Yoram Hazony took his neo-nationalism show on the road to Rome, where he invited all the best people to talk about his new idea called nationalism. He brought in various political and academic figures from around Europe to discuss this new nationalism thing, but he was careful to exclude anyone associated with nationalism. It was a replay of his show in Washington last summer. The point of it is to rebuild a wall between the establishment and the growing army of dissidents.
As noted in the past, Hazony’s game here is to rebuild the walls between the good thinkers inside and the very bad thinkers outside. Instead of rebuilding the old wall in place, he plans to extend the perimeter so the new wall will include the more docile nationalists and populists, who are happy to have a platform, but will not threaten the castle of cosmopolitan globalism. It’s really just a way to co-opt some of the language and energy of dissidents in order to confuse the issue.
As he did the last time, Hazony was careful to invite the right sort of influencers, the type that appeal to gentry dissidents. For example Douglas Murray was given access so he could offer his opinions on it. Hazony was also given access to the Spectator to complain about how the Left says mean things about him because he is such a threat to their position. It is classic sandwich making that dissidents of a certain type have become adept at identifying.
The effort to rebuild the right side of the sandwich has been underway for a while now, since the 2016 election. The Intellectual Dark Web nonsense was one effort to reestablish the outer boundary of the acceptable Right. Quillette was positioned to be the new frontier of right-wing discourse. Of course, Ben Shapiro was promoted as the voice of young white people. The latest effort to create a new right-wing intellectual zone is what the usual suspects are now calling the New Right.
The sheer number of people employed in rebuilding the walls of the Right is quite impressive and it reflects the urgency of the people inside. If they had a sense of humor, they would nickname these folks “the masons” as an homage to the secret society, as well as to the art of wall building. That would require both a sense of humor and some self-awareness, both of which are absent from our intellectual betters. Instead they gaslight themselves about the success of these projects.
The irony of what Hazony is doing is that he loathes Catholicism, yet he is engaged in a very Catholic enterprise. He is trying to lead a counter-reformation, similar to what the Catholic Church did in response to the Protestant revolts. Like the Catholics, he is not ceding any important ground to the rebels, but instead he is trying to re-brand the faith by talking openly about its abuses. He’s not questioning the logic of cosmopolitanism, just its implementation and excesses.
Of course, unlike the Counter Reformation, Hazony is an outsider coming to town selling a cure for what ails the local rulers. He’s a monorail salesman, playing on the fears and insecurities of his targets. He’s not all that interested in nationalism for Finns or Italians, but he is very interested in Jewish nationalism. His case for a new nationalism is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. His project is about defending his country, Israel, from defects of cosmopolitan globalism.
The internal contradictions are obvious in his book. His arguments on behalf of Zionism are straight forward and quite rational. Most dissidents would come away thinking they make perfect sense. Then he adds in a million exceptions and qualifications when applying his argument to the West. All of a sudden, things like ethnic distance and common heritage no longer apply. It is a contradictory argument, because it is littered with exceptions.
That’s what makes his tour stop in Rome interesting. Unlike Americans, the European Right is a bit shrewder about this stuff. They understand perfectly well what Hazony is doing, but he is useful cover for now, so they throw in with him. He hopes to free ride on their energy and organization and they intend to use him as cover. The European national populists want legitimacy, so they can look past his motivations. It is a good lesson in the reality of politics.
This effort to co-opt dissident ideas and the energy from national populism can only have two possible outcomes. One possible outcome is the effort is destroyed on the rocks of political reality. Despite the quality of people inside the institutions, they have real power and they are not afraid to use it. In fact, they have shown themselves to be quite vicious. They take pleasure in cancelling people, so it is not unrealistic to think they will squash Hazony like a bug.
The other possibility is it washes away the current political order. This is more likely in Europe, where right-wing parties have been slowly organizing and nibbling away at the established order. The cover provided by Hazony, as well as the fragility of the European model, could open the door for national populist to gain real power. In the US, the bizarre reaction from establishment parties to populism could explode their whole project. Just imagine a Trump -Sanders debate in the fall elections.
That is why these efforts by the wall builders are a positive for dissidents. From the perspective to those downhill looking up at the institutions, the walls continue to look quite formidable. For those inside the walls, they look quite fragile. Those people inside have a much clearer view of their situation. The mad scurrying around we see by the wall builders is a positive. The siege cannot last forever, so the more energy they spend on defense, the better for the people outside the walls.
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