Gottfried Responds

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by Paul Gottfried

Editor Washington Times

To the editor:

The worlds Herb Greer and I inhabit are apparently so different that we see nothing the same way, including the numeration in my last book, which he over-counts by more than a hundred pages. In my world, the federal government, and its state administration extensions, require the creation and maintenance of "non-hostile work and learning environments," which, among other things, encourage black and feminist studies; the same institutions impose quotas for designated victims by invoking a highly selective notion of "inclusiveness." Unlike Greer’s America, as viewed from his home in Salisbury England, which, he insists, it is "inaccurate" and "insulting" to describe as "mercurial," the real America is undergoing huge and sudden moral changes, e.g., in the public perception of gay rights, the nuclear family, and gay marriage. In the America in which I live, which is clearly not Greer’s, national leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, repeatedly apologize for America’s history of discrimination and promise to take appropriate action to undo its effects. Clinton’s speech about American Christian guilt for the Crusades, slavery, and the Holocaust, which Greer treats as insignificant, did not represent the ravings of an isolated lunatic. It was the words of an enormously popular American president, which received highly favorable coverage in much of the national press and was wildly cheered by the Georgetown audience.

As for the war against freedom of speech in England, I would recommend to Greer the commentaries of our mutual friends Stuart Reid at the Spectator and Peregrine Worsthorne at the Daily Telegraph and the voluminous studies done by Ray Honeyford on the present sensitizing politics in England. For a look at the American postwar "reeducation" legacy to the Germans, through institutionalized censorship and the criminalization of politically incorrect opinions in the Federal Republic, it might be useful to read Claus Nordbruch’s heavily documented Verfassungsschutz (Tubingen 1999). Since Greer finds my views so whimsical, it might also help to make available to him my ample research materials. Despite our differences about everything on this planet, he should know that I am a dedicated researcher who does not store guns for the Posse Comitatus.

A few comments may be necessary concerning what my books do not state or imply. I do not claim in my last two books, or in the essay for Orbis from which my statements on foreign policy in Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt are drawn, that the U.S. "overthrew" Pinochet. (Greer should learn to read more carefully.) What I do assert is that once the neoconservatives became dominant among President Reagan’s foreign policy advisors, the U.S. position toward Pinochet and Marcos became markedly hostile; thereafter the U.S. would have welcomed the overthrow of Pinochet as well as that of Marcos. Please check the relevant wording on page 102. Nor do I deny that the U.S., because of our classical liberal founding, has not gone as far as Canada and Western Europe in the enforcement of political correctness. What I do say is that Americans are responsible for much of the destruction of civil liberties in Germany, because of the measures we imposed on the Germans during our occupation, and that political correctness in the U.S. is a political, managerial instrument, and not simply an academic idiosyncrasy. Needless to say, there is nothing in my writings that would betray the "conspiracy" view that Greer keeps imputing to me.

What has surely rattled Greer and other neoconservatives is my suggestion (made elsewhere) that the "conservative movement" glorifies the managerial state, while fixing the blame for pc on academic types, because of its own interests: bluntly put, neoconservatives live off the state and want our military to undertake the wars that they wish others to fight. Whence the endlessly repeated mantra about universities being "totalitarian islands in a sea of freedom." Having worked on them for over thirty years, I find that such islands look like the Euro-American mainland — inhabited by state bureaucrats, journalists, and liberated career women. Nor can I figure out how the presence of Rush Limbaugh on the radio telling us to vote for the Republican Party gives the lie to my argument. Like David Broder and Sam Donaldson, Limbaugh supports the American managerial state and its rotating party fixtures. His message, as I perceive it, seems to be that if all of us vote Republican, everything in the country will be fine. Note I do not write as a far right critic of the system. As my book After Liberalism makes abundantly clear, the advent of universal suffrage in industrialized Western countries rendered it likely that both liberalism and democracy in the twentieth century would become intertwined with an expanding administrative state. The changes caused by this process do not please me, but they are part of an irreversible process that needs to be meticulously examined. I also indicate that not all administrative democracies are fated to become multicultural; therefore it is necessary to study culture and religion to grasp the reasons why contemporary administrative regimes have developed as they have. Perhaps Greer can find a paranoid personality lurking in such a project, but if so, he is the only one among my critics who can.

October 2, 2002

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author of, most recently, the highly recommended Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

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