The word “cult” is a term often abused by Progressives, because it carries with it negative connotations. They like to us it to slander their enemies. Frankfurt School types convinced the world that Nazism, for example, was a cult, in order to make their case that anyone finding fascism appealing is not just mistaken, but crazy. Progressives picked up on this to brand their enemies as well. Still, it is a useful concept as the cult seems to be a feature of human behavior. We have records of cults going back to the Bronze Age.
In the modern sense, we think of a cult as having certain features, like a charismatic leader and a sense of isolation. A cult always has a set of beliefs that are so convincing to the adherents, in terms of defining their existence and their relationship to the world, that they almost seem brainwashed. It’s as if they are controlled by them. The identity of the cult and its purpose becomes the identity and purpose of the adherent. As a result they operate like an ant farm or a beehive. The suicide cult is the extreme example of this.
Neoconservatism has many of the features one would associate with a cult. The members are increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, both physically and emotionally. There is the sense of the embattled minority, ready to martyr themselves for the cause. The members seem to operate in an ideological fog, unable to recognize the massive disconnect between their beliefs and observable reality. Then you have the fact that to the neocons, their ideology is perfectly rational, but to outsiders it seems dangerously nutty.
The late great Eric Hoffer pointed out that all mass movements can get along without a god, but they always need a devil. You see that with the neocons. They don’t have the charismatic leader, like we normally associate with cults, but perhaps to the adherents, Bill Kristol is charming. Despite his unpleasant demeanor and long list of failures, they do seem to venerate him. Still, what holds the cult of neoconservatism together is their list of devils, that are all cast as a manifestation of the great authoritarian villain.
That comes through in this piece by Anne Applebaum in the Spectator. The piece is a good example of the paranoid fantasy. Mx. Applebaum is a neocon rage head, who specializes in scanning the eastern horizon for signs of Alexander III of Russia. The neocons all have an obsession with Russia that borders on the pathological, which leads many to assume it is biological. As a result, resistance to cosmopolitan globalism in the east is cast by the neocons as the return of authoritarianism and you know who.
A feature of neoconservatism that is shared by Progressive Jews is they are haunted by the thought of exclusion. Being left out is their greatest fear. This manifests as an abhorrence to limits, borders and clear definitions. This mania for formlessness has been picked up by other tribes of the Left. Feminists, for example, rage against biology, because definitions of sex are by nature exclusionary. The BLM activists toppling over statues do so because they hate whitey, but also because it is not their history.
This is why neocons favor open borders and recoil in horror at efforts to restore some sense of national unity. When the neocon thinks of borders, he thinks of fences and then starts to think about you know who. You’ll note that the the bad guys of the Visegrad are talked about by neocons as an implementation of the all-purpose bogeyman, the authoritarian Übermensch. The neocons, like liberal Jews, have this imaginary, all-purpose bogeyman, that manifests in the real world, but exists in the world for forms.
Another cult-like aspect of the neocons is their internalization of fundamentally irrational and contradictory ideas. For example, after 9/11, the neocons advocated importing millions of Muslims into the US, while at the same time advocating the bombing of Muslim homes and villages. People can be forgiven for thinking the creation of the “home grown” terrorist, the pissed off Muslim living in the West, radicalized by US foreign policy, is intentional. To people inside the neocon cult, however, this all makes perfect sense.
What argues against calling neoconservativism a cult is how well it fits in with the other two pillars of the ruling orthodoxy. The heirs of William Bradford, with their neo-covenant theology and sense of communal salvation, fit in neatly with Progressive Jews and their paranoid fear of exclusion and anti-majoritarian animosities. Together, they domestically form the Progressive orthodoxy we see today. In a way, the neocons are a complimentary piece, that extends this mode of thought into the areas of foreign policy.
On the other hand, American Progressives are showing all the signs of devolving into a cult, with their strange siege mentality and bizarre internal logic. The fact that their pantheon of heroes are referred to by three initials may not a pointless affectation. It could be part of the ritual of sacralizing their former leaders. Perhaps the inevitable move by the neocons back to the Left, is the completion of some cosmic puzzle. Or perhaps like a UFO cult, they see it as the final piece of the cosmic puzzle, signifying the end times.
In a seriousness, there is a strong case that neoconservativism is now a cult, one based on an obsession with public policy and haunted by nightmares of the authoritarian bogeyman. Their inability to adapt to present reality, in fact they are becoming more extreme in the face of disconfirmation, is the sort of thing you expect from a cult. Perhaps it runs its course peacefully disappearing into the dustbin of history. Still, prudence suggests caution as end times cults tend to end with a bang, rather than a whimper.