The Excommunicator

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It's
not surprising that Jonah Goldberg should disagree with what he
reads on LewRockwell.com. Controversial and unconventional thought
abounds on LRC, such that even those who are most ideologically
in tune with its editor and contributors will surely find something
with which to disagree. It's entirely reasonable that Goldberg should
disagree with the site's writers about whether Friedrich Hayek was
a conservative, or whether the Right is winning the culture war.
Unfortunately, "reasonable" is not a word that can describe
Goldberg's
recent article criticizing three of LewRockwell.com's writers
.
Instead, Goldberg's ad hominem and ill-tempered piece reads more
like an attempt to excommunicate heretics.

Let's
be specific about the target of Goldberg's ire: it's not libertarians.
Goldberg goes out of his way to say that the conservative movement
needs libertarians. There's a difference, though, between the minimally
conciliatory approach Goldberg takes toward libertarians in general
and the relentless vilification he employs against LewRockwell.com.
Every time Goldberg refers to an LRC contributor he attaches at
least one personal (and juvenile) insult. Gene Callahan "writes
out of his posterior" and is "furious" and "angry,"
while Dieteman and Kantor are "spitting Diet Coke out of their
noses," and LewRockwell.com in general is a site for "angry
libertarians" who kick cats.

I
advise any neutral or open-minded reader to look at David
Dieteman's article
and compare it to Goldberg's. Which one is
more accurately described as "angry" and "furious"?
If throwing insults and ridiculing someone who disagrees with you
is characteristic of anger and fury, I'd say the choice is clear.

Is
there any good faith reason why one adult would deride another in
the way that Goldberg does? I can't think of one. And my own experience
suggests another possibility, namely that Goldberg really does want
to read LewRockwell.com and its contributors out of the American
Right.

Two
weeks ago Goldberg spoke at CPAC,
the annual confab of the mainstream conservative movement and its
grassroots supporters. Because grassroots activists are present
there does tend to be some ideological diversity to the gathering.
There are old guard Republicans and neoconservatives, libertarians
and Christian conservatives. "Paleos" of any kind might
be few and far between, but that's simply because there are very
few of them anywhere. Even without paleos there was plenty of potential
for factional squabbling. But very little materialized. The various
wings of the conservative movement put aside their differences during
the three days of the conference, with the biggest ripples of dissent
coming on Friday after Bush bombed Iraq, an action which prompted
quiet discontent among the grassroots.

There
was one major exception to the general spirit of comity and cooperation
at CPAC though, and you've probably guessed who that was. Jonah
Goldberg spoke at the Young America's Foundation luncheon. His audience
at this event was younger, less experienced, more impressionable,
and, ultimately, less conservative than that of the conference as
a whole. All of which Goldberg used to his advantage. The topic
of his speech? Essentially, "how the Old Right is the same
as the modern far Left."

He
began by attacking Count Joseph de Maistre, the leading continental
opponent of the French Revolution. Goldberg denounced de Maistre
for valuing particular peoples over universal humanity, for saying
that specific terms such as "Russian" or "Englishman"
are more meaningful than the elusive generic "man." Goldberg
then proceeded to say, in a nutshell, that de Maistre and the aristocratic
right believed most of the same things that the Left believes today,
although Goldberg did not bother to cite any works of de Maistre
or anyone else to support this assertion. Next Goldberg told us
that "we" were "the real children of the Enlightenment."

I'd
be surprised if more than four students out of the 200 or so in
the room knew who de Maistre was. But those of us who did got the
message. Pre-Enlightenment values are not welcome in Jonah Goldberg's
conservative movement. Or to put it more accurately – pre-Enlightenment
values are not welcome in the conservative movement at all if Jonah
Goldberg gets his way.

Even
for those students with no idea who Count de Maistre was and only
a vague notion of what the Enlightenment might be, the message was
clear: anyone who speaks favorably of de Maistre or unfavorably
of the Enlightenment is not legitimately right-wing, but is in fact
just like a Leftist.

In
his remarks Goldberg left no room for doubt or dissent. He painted
those who disagreed with him as villains, just as he used insults
to paint his critics on LewRockwell.com as fools. In both cases
the same effect was achieved: to place certain views, and those
who hold them, beyond the pale. In other words, to establish an
orthodoxy and enforce it. This makes Goldberg different from his
critics. While they try to persuade him with reason, he has used
vilification and ridicule to excommunicate those who disagree with
him.

March
6, 2001

Daniel
McCarthy is a graduate student in classics at Washington University
in St. Louis.

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