If you are over the age of forty, one of the remarkable things to happen in your lifetime is the collapse of Buckley Conservatism. Odds are, if you are reading a site like this, you used to read National Review and similar publications on a regular basis. Maybe you moved to paleocon outlets like Chronicles, when you got too strong of a whiff of the neocons in the 1990’s. Alternatively, maybe you wandered into the Von Mises or Lew Rockwell style libertarianism, after growing disenchanted with conservatism.
All of that stuff is now in steep decline, fading from the scene so quickly that the next generation will probably not understand why it was popular. The Von Mises style of libertarianism will always be with us, as there is a theoretical foundation there that transcends contemporary politics. The synthetic, Reason magazine version will soon follow the Buckleyites into the void, just as soon as the Koch brothers get tired of funding what amounts to a carnival act. That’s largely true of the rest of Conservative Inc.
The funny thing is though, Official Conservatism™ and its traveling buddies in libertarianism was always more useful to the Left than to the Right. This is well traveled ground for people on this side of the divide, but it bears repeating. The conservative movement that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s never managed to conserve anything, other than their sinecure’s at think tanks and media outlets. After the end of the Cold War, this reality became even more clear as conservatism morphed into international liberalism.
This was not obvious in the Cold War, as prosecuting it was a real area of contention with the Left, but the main role of the Buckley movement was to provide a buffer zone for the culture warriors of the Left. Conservative Inc. would channel public rage at Progressive social policy, into harmless efforts at resistance. Articles would be written, books would be sold, oaths would be taken, but the trophy case would remain empty. The history of conservatism is a laundry list of defeats in the post-war culture war.
After the Cold War, this became increasingly obvious, as conservative voter rallied to elect conservative majorities, yet nothing changed. Instead, the Right launched the war on Islam, which became the new distraction. Meanwhile, the borders remained open, the culture declined and the white middle-class continued to shrink. This is why Buckley-style conservatism has fallen apart. It never managed to conserve anything and white people finally woke up to this reality. It’s now blinking out of existence.
The collapse of Official Conservatism™ has been a good thing for the Dissident Right, which grew out of the paleocon resistance of the last century. Talk to people in this thing and they almost always broke this way in the Bush years or after it was clear that Ron Paul would never crack ten percent of the vote. Unsurprisingly, people on this side of the great divide know this well, but few people think about what it has meant for the Progressive movement. The collapse of conservatism has effected them too.
This lack of a credible opponent, even one paid to lose, is one reason the Left has spiraled into a raging lunacy. Since the left is in complete control of the media and popular culture, they get to create the comparisons. When the comparison was between the dumpy and demure conservative, they had to tone down their act to avoid looking like a lunatic. Now that their basis of comparison is imaginary Nazis, figments of the most fevered imaginations on the Left, they are free to indulge the full depth of their rage and lunacy.
This lack of a sober sounding punching bag seems to be the motivation for pumping air into the tires of the synthetic “intellectual dark web” stuff. Calling the people involved “intellectuals” is pretentious, but pretending they operate in the shadows is silly. The point of casting them that way is to give them credibility with people who have walked away from conventional conservatism and especially libertarianism. This is just an elaborate honey trap designed to lure people over from this side of the divide.
Of course, their contempt for the rest of us gets the better of them. They are calling this thing “the intellectual dark web” as a poke in the eye at the people they truly fear. It’s the same reason Jonah Goldberg called is latest book “Suicide of the West.” It is a sneering contempt born from self-loathing. These are people who embrace all the shibboleths of the prevailing orthodoxy, not because they necessarily believe them or even understand them, but because they lack the intellectual firepower to build a coherent response.
Just as the demand for Nazis vastly exceeds the supply, and therefore the Left manufactures them, the need for a buffer zone between themselves and the dissidents requires them to build this wall called Quillette. They envision the “intellectual dark web” to function like a force field. The “dark web” will supply complaint opponents who will say their lines and take their beatings, in exchange for a one percent lifestyle. They will also actively police the boundary between what is acceptable what is “not who we are.”
Interestingly, the orthodoxy’s choice of buffer says a lot about the people who are ruling over us. In the previous age, the face of the opposition was a WASP-ish looking guy with an over-the-top Brahman accent. The only thing missing from Buckley’s act was a sash and a monocle. It’s fun to poke fun at Buckley from this distance, but in his prime he was a good example the middle class American male ideal. He cultivate the American James Bond persona, a smart, educated and sophisticated risk taker, who got the girls.
The people taking over the ruling class wanted to beat that kind of guy. This time the leader is a Jewish girl from Australia. The rest of the ensemble looks like the guest list for a Commentary Magazine fundraiser. No love for toddies and cucumber sandwiches in that crowd. It appears the great intellectual struggle of this new age will not include any white guys. Then again, when the plans for the future don’t include white guys, it probably makes sense. The phrase “intellectual ark web” begins to take on a whole new meaning.