The Museum Is Closed

Imagine you are asked to have some sort of contest with another person. Let’s say it is a manly contest like boxing or martial arts. The person arranging it talks about the fight in a conventional way, allowing you to assume the match will abide by the conventional rules for the sport. Let’s say it is agreed that on a given day, you will show up and box the champion from the other team. You show up on that day to learn that the guy is twice your size and he will be allowed to use a sword or a club with spikes on it in the ring.

That’s a ridiculous scenario, but the point is the only way there can be a fair competition is when both sides abide by the same set of rules. Otherwise you find yourself in the ring with a giant, trying to dodge the club with the spikes on it. This is something most men learn on the playground as kids. The exception seems to be conservatives, who have been allowing themselves to be clubbed by the Left for as long as anyone reading this has been alive. Even at this late date, they still cannot grasp this basic concept.

Michael Anton, who penned “The Flight 93 Election” back when he was hiding behind a pen-name, articulated very well in an exchange with me what millions of conservatives believe to be true:

The old American ideal of judging individuals and not groups, content-of-character-not-color-of-skin, is dead, dead, dead. Dead as a matter of politics, policy and culture. The left plays by new rules. The right still plays by the old rules. The left laughs at us for it — but also demands that we keep to that rulebook. They don’t even bother to cheat. They proclaim outright that “these rules don’t apply to our side.”

I disagree with Anton’s prescription — to surrender to identity politics and cheat the way our “enemies” do — but I cannot argue much with this description of a widespread mindset. Many on the right are surrendering to the logic of the mob because they are sick of double standards. Again, I disagree with the decision to surrender, but I certainly empathize with the temptation. The Left and the mainstream media can’t even see how they don’t want to simply win, they want to force people to celebrate their victories (“You will be made to care!”). It isn’t forced conversion at the tip of a sword, but at the blunt edge of a virtual mob.

Goldberg is not alone in this. Buckley conservatives, neocons and libertarians spend every waking moment prattling on about their principles. This is understandable for libertarians and neocons. The former are outlandishly stupid and the latter are subversively dishonest. Conservatives, on the other hand, are supposed to accept the world for what it is. The starting place for conservatism has always been an acceptance of the human condition. Conservatism is the absence of ideology, in the words of Kirk.

It’s tempting to write-off the Buckleyites as sellouts and grifters. There’s certainly some of that. Being a good punching bag has put Jonah Goldberg into a million dollar home in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods on earth. Being wrong a lot pays really well, if you’re willing to be the Left’s footstool. There’s also the dunce factor. Being a pundit does not require a high IQ. That’s why you don’t find too many math majors in the chattering classes. It is entirely possible that many conservatives think they are right.

To continue to play by a set of rules that guarantees failure and failure guarantees a non-conservative outcome is pretty much the antithesis of conservatism. Fundamental to conservatism is the belief in a transcendent moral order. No matter what political mechanisms it may utilize or the rules it relies upon to operate its political machinery, a society of people morally adrift, living at odds with the natural order, is an immoral and unjust society. Ordered depravity is still depravity. Principles are a means to an end.

That’s why the argument from guys like Goldberg, that conservatism is about means, not ends, is fundamentally un-conservative. Conservatives since the dawn of time have understood that it is the ends that matter. The form of government is only useful in achieving good ends. Custom, convention, and continuity are the proven means for attaining a society in-tune with the natural order, but conservatism does not require a mindless fidelity to the past. If the ends require it, novelty is perfectly acceptable.

Of course, you can make a fetish of rules and your own adherence to principle when you don’t have skin in the game. Much of what plagues conservatism, and has for at least two generations, is the modern conservative is a man who prefers to live in imagination land, rather that the real world. Jonah Goldberg can be on the losing side of every debate, because it has no impact on his life. When he loses to the big guy with the spiky club, it is someone else who takes the beating. Most of us cannot afford to be so principled.

The fact remains, the people now claiming ownership of the label conservative are not actually conservative. Even calling them “northern conservatives” is a crime against the language. They are simply guys who say their lines in their role as foil for the prevailing orthodoxy. They have been nothing more than a collection of cartoon villains for the morality play concocted by Progressives. At the dawn of the demographic age, they no longer even work as props in the morality play. They are museum pieces.

 

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59 Comments on "The Museum Is Closed"

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Monty James
Guest

The “Demographic Age”. Brilliant, and perfectly descriptive. Useful if one means to be a ferryman, guiding people to see the world as it is, that they might preserve the things they love.

And Jonah Goldberg is still a jelly-faced dicksucker.

Member

This was too profoundly good to sully it with further comment. Just going to sit back and re-read and admire.

Member

So what you are saying is that Conservatives are the Washington Generals. Bill Kristol and George Will are the coaches.

TinFoilHat
Guest

No, Kristol is a secret agent for the other side. Make no mistake about that.

dad29
Guest

Yes. Deneen is clear about that; today’s “conservatives” are actually 1790’s Liberals, who took their cues from Locke. Actual Conservatives, on the other hand, take their cues from Aristotle and his ‘need for polis’ vision.

Yes, that older Conservatism sees ‘ends’ rather than ‘means,’ which is why both sets of today’s Liberals (the Progressives and the faux-conservatives) fail. Both of them set man as the measure of all things.

Real Conservatives know better.

Mark Moncrieff
Guest

Zman

It’s good to see you making this point. Most people who are called Conservatives are of course Liberals.

Free Trade, Open Borders, Freedom of Capital to move, Freedom of people to move, Liberty at any cost….these things are all Liberal ideals and the people who believe in these ideals call themselves Conservatives. Because Liberals, no matter of what stripe, Classical, Left, Right, Neocon, Libertarian, always foul their own nest. Thats why Left Liberals keep changing their name between Liberal and Progessives and why Right Liberals call themselves Conservatives.

Mark Moncrieff
Upon Hope Blog – A Traditional Conservative Future

Member

“I think The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates is a brilliant and talented writer…” This is why I can’t stand Goldberg and the NR/Weekly Review crowd. Coates writes gibberish. To praise him this way is the ultimate suck up.
Definition of prostrate. 1 : stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission; also : lying flat. 2 : completely overcome and lacking vitality, will, or power to rise.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest

Holy smokes; did Goldberg say that? Did he cite examples of Coates’ brilliance, or talent?

OK, I know – of course he didn’t. Goldberg is on his surfboard here, riding the wave.

Coates is the Maya Angelou of prose. America once produced James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes… not always agreeable in their attitude or message, but they wrote well, they read deeply… and now, Coates.

And Goldberg can’t see the difference.

Thank you, Mr LePore.

Tamaqua
Guest

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!“

Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1653.

While one may despise the Roundheads, I wish that our side would summon up some of the steel in Oliver’s soul.

Saml Adams
Guest

“Mr. Cromwell, you are impertinent”
“The issues, your Majesty, are beyond “good manners””

I know they never actually met, but the scriptwriters caught Cromwell’s character well in the namesake movie.

A.B. Prosper
Guest

Bravo. I could not have said it better than that. The Puritans were one of the worst things that ever happened to Planet Earth but Cromwell was a man of power and its impossible to disrespect that

Kodos
Guest
Lots to think about from this post. One thing I wonder is just *why* the left racks up so many victories, not just in politics, but in “hearts and minds.” Moldbug was famous for talking about the leftward ratchet of modern culture, but I still wonder why for so many people leftism seems to make sense. The alt-right likes to think that facts, science and reason are on their side, but it doesn’t feel that way in the larger culture. Try saying that maybe letting two gay men adopt a child isn’t a good idea and see lots of middle-of-the-road… Read more »
Member

Good comment.

As to the Left being a magnet for hip, smart types. This is why they went after Mylo so hard. He was making it cool or edgy to be on the Right. This was a greater threat to the Left than anything he actually said.

dad29
Guest

Free stuff gets votes, as does free sex and a No-Rules based society.

Issac
Guest

The right does not have an upper class component. It is a headless army of disaffected middle and working class people without any of the requisite power and influence to translate their frustration into policy.

LineInTheSand
Guest

Sad but true. However, what seems to have fueled the rise in the alt-right in 2015 is that many young, white men realized that there is not enough remaining affluence to coopt them. That is, due to mass immigration, outsourcing, and more explicitly anti-white messaging, many talented, young, white men are realizing that they won’t be within the gates of the gated communities.

Kodos
Guest

I don’t know enough about the situation in conservative colleges, but I wonder if places like Pepperdine or Hillsdale can/could produce dissident Right people, or if they are as cucked as the rest of Conservatism Inc.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest

People aren’t horrible – not even liberal people. They’re lonely and they’re scared. They drift toward the happy and the well-lit corners of life. This is natural. The desire to be “one of the gang” is something I sympathize with completely; an enduring image of my juvenile reading is of Hurstwood, in Dreiser’s ‘Sister Carrie’, scraping the frost off the window of a warm and stylish restaurant, glimpsing the laughter and conviviality of the people inside – as he was freezing to death.

In a post-Christian universe, all that matters is being inside that restaurant.

Joseph K
Guest

That is beautifully written. It also explains Kevin D. Williamson.

TomA
Guest

The insanity that you describe in this post is an artifact of our affluent society and the demise of ancestral fitness selection drivers. Our current social/economic structure handsomely rewards people like Goldberg for this type of conduct, hence it will continue to flourish. In this model, Goldberg’s value is that he is useful in persuading the losers that they still have hope and therefore won’t be inclined toward more drastic countermeasures. Bread and circuses.

Observer
Guest
The ZMan is good for one thing and one thing only. He shows the futility of understanding the world using an ideological lens. To fully explain what is happening, you must also look at tribal dynamics too. Everyone would agree that tribal dynamics were essential motivators for human events 5,000 years ago, 500 years ago, even 50 years ago. What has changed in human nature that would make those dynamics irrelevant today? Tribally speaking, different groups have evolved group strategies for surviving and thriving in the human ecosystem the same way that different species & sub-species of animals have different… Read more »
Glen Filthie
Guest
Jonah sees guys like me and we scare the chit out of him. I grew up in a family of proggies and one day, I was taking my usual lumps with the spikey baseball bat, and the guns came out. When the smoke cleared I, my wife, and our daughter stopped being a family and we stopped being part of theirs. We were the pebble before the avalanche too; once I finished with them they started squabbling amongst themselves. Divorces started among the middle aged kids my age, and the grown grandkids picked their sides and the feuds left us… Read more »
W Nohmor
Guest
what is the prevailing orthodoxy? the global liestate? these days hard to tell and various color pilled people will beg to differ. if the neocons are really stooges for the progressives, then who are they convincing and why should we care? I have 2 sisters – one is a conservative and the other a progressive. The progressive one reads exactly 3 sources to get her worldview – the NYT, the Atlantic, and New Yorker magazine. Her worldview is based on a naive kind of boomer largesse. The conservative gets hers only from Fox news and the trickling conservative news stream… Read more »
Whiskey
Guest
The relentless ratchet leftward is easily explained by Television. Television comprises most of the production activity in Hollywood, dwarfing both in monetary and resource terms the movies, generates larger revenue in aggregate, and has a far greater cultural effect as it has far more hours in a person’s daily life. I don’t have Cable TV, just broadcast –as both a financial and cultural measure. I’ve scanned through a few of the Heroes and Icons (broadcast network) shows like the 1980’s “Hunter” and by modern standards its shocking … I saw last night’s episode the final ten minutes. The climax was… Read more »
Kodos
Guest

I saw an interview with Dirk Benedict where he said he thought The A-Team was the last fully masculine show on network TV. And even back then the network secretly hated the show b/c they thought it was embarrassing. High ratings kept it on the schedule.

Member
Along these same lines, I’ve been starting to regard the phonies of Conservative, Inc. in the same way I regard character actors. An actor gets a reputation for playing a certain type well and whenever casting needs to fill a role of that type the actor will be called to read the scripted lines. It’s not necessary that the actor resembles that type in any way in real life. It’s pretty unlikely that Bob Denver would be silly enough to release the one-and-only escape balloon were he stranded on an island in real life, but when scripted to do so… Read more »
Saml Adams
Guest

There was recent attempt, here in our little burg located deep in Indian Country to lure conservatives into a facilitated “roundtable” to “work out” differences. The response has been a pretty universal “BFYTW” on our side. Message back to the Progressives, you’re the ones that went batshit crazy, Triple Crowning yourselves on Facebook, stomping on anyone who had the temerity to hold a differing opinion and basically functioning as the local town Basij and you want us to engage in a “dialog”? NFW. I think we’re getting close to a break point here.

Member

“Conservative” has generally meant “supporter of the employer class”. The employer class is conservative only in regard to wanting to remain the employer class. Any change—importing Third World cheap labor, for example—that benefits the employer class, they favor.

Joseph K
Guest

Add to that succinct definition “supporter of the war party”, which in the post-Vietnam era means Israel and its neocon fellow travelers.

Conservative = invade, invite, export.

Everything else is commentary, and bait.

Al from da Nort
Guest
When a member of the GOPe inner party like Paul Ryan says, “That’s not who we are.”, believe him. He is not a Middle-American, been a swamper forever, etc. Trouble is, the guy primary-ing him (and he *does* need primary-ing) is looking more and more like a false-flag operation. That is, Ryan’s most visible opponent is a near-full-fledged Jesse Ventura erratic with an extra-large added helping of German National Socialism, IYKWIMAITYD (if you know what I mean and I think you do). Picking out your easiest-to-beat opponent ahead of time is one of the oldest tricks in the book. So… Read more »
Abelard Lindsey
Guest

There is a lot to be said for this point of view. The problem with establishment conservative types is that they assume that the left argue and act in good faith. They do not. It is not possible to have political debate with an opponent who does not act in good faith. Thus, a more “muscular” approach is required from the right. Establishment conservatism is simply not up to the task that is required.

A.B. Prosper
Guest
Decades spent preaching against the bogeyman collectivism and in favor of individualism were bound to have an effect on the psyche . Mix the atomization in with cultural and moral collapse and you have a recipe for zombies That said since the Left is outright saying them or us to the death, its either going to come to extermination of the white right in gulags or civil war and in either case the nation with get what it richly deserves Learn to organize, learn to thing act and punish collectively and be ready to fight and die or turn in… Read more »
Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest
Intense stuff. Mr Prosper. Hard medicine, but impossible to refute. Except – I hope – on one point. The Left “is” misguided, Not in any particular you mention, or their desired hellish annihilation for us; only in their dismissal of ordinary decency. They don’t see it, because the calmer virtues (or vices) are invisible to them. In ‘War of the Worlds’ the invader had every advantage but one; they couldn’t see what was unseen in our survival as a race, as a people; the petty organisms with whom we long ago reached ‘rapprochement’ were on ‘our team’ – the Earth… Read more »
PawPaw
Guest

Good analysis Nephew, although this would seem to refute your earlier statement about AlGore being a better choice than GWB.
Wouldnt Gore have spread the liberal infection faster?

Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest
Al Gore wasn’t always the corrupt and corpulent monster we know today. Back in the 80s, as a young and energetic senator with a nice wife and generally sound opinions on core issues from national defense to abortion, he impressed me – I admit it. His eight years with Clinton enriched him as a player, but ruined him as a man; he’s a joke now. The Clintons do that to people… I lost respect for Gore just because he went along with these soiled, foul entities. Would Gore have spread the liberal infection faster? Great question; I don’t know and… Read more »
bpromethiusb
Guest

recall also that Tipper Gore led the charge against ‘immoral’ music with the PMRC. I remember that being roundly ridiculed as contrary to freedom of speech, as if casual immorality would foster the moral development of 12 year old latchkey kids. man, we need to pick our battles better…

Member

You may not be interested in the war of identity politics, Mr. Goldcuck, but it is interested in you.

Scholar
Guest

I wonder why someone like Goldberg would insist that his side continue to play by rules that even he acknowledges are no longer relevant to the contemporary socio-political situation. It’s a bottomless enigma, an impossible puzzle. Why on earth would someone like Goldberg insist on pursuing such an absurd course. If only someone had the kind of penetrating insight necessary to understand the workings of Goldberg’s mind. Goldberg, how could you believe, let alone propagate such an idea. Oh Goldberg, Goldberg, Goldberg… you leave me at a complete loss.

LineInTheSand
Guest

Goldberg is probably giving council that he knows will lead to the defeat of his followers.

A.B. Prosper
Guest

Jonah Wormtongue

bpromethiusb
Guest

I’m going to speculate that Goldburg and his self serving morally well mannered ilk are skating around the moral impasse of our age. Further, every age with a similar insoluble moral impasse settled it with a conflict that burned it all to the ground. Not offering a prediction here, just too dark….
i’d prefer it is not be a thesis antithesis synthesis puppet show with aloof immune puppeteers, but I guess that is my weakness.

Dr. Mabuse
Guest
Your description of Conservatism, Inc.’s mindless devotion to means over ends ties in nicely with Mark Steyn’s latest column. It’s about William Holden, and Steyn writes that he really admires Holden’s portrayal of Shears in ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’: “I like him especially in David Lean’s Bridge on the River Kwai, the lone American in a top-notch British cast – Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, the great character actor James Donald. But Holden is vital in a way that the token Yank in Brit war movies usually isn’t (except for box-office purposes). The film is a kind of meditation on… Read more »
Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest

Wonderful analogy. Major Nicholson as the “principled conservative”, his last words being: “What have I done?”

Kudos.

Gen. Kong
Guest

Jonah Goldberg suffers from coprophagia and a compulsion to surrender to the left. Problem is, he never met a leftist he didn’t want to surrender to. This is because he’s actually one himself and the all pretending results in endless episodes of coprophagia.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest

I’m surprised that at this point you’d feel it necessary to critique Goldberg and his ilk. We all know his game – it’s why we’re reading you, and not Goldberg. This is all established.

Goldberg isn’t the worst guy out there. It’s true, he’s an egotistical coward and a useful clown to the manipulators; that said – unlike Ben Shapiro – I don’t think Goldberg would gladly accept being a ‘kapo’ to avoid starvation. At the bottom of this man there is some trace of integrity.

Don’t know the man personally; I could be wrong.

Joseph K
Guest

Goldberg would be better suited to a pink triangle than a yellow star – he’d gladly offer his ass to survive. Shapiro would diligently lead his fellow Jews to the ovens if it meant an extra ration of bacon.

Member

I quit calling myself a conservative a long time ago. The so-called conservatives are court jesters. They are here to distract and be approved. Now I take the moniker Patriot. Patriots do strange and unorthodox and sometimes violent things to protect hearth and home. There are a lot of us.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest
In 2016 we all heard about the need to cling to “principled conservatism”. You don’t hear any of that nowadays. It had its day, the way “gravitas” revived memories of high school Latin in the 2000 campaign. I’m sorry; many readers of the Z blog may not remember that the concerns of the 2000 race included the “lack of ‘gravitas'” in GWB. The then-existing narrative was that Al Gore had this essential presidential element – ‘gravitas’ – while GWB was noticeably absent in this crucial element. Some binding continuum, unbroken between Scipio Africanus and Al Gore, snapped disastrously when GW… Read more »
Lineman
Guest

You cannot live peacefully with someone who wants to kill you… Conservatives haven’t figured that out yet…

Sharrukin
Guest
I can’t pretend anymore that the ‘conservative’ and the ‘liberal’ pundits aren’t basically the same people. Their supporters differ, but they don’t. They take money and positions from the same financial backers, the same corporations and they switch sides with stunning ease. The only difference between them is that they are playing to different audiences. They like to dwell on issues like abortion and gun control because they know there isn’t going to be any major shift in those positions. Goldberg knows exactly what he is doing and he knows and wants the defeats that are to be expected from… Read more »
Pimpkin's Nephew
Guest
Just got back from a drive to the imperial city – or its VA tentacles of wealth and empire. The Z-man dictum that ours is an age of ‘the Cloud People” and the “Dirt People” cannot have better illustration than wandering on the lovely, historic streets of Middleburg VA. It’s an appealing and historic town, guarded and enhanced by big money, by DC money. Its connection with the past is essentaily a lie; it’s a white community secured against all danger, It’s 1860 but with public water, exotic art collections, and boutique communism, and no blacks. Fifty years from now,… Read more »
Drake
Guest

I’m reading “The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic” by Mike Duncan. He notes that as Roman politics became ever more unstable, the first thing to go were all the unwritten rules. Politics devolved from polite debate to literally murder and war.

Lefties are idiots and will gladly dive into the mayhem without a thought. I can understand Conservatives reluctance to go there, while despising them for not fighting to win.

bpromethiusb
Guest

the real battle is still a ways out there, but will only be visible as it starts in hindsight, and measured by the victors.

SNE
Guest

Jonah Goldberg doesn’t lose the game, nor do Buckleyites. They THROW IT. They’re the jobbers and jabronis but they’re all in on the pro wrestling show. Especially Goldberg, for reasons you know damn well.