The Mencken Club is a different sort of affair than most of the dissident events you will attend, as it is older and more academic than most. The host, Paul Gottfried, a retired college professor and current editor of Chronicles, runs it like an academic conference you would have experienced a generation ago. That is, it is speeches and presentations around a topic, about which the speakers do not all agree. The idea is to give the attendees a range of opinions on the topic that is the theme of the event.
Of course, it is an older crowd. Most of the people involved in organizing are seniors, who were in the paleoconservative movement a generation ago. The event tends to focus on what went wrong with conservatism, as many of the people involved were purged by Buckley at some point. It is fair to say that they would like to see Conservative Inc. burn to the ground. As a result, there is a nostalgic quality to the event, as they tend to talk a lot about people and events from the past.
At dinner on Friday night. Paul Gottfried gave the opening talk and he was followed by someone calling himself Ed Martin. He is President of the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund. He is also something of a curator of the life and times Phyllis Schlafly. His talk was mostly about Schlafly, but he also got into current politics a bit and it was an interesting reminder of just how detached the old conservative movement is from current reality. The word delusional kept coming to mind.
He kept insisting that the way forward was to keep pressing the old conservative agenda and that would overcome demographic reality. He thinks there are lots of votes out there just waiting for someone pitching conservatism. During the Q&A I was tempted to “groyper” him with a tough question about demographic reality, but I thought better of it. I realized that those nodding along were never going to face up to reality, so there would be no point in pressing the guy on the issue.
Sitting there as he talked about the conservative message, I realized that where “our thing” is going is out there beyond where the conservatives ran out of road. Every day, more and more people are realizing that the future in this land is never going to be like the past, so it is time to find an approach that fits the times. Guys like Ed Martin are sincere people, who mean well, but they are yesterday men who prefer to think about the past so they don’t have to think about the future…
The way these things work is there is a registration and cocktail reception then the dinner around 7:00 PM. I got my name tag and was chatting with Paul, when a very lovely young woman walked past. These affairs tend to be almost all male and this one is all older males, so it was good to see an attractive young woman. This is true of the more dissident events as well. There are plenty of women on this side of the great divide, but they don’t turn up at these events for whatever reason.
Anyway, a few minutes later she came up to us and introduced herself as a reader. I’m always flattered when people tell me they are fan. She is a very smart and interesting, so we chatted for a while. One of the things she brought up was how people she knows have the one exception to biology in their life. These people would join our team, but they have that one exception to the rule that keeps them tethered to the normie side of the great divide. It’s the old NAXALT problem.
NAXALT stands for “Not All (X) Are Like That” with X being some natural demographic grouping of people. It is the mistaken belief that because you can find one exception to the rule, that the general rule is invalid. For example, not all immigrants vote Democrat, so the observation that immigrants overwhelmingly support Democrats is somehow not true, despite the data. This is, of course, most commonly found when talking about the complexion of crime statistics. Ben Carson is more powerful that Table 43.
One suggestion I made was to explain the NAXALT fallacy in a different context that does not have the same emotional baggage. Instead of taking the issue head on, approach it from the direction of other non-political stuff. Re-condition their minds to accepting that exceptions don’t change the general rule. More important, we tend to live by the general rule. Once your normie friend is used to accepting the general rule in all other issues, they will be more prepared to accept it in our issues…
The event is smaller this year. I suspect the actuarial tables are more to blame than anything else. There’s also the fact that the paleos never did a good job courting young people into their ideas. In the 1980’s, when the great schism on the Right became obvious, the Buckley side was the cool and hip side, which naturally attracted the young people, while the paleo side was for our parents. It is a lesson that dissidents need to accept when it comes to organizing ourselves. We have to be intergenerational.
In fact, I’m increasingly convinced that we have to make an effort to tamp down the generational politics. I like a good Boomer joke as much as the next guy, but generational squabbling is just another form of brother war. The young guys in this thing are the future, but they cannot have a future without older generations to offer up advice and honest appraisals of their own past efforts. My generation was never going to amount to much, but we can be a cautionary tale for the next generation…
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