November 16, 2018
There’s been a lot of talk among neoconservatives lately about some frightful subjects: nationalism, populism, and nativism. It’s been a touching spectacle, the air so thick with virtue that one can barely breathe, and we can only hope that the day will finally come when this group’s characteristic moralism, neuroticism, and effeminacy will be synonymous with American exceptionalism itself.
Consider the splendid David Frum, for example. In his recent debate on populism with Steve Bannon, the former Bush speechwriter and longtime advocate for democracy by war was profoundly disturbed by what he sees as the “subliminal anti-Semitic messaging” in our country’s populist turn. Frum’s ardent concern for the soul of America reached its zenith in his belief that “every Jew who hears the way George Soros is talked about knows the text beneath the text.”
Happily, the debate was not entirely serious, for Frum’s anxious manner and rapid speech struck many as a Woody Allen impression, and so provided lots of comical relief for the perplexed souls who came to receive his grave wisdom.
Others had different reactions, and I’m sorry to say the debate was difficult for me to follow, because the sounds of Frum’s agony alerted my dog and, thinking there was a crazy intruder inside, the animal began barking loudly and scouring the apartment. Just as Frum knows there is a “text beneath the text,” so my little Ava thought there was a hysterical lunatic under the bed, or in the closet, or behind the shower curtain.
Then, too, I was distracted by memories of my graduate-school days, when, thanks to Steven Evans (editor of the singularly heroic volume After Patriarchal Poetry), David Kress (author of Hush and other unreadable fiction, and known as “the cool professor who plays in a band”), and other obscure academic asses who can neither think nor write, I saw postmodern philosophy in sublime action. Although they claim there is no such thing as metaphysics, according to postmodernists, it’s indisputably true that every apparent good is really just a vehicle for some unstoppable evil: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, the patriarchy, and on and on. Oh how these monsters from the deep, led by White Males, never leave us alone! Relentless spoilsports they are, rather like old Yahweh himself. Thankfully there is a whole industry devoted to protecting us from them, earning an honest living being so onerous.
Of course, such insidious reasoning is not specific to postmodernism. For Marx and Freud, too, to disagree with them is to prove them right. And just as God’s existence can’t be disproved, since a negative can’t be disproved, so refuting Frum’s metaphysical belief is beyond the power of reason. One can only urge the good man to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and wipe his sweaty forehead. Mother dear is not far away, the bad guys are not out to get him, and he can continue to build a fence around the Torah.
Having lost the debate to the wicked white nationalist Steve Bannon, Frum later confessed his sins in an article for Jeffrey Goldberg’s increasingly woke Atlantic. It’s a moving performance, not least because Frum explains that his sins actually serve to confirm his virtues. Divine pundit!
One imagines God is smiling down upon Frum at this very moment, as sources have informed me that Frum is teaming up with Christian evangelist and fellow neocon Berny Belvedere to make conservatism still more diverse and inclusive. Nor could Frum have chosen a better partner. After all, the editor of Arc Digital, to use a little business-speak, has a proven track record of publishing liberals, feminists, and virtually anyone whose conservatism is fundamentally left-wing.
For Belvedere believes there is no “reasonable conservatism” to the right of National Review and The Weekly Standard, and to his mind pro-Trump publications are “deviant.” Add to this perspective Belvedere’s regard for such sages as Jonah Goldberg, David French, and that smug-looking Indian who hangs around them (whoever he is, I think I’ve seen him in 7-Eleven or Dunkin’ Donuts), and it’s a struggle to contain one’s excitement for the progress he and Frum are sure to afford.
I implore you, loyal readers, to pray their efforts will be successful, because the men have much proselytizing ahead. Belvedere’s grotesque visage, it is true, has been known to scare women and children, but nevertheless, the same God who blessed him with talents for snake handling and speaking in tongues may be relied upon to guide the neoconservative crusade aright.
Then there is Max Boot, another noble neocon who, like Frum, has fallen on hard days, in no small part because he too has no concept of conservatism before the present mainstream one. The neocon talent for unintended comedy is on magnificent display in a recent video Boot made. The man seems troubled and confused, people on the right neither discussing nor reviewing his new book, on why he left the right. Poor Boot! He longs for his glory days when he stood athwart history yelling, “Eastward, Progress!” And how hurtful is “the disturbing silence on the right” about his brave dissent. Thousands of Americans dead, with many more wounded; hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners dead; Muslims who will do anything to destroy us; a destabilized Middle East, and resultant migrant crisis in Europe; billions of dollars wasted—why, yes, there’s a lot to be said for the consequences of Boot’s ideas!
If only people weren’t so thick. If only conservatives would stop “ducking a difficult debate about their complicity with Donald Trump.” If only everyone would realize how cool Boot looked in that photo with the fat whore Stormy Daniels! Therefore, as Boot encourages conservatives to vote for the Democrats, I ask my readers to pray that someone—anyone—will recognize the special value of his democratic nation building.
At this point, knowing how fond I am of intellectual women, you’re probably wondering why all my subjects are male. Well, don’t worry, Deplorables, because I turn now to Rachel Lu, a columnist at The Week and frequent contributor to leading magazines in conservatism’s functional opposition. In her Nov. 6 column, “Return of the Nativists,” the bluestocking writes:
Nativism is ugly. But this isn’t the first time America has seen it. And the good news is that it can be relatively fleeting.
Taming the nativist demon is a twofold process. Ugly prejudices must be identified and condemned. At the same time, it’s important to transcend xenophobic rhetoric with a more humane and uplifting message that appeals to a shared national identity. Nativism arises when a subset of citizens feel alienated from their own society. To subdue it, we must appeal not only to our compatriots’ sense of decency, but also to their honor as fellow Americans.
These words were inspired by Lu’s belief that the president is wrong—indeed immoral—to call large groups who enter the country illegally “invaders,” wrong even though some have insolently asserted the right—the right!—to do so. Lu likewise thinks that those who oppose such illegal entry are nativists in a bad sense, and that this position necessarily entails hatred for illegal immigrants.
It is plain from all this that Lu’s is an eminently logical mind, and accordingly, she sees no inconsistency in deeming Trump a demagogue while she herself likens nativism to a “demon.” Equally impressive is her cliché-ridden, soporific prose style, which is itself meant to appeal to “compatriots’ sense of decency”:
This nation is better than its president…. To move forward, we’ll also need to look back, finding unity in a shared history that is both demanding, and forgiving. We should feel proud to be Americans. That’s what will make us eager to ensure that our children can share that same pride.
In view of these courageous banalities—which certainly promote national “unity” by making everyone who reads them feel drowsy—one might think the woman is a writer of Hallmark cards. In fact, her “uplifting message” is that of a moral philosopher. Ah, so much the better for philosophy’s many nativists, from Plato and Aristotle up to John Rawls! For one has no doubt that Lu can correct these ignorant men, updating them so they are suitable for 21st-century Jacobinism, to say nothing of the Age of Women.
Somewhere in Rachel Lu’s writing may be found some such passage as:
Although David Hume and Immanuel Kant were racists, we can nevertheless learn significant insights from them, and doing so doesn’t mean we have to approve of their white supremacy. To be sure, moral progress doesn’t happen overnight. In the twenty-first century, we must confront blights on the past, but we must also preserve what is important in it. Above all, we must recognize our common humanity.
For a mind like Lu’s, stuffed with the most predictable cant, such sentences, whose sincerity simply drips from the dreary tone, almost write themselves. The unmistakable effect of Rachel Lu’s style is that it leaves you feeling like you need a bath. For Lu’s rhetoric is ever available, like a 24-hour convenience store, and it’s a wonder that the sentimental editors of Aeon have not commissioned this weighty intellect to write for them.
Sad to say, there are many nativists in these States, imperiled souls who need to be enlightened by Lu’s neoconservative moralism. To that end I e-mailed Lu’s column to my e-mail discussion group last week. Though the group consists of professional writers and university professors, both active and retired, not one of the erudite cranks had even heard of the philosopher. Quite an injustice! (And of course, the only explanation can be sexism. Here, then, is a case for you, Herr Professor Beard!)
Thus, as with Frum, Boot, and Belvedere, let us pray that this great mind will get the readership she deserves. God willing, Rachel Lu will have a bigger influence. Dare we to hope she’ll become our first Philosopher-Queen? Certainly, the last thing Americans need is to put America first.