligence operatives (see Thomas E. Mahl's Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44) to the effect that the Nazis planned a massive invasion of South America – from Dakar, in Northern Africa, to Brazil. But if Hitler could not even launch an attack across the English Channel, how in the name of Haman could he have undertaken the far more formidable leap across the Atlantic Ocean?


True believers in the mystique of State Power, the distinguished panel of nobodies assembled by the editors of TomPaine.com ascribe to Hitler virtually superhuman abilities: he is described as "giving the order" to build a huge armada – but is it really necessary to point out that "giving the order" is not the same as having it carried out?. Wishing doesn't make it so. Hitler has been dead for over half a century. Yet such was the power and scope of his megalomania that it seems to have outlived him, and convinced those who have made him of him a secular Satan – in the sense that they believe his powers were almost unlimited. We leave, here, the subject of history, and enter the realm of theology: for this is really the essential nature of the demonization process, as an aspect of secularized religion, complete with mass hysteria and public denunciations of the heretic.


This entire company of mediocre academics and subsidized publicists does a really pathetic job, for all their sound and fury – and all their fat funding from "The Florence Fund," whose other charitable tax-exempt activities include support for National Public Radio and The American Prospect, the chief theoretical journal of Clintonized liberalism. Do you have any idea how much a quarter page ad in the New York Times costs? Last time I checked, it was over $70,000 – a nice chunk of cash even in these high-flying times. The joke is that, for the money, this hatchet job is strictly third and even fourth-rate. If I were The Florence Fund, I would demand a refund.


Ah, but there is irony in this incident, too delicious to pass up. For one contribution to this Hate Buchanan symposium really answers the venomous smear that disfigured the august pages of the New York Times yesterday morning, and flatly contradicts the rabid tone of the ad: Alexander DeConde, emeritus professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and author of A History of American Foreign Policy – a source cited in Buchanan's book – gives an interesting and eminently fair (if somewhat stodgy) appraisal of A Republic, Not an Empire. DeConde reveals that he was given the book to read and critique before publication, and he summarizes his generally judicious remarks without any of the rancor that permeates the rest of TomPaine.com. While disagreeing with Buchanan's central thesis, that we should not have intervened (although he never actually says this, it is implicit in his critique) and taking issue with several points (such as Buchanan's concept of the relationship between Manifest Destiny and overseas imperialism – Professor DeConde provides the best retort to whatever primitive hack wrote that hysterical ad copy, and I quote:

"On the other hand, I believe Buchanan's concerns over what he terms "benevolent global hegemony" (p. 360) have a substantive basis and merit being brought up as campaign issues. Also, his complaint that his opponents' use of isolationist as a "term of abuse intended to silence an adversary, end an argument, and stifle debate" strikes me as plausible (p. 48). He has studied history, thought about it seriously, written a wide-ranging book on his own without a ghostwriter, and has defended his perspective on foreign policy in detail. This has not been an easy task. We need not accept any of his ideas at face value but we should criticize and debate them openly rather than dismiss them by epithet."



But political discourse in our degenerate era is almost entirely reduced to a series of epithets, which are an integral part of the ideology of political correctness. The witch-hunts, the slack-jawed conformism, the lockstep mentality seem like a farcical reenactment of some liberals' idea of what the fifties were like – only, this time, on an international scale. In the current atmosphere prevailing in the West, anything and anyone that deviates from the socialist and internationalist agenda of the Third Way is fair game. Nothing makes this clearer than the hue and cry over Joerg Haider and the rise of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO).


The Financial Times of London could hardly contain its alarm, while Israel's Justice Minister called the results "terrible." The editorial rabble-rousers of the Left, and their "right"-wing echo chamber, would have us believe that the modern equivalent of Hitler's Brownshirts are on the march in Vienna. But it just ain't so. The Freedom Party's program, far from embracing the national socialism that is after all the bastard child of the Left, is a libertarian party of the Right: indeed, it vies with our own Libertarian Party, right here in the US, in the degree of its ideological purity. According to Hans Georg Betz's Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe (St. Martin's Press, 1994) Haider and the FPO stand for a "fundamental liberalism" predicated on "the promotion of individual freedom and a strong emphasis on individual abilities and preferences." Individualism, entrepreneurship, and the idea of liberty as against the egalitarian concept of freedom promoted by the French Revolution, this is the credo of the FPO: what is "fascist" about that? This is precisely the opposite of fascism, and that is the economic program of classical (or market) liberalism: in short, Haider and his colleagues are libertarians, albeit not in the sense that Jesse Ventura is often described in the media. Betz describes the program of the party as "economic decentralization, privatization, deregulation, tax reform, and incentives." Some "National Socialists"!


Virtually every story about Haider opens with a description of him as the man "who once praised Hitler's employment policies." This canard has followed him for years, but the origin of it is revealing. What happened is that, during the course of a parliamentary debate, Haider advanced one of the central demands of the FPO: that people on the dole who refused to take a job and were shown to be capable of working be faced with sanctions. The FPO, he declared, would not stand by idly while the indigent relaxed on "the hammock of the welfare state." The socialists, shocked by this frontal assault on the privileged status of indigents,resorted to their crudest and bluntest weapon: why, they cried, such a policy would be a return to the policies of the Third Reich! Overcome by such hypocrisy. the intemperate Haider replied that, unlike the Social Democrats, the Nazis had actually increased employment – a fact so politically incorrect that he was forced to resign as governor of Carinthia. He was later reelected, and his popularity continues to surge. Why do they hate him?


For two reasons. First, he is challenging the socialist nomenklatura that controls the Austrian economy. Under the present system, is it impossible to get a job in any of the essential professions, or to even get a business license, without having a "party card" – that is, membership in one of the two ruling parties that have looted the country in coalition since the end of World War II. It is as if the Democratic and Republican parties had instituted a virtual political monopoly – as unlikely as that sounds – with the added proviso that you had to join and contribute in order to be able to work.


But how could prosperous and peaceful Austria be incubating a neo-Nazi movement, the pundits ponder? The answer is that Austria's system of State-sanctioned privileges is, today, far closer to the Third Reich than most realize: the name of the party in power has changed, since the end of World War II, but the politicization of everyday life that is the chief feature of totalitarian regimes is, in Austria, very much the same. While an ostensibly free press is reasonably vigorous, and elections are routinely held, the iron grip of the ruling parties on the people's economic lifeblood is firmly in place. This is the real reason for Haider's victories: he is a hero to every decent person in Austria. It is as simple as that.


But this does not explain the vehemence of the international reaction to the Freedom Party's victory, the hysterical "fascist"-baiting and outright lies being perpetrated in the name of journalism. In Europe, at least, much of it is due to the FPO's opposition to subsuming Austrian sovereignty under the rubric of the European Union. The FPO denounces the idea of a single European entity as a nightmarish vision of "a super-centralized state, a bureaucratized Moloch without democratic legitimization," as Betz describes it. Sounds about right to me, but this is a no-no in Europe's elite circles, and they have unleashed their pet journalists on the hapless Haider, who was moved to declare somewhat sheepishly that the results of the election were "not a swing to the right but a swing to justice."


Poor Haider: during his sojourn at Harvard University he went out of his way to have his photo taken in multicultural company, and he constantly touts the fact that the FPO has plenty of Jewish leaders, in the vain hope that he will somehow appease his critics. What he doesn't yet seem to understand is that he will never appease them, except by disappearing – along with all vestiges of nationalism, particularism, decentralism, and dissent – from the face of the earth.


To my friends and fellow libertarians in the Freedom Party of Austria, I can only say this: never mind trying to kowtow before your enemies: they are unappeasable. Don't bother genuflecting before the idols of political correctness: they'll only add blasphemy to all the other charges. Just say what is, and speak truth to power. For my part, and from my vantagepoint, I can only root for the good guys from a considerable distance: but, for what it's worth, at least some in the West are not speaking from complete (and often willful) ignorance. And so, I say: Go, Joerg, go!

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. 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 US 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 (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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