The Dull Man’s Burden

One of the remarkable things in my time has been the precipitous decline of the so-called conservative movement. Even if you were on the paleocon side of the great fight, you could not help but admire some of the writers and thinkers on the other side. Unlike the Left, which has always tended for preachers, rather than thinkers, the people writing for the Buckleyite and neocon outlets were often quite bright and original. They even permitted a sprinkling of heretics, which made their publications worth reading.

Over the last decade, anyone with the least bit of originality has been purged from their sites. Scan The Weekly Standard or National Review and what’s interesting is how dull it all feels now. It’s like reading the internal newsletter of the postal service. That’s being kind, as these sites often resemble a cargo cult. They hire guys like Ben Shapiro to spin the oldies, hoping they will be magically transported back to 1994. If you are engaged in this world from the Right, there is no reason to read these publications. They offer nothing.

This post before the holiday by Jonah Goldberg is good example. Goldberg now plays the role of “senior fellow” for Conservative Inc., so he gets the job of dong the theoretical stuff for National Review. He’s their man of ideas now. Goldberg made his career as a snarky Gen-X jokester, making conservatism sound fresh. Of course, the implication was that the Left was correct about conservatives being humorless stuffed shirts. Shecky Goldberg’s quest was to make conservatism fit for the Catskills. Now, he is their big ideas man.

I understand very well that conservatives often bristle at the idea they need to change with the times. As the famous line from (the far from famous) Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, goes, “where it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

But we forget that the conservative movement’s strength came from the fact that it was armed with new arguments from diverse intellectual sources. More important, its vigor stemmed from the fact that these various strains of conservatives were eager to argue among themselves. There are arguments aplenty on the right these days, but the vast majority of them are arguments over a specific personality — Donald Trump — not a body of ideas. And to the extent that there are arguments about ideas, they tend to be subsumed into the larger imperative to attack or defend Trump.

This is from a guy who repeatedly said that large chunks of observable reality are “morally repugnant” and therefore off-limits. It’s a bit tough to have “new arguments from diverse intellectual sources.” when the prevailing assumption is that those ideas and sources are outside what is morally acceptable. Of course, whatever it once was, mainstream conservatism is a no longer a vigorous debate about moral and political philosophy. It is merely a shopping list of talking points acceptable in the managerial elite.

Even in the mundane areas of public policy, the so-called conservatives are startlingly obtuse in their observations. Trump’s diplomacy in Asia, for example, is a genuine sea-change in American policy. He has craftily linked North Korea’s behavior to US trade relations with China. He is making the master responsible for the servant. This is actually resulting in real progress on a half century problem. Yet, the experts of Conservative Inc. remain baffled by what’s happening.They still think North Korea is a Soviet client.

The great Eric Hoffer observed that the difference between a movement and a practical organization lies in the goals of the members. In a political movement, the people joining do so to attain a political goal, something that is bigger than themselves. In a practical organization, people join out of self-interest. They act in order to advance up the ranks of the organization. A rat like Dinesh D’Souza was willing to be a neocon assassin, because he thought it was a good career move. The organization man is not a man who dreams.

That’s been the case with the conservatives for a long time now. The pioneers may have been motivated by ideological zeal, but they built practical organizations. Buckley-style conservatism, by the 1980’s, had become a lucrative career path for the man good with his letters and careful to never color outside the lines. More important, the organization was positioned within the managerial class, rather than opposed to it. An obsequious writer could work for both National Review and a liberal TV network.

Another byproduct of this is the boiling off of anyone with the least bit of creativity. If the in-house intellectual is a vapid airhead with a fetish for 1980’s pop culture references, you are no longer an intellectual movement. The result is a collection of dull and uninteresting people left to figure out how to keep the racket going. That’s the point of Goldberg’s cri de guerre. The old act is no longer pulling in the crowds, so they need a new act with new actors. The trouble is, the dullards left in charge are not up to carrying the burden.

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Mike@Mike.Mike
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Mike@Mike.Mike

I’m conflicted on Conservative Inc. On the one hand, they profit by telling guilty whites how to be good little conservatives by telling them don’t step out of line, so it would be gratifying if they went belly up. On the other hand, they serve as a constant reminder of the dishonesty of the polite right, so they are useful to reference when one needs to check their bearing.

Member

I saw that Goldfart article myself the other day and it once again got me wondering whether he’s purposely trolling NR’s dwindling readership. Every since Trump descended his golden escalator, Conservative Inc. has done nothing BUT focus on Trump the man. He’s Hitler! He abuses woman! He’s a racist! He tweets too much! You could read every single article written over the course of the last two years by the nutless wonders of Conservative, Inc. and except for a time or two when they put on their clown shoes to argue “free trade” there is not one that actually argues… Read more »

Member

“Paycheck conservatism”– I like that. It’s not like the neocons don’t have ideas, it’s the particular ideas. Bush’s war with Iraq forced the question as to whether conservatism was compatible with universalistic ideas. The neocons were using the idea that the universalist expressions in the Declaration of Independence justified intervention in other countries. This was one of the key ideas behind France’s foreign interventionism during their revolutionary war and justification of Napoleon’s looting of countries whilst ostensibly liberating them. Acton pointed out that this was a consequence of the universalist language of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and… Read more »

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

I accepted the neocon premise in 2001, after the attacks. If all we could anticipate was more such attacks, or, invade the host nations of terror and box their ears about, turning them into more-or-less sane, civil governments, then the choice was clear; Invade, cleanse, and bless the various western-style countries left in the wake of our armies and air power. That was a long time ago. The great disarmament treaties of the twenties also had high hopes; in a span of time comparable to 2001-2018, these treaties fell apart and war beckoned. All this is well-known among the literate… Read more »

Dutch
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Dutch

Pretty much my exact take on GWB. His family has gotten to him in his time since leaving office.

Sim1776
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Sim1776

Good points, Pimpkin. Kellog-Briand is still on the books. Talk about total fantastic utopianism. This liberal named David Swanson constantly harps on about how all military action since is illegal.

You’re spot on about GWB. I supported taking care of business until he let Rumsfeld and Cheney override the JCS and neglected Afghanistan. His second term was when I noticed the replacement of English with Spanish on construction sites.

D&D Dave in the Bubble
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D&D Dave in the Bubble

“If the in-house intellectual is a vapid airhead with a fetish for 1980’s pop culture references, you are no longer an intellectual movement.”

Speaking of 80’s pop culture, I have to say reading anything Goldberg has to say reminds me of the “Married with Children” show when Al Bundy would grab a newspaper before going to the bathroom for a while. Today I would think Al would be going in to read Goldberg to help with a constipation problem, only being able to stomach a paragraph or two before the magic begins to work.

SidVic
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SidVic

You struck a nerve with this post. You are correct, many great currents are swirling and these mediocrities are talking the same ol shit. Our space program languished for 50 yrs and now private concerns are moving in with feasible plans to get to mars and establish a moon base. The genetics of intelligence and personality are rapidly being unraveled. They tools to engineer/select for desirable traits in the next generation are here now. The chinese are already setting up to play that game. 800 million 70 IQ africans will soon be hungry. What is going to happen? should it,… Read more »

SES
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SES

I proposed this in a paper I wrote in college in 1990. It didn’t go over well even then.

SidVic
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SidVic

Yeah, you’re right of course. It would have to be framed carefully. If my sister fell on hard times, i would probably put a roof over her head and food in her belly, but i sure in hell would not allow her to continue popping out babies. Insisting on birth control is reasonable. Remember abortion-on-demand grew out of the eugenics movement. Now it is a key prog plank. Frame it as family planning, allow Planned parenthood to administer the implantable ( so they get cut of money) – you might be surprised how fast they would get on board. Implantable… Read more »

Random Dude on the Internet
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Random Dude on the Internet

It’s a can that we keep kicking down the road. However until we can no longer genetically modify staple crops to keep feeding an exploding population, then we’ll have to deal with reality. I don’t know how long that will take. When that moment will hit, and it will hit, we’ll wish we implanted IUDs in African and South/Southeast Asian women.

Duke of Deploraville
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Duke of Deploraville

Reversing overpopulation is the key to whatever chance remains of averting worldwide disaster. It’s upstream even of immigration.

And since uncontrolled population growth is above all an African issue, realistic countermeasures are taboo among proglodytes.

The Overton Window needs to shift, and fast.

Member

Hey, in the spirit of all those “The Conservative Case For [Leftist Cause]” articles at NR, when do you figure we’ll see “The Conservative Case For Divestment From Israel”?

Any day now. you figure?

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

In a year or two we’ll be seeing “The Conservative Case for a Kemala Harris presidency”.

LineInTheSand
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LineInTheSand

I’m trying to extend this line of thinking to its conclusion. Perhaps, “the conservative case for Communism” or “the conservative case for rejecting conservatism?”

SidVic
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SidVic

I’ll play- conservative case for castration! and peeing on electrical fences.

MMinLamesa
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MMinLamesa

Count on Hugh Hewitt to lead that charge.

greyenlightenment
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not on NRO ever

LancelotAndrewes
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LancelotAndrewes

Jonah Goldberg, an aging frat boy masquerading as Socrates. A yob who owes his eminence, such as it is, entirely to the fact that his mother spilt the beans about Bill and Monica.

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

There is a distinct ‘Archie Rice’ vibe among the collaborationist conservatives. You’ll recall that Archie Rice is the selfish and talentless son of a respected music-hall performer in ‘The Entertainer’; he’s got the schtick down, and acts as if he’s a major star, but he’s merely a grifter wearing make-up, always on the look-out for some scheme that will finance his declining act.

Goldberg, Podhoretz and Kristol all live off the superior talent and character of their parents, just like Archie Rice.

Karl McHungus
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Karl McHungus

He’s more of a aging sorority “boy” since he went to an all girls school.

Dutch
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Dutch

So where does Angelo Codevilla fit into this discussion? He seems to have always been very good at articulating what has been going on, defining it and putting it into bite-sized chunks. Is that all he does? Does making things understandable to many and providing easy overarching concepts create value? He seems to have one foot in the Buckley crowd and one foot on our side of the fence, though the NR thing seems to be the root of his work. Goldberg and Shapiro bore me, I will read Codevilla any day.

Member

I’d say making things understandable to many and providing easy overarching concepts does indeed create value.

Member

I looked forward to Goldberg’s weekly column back when he was funny but now I won’t click on a column of his no matter the title. I just don’t want him to get the clicks. Same for NR. I used to read Jay Nordlinger when he was mostly about music.

D&D Dave in the Bubble
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D&D Dave in the Bubble

To me NR means “No Read”. 🙂

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

How the times do change. I used to look forward to David Frum’s ‘corner’ pieces back in the day at NRO; I subscribed to TWS for several years, and cheered David Brooks’ “Bobos in Paradise” essay back in the late 90s.

I confess it here in this Holy place…

90s conservatism was a mass “cuckening” and we didn’t know it. It took the anguish of the Bush and Obama eras – sixteen hard and discouraging years – to ‘de-cuck’. It’s a hard process, like withdrawing from heroin.

But it can be done. I’m 57, and I’m a survivor. I want a T-shirt.

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

My kids gave me one. It says “Pinochet’s Helicopter Tours, Est. 1973”. We’re at the “fuck it” stage of life.

Tim
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Tim

The only people to read there are Andrew McCarthy and VDH. My question has long been….where do these people get the money? There has to have a major drop off in contributions. So who supports that ridiculous joint?

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

Hanson is a treasure.

Dutch
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Dutch

Living in California’s Central Valley does tend to wake one up to what is going on.

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

My family were farmers in the IL and IN territories after the Revolution until my parents generation. His writing “voice” (and speaking) is very similar.

Eddie
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Eddie

McCarthy is a squish, but his background at DOJ makes him an invaluable read on reliever issues.

Member

I dunno, where is the next Cal Thomas or George Will going to come from? We need invigoratiion injected into the Right.

In all my right leaning readings I have never read any of the post Buckleyite National Review scribbles other than what is posted here or at Sailer’s.

By the way, I know Drudge has declined quite a bit but a whole day to just post on Tommy Robinson?

Rod1963
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Rod1963

What happened with Robinson certainly deserves attention. The man was disappeared in classic Soviet style which was until now unheard of in a Western country. It needs the light of public scrutiny.

And if it can happen there, it can happen here. The Patriot Act for example gives the Feds similar powers of silencing people,. Think through the implications for us dirt people. All it will take is the people voting in a crazy cat lady here, say like Kamala and things go pear shaped for us real fast.

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

Dirt people need to understand that a crazy cat lady will be elected eventually if by fraud if necessary and be ready for the almost inevitable backlash And note none of this rugged individualism bullshit, its all group action and if needed collective punishment . However people being punished like this isn’t really new and its happened at least twice to high profile people here in the US in recent years Once to commentator Dinesh DeSouza who was remanded to a mental hospital on political grounds and punished and to Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.who got jail time over a movie we… Read more »

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

But one thing was clear with Robinson. In a disarmed state like the UK, no way to pull a “Bundy Ranch”.

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

Derb pointed out a couple of podcasts ago that British procedure has abandoned one ancient principle – the interdiction against ‘double jeopardy’ – in order to punish the murderers of Steven Lawrence. Now they’re finished with ‘habeus corpus’ as well. Welcome back to the Britain of 1214. At this point you have to wonder if they’ll let Robinson live; he’d have a lot to say, without “special methods” used to correct him; the UK wants no defiance in a public courtroom à la Bukharin, or Sir Thomas More. The “unpersoning” of a British subject is big stuff. And all under… Read more »

Tresillian
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Tresillian

Wasn’t Robinson arrested because he supposedly violated the terms of his bail?This is also what happened to Nakoula Nakoula over that video which was purportedly the trigger for the Benghazi attack.He was arrested at midnight by 5 cops,denied bail and locked up for a year whilst the US government pinned the reponsibility for a terror attack on him. Obama even slyly referred to him in a UN speech ;”The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”. So it has,in a way,happened in the US. The government didn’t block the media from reporting but “merely” used… Read more »

LineInTheSand
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LineInTheSand

It’s probable that Robinson’s arrest can be justified under the rules of the current system. Yet the current system wants to dispossess us. Don’t legitimize their rules. We are in mortal conflict with our opponents although it is not apparent to most.

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

You are correct. Mr Nakoula was doomed by his own obscurity. I’m no fan of lawsuits, but he should be collecting millions in a defamation trial, and those millions should come straight from the Clinton Foundation, and the Obamas’ book advances.

Tommy Robinson, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, are known players in politics; their persecution ratchets up the game, and we’d better pay attention here in the US. Nakoula is a test-rat in the lab of USA post-legal terror.

Tully Bascombe
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Tully Bascombe

George Will? Really? He’s as bad, if not worse, than Porky Goldberg.

Expat in Oz
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Expat in Oz

Will is far more cucked than Goldberg. Shecky is merely an opportunist; Will is a hanky waving GOPe faggot.

Member

Sarcasm.

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

George Will has long reminded me of ‘Politeness Man’, that old staple of National Lampoon, the “super-hero” who’d plunge into situations where foul language and poor grammar needed correction – and fast. Cal Thomas, on the other hand, has always spoken his mind. Back when I still took the daily paper, I noticed that Cal Thomas was the “go-to” choice of the very liberal editorial page as the “conservative voice”. Cal tended to drag fundamentalist Christian thought into his columns, and the paper obviously wanted to isolate non-liberal opinion into this pigeon-hole. Centrist voices like John Leo and even Will… Read more »

Karl McHungus
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Karl McHungus

Cal Thomas is a #NeverTrump asshat.

De Beers Diamonds
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De Beers Diamonds

Without stagflation and the Soviet Union, these hacks can only tilt at windmills. The GOP has had three triumphs since the end of the Cold War, ’94, ’10 and ’16. All of them were driven by populism, with the desire for deep cuts to immigration. And each time the GOP did nothing but muh tax cuts.

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

The fact the Right is all intellectual is a huge part of its problem and why the Left had no problem taking over the political system. People for the most part are emotion not reason driven and while in the past , the emotions lead to “Conserve Out Traditions” which is the essence of actual Conservatism, pretty much everything in modernity has rained ruin on tradition leaving people an emotional wreck The Dissident Right for all its numerous flaws is all about the emotions of society and once they get the communications down a little better and can express what… Read more »

Ris_Eruwaedhiel
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Ris_Eruwaedhiel

Most people don’t think, they feel, then they use reason to justify their feelings.

Wilson McWilliams
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Wilson McWilliams

>>>An obsequious writer could work for both National Review and a liberal TV network.

I’m getting pretty sick of these constant attacks on Mr. George Will.

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

Its fun to pick on George Will but it would be nice to live in a society where he’s a useful contribution to the debate.

It would be somewhere between USA 1950 and a Hallmark Chanel movie, Whiter than sour cream and generally free, Conservative and pleasant

Dirtnapninja
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Dirtnapninja

What enrages me is that the right has more than enough talent and wealth to build structures to oppose the left. There is a huge and growing energy amongst rightwing youth.

But the insitutions on the right are dominated by vichy conservatives..controlled opposition who just want to make money in their magazines and thinktanks and go to all the right parties and not seriously rock the boat.

The job of organizing is being left to 1) driven lunatics or 2) newbies with no money or experience at this who are expected to go against orgs like the SPLC.

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

Conservatives other than the Paleo variety are economic liberals and as such a natural ally of the Left Actual Conservatism is Economically Nationalist and sometimes Populist Now everyone on all sides knows that markets make wealth but are inherently economically chaotic and chaos in modernity means low fertility (c.f the great depression and basically everything from 1972 onward) The difference is in the approach ,very broadly Neo Cons favor military Keynesianism, Trad Cons who aren’t also Neo Consd favor religion /values Liberals favor a welfare state Leftists favor Socialism Libertarians don’t give a crap and of course actual policy mixes… Read more »

Dutch
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Dutch

My bug-out home is in a neighborhood (of sorts, the neighbors are a long way off), where there is no definition or discussion of any of this. It is all a wink and a nod, a quiet understanding. I hope there is a lot more of that quiet understanding out there, and I suspect there is, but most of it is probably woven into the broader, more “diverse” communities. On the “down low”, of course.

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

Behind enemy lines we have all sorts of little rituals to find out the like minded.

Random Dude on the Internet
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Random Dude on the Internet

The real issue Conservative Inc. has with Trump is that Trump ignores Conservative Inc. He’s gone against many people in his political career but never once anyone from this camp. It almost seems intentional, like he knows that the worst thing he can do is validate their existence by talking about them, positively or negatively. I’m sure he knows they exist and I’m sure he’s probably even read National Review’s shameful “Against Trump” issue released a couple years ago. By Trump ignoring them, Conservative Inc. refuses to believe that anything Trump does is legitimate. A sign of yet another caste… Read more »

De Beers Diamonds
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De Beers Diamonds

Trump has ignored the journalists, but he still hired from Heritage. His administration would have been better served if Peter Thiel and Mike Cernovich had been in charge of staffing.

Expat in Oz
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Expat in Oz

Shecky is assuming the old PJ O’Rourke role and fails pretty miserably. PJ sold out a long time ago but in his NatLampoon prime was a legit scream. Shecky was, is and never will be half as amusing as he thinks he is. He’s the Gabe Kaplan of the GOPe Theater Dinner circuit.

Member

Same thing has happened with libertarian writers. Go back and read Reason Magazine in the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t SJWs For Low Taxes back then.

There was real discussion about how the Civil Rights Act was a fundamental assault on private property rights and voluntary associations. Obviously, now that topic is off limits.

During the last election, Nick Gillespie shilling for that joke (anti)-Libertarian ticket was embarrassing.

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

When the barricades go up, I know which side Gillespie will be on. He’ll be on the side with the quickest route out of town. In the 70s and 80s you could say what you wished, in print, without hiding; it was indeed an ‘open society’, with no help from Karl Popper or George Soros or Ayn Rand. You could walk into a city news-shop and buy everything from ‘Paris Match’ and Stalin’s ‘Foundations of Leninism’, to yellowing copies of Ortega y Gasset’s ‘Revolt of the Masses’, the latest in hard-core pornography, pretty calendars to give to your grandmother for… Read more »

LineInTheSand
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LineInTheSand

My impression is that the criticism that “Conservatives conserve nothing” has deeply damaged the cachet of Conservative Inc. among young right wingers. However, Conservative Inc. has the money to recruit the young. Charlie Kirk, the well-funded young founder of “Turning Point USA,” anathematizes identity politics for whites yet holds leadership conferences for Blacks and Hispanics. Conversely, Nick Fuentes walked away from the patronage of Conservative Inc. to stand for white identity with great success so far. Can any commenters report on how strong the allure of Conservative Inc. is to young people?

De Beers Diamonds
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De Beers Diamonds

Conservatism Inc invests their dollars in the Looks Department. People like the Roaming Millennial and Candace Owens are self-admitted centrists, but she has a sinecure thanks to her appearance and ancestry. Neither Conservatism Inc or the Dissident Right has any substantial university presence. On the contrary, the most popular political club for yutes is Democratic Socialists of America, which is leftier than Bernie. I believe DSA will either take over the Democrats or become a political party in its own right by 2030. The Anti-Semites among us should join DSA to promote BDS, it would have far more effect on… Read more »

Pimpkin's Nephew
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Pimpkin's Nephew

Jonah Goldberg: the Nicky Winters of conservatism.

Cerulean
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Cerulean

Jordan Peterson was mentioned here yesterday and is relevant to today’s discussion. Here’s a good article about him from Amren.

https://www.amren.com/commentary/2018/05/jordan-peterson-and-white-pride/

Peter
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Peter

Paul Gottfried linked to a devastating take-down of Jonah by a leftist chap named Alex Pereen written in 2012. Gottfried linked to it in his review of Goldberg’s latest book. Gottfried’s review is on vdare and more prominently on Unz review. You should read the link if you can stand the leftist rhetoric.

Drake
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Drake

When they canned Steyn for offending somebody’s delicate feelings, I knew they weren’t a serious publication any longer.

SNE
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SNE

Buckleyite conservatism was always CIA trash to tone-police and neuter the Right. Why anybody would ever think this Judas Goat swindle was “vital” or that it had “quality intellectuals” is beyond be. Buckley was one of the worst things to happen to the Right.

greyenlightenment
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Haven’t read his columns since 2015. read one you read em all.

Zorost
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Zorost

“In a political movement, the people joining do so to attain a political goal, something that is bigger than themselves. In a practical organization, people join out of self-interest.” Compare to: “If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” –Sam Adams Sam knew that those interested in an organization (as defined… Read more »