You Can Smear With Impunity

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

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My recent frustrating experiences with the Chronicle of Higher Education have driven home why establishment publications do not have to allow the victim of its attacks to respond. The multicultural Left no longer has to worry about bourgeois proprieties, seeing that it is now in firm control of a media-academic empire. It does of course throw some juicy bones to the bogus Right (indeed the latest issue of the Chronicle has long contributions by neocons), but never does this tolerance extend to our side.

On April 5, the Chronicle, which is a widely distributed publication aimed predominantly at academics and university administrators, featured a long commentary by Boston University sociologist Alan Wolfe. This screed made questionable points, none of which was even minimally documented: e.g., that German legal theorist Carl Schmitt, who joined the Nazi Party in May 1933, has had a profound and continuing influence on the American Right as well as on the European Left, that Leo Strauss, who shaped the thinking of neoconservatives directly or through his students, idolized the "fascist" Schmitt, and that my works on Schmitt typify the American far Right’s attraction to a European extremist. Although it would have taken reams of paper to address all the factual and conceptual inaccuracies contained in this article, I did feel impelled to send the Chronicle a short self-defense — which Lew Rockwell graciously published last Saturday.

Because of a warning that its editors would not publish a long rejoinder, I limited myself to three sparse paragraphs, filled with factual corrections. But no sooner had my response gone off via email then I learned from an editorial assistant that the Chronicle would not publish my letter unless there was "documentation" for certain controversial views, to wit, that the German newspaper Junge Freiheit, which Wolfe had characterized as a very far right German weekly for which I had written, was not "extremist," and that there were American journalists who, unlike Carl Schmitt, upheld the moral value of an American "global democratic" empire. In order to convince the editors that Junge Freiheit was not a neo-Nazi rag, I faxed per request multiple pages from German legal experts underlining the highly partisan nature of the accusations made against the weekly by the "anti-fascist" Left. But no matter what I sent off, the documentary evidence did not suffice to change the editors’ minds. I then proposed to the assistant that her bosses drop the offending sentence and publish the rest of my response. The editors, she made clear to me, were under no obligation to print my defense. Nor did they feel under any obligation to get back to me. What made this incident particularly galling was the double standard being applied. Wolfe was allowed to call me a fascist or anything else he wanted, without having to supply any proof. I, on the other hand, could never meet the standards of substantiation necessary to defend myself against his slanders — and against those of the publication that showcased his invectives.

This incident demonstrated how pitifully little acceptance we on the real right enjoy in the established journalistic community. We are there to be attacked as neo-Nazi crazies but cannot count on the elemental courtesy of being permitted to respond to our accusers in the same magazine in which we have been defamed. A related discourtesy is shown toward us by the neocon wing of the liberal establishment, as evidenced by its attempt to treat us as non-persons. In his response to Wolfe’s tirade in NRO (April 6), Jonah Goldberg illustrates the neocon version of the double standard, jollying up his buds on the left while presenting those on the right as moral lepers. Thus he describes Wolfe as someone whose work "I have long admired." Indeed were it not for a personal crotchet, says Goldberg, Wolfe would "have converted to neoconservatism like Sam Huntington."

Unfortunately Wolfe is now wasting his time, identifying an "obscure German thinker" (given their dismal level of education, Jonah and his colleagues may find all German thinkers equally "obscure") with fine, upstanding neocons. The only evidence for the Schmittian contagion that Goldberg’s object of admiration can find is this "one fellow on the self-proclaimed u2018paleocon’ right" who has written on Schmitt — and who presumably is as loathsome as Wolfe says he is. Dare we to speak the name "FASCIST" and apply it to this "one fellow," whose name is too abhorrent for Goldberg to reveal? By the way, there is simply no grammatical or stylistic justification for putting quotations around "paleocon" after placing me on the "self-proclaimed" right. NR should hire back a man of talent, Joe Sobran, and have him teach English prose to his adolescent successors.

April 26, 2004

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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