The habit of rewriting history to fit current narratives is generally associated with the far-Left, but the so-called conservatives do their share of it as well. The early history of Buckley conservatism, for example, has been deliberately forgotten. More important, the people associated with the alternatives to Buckley’s individualistic brand of conservatism have been forgotten. The current narrative says the only alternative to coercive collectivism was the lonely individualism of Bill Buckley.
As a result, Russell Kirk gets little mention from modern conservatives. He has been written out of the history of their movement, in the same way Stalin would have former allies airbrushed out of photographs. He was never purged from the movement, like the paleocons, but he has largely been forgotten. No one in the National Review scene bothers to reexamine the rivalry between Frank Meyer and Russell Kirk, as to do so would raise uncomfortable questions about their cult leader, Bill Buckley.
It is a funny thing about Buckley conservatism. The truly brilliant people associated with the movement were eventually purged or abandoned. Joe Sobran, Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan are examples of men purged from the movement, because they dared challenge the cult of Bill Buckley. Kirk, on the other hand, was forgotten, a bad reminder of what should have been. There’s at least one good book on the people Buckley finked on during his long career as leader of the conservative movement.
How relevant Russell Kirk is to our current age is debatable. In fact, European conservatism in general may have little salience in the demographic age. The defense of the Occident against the demographic tsunami is not served by a steadfast refusal to consider innovation or a rethinking of the current order. Not only has too much been lost for conservatism to make sense, the challenges we face are entirely different from anything imagined in the past by conservative thinkers.
Even so, Russell Kirk was a brilliant political observer and analyst. He has a lot to tell us about what went wrong with the Right and the fight against radicalism. Given that the people we associate with the Left will keep trying to pull the roof down on Western civilization until they are stopped, there is a lot to be learned from the failed efforts by the Buckleyites in the last century. The old guys of traditionalism can tell us much about what not to do when forming up an alternative.
The other value in going back and reading the old school conservatives from the last century is that it shows how the old political spectrum was mostly about keeping the interested parties on the Left and Right in charge of the debate. Any challenge to Buckley on the Right was classed as beyond the pale. Any challenge from the Left was classed as a Bolshevism. The bad uncles of the 20th century become the two poles, slowly narrowing the field until we arrived at neo-liberalism.
The old bipolar way of imagining the political universe may have had its uses in various times and places, but it is not a universal. Russell Kirk would have thought fascism just as reckless and immoral as communism. That’s true of the paleocons, who were accused of being fascists as they were hooted out of the movement. The way forward for modern dissidents starts with abandoning the old bipolar political spectrum as a relic of a bygone era. There is no Right and Left, just the great divide.
This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. I am now on Deezer, for our European haters and Stitcher for the weirdos. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below.
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This Week’s Show
- 00:00: Opening (Link) (Link)
- 02:00: Russell Kirk
- 07:00: Moral Order
- 12:00: Custom And Continuity
- 17:00: Prescription
- 22:00: Prudence
- 27:00: Variety
- 32:00: Imperfectability
- 37:00: Property
- 42:00: Community
- 47:00: Prudent Restraint
- 52:00: Permanence And Change
- 57:00: Closing
Full Show On Spreaker
Full Show On YouTube