One of Paul Gottfried’s more resonant critiques of the contemporary right is that its various manifestations basically consist of jumping off and staying put at various points in the long decline of Western institutions. For example, the neoconservatives warming up to the New Deal, opposition to which up to that point being something that almost all of the right shared. Arthur Brooks once wrote a short book with Pete Wehner about the “morality of democratic capitalism.” With the emphasis on statistics and a vaguely Straussian/gnosticworldview, it’s occasionally tempting to think of neoreaction as the creature that was bound to stalk through the right’s doorway after the neoconservatives shifted the emphasis toward social science and away from literature and political philosophy. They can’t be conservatives because they got off the Zeitgeist express way too long ago to even see it, and what plumes of smoke they can still make out are just exertions toward its inevitable, hellish terminus.
So, at least for the ones residing here, there arises the question of the legitimacy of the American regime, which for a reactionary consists first of taking the blood alcohol level of the drunk gorilla at the helm of the American bulldozer. Bear in mind that some of the more complicated tests can only be administered intravenously, and a mere swat from the beast can be career-ending. Right-thinking liberals are like Dian Fossey, just returned from the jungle, perhaps a bit surprised that her country is progressive enough to allow apes to operate machinery, but convinced of its good intentions and happy to ignore its bloodshot eyes and take its puking out the cockpit door as a sign that he’s at least civilized enough not to do so in his own lap. Conservatives are the people that think everyone will be alright if we clear the area and let Koko sleep it off. Reactionaries are people who know that if he becomes a danger to himself and others, someone will have to put him down.
In this piece, Bloom coins a phrase that ought to become popular. He uses it to describe the sense of condescension that techno-intellectual libertarians have towards those less intelligent than they are, and a drag on their exercise of liberty: “wired man’s burden.”
It’s not even close to a rare or transgressive observation that the present government is undergoing a crisis of political legitimacy. Congress’s approval rating is in the teens on a good day. The administration has claimed the right to kill citizens extralegally, and the president rewrites his healthcare law on what seems like a daily basis. Is it possible that the administrative state has become unmanageable, and the only option is to dismantle it, or leave? Naturally, Washington’s nomenklatura and their gophers in the press (including FBI water-carrier Bob Woodward ) will not take kindly to those who choose either option. We would all like to believe the Constitution remains the document by which we are governed, but there comes a time to put aside childish things.
My point is reaction, especially in America but elsewhere too, occurs along the eddies and channels of public life, and there’s very little that can be done to either push it along or stop it. It’s songs sung in Allegany County about shooting whoever tries to dump Mario Cuomo’s nuclear waste there, or community policing in Oregon after federal timber subsidy cuts forced them to gut their sheriff’s department. Or something like what Rand Paul wants to do to Detroit.
I have tried for a couple of days to sum up his post, but can’t do it, so you had better simply go read the whole thing. At this point, I find the Neoreactionaries to be useful, insofar as they are useful, as social critics, but in no way a threat to the regime. I don’t think there is a meaningful threat to the regime, not so much because people consciously affirm it, but because nobody can imagine living any other way. This is not really a bad thing. Oh sure, it troubles me greatly that the public seems apathetic on most things (but it only troubles me on questions that mean a lot to me), but in the end, in that apathy is stability. When you study history, and grasp how fragile civilization is — and we are less than 100 years away from the time when people in this country used to gather around lynchings as opportunities for public entertainment, and would send postcards of those merry occasions — you begin to understand how incredibly valuable it is to be able simply to muddle through.
The ever-burdened Wired Men wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a condition of decivilization. Hell, I’m reading a book about Peter the Great now, and the entire Russian monarchy in the late 17th century could have been overthrown by the restless and barbaric army regiments in Moscow.