It used to be, and maybe it still is the case, that boys learned about bullies on the playground. There was always some kid, who would push around the other kids. The lesson kids learned was that merely standing up to the bully was usually enough. In some cases, you might have to duke it out, but no matter the result, the bully would leave you alone after it. What makes the bully possible is moral authority. They present themselves as the natural ruler of the rest. If everyone accepts it, then the bully gets to run the yard.
In much the same way, the slave owner has to maintain a moral authority in order to keep his slaves from revolting or running off. The whole point of slavery is cheap labor. If the slave owner has to employ an army to keep his slaves under control and on the plantation, there’s no point in having slaves. He would be better served by hired men. In order for slavery to work, the slaves must accept their natural condition. Like the bully, the slave owner may be outnumbered, but he has the force of moral authority.
One of the least remarked upon aspects of the collapse of Soviet communism was just how peaceful and swift it was in the end. The Poles standing up to their rulers broke the spell. In 1980, Lech Wałęsa scaled the fence at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, leading a strike against the government. Within a decade, the Soviet empire would collapse and Wałęsa would be elected president of Poland. In other words, the commies were morally and spiritually exhausted and they could not take a punch.
I thought about that when the little guy with the goofy haircut decked the Antifa girl at that Berkeley riot. Everything about her world made sense right up until she took a right cross to the puss and fell to the ground. All she had to do was show up in the right outfit and all the bad people would go away. Then, her bluff was called. The bad man was not intimidated. She no longer had moral authority over him. Her after action comments strongly suggest she had some sort of epiphany on the way to the ground.
The thing is though, the whole Antifa movement seems to have fallen apart after that event. Poor old Gavin McInness is begging them to show up at his events, but all he’s getting is some cranky coeds and a few old hippies. In one of life’s many ironies, the anti-fascists had to manufacture fascists to fight and now the alleged fascists are forced to invent anti-fascist that they can fight. Gavin is going to have to find a new act. It turns out that the Prog street warriors have a glass jaw. They can’t take a punch and they know it.
That may be what we are seeing with Conservative Inc. In the last week, homosexual activist and managing editor of National Review, Jason Lee Steorts, has penned over 10,000 words of criticism aimed at those to his Right, which is pretty much everyone on the Right these days. The first piece was a dismissive critique of neo-reactionary blogger Mencius Moldbug. The second, a much longer piece, is a not entirely coherent rant against what he calls the illiberal critics of grade school “freedom shrines.”
His post on Moldbug is revealing for a number of reasons. For starters, Moldbug has not posted in years. His last serious philosophical posting was half a dozen years ago. He and neo-reaction were a big deal on-line a decade ago. It’s not quite disco, but addressing it now in a serious way is a lot like demanding the record stores stop selling Bee Gee’s albums. What his post reveals, more than anything, is that he and the rest of the Buckley Mystery Cult have not been paying attention for a long time.
The longer post is a more serious attempt to address the many boogeymen and hobgoblins that haunt the minds of Buckley Conservatives. His essay reads like it was written by a committee. He spends thousands of words stroking various aspects of Conservative Inc, for no purpose other than flattery. When he gets into specific topics popular on the Dissident Right, he reveals a depth of ignorance that suggests stupidity has mass. His bit on IQ reveals he is a man who does not know what he does not know.
Whenever you are charged with defending the status quo against criticism, your job is to re-argue the case for the establishment. The rightness of the prevailing order creates its own moral authority, thus reducing even legitimate criticisms to mere quibbles. What’s striking about Steorts’ piece is he struggles to describe what it is he is defending, much less defend it. After 7500 words, the reader is just left with the image of a fussy prig, crinkling his nose up, as if he just caught wind of a bad odor.
For as long as anyone reading this has been alive, Buckley Conservatives have functioned as a palace guard. They defended the status quo by acting as a buffer between critics and the Progressive elites. At the same time, they served as a conduit for middle-class white grievances and objections. Taxes are too high! Government is too big! Pop culture is damaging to bourgeois values! That sort of thing. They were in the passenger seat of Progressivism yelling “slow down!” as the car zoomed forward.
For good or ill, their source of moral authority was as the voice of the white middle-class and the civic virtues that made it possible. They no longer talk about the actual people they used to represent, other than in the occasional genocidal rage. Jason Lee Steorts can’t even describe middle-class civic institutions. He has reduced them to the ridiculous image of a “freedom shrine.” The Buckleyites no longer have moral authority. They are simply another blemish on the face of the Progressive orthodoxy.
How aware of this they are is hard to know. It’s a lucrative racket so they are probably more concerned about keeping their spot on the Left than these larger matters. Perhaps like the Polish authorities, they will just stand aside as a new opposition movement, this counter-culture, grows up to challenge the Left. Perhaps there will be that moment of clarity that Moldylocks experienced as she hit the pavement. Either way, they are morally and spiritually exhausted. What comes next is inevitable.